Monday, May 28, 2007

Tales of a tumor IV – The final act

Part IV - The final act

Before surgery

It is the moment of truth. At this time tomorrow, I will be in an alien place, anticipating for the worst to happen. The closer it gets to the final stage, the more unreal it seems. I hope to wake up from this nightmare to a simpler reality. But I know I won’t.

I will be admitted today by eight in the evening. The surgery is scheduled for tomorrow, morning I presume. I could be the first person to be operated upon and the doctor might be a bit rusty, not “broken in” for the day which is not a pleasant thought. Then again, the idea of a spinal anesthesia followed by a two hour extraction, hardly ever is.

I have been warned by many well meaning persons, not to rush into anything. Consider alternatives to the surgery, if possible and to take my time if I still felt like going ahead with it. I feel I am ready. I need to put all my apprehensions behind me and do this. I can not wait anymore, it is very frustrating. Especially, when time drifts away slowly and I am compelled to be a mere spectator.

I shifted my focus from Biotechnology and Horticulture, the stream in which I am academically trained in, to journalism. I did not want to be a journalist. I just hoped to write and may be with a stroke of luck get published. I perceived myself as a fairly centered bloke who was immensely interested in making wines. I wanted to work on a farm, learning about the trade, right here in India and grow with the grapes. Write about the seasons, the people and the wine. It was a simple plan.

Certain events would change the course of my life. The Bombay train bomb blast was the turning point which convinced me to get trained in professional journalism. Hone my skills and contribute in my own little way. The focus was still on telling stories, but in a different context.

This excruciating wait before I can delve into my chosen and cherished field is what frustrates me the most. This situation prevents me from wetting my teeth in true reporting for months. Patience is a virtue, only with an end in sight.

It is a 2 hour surgery I am told. It will take 8 days before the sutures come off and 3 weeks before I can walk around normally. The total recovery period is about 6 weeks. This is assuming there are no complications. I am a big fan of Murphy’s Laws, at this moment they seem like an anathema. Being skeptical does not help, especially if hope is all you’ve got.

I am taking Thomas Hardy’s Jude the obscure and Zaidi’s Black Friday along with me. Che Guevara’s biography by Andersen and Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai are also in contention. This heady mix of tales of rebellion, emotional complexity, derision of society and a human experience with dollops of reality should keep me good company.

I stare at the next two weeks. As my mind gets clouded by apprehension and anxiety I can only ignore the reality that I may have to deal with after this ordeal. It gives me the much needed time to reflect to introspect. To read and write more than what I do now. To think and to live. But it does not come without the guilt.

P.S. Pardon me for rambling on and getting nowhere with this post. That’s kind of the point anyways.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

All the King's Men

Indian Presidential elections are just a guessing game with the common public having very little to do with it.

As the debate over the Presidential elections intensifies, the rationality behind the hype eludes me. No doubt, the person occupying the highest civilian post in India is a matter of immense interest, but the parameters within which the discussions are held are skewed.

The sense which is largely created by media that these elections are relevant for the common masses and in fact are driven by their perceptions is false. For, the common man on the street does not have much to contribute in the “selection” of the President.

This post is deliberated upon by the electoral college, as mandated by their respective political parties. There is no real choice as the probable candidates have political backing and are nominated by the parties themselves. Even if one extends the concept of representative democracy the final choice is always with consensus of major political parties and a “suitable” candidate is elected.

In this context, the SMS polls and surveys are merely a speculative exercise with little influence or significance to the election. The notion that the President must be non-political and rooted in real politicks is absurd.

If a true democratic candidate is to be elected then these elections should be conducted in the people’s domain, where citizens cast their votes and elect their President. The recently concluded French Presidential elections may serve as a paradigm. Also, the President’s office will have to be aptly empowered to validate such an exercise.

Until then, the media should call a spade a spade. These elections are merely a matter of political calculations and not a refection of people’s choice. The talk shows, debates and polls which ask the citizens to ‘choose your president’ are futile.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tales of a tumor III - Comfortably numb

Part III - Comfortably numb

“When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become, comfortably numb…”

Pink Floyd

The thought of impending surgery has taken over my consciousness for the past few days. Every aspect of my life as I know it is clouded by the influence exerted by this seemingly ephemeral event. The scar will be permanent, though.

It is this stagnation that bothers me. Solitude is chosen while isolation is imposed. My tumor has left me somewhere in the middle. Neither is this state chosen or unyielding. It can be altered by choice, by being “pro-active” as Covey would have offered, plugging his 7 habits. In my case it wouldn’t prove as effective as promised. The reason being I like it this way.

Woody in his infectious neurotic candour, in Annie Hall, categorizes life as being “divided into the horrible and the miserable. The - the horrible would be like, um, I don't know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don't know how they get through life. It's amazing to me.

You know, and the miserable is everyone else. That's - that's - so - so - when you go through life - you should be thankful that you're miserable because you're very lucky to be miserable.”

This misery was and still is necessary. I need this misery to write, to think, to feel alive. I feel I am addicted to it. As I had written earlier it is important to be miserable at times.
Its bitterness lingers on my lips, on my tongue, till I ingest it.

Now, the line between the two is quickly blurring. The line is a 10cm incision in my left calf. It will determine my classification. It separates the morose from the morbid.

Fear of the unknown is like no other. Even in the most insipid moments, it excites, paralyses and often than not makes one think. Mind roams free. Transcending walls of rationality it conspires with dreams to sabotage thought. In the grip of fear I seek solace. It is this fear that facilitates expression of innate desires which otherwise remain suppressed under the burden of reality. When cornered, clarity prevails.

I can be fairly anally retentive, especially when it comes to analyzing life situations, poring over the minutia of everyday existence. In one of these many moments I realize that I could have done nothing to avert this or change anything if I could or wanted to, for the better. Shit Happens.

What is more disturbing or comforting, depends how you choose to look at it, is my perception of life is just the same. Nothing has changed. This may sound absurd, but I always felt that when I have a tumor (yes not if but when, had the feeling long back!) things would change. I would have some sort of vision or insight into life, the kind emanating from extreme despair. I have none yet.

This stillness gets to me. My plans for the future are on a hold. I am asphyxiated by my own ambitions which refuse to stand down and have to be coerced into submission. There are times when I want to take the hit and roll with it. I have begun to become accustomed to my current state of being. May be I always was. This familiarity, in the face of turmoil makes me feel like I have become comfortably numb.

It restricts me and also sets me free.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tales of a tumor - Part II

Part II - The reactions

“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” –
Newton’s first law of motion.
When informed of a tumor, the myriad reactions that come forth are engaging, humorous, overbearing and occasionally heartfelt.

The thought of a person having a tumor demands a reaction which elicits a gamut of emotions that engulf an entire spectrum of human experience. These mandatory utterances, at times an insipid silence, have a potent effect on the variables that elucidate ones existence.

These may range from the pragmatic to the obscure. It also serves as an indicator to a person’s immediate response to a crisis or an awkward social situation, depending on ones proximity to the distressed being. But mostly they toe the predetermined social propriety instead of voicing what is truly felt.

The shell shocked

This kind is left speechless when told about the tumor. The word itself has such a tremendous impact that everything else, including the bearer of the lump, becomes secondary.

This kind is prone to shedding copious tears and also ascribing blame to something or someone for the condition and most likely it is going to be you, God or both. A lack of any information on the subject except things internalized via media and movies is a special characteristic.

The overtly caring

This kind is generally nice by nature, may be a bit too nice. On being informed a moment of silence is followed by a gracious offer of “How can I help?” when very little can be done. If one accepts these innocuous proposals then they get to work with a missionary zeal to make you feel better, no pun intended.

A feeling of asphyxiation may soon take over as you will be left with little room to even wiggle your toes. Right from an umpteenth number of phone calls to the tracking of your bowel movements, this category seldom spares you from the details. I do not intend to be sexist but old aunties and clingy girlfriends are more prone to this peculiar behaviour.

The pseudo concerned

This type will censure you, usually in a high pitch voice, for not informing them earlier.
Terming you as callous and without any respect for the relationship you share with them, they will threaten to terminate all contact.

Barely having recovered from this onslaught you decide to apologize in spite being the patient here. This is when you will be informed of their paucity of time and truck loads of work to be finished. And before you can remember the last time they called, they are gone. Just like that.

The know-it-all

This person is usually well read. It could be a dissertation on the amount of pesticide to be used to ward of farm rats, rest assured he would have read it. This affliction to peripheral knowledge, apart from his professional area of course, leads to what I call an ‘oracle complex’, the condition of knowing it all.

When told about the condition, this individual will most likely tilt his head upwards with the stem of his spectacles in his mouth, in grave contemplation. He will grill you about the nature of the disease, giving an occasional smirk if you do not know a particular detail, which will be diligently pointed out.

Suddenly inspired by a mysterious celestial force he will launch into a discourse about the disease and how one can circumvent the condition. Peppered with unnecessary factoids that hardly seem relevant to you, this person will single handedly cure you, in his mind that is.

Here the focus is not on advice but on the brazen display of perceived talent and infinite knowledge which is expected to be ratified with a “You should have been a doctor!”

Also, you will be subjected to an “I told you so” at the end of the monologue. This will be followed even after your diagnosis and medical treatment, at every step, irrespective of its success or failure.

The alternate thinker

More than a trait, this is a condition. This person ardently believes that cancer or AIDS is a matter of perception, a ploy by the westerners to degenerate our minds. So, terms like ‘allopathy’, ‘surgery’ or anything even remotely related to modern medicine is blasphemous, a curse borne by Humankind.

This man’s panacea lies in age old traditions and indigenous medication. Ayurveda, Unani, Chinese medicine, Reiki, holistic healing et cetera is a part of his core belief system. In his case he may choose to give it a miss and try the occasional asprin to relieve headaches, but that is hardly the issue here.

The point is to convince you about the many benefits of local organic medicines which are said to have no side effects. Whether you try it or not is immaterial.

The advisor

This category may be a composite of all of the above or a unique entity by themselves. The common factor that determines their reaction, almost making it eerily similar in all these individuals, is the obsessive compulsion of giving advice.

Irrespective of any prior knowledge about the condition they will offer advice because that is what they feel is the right thing to do. It stems from the innate notion that one should help in any way possible or at least suggest so with a plethora of pointers relating to general hygiene to the type of treatment.

Also, this type has an instinctive ability to relate any matter under the sun to your disease. Like global warming and its possible effects on your surgery or your thumb length’s implication on recovery period. This radical theorizing need not have logical reasons in support. The idea here is that at least I contributed something.

The nonchalant

This type is the opposite of the ‘shell shocked’ category. They hardly seem to care about what bothers you or the kind of disease you have. For the sake of social niceties they will ask about it, and then continue to talk about what bothers them.

This casual observer cannot do much to make you feel better or worse for that matter. Also, his inane rants take you away, even if only for a moment, from your preoccupation with the tumor. This type is easier to deal with as compared to the ‘overtly caring’ or ‘the know-it –all’ but can be frustrating when in genuine need of solace or a kind word.

The somber and pragmatic

These individuals are the best of the lot. They are aware of their own limitations with regards to medical knowledge. They let you do the talking and listen intently. They will even read about it online and discuss the pros and cons of a treatment.

Without any baggage or assumptions they deal with the situation as it comes. Also, they are a repository of emotional and moral support. At times they can be very grave and contemplative but they will try their best to make you smile.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Go on…tumor me!

A tirade necessitated by the discovery of a tumor. These are my musings.

Part I

My knuckles are sore. The intensity of the scarlet bruise changes in tandem with the needle in my wrist watch. I look away to try and distract myself. It has been 20 minutes since I sat here, waiting for my turn.

There was an uncanny calm. Not the kind one would expect, especially outside a clinic. Seems like a slow day, I thought, or was the little child wailing not loud enough. A constant throbbing grasps my attention. No it is not my head, neither is it the right hand bearing the above mentioned battered knuckles. It was my left leg, the left calf muscle to be precise. An obtrusive bulge wherein nestled the tumor.

I have a tumor. It’s benign. It is called ‘intramuscular lipoma’ not to be confused with the infamous and at times fatal lymphoma. A lipoma is docile. A recluse of sorts, I guess that’s keeping in line with its bearer. Its more illustrious, hence undesirable cousins which are malignant and which often undergo metastasis will strike the fear of God. At the mention of their name compulsive mortals quiver, dreading the worst, assuming one believes in it of course, God, cancer or either.

As the condition seldom is fatal, the anxiety I felt that day seems to be misplaced, yet justified. With the baggage that I carry genetics or otherwise, I felt the impending catastrophe would be in accordance with my errors. But, alas, it is but a mere deposition of adipose tissue, namely fat, that ails me!

My penchant for drama aside, I was truly wrecked at the thought of surgery, however routine or safe it may be. Anything that requires a sharp, pointed object to be thrust in order to penetrate any body part cannot be termed as ‘a routine’ not for someone at the receiving end, at the very least.

The decision to taste steel, not in course of a dinner mind you, hangs in balance due to self-anointed enthusiastic doctors, healers, messiahs of God…well what ever that may suit their taste. It is interesting how a medical situation triggers the latent talents in almost everybody except the doctor himself. He will ask you to get tests done and encourage you to go for a second opinion. The rest surrounding you, however, are ready with their brand of cure, from massages to leeches and more.

That is the reason why we do not insist on universal Medicare in India because apparently everyone here is a doctor, capable of treating everyone else but himself, as suggested by several excursions to neigbourhood clinics. Healer, heal thyself!

My family physician, an ex-military corps surgeon, whom I was waiting to see, now a general practitioner, has advised against convention, not to remove the tumor. As it causes little hindrance in my movement now and will possibly remain uneventful if left alone. While the other doctors, whomever that I have consulted offer the opposite.

To be or not to be under the surgeon’s blade, that is the question.

As I stared at my bruised hand that morning, it became clear that I have not quite dealt with how I felt about the tumor, the surgery, the lay-off from work and an indefinite wait before I roam free again. A wooden door bore the brunt of my suppressed angst. I write to heal. I write, therefore I am.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Press release



Irregularities in the presidential and Vice Presidential elections

Mumbai, 8th May 2007.

Writ Petition [WPI 219/07] in the Supreme Court
on the serious irregularities in the Presidential and Vice Presidential Elections since 1974, which is posted for admission.

The petitioner Dr. Leo Rebello, World Peace Envoy, and one of the Presidential aspirants from Mumbai, will address the media and elaborate on his writ petition and its historic significance in Indian polity.

This writ petition filed and admitted via the internet is an oft ignored legal recourse open to the citizens of
India, a facility which not many people or advocates are aware of.

Dr. Leo Rebello will address these issues while speaking on his Presidential candidacy. Also, he will respond to citizens and media questions.

A press conference is being held in this regard on
the 8th of May 2007 at 3.00 pm at the Conference Room of Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh (Next to Press Club), Azad Maidan, Opp. BMC Office, VT, Mumbai 400001.

“In such a gargantuan task of cleaning the Augean’s stable of Indian politics, mired in corruption, casteism, communalism and criminalization of politics I will need every right thinking citizen’s help”, says Dr. Rebello

Justice Corps cordially invites you to participate in this historic press conference.

Dr. Leo Rebello is a qualified Holistic Healer, Educator, Author and Social Scientist. He has delivered over 10,000 lectures in 63 countries and written 30 books. Director of Natural Health Centre, Bombay, President of AIDS Alternativa, Fellow of European Medical Association etc., he has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his pioneering work on AIDS and Holistic Healing.

Dr. Rebello is the founder/president of All India Letter-Writers Association, a 27 years old NGO of conscience-keepers of the nation. He is also the President of Litigants Welfare Forum, Hon. Adviser of Justice Corps, Founder of All India Voters’ Panchayat, and a prominent leader active in public life.

Winner of World Peace Ambassador Award 2004, President of World Constitution and Parliament Association, Vice President of International Association of Educators for World Peace and is on the Governing Council of UN-Habitat.

If you would like more information or to schedule an interview with Dr. Leo Rebello, please call, Mrs. Kashmira Rebello at 022-28872741 or Mobile – 9869828619.

E-mail at | .
Official website:
Postal Address – Dr. Leo Rebello, 28 Sunshine, Samta Nagar, Kandivli East, Mumbai – 400101, Maharashtra, India.