Of endings, beginnings and everything in between

I wish all my beloved family and friends across the world, a very happy new year. May this year bring the best of health, happiness, success and love in your lives.

Before 2018 ends, I want to share something with everyone.

2017-18 seem like one long year to me. And these two years have been the most testing times of my life so far. I hit some all-time lows professionally, physically and as a result, emotionally. Of course the tough times teach you the most valuable lessons of life. These two years did that too. 

However, that’s not the point of why I started this trail of thought. For the longest I debated if this needs to go public at all. 

I decided it totally should. 

In 2017, I shot a project that was supposed to give us a lot of visibility, credit and money but instead it was shut abruptly and everyone on board took a major hit. I gave over one year to that project obviously saying no to a lot of things. And because of a weird legal loophole, I ended up not getting paid for the whole year. At the year end, I took up a travel show which lead to an accident and I had to go through a knee surgery which lead to six-eight months of recovery/rest and no work. So the money I did end up getting for the earlier project was consumed in lying in bed for months. 

For a person who has always been a workaholic, a year of sabbatical can be very challenging to cope with. By the time I recovered to begin working again, it felt like I reached a station when the last train left hours ago. No leads, no projects, not even conversations. Just a long stretch of uncertainty. It felt like I was back to 2013 when I had come back from New York.  

I spent weeks just locked in my room, in my bed unsure of what should I even do. I would just let the phone ring and not answer it. I wouldn’t know what to say or talk about. If at all I answered the call, the first question would be what have you been doing. If somehow I would dodge it by some vague generic answer, I would end up hearing what all the other person has been doing and it would make feel so useless and stupid. 

Most of my time went by doing financial calculations to make sure it all adds up and I make it through the month. Every expense as little as few hundred bucks would lead to me doing and redoing the maths in my head to make sure I am not messing up my budget.  

I would feel lonely and would desperately want to meet friends. But as soon as I would meet them, it would hit me how well they are doing in their life and how I have ended up to be a loser. So I would rush through the meeting and then head home, back to my room, back to my bed. I would get panic attacks, anxiety and restlessness leading to sleeplessness and thus worse mental health. 

The whole bedrest thing resulted in me gaining a lot of weight. Half of my brain would want to go and do something about it. The other stronger half would say, just eat what you feel like. Staying happy right now is most important. You can lose the weight anytime you want once you’re out of this mess. 

A lot of you would think why didn’t I seek professional help. I couldn’t afford it. It was just beyond my reach to afford a good psychologist to have regular sessions.

When you upgrade your lifestyle based on the money you think you are going to earn but you don’t end up actually earning it because everything went south, you end in the most weird situation of being “Urban Poor”.

You have a car, you live in a 2BHK house, a fancy phone and what not, people find it funny when you mention you are in a financial crisis. If you take a financial hit, you wouldn’t just throw the things you already have. I did definitely consider moving to a cheaper house but the whole transaction of moving seemed so much more expensive that paying a higher rent seemed to make more sense. 

And of course, you’re hopeful that this situation is temporary. You’ll soon get a big project or those projects you’ve been talked to so much about would materialize. So you tend to push through. 

But it doesn’t get any better. The burden keeps mounting.

And that’s when you start to question every life decision you took, every choice you made including the career you chose. You wonder if you’d have had a job today, you’d be so happy and relaxed. 

You start to feel how people around you, your  friends, peers moved so much faster and figured out their lives while you’re still living the life of a struggler. You see your friends take vacations, buy a house or just shop for things they want, eat wherever they want to and it does some serious damage to your self-confidence. The smallest things can do the maximum damage actually. 

For the longest, the assurance that you’re chasing your dream and doing what you always wanted keeps you sane and going. But there comes a time where this also stops to make sense to you. You wonder if creating beautiful imagery and telling good stories is even worth all this stress and struggle.  You start to think that you could have done this after earning hell lot of money. 

You start to convince yourself that quitting (and not just professionally) is the best possible idea. Your brain starts to play games and you end up falling in this dark pit that’s impossible to find out. You don’t even know how to seek help. The worst idea for person with no guarantee of work or financial improvement is to take more loans. You end up in a catch 22 situation. You want to take a time machine and go back and say yes to every project you said no to in order to say yes to something else that either never happened or didn’t end up paying you. 

When you hit your lowest and it is impossible to go any further down, you realize you only have one choice – to get the fuck up again. And I don’t think doing that alone is possible. I have always been surrounded by people and luckily nice kind people. But in this unusual turn of events, I discovered very few of these people were good listeners.


Which is why I want to thank some extraordinary people in my life who made sure they pull me out of the black hole. My biggest support, my hope and source of energy have been my parents. They supported me like nothing ever happened. They made me feel how proud they were of me and how this would all pass. I think I didn’t end up doing something stupid or didn’t give up only because of them. 

My friend Stephen went out of his way to help me in every possible way even when he wasn’t in the country. He made sure he was there in any and every way possible even if not physically around. And I don’t think I would ever be able to thank him enough. 

Shruti has always been my kid. I have protected her from everything. However, this time she put a shell around me so strong that I felt secure in it. She understood every little nuance of my thought process and made sure she said the right things, made me do the right things and turned out to be my biggest support in despair. 

Orso, Sameer, Chaitra, Sai, Priyanka, Supriya and my little sis Priyanshi, all turned out to be the therapists that I otherwise couldn’t afford (ok Sai was not so much of a therapist but he still was just there no matter what haha). Listening to me for hours without a sign of tardiness or judgement was something that probably helped me the most.

I also want to apologize to all the people that I probably couldn’t be there for because I didn’t have anything to offer. I was empty, broken and of no use to anyone.  Now you know why I was so out of reach. 

To all those who are now upset that I should have told you, I have no excuse. Sometimes it is not easy to reach out for help out of context. I probably could see how much was on your plate already and didn’t want to trouble you for it. To certain others, well, I did ask for help but you clearly didn’t see it. Though that’s ok now. 

But like 2018, that phase is over for me. I am feeling myself again and ready to put up another round of fight. I am not sure how 2019 is going to be but I am sure I am now ready to deal with it. Once again, a very happy new year to everyone. Thank you for putting up with me and I promise I will be a better person in the year to come. 

I also promise that I am going to work very hard to help people around me who might be in a fix like I was in and may need help. In the long run, I definitely want to make the lives of upcoming freelancers easier. 

I will make sure I spend time trying to listen to people, understand and do my best to help the ones around me. If there’s something you just want to talk about, please feel free to call or message. 

Also, I do want to request you all to do all of these more often :

Listen –It might be few minutes for you but it could be life saving for someone else. You’ll probably save a person from quitting. Nobody should ever have to quit. Also, listening is not always about finding solutions. A lot of times just sharing one’s thoughts leads to the obvious solution. 

Be kind –It is just a matter of choosing your words carefully. What you say without much thought can trigger an ocean of emotions in someone else. Everyone is fighting a war you don’t know about. Least you can do is be kind. 

Reach out –If a close friend or loved one seems to be keeping low, reach out. If you sense unusual change in someone’s behaviour, make sure you do your bit to understand what could be causing it and see if you can do anything about it. Just make sure you spend enough time with the people you love. 

Open up –Nobody wants to be vulnerable to a really strong defensive person. If you expect a certain person to share what they are going through, put your guard down. Show them that you’re also not really perfect. Trust is a two way street.

Express –It is never inappropriate to tell the people you love how much you love them. I find it sad to see how many people around me have trouble just saying that they love the person. You might be saying the most obvious thing but it would make another person’s day bright. It could be the brightest thing of a person’s day.

And finally I would say don’t quit. Take a break. Cool down. But never quit. Not after what you’ve already been through. It will all be worth it. You’re not alone. Keep fighting.

Of baggage tags, x-ray scanners and 24-degree Celsius

All incidents mentioned in this post are true and happened as is. They have not been exaggerated.

I thanked my Ola driver, took my bag and stepped out. As I approached the gate, a long queue was ahead of me. The person at the end of the line had five passports. The security guy was having a tough time matching the name on the ticket and that on the first passport. Four other gentlemen were surrounding him. He kept going back and forth between the two documents. The people behind were getting impatient. The security guard at the other gate stepped up his game and invited people from my queue to come to him. I went over and made my way through. I looked back and nothing had moved in that queue.

I have been attempting to live like old times. I don’t keep my earphones plugged in drowning the ambient sounds and the world around me by music when in public places. I also try to keep the phone use to minimum when in public except when it’s something important or work related. This however has suddenly made me aware of the utter chaos our world is now.

When I was traveling from Mumbai, I saw some brand-new kiosks that had been installed at T2. They now print your baggage tags as well. I was delighted to see this. I printed my boarding pass and the baggage tag, tore out the stub that goes behind the boarding pass and was about to peel off the tag to put it around the bag when a representative from my airline stopped me saying “Sir the people at the check in counter will do this. You don’t have to do this”. I was confused. He pointed to a long queue for self check in baggage drop.

“But I have already printed my baggage tag…I don’t need to get in the queue”

“This is the queue for that sir. The normal check in queue is on the other side” he replied smiling ear to ear.

I sighed and dragged myself to the line. I spotted the automatic self check in counter. But it was being operated by an agent. The people weren’t allowed to actually use it. The time taken to check in through that was exactly the same as other counters if not more.

Anyway, back here at Delhi T3 airport for my return flight, I continued to make my way forward though the painfully slow line. The person in front of me kept stalling because he was too busy looking at his phone. I could almost hear people honking behind me. When I reached the end of the line, it took a while before my turn at a counter.

The check in counter right in front of me had a family. The father was talking on the phone. He was coordinating some big conference. The elder daughter was on her phone chatting with someone and listening to music. The mother was nagging her for something while the son (probably six or seven) was not very happy and kept angrily bumping into the mother only to be pushed back again. The lady behind the counter was furiously typing something. She would have to ask the man something three times before he would get off the phone momentarily to answer her. He tucked the phone between his head and right shoulder to put the bags on the weighing scale. The lady behind the counter again said something.

He took the bag off and continued talking on the phone walking away. His wife called him back to sort the problem first. The agent continued typing. She then walked over to another counter to another agent who was also religiously typing on her computer. She halted that check-in process to check something and then came back on her computer and typed some more. The man was still on the phone, now even louder as he opened two of the bags and began shifting stuff from one to another. The mother had finally grabbed the attention of the girl and the nagging was now a heated conversation. The girl kept shrugging, rolling her eyes, sighing, mumbling something and then texting again. The father would every now and then ask the daughter or mother something about the clothes but neither of them really came forward to help or gave a straight forward reply. They continued arguing. He packed the bags and put them back on the weight scale. He suddenly realized his son had walked away playing with a trolley. In his crooked posture of holding the phone between his head and shoulder, he lunged forward, grabbed the boy and dragged him to the family. And he continued talking fixing his posture and holding the phone normally.

Luckily the next counter called me because I was almost ready to go to him and snatch his phone away. I handed over my boarding pass. The agent typed what seemed like a long essay on the computer. Like she had to hack into the system every-time to check someone in. It took Harshvardhan Kapoor less time to hack into Mumbai airport system in Bhavesh Joshi (don’t ask me why I’ve seen that film).

From whatever little international travel, I have done, I know for sure (have paid attention to this part) that in London, New York, Helsinki, Milan etc. the agent never has to type so much. Even at Air India counters in NY and Milan. It’s mainly scanning the barcode on the boarding pass, scanning the passport and visa, a few clicks may be, printing the baggage tag, attaching it and done. I never understand why we are so much in love with this typing business. The boarding passes do have barcodes that are eventually scanned at the boarding gate.

The security check line was no surprise. There were ten counters open and all of them were flooded with people. Nobody was moving. Right ahead of me were three ladies traveling together. One of them was extremely particular that nobody breaks through the queue. She had some infection on her nose which left small brown dead skin patches right on the tip and edge of nostrils. One would almost want to scratch it off. I probably would have if it was on my nose. She kept reminding people very politely that there was a queue. She also made sure her co-travelers understood the procedure of getting through security check.

“Keep the laptop out in the tray ok…”

“I know…” replied her friend in a not so happy tone opening her bag to take out the laptop.

“And if you have any liquids, put them out as well…”

“hmmm…”

“You can put your phone in the bag. That’s ok…”

“yeah…”

“But make sure you have your boarding pass”

“I have it.” she answered while opening zips after zips inside her bag. It had multiple levels of compartments. The laptop was found three levels down on the right side. I actually was tempted to ask which bag that was. It was so much organized.

“Don’t put it in the tray. It will need to be stamped. Excuse me sir…there’s a queue. Yes, over there…yeah so don’t put your boarding pass in there”

“yeah I didn’t put my boarding pass” the friend replied, holding on to her last bit of patience.

“You want me to hold your boarding pass. I am afraid you’ll leave it in the bag” Her politeness could make people lose their mind.

“No. It’s ok. I got it” She continued to stay patient, polite and determined to find all her electronic devices in the maze her bag was.

“Can people not see the queue?” she complained to her other fellow traveler.

I started to wonder why the line was not moving at all. The bags in the scanning machine hadn’t moved. I looked for the guy on the console and spotted the problem right there. He was so busy talking to the guy on the scanning machine behind him, the guy at the end of his machine to organize the bags exiting and the guy frisking people that he wasn’t moving the belt forward.

He was doing something very similar to what a lot of actors in various sitcoms do. When they are eating as part of their scene, they keep fidgeting with the food but never really eat it. They just keep saying their lines but never ever sip the coffee or take a bite. Further, a lot of times, one of the actors would ask for something to be done quickly but suddenly it will lead to a really long conversation and everyone would forget there was something urgent needed to be done a minute ago. The guy was talking, laughing, looking at the screen but not pressing any buttons. He would turn again and make a point, laugh some more and continue staring at the screen.

He managed to move one bag forward. Then got up suddenly and walked over to the guy at the end, patted his back, ruffled the bags on the end, turned around and walked back to his seat. He then spotted an old register. So, he picked it up and began aimlessly flipping through it. He got up again and went to the machine behind him where another man sat. The two of them joked about something in the bag and laughed again. He walked away from there and just aimlessly began to wander around the area. He had a nice wide smile on.

For almost 15mins the scanning machine stayed unmanned and surprisingly nobody in the queue complained. A person walked through but had his phones in his pocket along with his wallet. He was sent back. He tried to put his things in his tray but the lady in front of me shooed him away for he was not in queue.

The guy frisking realized that nobody was coming forward anymore. He looked around and understood what was happening. He called the guy at the console over, gave him the metal detector and he went over to the scanning machine. Suddenly the bags began moving. Our hero however, now was chatting his way through frisking. A poor man kept holding the titanic pose while our gossip queen wouldn’t shut up. He just had so much tell everyone. And they seemed to be all happy things. I somewhat envied him.

I was early to the airport. I wasn’t even remotely worried about missing my flight. Nor was all of it annoying me. I was now a part of it. I walked over to get frisked and finally got to hear some of his chatter. His accent and surname Singh told me he was a fellow Jaunpuriya.

“…I don’t like to brag but I have always been upfront about all of these things. You can’t make me do things. I told him very clearly that if he talks to me again in that tone, it’s not going to end well. His face shrank like a dry date…”

They all laughed. He frisked me and then right before he was about to stamp my boarding pass, he drifted into a very deep thought. He just kept staring into nothingness, smiling. I kept looking at him. It took him few seconds to come back to his senses and stamp it. While I was packing putting my things back in my bag, I heard a familiar voice. I looked and saw the same family taking their things from the nearby counter and no prizes for guessing, the guy was back on the phone.

“Hello sir. Welcome aboard” the usual pleasantries were exchanged, and I was at my seat. I usually never have to use the washroom during domestic flights, so I love to take the window seat and go off to sleep. Most of my travel is at such odd hours that I end passing out even before take-off. Today, I was well slept and thus absolutely aware.

While everyone was still settling in, I heard a ‘ting’. I looked around and saw the light blinking above a seat much ahead of me. A man wearing a dark gray suit and gold watch sitting in the aisle seat had requested for some assistance. A very pleasant looking air hostess attended to him. He described something for few seconds while the hostess listened very intently nodding along. She then explained something back to him, smiled and walked away swiftly.

She started looking for something in the small luggage compartment in the end where the crew often keeps their stuff. She walked over the pantry area and opened a couple of compartments but still didn’t find it. She then walked across the plane and met another hostess and described something in her ears. She understood and walked at the rear end of the plane, quickly went through a lot of shelves at the back and then walked back to the tell her she didn’t find it. The former hostess walked back to the customer and explained why she couldn’t find what was asked for. Instead she offered two bottles of water. I hope that compensated for what the man was looking for within seconds of entering the aircraft.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. My apologies for the delayed take off due to the air traffic congestion at Delhi airport. However, we are expecting to make up for the loss and land on time…”

“The outside temperature right now is -60 degrees celsius but for your comfort and convenience, we are maintaining a 24 degrees celsius in the aircraft…”

What? Is that something to brag about? Of all the breakthroughs in technology that have happened in air travel since Boeing 707, maintaining a comfortable above 0 temperature is something that needs show off? How about “Ladies and gentlemen, I am not flying this thing anymore. It’s flying by itself now, I am resuming Game of Thrones. I have a lot to catch up”

And is it only the customers that need it? The crew and pilots are all immune to it? How about you don’t maintain the temperature! Tell people to carry their down jackets, quilts, furs and hiking gear. Get some bonfires going. I am sure some people will opt for it if that results in lower air fare. Also, 24 is quite warm. How about 21?

The cabin suddenly filled with smell of food. My seat was at a very strategic point (unintentional) where the service begins. When food is being served in a flight, I get a little worked up. I have to look like I don’t need this meal really, yet I am just hungry for some reason and want to just eat it. I so want to be part of the people who say “I never eat in flights. The food is just so bad!” but I always end up being the one who opens his tray when the attendant is two rows away.

I keep an eye on the hostess/steward to know when he/she is going to ask me. I make sure I am either looking away, reading or watching something on my iPad when asked “Excuse me sir, veg or non-veg?”. I usually then turn around acting very relaxed and say “Veg. Thank you”. Yay! I totally nailed it. I made them believe I wasn’t hungry but since they insisted, I decided to eat. They serve the food which is always at 400-degree celsius. How is it that the butter is always frozen while meal is always scorching hot? I put the butter on top of the meal and in 30seconds it melts. It takes me probably five minutes to finish the meal. And then I wonder why they can’t just take the trash from me immediately.

“Your baggage will be available at belt number 12. I repeat belt number 12”

I grabbed my bag and walked over to P7 west wing while booking an Uber. There are now dedicated elevators that only go back and forth between arrival and P7 where Uber pick-up zone is. The elevators have big yellow warnings about this in English and Hindi. I got into an elevator. A young lady walked in looking at her phone. Followed by a couple both lost in their phones. They stood in it and suddenly realized it only goes to P7. They opened the doors and rushed out. Two more people, looking at their phone, were now standing by the door.

“This only goes to P7?” one of them asked. I nodded yes. They let the door close. Suddenly it opened again.

“This goes to P9?” he asked me again.

“It’s the same elevator buddy. I am the same person.” I replied. He got furious. And pressed the button a couple of more times opening the door again that was almost closed.

“You need to move over to the other elevator to go to P9” I told him pointing away firmly but politely. He kept looking at me for few seconds and walked away. I think he is a frequent traveler on Mumbai local. Usually, after two-three Borivali trains, a Virar slow shows up.

“This only goes to P7?” another lady asked me walking towards the elevator.

“Yes” and I closed the door. Luckily, I made it to P7 this time.

You have been matched with an Uber XL at no extra cost. Ravi in his Chevrolet Njoy was on his way. He was in the airport itself. I was relieved. All he had to go was to come to the parking. I settled at the waiting area staring at my Uber moving around the airport to come to me.

“You need a car? I have Uber and Ola of my own. I can get one for you right now. That’s why I never book it through their app. I always call one of mine” the man next to me asked me.

“No thank you. My cab is already on its way”

I could see Ravi taking the turn towards the entrance of the parking to come to P7. Suddenly he continued to drive away back towards highway. I called him.

“Sorry sir. I don’t know how to come to P7. I took the wrong turn. Will take a U turn and come back”

He went all the way to domestic airport, took a U-turn then another U-turn to come back. Meanwhile, the gentleman next to me was loudly yapping on his phone.

“Arey I will come out to the main road. Autos here have to pay an entry free. They charge the customers. Domestic is easy that way…the highway is so close by. This international airport is a mess. There’s no way you can come and pick me, right? Ok. I will walk out and figure something”

Another gentleman came and sat next to me. The yappadoodle asked him too if he needed a ride. But I think his earlier conversation didn’t help his case. So that guy also refused. He got up, fixed his shirt and walked away.

My Uber was now almost going to turn towards the parking when I see it missing the turn again. I called him.

“Sorry sir. I missed the exit again. I am now at the departure. The road on the outside.”

I considered canceling but thought it will probably be faster if I just go upstairs to departure and meet him. I told him to wait. I walked through the whole of airport but there was no way for a person to walk out to the outer road. He called me again and told me that the policeman is asking him to leave. He ended up taking another long U-turn. I told him to come to the departure lane.

He made it. I was finally on my way back home in car the size of my bathroom. When I was almost reaching my home, say about a kilometer away, his phone began ringing. And I can’t explain how absolutely shrill and brain damaging ringtone that was. It was a pickup request. Except he wouldn’t accept it. I stopped at the Oberoi signal on the highway followed by the Oberoi signal on Film city road, Dindoshi signal, Gokuldham signal, the whole congestion of Gokuldham market and the phone kept ringing. He neither silenced it nor did he accept the request.

“That’s a pick-up request, right? Why don’t you accept it?” I tried to intelligently solve the situation.

“First I will drop you sir. Then I will pick it up. I am new, so I don’t know how to do both.” And just like that, it kept ringing slowly lobotomizing me.

“Can you silence it?”

“I don’t know sir. This is my first day.” He tried pressing the volume buttons, but the thing didn’t shut up. Seemed like it was my destiny.

I turned through Riddhi garden road towards my lane. Some school bus decided to stop and wait. The phone kept ringing. I looked around. It was too narrow for the bus and the incoming car to cross at the same time. The car reversed. The bus passed and kept moving ahead of us. It dropped a couple of kids and turned right where I had to turn as well. It got stuck again because of an oncoming Innova.

The phone continued to ring.

I asked him to end the trip, jumped out of the car and walked to my building. It kept ringing for few minutes in my head.

Reached home and dropped flat on my bed. A loud angry meeeeooooowwwwwwwwwwww broke the silence of the house. Shamsher was hungry. His plate was shiny clean.

Bhopal, Air India and ‘Sir’

What you’re going to read is not an exaggeration. Sometimes you see things that don’t need any exaggeration to narrate.

 I reached Bhopal airport exactly an hour before my flight. At the check-in counter, I was told I am 3kgs overweight. I protested that I am at least 10kgs overweight but that shouldn’t be a problem to take the flight. She clarified that it was about my baggage.

“Please shift some stuff to your hand baggage”

“I am willing to pay for it. Don’t worry about it”

“But sir, if you can just work around, it should come within the 15kg limit”

“I neither want to open my bag here nor do I want to carry extra weight in my hand baggage”

“Then you will have to go to the ticket window and pay for it”

I left the check in counter and looked for the ticket counter which was at the entrance. As I was crossing the second checkpoint, the guard stopped me.

“Sorry sir, you can’t exit once you have checked in”

“I am not exiting, I am just going to pay my excess baggage”

“I can’t allow you to cross. You won’t be allowed back in”

“What? Why? I have a valid ticket. I mean I am not excited to walk all the way there either. If you can arrange for the excess baggage fee to be paid right here within your Lakshman Rekha, then it would be the best”

Confused but determined to do his duty, he calls out to his senior from the main entrance. A little older guy walks up. The guard explains him his problem. He seemed equally perplexed by this turn of events. I don’t think anybody in Bhopal has ever paid excess baggage. After much thinking, he suggests something even more ridiculous.

“Can you call someone from the Air India counter?”

“Why should I call? You call someone from Air India”

“Sorry sir, but you’ll have bring someone from the check in counter to go with you”

I looked back to notice the guys at the check-in counter were witnessing my situation all this while. I noticed a senior guy walking past with Air India tag. I asked him to help me out.

“I will come with you. Don’t worry”

And with him, I made it to the ticket counter where a lady was busy chatting on her phone. Upon noticing me, she put her phone aside and took my excess baggage slip.

“Sir our network is down. I will have to make a manual receipt” she told me clicking vigorously on the refresh button.

She picks up the phone on the counter and dials some colleague of hers.

“Ma’am, network is down so should I just make a manual receipt for excess baggage? hmmm…yes….yes…excess baggage…yes…network is down since morning…ya….ok…alright ma’am…no no it’s excess baggage…yes…Ok…fine ma’am. “

She kept the phone and began looking through the drawers for something.

Drawer 1…Nothing…2…Nope…3…Nope…4…Na…5…Not here…6..Not here as well. She turned around, darted through the room to the other side and began looking in the drawers of another desk.

In the fourth one, she found a leaflet that I remembered used to be how flight tickets were issued before 2006. She flipped through it and settled in her chair to fill it. She suddenly realized she’s missing something else. Again, she got up and began her dramatic Hindi movie style search for something. None of the drawers had it. So, she just reached out deep into her bag and found a pen. She also managed to find an old booklet which was filled to copy from it.

“Sir I would need the ticket”

I opened it on my phone and gave it to her. She continued filling the booklet like school kid copying homework.

I handed her the money as soon as she was done writing.

“Oh yes…no…change…wait…sir…let me finish this…will then take the money”

She continued to read the first page for next five minutes. Then she flipped the page to she second carbon page and read everything. Then she read through the third page followed by fourth page as if making sure that nothing changed in the carbon copies. She opened the first page and would flip back and forth comparing between first and the subsequent pages. Satisfied that she did indeed fill it right and the carbon worked just as it should have, she tore apart all the four pages from the booklet and lay them next to each other on the desk. She scanned through them again.

If you know me, I don’t need to explain how my patience was being tested all this while.

She got and reached out to another person walking around in the airport.

“Avinash sir, we hand over the last two pages of the manual excess baggage receipt right?”

“Wait. Let me come over there.”

He comes in with the swag of Robert Langdon and both of them sit to decipher this mystery.

“So, this booklet has four pages. I think we have to give the last two pages to the customer” explained the lady.

“See, this booklet has four pages. The first page is to be filled by your hand ok?”

“Yes sir. I have done that”

“Did you fill two booklets? Why will you book two booklets”

“No sir. That one is an old one. I was using it to fill this one”

“Okay. So the first one is filled by hand ok? And the rest all get filled up because they have carbon behind them. Ok?”

“Yes sir”

He flips through the pages to read them all.

“You didn’t fill the name?”

“There is no column for name sir”

“Come on…so what? You have to fill the passenger name somewhere. Now let this one go but in future, if you fill this up, make sure you write the passenger name”

“Ok sir. Which one to give to the passenger?”

“So this first one filled by hand goes in the registry. The second one goes in this drawer. The third one and fourth one will go at the check-in counter.”

“Yeah so the last two will be given to the passenger”

“They go to the check in counter”

“But sir the passenger only will take it to the check in counter”

“Ah! Yes yes..so you give this to the passenger”

“Ok thank you sir. I wasn’t sure which one goes to the passenger”

“No problem. I am going to have some tea”

She begins another desperate search in the drawers. Luckily the fourth drawer had the stamps. She stamps all four of the pages and staples the last two pages again and hands them over to me. I offer the money again and she returns the change to me. I requested her to give me my phone back. She did.

This whole incident took 35mins by watch.

I reach the same checkpoint and the guard or the Air India personnel are nowhere to be seen. I reach the check in counter and hand over the booklet. She looks at it like I gave her Ramayan written on parchment paper.  

She turns left and screams “Sir…Sir….Goel sir…the number on the cover page, we log this in, right?”

“What is it?”

“Manual receipt”

“Upgrade coupon?”

“Yes”

“For Lucknow flight?”

“Yes sir”

“Manual upgrade coupon?”

I interrupted before she can say yes again, “No it’s an excess baggage receipt”.

What can you possibly upgrade in a flight from Bhopal to Lucknow in an ATR jet?

“Aah…ok..so what’s the problem? Just enter the number on top”

“Ok sir”

He looks at me saying “This whole computer thing is very recent. We used to have everything manual sometime ago” and laughs out loudly. The rest of the ground crew around him follow.

I finally get my boarding pass and thanking my stars, I make a run for the security check. I made it to the flight.

Nudity, Anesthesia and Patella – Part 2

Continued from here.

I woke up and look out of the window. Beautiful white snow had covered everything in Rovaniemi, Lapland. I was sleeping in Stephen’s room because my roommate, who was my second camera op, would keep the lights on till late to copy cards and charge batteries. I checked the time and realised I must head to my room and get ready for breakfast. We were staying in a beautiful luxurious hotel that had big cottage suits with huge glass windows to see the northern lights. I opened the main door and it was half snow half ice everywhere. There were wooden steps leading to the main road. On each side of the steps was a deep pit of mud covered now in fresh snow. I locked the door and turned to slowly carefully step down. A thought crossed my head – What if I slip and fall? I stopped for second and took a deep breath. If I do it carefully, I can make it back to my room without trouble.

They put gravel on the steps and slippery ice to prevent people from falling. I could see the gravel on the steps. I took my first step landing my right foot on the first step and it slipped. I slid off the stairs with a sudden jolt and nothing around to hold on to. In a flash, I felt my knee cap pop out to its right. Now that has happened numerous times with me. My body’s immediate reaction always is to fall flat. It immediately release the pressure from my knee and the knee cap goes back to its place. With the snow, this turned out to be tricky. I spun around slipping through the ice landing in the pit, flat on my face with my knee hitting the icy ground. It popped back in place giving me relief from that excruciating pain it causes. But I felt it wasn’t the end of it. The big question was I had to now climb back up and still make it to my room. My phone was in my pocket but I was all zipped up. It seemed impossible to find it.

I looked around and discovered that my room was actually right next to me. The pit separated the two cottages. The way through the main road made it seem far away at night. I decided it would be wiser to just climb out towards my room. I slowly got up. I had landed on my palms. They were now red and hurting very badly. The good news was I could stand. My right leg shivering and a little numb. I limped around the pit and found a less steep side up. The snow was fresh so it was easy to climb. I made my way up and opened my room, dragged myself to my bed and just sat there breathing. What just happened? Did I just manage to injure myself on a shoot in Finland? In the middle of nowhere? I took off my jeans to look at my knee. It was swollen. I went to the washroom and put it under running hot water.

A normal person would have just gotten up, hurled a few abuses and walked his way out to his room uninjured. The other possibility being you crack open your skull by hitting your head on the stairs and then the stones and ice. But thanks to my luck, I was now tied naked to a table with intact skull in an OT with a shitload of medical equipment beeping and wheezing around me while some doctors take selfies with my cut open knee as they try to fix it. Such is life.

“…he started screaming at me. I told him that even though he is a doctor, he can’t just shout at me like that. Next time he does it, I will throw something at him I swear”

“I know…he’s just an asshole. The other day he got an earful…”

Two nurses were very softly gossiping away with some serious conviction in a corner of the OT. I could hear the doctors murmuring. Nothing seemed like going unusual. There was a calm vibe around. Chill scenes I tell you.

“How are you holding in there buddy?” came Dr Sawhney’s voice tearing through the silence. The two nurses shut up immediately. I told him it was all good and asked him how was it going down there. “Almost there…almost there” he replied and continued to murmur with the other doctors. He probably did that just to remind the gossip girls they were in the middle of a surgery. And no they weren’t two girls. One of them was a guy.

After what seemed like ten minutes, I heard “Ah….beautiful! Come see this. The patella is tracking so beautifully now. Let’s take some more pictures” and everyone gathered behind Dr Sawhney to pose.

“Take some closes as well” he insisted. I looked at the clock and discovered it had not even been an hour since I was brought in here.

“Himanshu, your patella is now absolutely stabilized. It went better than I thought”

“Thank you so much doctor. That’s some relief to hear you say that” I replied. It genuinely felt so good to know it was over. Then I heard a sound I was least expecting but I should have. I looked at the lady doctor who was right by side.

“Is he stapling it?”

“Yes…”

“How many?”

“7-8 on one side, about 3-4 on other” she told me with a little wince.

“Show also the pictures as well” Dr Sawhney requested her.

A phone was brought to me with pictures of my knee. There was one big clean incision and every muscle inside was off white. I couldn’t make out much if it was fixed or not. But I was surprised that there was no blood anywhere. Later, google told me what Tourniquet really does is it depletes the area of blood by putting three times the pressure stopping the circulation. It helps doctors perform the surgery without worrying about blood loss. It’s also easy to see things clearly.

They removed the screen that was blocking my view and I was surprised to see both my legs were stretched out straight covered with a green sheet. It was a surprise because before I was given anaesthesia, my right leg was folded up while left was straight out. Post anaesthesia, I kept getting this ghost feeling that my legs were still in the same position. To see your legs in a different position than how you feel them can be a tricky situation.

Doc then showed me x-rays of my knee at every stage. They bent and checked to see if the movement is not restricted. I could see my knee cap was now resting absolutely in the centre in all the scans as opposed to on the far right off the socket in older x-rays.

My knee cap had this problem from a very long time. When I was young, it would dislocate but wouldn’t cause as much of pain to really ring any alarm bells. As I grew up, the problem got worse but the idea of a knee surgery was still not considered to be a safe option. I met with an accident in 2007 and the best solution to fix it was to perform a surgery. Yet the senior doctors at that time considered that healing should solve it and one shouldn’t hinder with complex joints like knee. Ten years later, I can now say it didn’t heal.

Thanks to that condition, I always lived in constant fear of dislocating my knee. I would walk slowly, be extra careful on stairs, never jump or run. There were times when my brain would suddenly remember the feeling when knee twists if I would be walking with people behind me. As if one of them kicked my knee from behind. It would get so fictitiously painful that I would physically just touch my knee to believe that it still is intact. To avoid situations like these, I never walked with people walking immediately behind me. I would always stand with my right left loose so that no one accidently hits it. It was a 24×7 stress on my head.

These x-ray scans just told me, that trauma was over. That after I recover this time, there will be no more random knee twists and the unfathomable pain that makes you want to throw up and haunt you for days and nights. It was something. I was still processing it all. Like a curse was now lifted.

“Once the effects of anaesthesia wear off, you’ll need to pass a lot of urine. We’ve given you a lot of fluids during the surgery. You might experience pain in your bladder but worry not it is normal. If you feel that you’re unable to pee, let us know and we’ll fix a catheter” explained Dr Sawhney.

I almost jumped hearing the ‘C’ word.

“Fix a WHAT? I don’t think that will be necessary. It should be fine without it”

“Hahaha that’s the best part of catheter. Nine out of ten times we don’t actually need to fix it. The very mention of it or bringing it in the view of the patient does its job”

My right leg was now bandaged and put in a full length brace. It looked three times the size it was before the surgery. I couldn’t move a toe or anything. They transferred me back to the stretcher, I thanked all the doctors and was wheeled out in the observation area. I was freezing again. The same doctors came by and set up all the equipment around me including the blower to keep me warm. I was supposed to stay in this room for over an hour.

Dr Sawhney called up my father and made me talk to him. I told him it all went well. He sounded relieved. Everyone left me alone to rest. Like I was even tired. Or maybe I was. I lifted the bedsheet slightly to have a look at my leg and realized they didn’t put back my pajama. I touched the skin on my thigh where I had no sensation and it felt like I was touching another person’s body. Surreal.

I continued to just stare at the ceiling wishing to sleep but could not. Suddenly, my heartrate monitor which was beeping rhythmically started wreaking havoc. I thought everyone will come running but nobody did. On the contrary, a nurse just came by, reset it and found out one of the sensors was pulled out. She put it back on my chest.

Instead of holding on to the skin fully, it caught half of my hair and was now pulling it. I thought I should inform her but she left. It kept pulling away the hair slowly increasing the pain. At one point it got super painful so I just pulled it off and the machine went mad again with beeps. I was amazed how confident they were that nothing was wrong with me. She again came strolling to reset it. I told her what happened and she put it on clear skin this time.

I was surprised that I had no thoughts at that point. I was just blank. I had never been this blank for a long time. I was kind of enjoying this oblivion. Another patient was brought next to me. She had a surgery of her ear. The doctor was extra friendly and chirpy. She joked around with all the nurses. The nurses seemed to not like her much. I could see them going ‘Ooooooh look at Miss I-AM-SUCH-FAB-DOC hop, skip and jump out of here’.

Another patient was brought with some gastro related surgery. The nurses made a face when they were told the patient will pass stool now. They looked at each other as to whose duty was it. A senior nurse sped up and closed the curtains around the patient.

It reminded me, I was neither hungry nor thirsty. It was 2pm and I hadn’t had a drop of water since 6am. My last meal was the day before. Yet I felt just fine. Wait. At some point, I will have to let go of what I am fed here. Will I have to use a pot? Oh Wow. I somehow was convinced that the biggest challenge was the surgery. It was slowly becoming clear to me that shit was about to get real.

I started feeling a tingling sensation all over my lower body. I tried moving my left toe. This was funny. In my head, I was just wiggling my toe but I could see the whole foot flap around like crazy. I didn’t want to risk wiggling my right toe. In the middle of this whole wiggly business, it was time for me to be taken to my ward. An hour had passed just like that.

Back in my ward, I had to be shifted to my bed. The four ward boys picked up each corner of the bedsheet and put me right between the bed and the stretcher. Happy with their achievement, they decided to wheel the stretcher away.

“STOP. I am in the middle. You need to shift me all the way on the bed” I told them and my own helplessness struck me. I couldn’t even shift on my own at that point.

“What? Really?” one of the men lifted the bedsheet on the top to check if that was really the case. I again got nervous. The bedsheet was all that was covering me. All that realization of privacy not being a problem anymore had vanished and there I was all paranoid again. They realized the problem and shifted me again to the centre of the bed. A strange sense of fatigue began taking over me. Shortly before I was feeling absolutely fine but now I felt all my energy had vanished. Head and eyes started to feel heavy yet I wasn’t sleepy. Speaking seemed like a task. I just lay there still, breathing deeply.

My father came by to check on me. And right behind him came my mom. She was half crying half smiling. Caressing through my hair, she asked me if everything went well, if I had any pain, if I was feeling nauseas or dizzy. My father jumped in and consoled her that everything went perfectly well. The doctors were very happy with the result. And she should just let me rest. That calmed her down and she sat next to me.

Then came Shashwat all smiling and happy.

“Aur bhai. How did it go? You feel alright? Let’s see how it looks” and he began to slowly uncover the sheet from my right toe.

“Don’t open it please. That’s all that’s covering me” I feebly tell him.

“What? That’s all? They were going to put a brace and all right? What happened to that?” and he pulls the bedsheet uncovering my entire right leg.

“STUPID GUY. STOP. I MEANT AM NOT WEARING ANYTHING EXCEPT THIS BEDSHEET” I scream on top of my lungs. He immediately puts back the sheet.

“Oh achha. Sorry”

He walks away and starts to fidget with his phone. And a sense of guilt overcomes me. I should not have screamed. I start to wonder what is with me that’s making me so irritable and sensitive about it. I just stay quiet for some time. I should take it easy.

A young nurse comes in with a very innocent smile.

“Hello. You want to have some water?” she asked me very calmly and sweetly. She had a south Indian accent. I nodded a yes. She brought a glass of water and I felt my mouth wanting to soak away the whole glass. Like an influx I began desperately sipping the water. She immediately pulled away the glass.

“No. Not so much. Just a couple of small sips. We’ll give you soup in some time”

Whatever water got through felt like heaven. My head landed back on the pillow with a thud. The tingling sensation had now reached its end. And my bladder was waking up. In about ten minutes I started feeling like I hadn’t peed in a week. I pressed the nurse call button and asked for a pee bottle. I prayed to the Almighty that I don’t have to use a catheter.

A very humble, pleasant looking man came with the bottle smiling. He politely requested everyone to move out and closed all the curtains.

“Take your time son. I am standing right outside” he told me handing over a weirdly shaped bottle with a flat bottom. The shape immediately made sense. Then I let it go. Take it from me. Very few things feel as good as peeing after a surgery. It probably went on for fifteen minutes. I thought the bottle would overflow but it had some capacity. Mamu took away the bottle, cleaned my hands and tucked me back in. The effects of anaesthesia were completely gone.

Which also meant, the pain that I had royally avoided so far was starting to poke my knee. First with little pins. Then with bigger needles followed by knives. And just when I thought that was it, came spears and bludgeons.

It would hit me in waves. Each wave more painful than the other. I asked my father if the drip had any painkiller and turns out they did give me some painkillers (paracetamol) after the surgery. Somehow, it wasn’t working. It grew worse in the next half an hour.

To the extent that I couldn’t hold it together. I began howling in pain. My mother’s face lost all its colour. My father talked to the nurses and on duty doctor. They thought it was normal to feel pain. One of them even questioned my father “Is he a very pampered kid? Can he not bear some pain?”. May be I am a pampered kid. And maybe I don’t deal well with pain. How about helping me instead of judging me?

They had planned a course of painkillers that would increase in dosage gradually. But I was in agony. Every now and then the pain would subside letting me breathe then suddenly it would hit me hard again. The spasms were very random. No fixed rhythm.

I was tired of keeping my hands on the sides. I wanted to raise them above my head. But the moment I would do so, my knee would feel a pull and start to hurt. So I would again bring them down. But then my arms would hurt. I felt absolutely trapped and end of my wit.

“This is ridiculous. Why would they not give me stronger pain killers? If only the pain is  constant and slightly less than this, I can bear it. But right now, I cannot bear it.” I cried to my dad in pain.

Very calmly my dad replied “It’s not ridiculous. It’s just a standard procedure. They cannot suddenly give you more pain killers. There has to be a certain gap. Too bad it is not working but it is still in your system. Just try to tough it out for some time. They will add another dosage soon.”

My knee was feeling very tightly trapped in something. Like it was hurting because the brace was too tight. I complained to the doctor on duty and he gave his usual reply

“That’s usual. We can’t open the brace. Is there any other problem?”

“Yeah. The damn tv has no HD channels” I almost replied.

Finally my dad called up Dr Sawhney who immediately spoke to the nurse and asked them to loosen the brace because it must have swollen. She loosened it a little bit and like magic my pain subsided. Still a lot though. But now borderline bearable.

I looked at my mother and could see her freaking out. I knew she would not leave if I continued to be in so much pain. I closed my eyes and began breathing deeply. The nurse came by and added another dosage of painkiller. It had very little effect though. I acted like it worked. I faked falling asleep.

My father then convinced my mother that I have gone to sleep and she should leave. She was reluctant at first but eventually agreed and left. As soon as she left, I woke up and told my dad that it was still very painful but less than earlier. He checked with the nurses again and there was still time before they would give the final dose. So he started talking to me about random things to divert my attention. I explained what all was happening in the OT and how they clicked pictures etc. He began telling me stories of days when he was a medical representative. Two hours passed.

At around 11pm, sister came in with Tramazac. Within a minute of her injecting that, I felt the pain reduce to a little prick. The dosage was really strong. I could feel it. Strong painkillers make your head feel light and give you a sort of high. Like I know what being high is. Still. I can guess. The relief was so quick that I fell asleep in no time.

Bright lights. Beeps. Walking on the road. Jumping. Free fall. And I woke up with a jolt. Breathing heavily, I looked at the clock. It had hardly been few minutes since I fell asleep. I felt extremely exhausted and a little bit disoriented. I continued to lay still. In some time, I began to fall asleep again.

Concrete. My shoes. Free falling feet. Crash. And I woke up again with a sudden jerk in my right leg.

Shit.

To be continued….

Nudity, Anaesthesia and Patella – Part 1

The alarm went off at 6am. It was a little strange waking up this early but not for a shoot. My mom was up already. I realized I should have woken up a bit earlier. I went to the kitchen and had few sips of water. Didn’t want to push my luck. As I turned on the shower, it struck me that it was my last shower for the next few weeks. I didn’t even know how I was going to make it through. My brain doesn’t function if I don’t shower. But then, I won’t need my brain to function much.

I called up the hospital and confirmed the reservation for my ward. As I packed and prepared to leave, I noticed my mother was worried sick by now. My father therefore decided she wouldn’t come along. Instead, it would be best if she came to visit in the evening when everything was done. She tried to argue a little but realized it was for the best.

I didn’t listen to music on the way to the hospital. Nor did me and my father talk much. I was sort of enjoying the peace. I was in a weird state of mind. The idea that you won’t walk for next few months can take some time to settle in. But I also liked the thought of my knee fixed once and for all. I was trying to plan it all.

While at the billing counter, my father took a selfie with me. It was so badly timed, but it did lighten up my mood. The photo came out as bad as cute the gesture was. Once we finished the billing and paperwork, we were taken to the ward. It was a twin sharing with no other patient in it. I could pick the bed, so I picked the one by the window even though I didn’t have to stay there for too long. If everything were to go by the plan, I was supposed to be released in 48-72hours after the surgery. I really hoped that it went by the plan.

A nurse came in with my wrist tag, hand sanitizer bottle and a box of various kinds of drips and injections to be kept by the bed. She also gave me a XXL sized gown and pajama. I was expecting it to be like those big one-piece gowns you see in movies and tv shows. Instead the pajama had an old school nara (string). I wondered what would patients with one or both hands in cast do? I was then asked to lie on the bed so that they could conduct some preliminary tests and ask me some questions.

A young doctor came and asked for my blood reports. He noticed that my platelet count was below 1,00,000. He made a note of it and continued asking questions.

“Do you consume alcohol?”

“No”

“Do you smoke?”

“No”

“Any drug usage?”

“No”

“Are you on any medication?”

“No”

“Are you diabetic?”

“No”

“Any history of surgery?”

“No”

“Any allergies?”

“No”

He left the room. And came another doctor. Who repeated exactly what the earlier doctor did. In the same manner, in the same order. And another doctor followed her. Did the same thing. Then came another. Asked the same set of questions. Obviously, I was getting a little impatient. But in total seven doctors (or droids?) came by and asked the exact set of questions in the exact order. The last one didn’t have to ask complete questions.

“I don’t consume alcohol or drugs. I don’t smoke. I am on no medication and not a diabetic. I have no known allergies.” He smiled, made note of all of those and continued to take my blood pressure. It was normal.

Then came the floor manager. Very smartly dressed in a long snug kurta and churidaar, high heels and long earrings wearing a very strong refreshing citrusy perfume. She had a tablet in her hand (the device!). “You see, if you are diabetic, alcoholic, smoker or allergic to something specific, it might change the course of your surgery. More doctors will need to be appointed and the procedures will get longer often resulting in increase in the charges. We want to give you the correct estimate and ensure no unnecessary procedures are done. Thus, the charade of questions. If you need anything, please feel free to contact me” she said handing over her business cards to everyone in the room.

As soon as the floor manager left, came another nurse to take blood samples. I pointed to my right hand but she, like every nurse in my history of blood tests, lifted my left hand. And exactly like every time, she poked two-three times unable to find the vein. She then settled for my right hand. I had already given blood samples twice in last three days. She had to find a new spot to poke. I am not scared of needles but yeah, it’s not the best feeling.

One of the doctors came back and told me I would need a set of X-Rays to be taken before the surgery. Following him a was ward boy with a wheelchair. I smiled and said I could just walk to the imaging center. “Once you’ve changed into the patient gown and worn that tag, you are not allowed to just walk around. The only way you can be transported to anywhere is either on a wheelchair or a stretcher” he replied in a very mechanical way. I complied. More droids?

Upon my return from the X-Rays (which went pretty uneventful thankfully), I was greeted by a nurse with a trimmer in his hand. I pulled my pajama up to reveal my leg.

“No no, you need to take it off. I need to clean the entire area”

“What? But the surgery is only of the knee…”

“Yeah…but it’s the norm. Let’s hurry up. We don’t have much time”

“Can you at least pull the curtains around?”

He sighed and reluctantly just pulled around the curtains leaving some gap. I kept looking at him waiting for him to realize that he needs to close it all the way. He looked back at me with the expression that clearly said he won’t do anything further in that regard. I started to feel a little annoyed now. Why would they disregard a patient’s privacy like that?

I slowly pulled down my pajama and he just yanked it off my legs. First few seconds of that trimmer on my legs and I knew I was going to get severely scratched. I could see marks like when you scratch your dry skin in winters. He ruthlessly continued to trim every nook and corner of my right leg and groin.

“Mamu, is it done?” shouted a nurse from between the gap. I panicked and covered myself with my pajama. “Don’t come here. I am not done yet” shouted Mamu back snatching away the pajama from me and continuing the trimming. She left closing the gap in the curtains to my relief.

“Hello Himanshu, hope you’re doing good. I will see you in sometime” greeted my doctor from the other side of the curtain looking for an opening to peep in. I again tensed up and almost lost it. WHY THE F**K DOES ANYONE NOT CARE ABOUT PRIVACY HERE? I was soon going to arrive at the answer myself. He left though without opening the curtain. I could hear a doctor and nurse talking to my dad and it was freaking me out that if one of them decides to just open the curtain, what would I do? Luckily nobody did.

I had to bear fifteen minutes of painful scratching of my skin before I could wear the pajama again. Though, I would say, there were no real scratches or cuts. Just a lot of dry smooth skin now.

“You’re NBM right?”

“NBM?”

“Nil by Mouth? You’ve not had anything for last six hours, right?”

“No. Nothing.”

“Good. Your reports came in. We are going ahead with the surgery. Your platelet count has risen.”

I was put on a stretcher and taken down to the operation theater. I crossed so many patients on my way in various conditions. The view of the world from a stretcher is surreal. Everyone looks at you like there’s something wrong with you. Random people crossing make sure they look at you in the eye as if asking what’s wrong with you. The stretcher keeps bumping here and there and you wonder if the ward boys really care about you or not. Then you notice they make sure it bumps into them and not anything else. Everything starts to slow down. You realize no matter how well you prepared for it. No matter how easy the doctor made it seem, you’re still scared out of wits when you start to hear the commotion of a busy operation theatre with all the beeps and hisses.

I was stopped at the entrance of the main OT and was greeted by a couple of doctors who were not only super good-looking but happy, calm and pleasant. One of them, who later I discovered was the physician, started explaining me that the platelet count has risen to a safe level and I should not worry about it at all. I requested to use the washroom.

When I came back from the washroom, I found my father waiting there. He asked me if I was ok. He was told by the hospital staff to come and meet me before the surgery. Both of us wondered if this was just a protocol they follow or was there something serious. The same doctor explained that it is just a protocol. As harsh as it may sound, they don’t know what the outcome would be in the OT. So, they prefer that the close family meets the patient before the surgery. Also, it often increases the confidence of the patient and calms him down. Often, not always though.

My father is a very calm person when it comes to medical procedures or probably any kind of emergency. Having a background in science and medicine, he not only understands how it all works but also understands the psychology of both the patient as well as the doctors. He was the perfect mediator between me and the hospital. I need mediation. I can suddenly be very impatient and vocal about things. He knows it well. I think it was indeed a good idea to not have my mother around. She is the strongest human being I know but when it comes to me, she becomes very vulnerable.

I was wheeled to the inner section of the OT and I crossed two open doors where I saw doctors performing surgeries. One of them had something going on in the abdomen. I took a deep breath and continued staring at the ceiling. My OT was much bigger than the ones I had seen on the way. But it was freezing.

I noticed the operation table was barely wide enough to hold a person. Obviously, it wasn’t for comfortable sleeping. The physician was joined by two more lady doctors, who were again, strikingly good looking. One of them, older than the other, told me she was going to administer anesthesia and it would cause tingling, pricking and a little bit of pinching in the beginning followed by a surge of heat and loss of control over the lower body. But it’s going to be absolutely controlled and I should not be worried at all.

Their tones were all so confident and calm that it put me to a lot of ease. The main surgeon, Dr. Gurvinder Singh Sawhney, joined and he’s a very talkative happy guy. So he just resumed talking to me like it was just another day. He has a million stories for every incident.

“You guys take some pictures of this surgery. Because this guy is a cinematographer. He’ll make it big one day and you’ll want to boast that you fixed his knee. Also, not to forget, the surgery itself is not so common” chucked Dr. Sawhney.

They made me sit up and uncovered my back. The anesthetist announced that a needle prick is coming up. And a second later I felt a little burning prick in my lower spine. A couple of more followed. Then I felt a thicker needle being inserted but didn’t feel the pain. It just felt odd. What followed next was big jolt down my spine and lower body like they pumped lead or mercury or something. I felt it go through my body all the way down. They made me lay down again.

“It’s all good. Don’t worry ok? Himanshu? It’s all fine” she told me caressing my forehead and arms like a mother assuring her child. They adjusted me on the table, put up a screen right over my chest to block my view of the surgery and two extended supports were fixed on each side for my arms. On my right arm was fixed a blood pressure monitor and my left arm a vein flan was fixed for the drip. They put heart monitor sensors over my neck and chest. My arms were now locked in that position. Like Jesus on the cross.

By now, I was shivering due to cold. They wrapped a number of bedsheets around my face and fixed a warm blower. The younger lady doctor was responsible for monitoring my vitals. I noticed that everyone was going about their business like every day. They were cribbing and gossiping about other people in the hospital, sharing stories about very trivial mundane incidents and laughing about them. Their mouths and faces were doing whatever, but their hands were working like a machine very meticulously doing everything.

I had lost sensation in my lower body. In my head I could feel my legs in exactly the same position as they were before the anesthesia just that I couldn’t move it anymore. It didn’t feel odd. It was a new feeling. This was my first experience with anesthesia ever. The younger lady doctor picked up a small plastic cap and started rubbing it softly on my stomach slowly going down asking me “Can you feel this?”.

At the edge of where my pajama was, I could feel the numbness begin. I felt someone open my pajama and pull it down. I went silent. I wished they could have waited for it to become completely numb before pulling it out. I wouldn’t have realized it. Now I was aware that I was lying naked on that table and a bunch of people, ladies inclusive were just walking around doing stuff.

They continued to talk to me like nothing happened. Like I was still wearing clothes and sitting normally next to them. And this slowly took my attention away from my nakedness. It is then I realized that their job is to save lives. It doesn’t affect them if people are naked. They signed up for this when they began their career as a doctor. It’s not about anyone’s privacy in a hospital. It’s about saving lives, fixing problems and helping people get back to a normal life again outside this hospital. I took a deep breath and relaxed.

It takes about half an hour to prepare for a minimal invasive arthroscopic surgery. The cold slowly stopped bothering me. The rhythm of the beeps and whooshes in the OT started to put me to a sort of half-sleep. As the procedure continued the room went quiet. The last thing I heard was them putting the tourniquet and Dr. Sawhney checking to make sure the pressure on it was three times my blood pressure. I would feel a little shake every now and then when they would adjust my leg, fold it or stretch it. I could see a blurred reflection on the light above me of my knee and I knew the surgery had now begun.

To be continued…

Of Faith, Salvation and Paws!

In last few days, certain uncalled for events caused a serious disorientation in me and I figured the only way to get over it is to express it out loud. Even though some experiences in life seem to be extremely personal, there come moments when you just want to let them out for the sake of your sanity.I am always on the lighter side of life when it comes to blogging. However, this one is going to be a bit of an emotional outburst. Usually, I do add a pinch of salt to events when writing about them to make them interesting to read. This one is going to be an absolutely honest depiction of how everything happened and my perception of the same.

I had been barely awake for last six hours of my train journey to Lucknow from Delhi. As the train pulled up on the platform, I looked around and found my dad waiting right by my coach. On my way back home, I got to know we had to pick mom from hospital. Her umbilical hernia surgery is due and the doctor wanted to conduct the routine tests before the surgery.

My dad parked the car on the other side of the road and I called up mom’s phone to tell her to come out. As my mom stepped out of the hospital, I felt something was wrong with her. She didn’t seem to be walking as comfortably. I asked dad if she had been unwell but turns out she had been absolutely fine. He thought it is her routine slow walk that is bothering me.

In the car, she complained she wasn’t feeling so good since the moment she had taken the medicine the doctor prescribed. We figured it was just an antibiotic that was causing that feeling. It is usual for certain stronger medicines to make you feel dizzy. We had normal conversations during our ride back home. Bua (my paternal aunt) was waiting for us. She lives close by and had just paid a fleeting visit.

“I don’t like this medicine, I don’t feel very good” my mother complained again as she sat on the bed. She says that about every medicine, she hates them. We made her drink water to feel better. But she wasn’t even close to feel better. Bua even suggested that if she wants to throw up, she should. My mom refused the idea. She could not do it.

Within next thirty seconds or so, she got this anxiety attack. She started to get breathless and uneasy. Me and dad sprang up to take her back to the hospital. Something was majorly wrong with the medicine that was given to her.

I held her tight and made her walk to the car while bua was supporting her and talking to her constantly. She had this extreme burning sensation and anxiety. I realised it was for the first time in my entire life so far that I had held my mom’s full body weight. I am not sure if this is a usual phenomenon but for me it was a huge feeling. I must have complained and climbed up to my mom’s arms a million times in my childhood. She must have carried me all day long to far away places without complaining of how heavy I must have been. I was definitely not ready for this sudden role reversal. On another note, I was surprised I was strong enough to hold her weight and help her get down the stairs all the way to the car.

My mom and bua sat on the backseat while my dad drove. We had hardly cover a kilometre when suddenly my mom went silent. Bua and I kept on calling her but she wasn’t responding.

“It is all getting numb…” she whispered slowly and tears fell down her eyes. She had now drooped on bua completely. I held her hands and felt them to be ice cold. My mom and I are very similar in terms of body temperature. Our palms are always warm, as if we have fever, even in the most normal, healthy conditions. Her palms going ice cold was definitely not a good sign. Her feet were equally chilly.

She was breathing slowly but steadily. Bua was on the verge of breaking down while I was completely dumbfounded seeing what was happening in front of me. I had to stay strong, calm and logical. Thoughts had already begun to wander off to places one doesn’t want to go. I was holding on as strongly as I could. I was definitely not ready for this. Nobody ever is. I was just holding my mother’s hands while looking at the street, calling her and looking at my dad. Everything had happened so fast that I was at loss of cognition.

We were zipping through the traffic and time inside the car had almost stopped. Each second was now like a minute. Me and bua were constantly talking to mom but she wasn’t responding. She would do little grunts here and there but that’s all. I could feel my heartbeat racing. I finally can relate to the most commonly used cheesy ‘heart beating’ sound effect used in films in such intense situations. Because when you are pushed to that limit, you actually can hear your heartbeats in your ears.

In all this chaos, I noticed my dad had not spoken a word. He was just concentrating on driving while just looking back and forth at the road and my mom. He was racing through the super crowded streets of Gomti Nagar without any sign of panic, anger or anxiety. He was just quiet. Looking at him, I thought, I want to be that strong one day. I want to be like my father. It is not easy for everyone to stay focussed on driving when your life partner seems to be slowly slipping into numbness. But he knew that his best bet was to drive carefully, safely and swiftly to the hospital. Nothing else would help at that point.

My father has always been my idol. I have found very few people who are as logical as my father. He used to talk to me about life and human psychology from a very early age. As much useless those things may have sounded at that age, today I remember almost everything he told me and trust me, they all make perfect sense. He always made me take my own decisions be it the color of the wall of my room or my career choice. He definitely had his apprehensions and prejudices, but he never let those affect me. Even though he is usually the emotionally vulnerable one, today he was playing really tough.

Once we reached the hospital, my mom seemed to gain some consciousness and she got out of the car with a little help. The doctors examined her prescription and immediately recognised the cause of her problem. She had taken a very strong antibiotic almost empty stomach. What had just happened was extreme acidity because of that. However, the doctors assured that this is a very normal reaction and can be cured easily. The situation was not life threatening and in next few hours, my mom would be fine.

The doctors advised she needed Digene and because she was highly dehydrated, she needed a drip. But giving her drip has always been a problem. Doctors can never find her veins. Or even if they find one, it probably would be very narrow slowing the process. They were facing the same trouble again. After much struggle, the nurse finally inserted the veinflan and began the drip.

After a minute or two of flowing normally, it began to slow down and eventually stopped. We called the doctors again to help. It turned out, the hand was to be held at a particular angle for the drip to keep flowing. Bua sat by my mom and held her hand at that angle.

Mom was much stable now though very uneasy still. But she was talking and breathing normally. Her palms were back to normal temperature. She was given more Digene and doctor scolded her for taken that medicine empty stomach. She assumed she had breakfast and that should have helped but the doctor made her realise the time gap between her breakfast and the time she took the medicine.

Halfway through the drip, she needed to use the restroom. That relieved her from most of the trouble causing stuff in her stomach and she felt slightly better after that. But the problem of finding the right angle for her drip was back. This time, the doctor showed me the pressure points and angles that help increase drip flow. I held her hand at that angle, giving pressure at the right points for the rest of the drip. If it would slow down, I would adjust the fingers or the wrist and it would get back on. By end of it I was pretty good at it.

Usually a full drip takes almost 40-45mins to complete. It took few hours in case of my mother. But she was feeling better though she could feel slight ulcers inside her stomach. Her intestines were still burning. The important thing was, she was out of danger.

A lot of people from my dad’s office had come by to check on him and mom by the time we left. We got back home around 5pm. I was exhausted. I had not slept the last night to begin with and last few hours had been a little too much on me. I had my lunch (or early dinner) and passed out.

When I woke up at around ten at night, all the events came back to me traumatising me slightly.

It reminded me of a similar incident in the past when I was a very young kid. At night, I was woken up by some commotion. I walked out to the living room to find my mother being held by my father and someone else. They were rushing her to the hospital. All she was murmuring was “If something happens to me, take care of bhaiya (me)”. I quietly watched her being taken away. I was scared and worried. I don’t remember falling asleep. When I woke up the next morning, I found my mother nearby.  I was just too young to understand the gravity of anything.

I have always been greatly attached to my parents, have had an extremely healthy relationship with both of them. My dad has been my best friend. He has changed himself with the changing times, just to keep up. He embraced technology and is now at par with all the current techie trends. I have seen my father evolve with me. And trust me, it is a great feeling. My mother, on the other hand, has been a constant in our lives (me and my father). I think both of us are glad that she is the way she has been. Probably because she already was much evolved. She has always been a very patient, strong figure for me. Most of my childhood, my father has been busy (though I never felt his absence in my life, ever). My mother was my only friend during non-school hours. I would sit next to her on the kitchen counter doing my homework while she cooked, talking to me. For a decade, both of us had no other friends. This lead to a very unconventional telepathic bond between us. If she is not well, I end up calling her because I have been feeling weird the whole day. And if I get into any trouble, my mother just randomly calls me up to check if I am ok. This lucknow trip was a result of me feeing really homesick for weeks and the moment I got a opportunity, I booked my tickets since I was already going to be in Delhi for a shoot.

To think of it, how much ever traumatised I may feel, I am glad I was there when she needed me the most. I am glad it all turned out fine and I pray to God this doesn’t repeat, for anyone.

Two days later…

I woke up around 9am. There was an unusual silence in the house. I noticed my father, my cousin Shyaam and Alok (domestic help) were missing. They had gone to the vet with Knowey. He had been puking all night and needed urgent medical attention. I got a little bit worried but I could not do much.

Upon their arrival, I got to know he was given an antibiotic injection and a vaccination. The usual doctor was not available so they had to take him to another doctor. When the usual doctor got to know about the treatment, he expressed his concern over the decision of giving a vaccine when there is a treatment in progress. He did not find that an intelligent idea.

My dog looked very sick. He was just quietly resting in a corner. I thought a little rest will help him get back in shape. I left for some work. Last I saw him was in basement. He is not a dog that likes to stay aloof. So, this seemed unusual to me.

When I got back home, I smelled dog urine on the stairs. I saw deep yellow patches on various steps. I immediately rushed to find where my dog was. He seemed really weak now. He was just lying there with his eyes closed breathing rather uneasily. I called out for him but no response. Now this is tricky. My dog doesn’t really respond that quickly to his name. Unless it is mom calling him for food. He has a very selective listening when it comes to people calling him. So I could not judge if he was being just him or he was really not very conscious.

I called mom to have a look at him and she got equally worried seeing at his condition. I got him some water. He tried to drink but was too weak for that. Took a sip or two followed by another small outburst of urine. His bladder had gone out of control. He NEVER urinates while lying somewhere. I understood that he is an old dog now (10years old) but this condition still seemed far looking at his recent health.

Mom called my dad informing him about Knowey’s deteriorating condition. I wanted to see if he would eat something. I have observed that dogs usually give up food when they have to leave for good. From what I had heard from my friends who had lost their dogs, I was looking for symptoms and I could see most of them in Knowey right now. My mother got Paneer for him. But he refused to eat that either. In any other scenario, he would kill to eat Paneer.

I was trying to brush his hair and talk to him but his eyes weren’t responding anymore. They were just blankly staring in nothingness. I felt his ears really warm. When I left his head, it slowly dropped down at a very unusual angle. Knowey did not correct that. He just continued to stay that way. This got alarms go off in my head.

“RUN TO BUA’S HOUSE AND GET HER CAR. WE NEED TO TAKE HIM TO HOSPITAL”

Shyaam rushed to get the car. Mom started crying now. I ran back to Knowey to find his tongue half out of his mouth. I tried to open his jaw but was very stiff. He was completely unconscious now. His breathing was slowing down every moment.

“Come home fast…Knowey is not breathing” my mom gave another SOS call to my father who assured her that he was on his way.

I was absolutely helpless. I had no means to rush him to the doctor. Besides, the clinic opened at five and it was just quarter past four.  I knew Knowey was not making it till five. My mom was now hysterically crying.

Even though I was the one who got Knowey home but for last ten years he has been my mother’s best companion. She has taken care of him like her son. He too reciprocates the love like a human baby. He would run to her every time she comes back home from somewhere and would demand what she got for him. He would always eat with my mom, no matter what happened. And to see a mother lose her baby in front of her eyes in an unbearable site.

My grandma had joined the crying charade now. She was screaming his name but obviously he wasn’t responding. I tried to give him more water but he wouldn’t move.

“Look child, he was with us for last so many years. He had a happy life. He is old now and you need to let him go. I will chant Gita and he will have peaceful passage to the divine abode. He will attain salvation” came my grandfather.

I was shell shocked. This definitely was not what I needed at this point.

“Alok, get some gangajal (holy water from river Ganga)” ordered my grandma.

I tried to lift him up but she stopped me.

“Don’t lift him up. It is painful for him…start chanting Gita (looking at my grandpa)” and he began chanting Bhagvad Gita loudly.

I was now losing it. I did not know what to do. I could see his breathing fade away slowly. It was reduced to just a little bulge in the stomach. He was losing it every second.

I ran to the window for any sign of my father or Shyaam with the car but none to be seen. I felt the volume of Gita chants grow with each passing second and it was getting unbearable for me. I went back to Knowey.

“Stop the Gita please, I am not leaving him to die here”

“You do what you have to do. Gita will not hinder with that” explained my grandma.

“He will be given a drip and he will be fine” I screamed. A part of my brain was praying for this sentence to be actually true. Somewhere, I too was losing hope. His nose was dry now, eyes tightly shut and ears cold, he was shivering slightly and breathing was extremely slow and weak.

My grandfather’s phone rang and it was very close to me so I checked, it was my dad.

“Get Knowey down, I am reaching”

Alok understood. He picked Knowey before I could and ran down. I followed him and saw my car speed through towards us.

“I have called the doctor, he will reach the clinic asap. I will drop you guys there and leave, will be back very shortly because I need to be in that meeting. I got your mom’s call and understood it was very serious” explained my dad while speeding through the mild afternoon traffic. He gave me some money as I had not carried anything.

I called Shyaam to reach the clinic immediately incase we need to take Knowey somewhere else. I asked Alok if Knowey was still breathing and he nodded a yes. I noticed he was breathing faster than earlier.

I lay him on the doctor’s table. Without wasting a second, he trimmed his front left leg and took a blood sample. He then took his temperature while his assistants prepared a drip to be administered. Knowey had high fever. He fixed the drip and asked Alok to hold the leg in case he tries to move it. His eyes were still non-responsive.

As the drip seeped swiftly through Knowey’s veins, the doctor kept adding injections to it. When half the bottle was empty, I noticed his eyes move. I was holding him tight feeling his breathing and it was getting better and had now moved back to his lungs from his stomach. His body temperature was now normal and his reflexes of closing his eyes upon my hand approaching his face were back.

When only a quarter of the drip was left, he lifted his head up and looked around. He must have recognised that it was the doctor’s clinic. He the made few attempts to get up and run but me and Alok held him in place. He was now struggling to get up but too weak to put up a fight. He was making the usual whistling whiney noises requesting us to set him free.

I took a sigh of relief. He was now alive and active.

The doctor further gave him Glucose, Metrogyl I.V. and a couple of more injections to get his infection controlled. Upon completion of glucose bottle, Knowey let out a never ending trail of urine right at the table and I understood the reason of all the whistling he was doing. We cleaned up the table and dried Knowey. This time, the urine was odourless and colourless.

“He had severe dehydration. The series of vomits in the morning took away most of his body water. He could not drink enough. Plus the vaccine given results in bladder incontinence. So he was peeing without his control. All this resulted in sudden loss of water from his body. Had he been late by ten more minutes, I doubt I would have been able to save him.”

“I have sent his blood samples for testing. Please meet me by eight thirty at night to discuss the reports. We will take further action based on what the reports say. He is absolutely out of danger as of now. Please don’t feed him anything, not even water. I have given him enough body nutrients and fluids to stay strong and alert for next twelve hours. You need to bring him back for another round of treatment based on his reports tonight.”

I was grateful to him from the bottom of my heart for acting so promptly and opening the clinic half an hour early.  I actually wanted to hug him but didn’t seem appropriate at the point. Besides, I was still not very confident about Knowey’s condition and wanted to see the reports desperately.

Knowey stood on the table which was a big thing for me. Alok picked him up and got him down. He walked a little bit but was too weak. Alok picked him again and made him sit in the car.

Once home, Knowey wouldn’t want to leave the car. He almost bit Alok when he tried to pick him up again. I called him out while Shyaam pushed him out from the side. Slowly, he got out of the car. Now Alok picked him again and he let out another stream of urine. I was feeling so bad seeing him like that. He never had any bladder issues ever. And today, my whole house was stinking of canine urine.

We left him on the floor to walk to see if he walks and he did. He walked through everyone sitting exactly where I had left them. And I was so glad I was part of that moment. I opened the door to the bedroom which is his usual spot. He dropped on the floor, too weak to sit gracefully as he otherwise does. He was sleepy now, definitely tired but very stable.

I lay on the bed by him looking at him breathing, for I don’t know how long. My grandpa came by and tried to explain how I should let go off the attachment I have with him. He continued how it would only bring me pain and this is how the world is. I selectively blocked him out after that in my brain. I continued gazing at my white little dog, now sleeping and breathing steadily. I was thankful to everything that helped me get him back to life that day.

I am well aware of the fact that he is an old dog and sooner or later, the same situation might occur again and he might not come back every time. But we definitely can try each time. Exactly how we do with our family members. He has been a crucial part of my life, my family for last decade and I am not letting him pass away due to negligence.

His blood reports suggested a severe infection. His TLC count was way higher than normal, platelets had gone low. The doctor had suggested few more days of treatment. But he was sure that there was no more danger.

At night, when my mom fixed her bed, Knowey walked to her slowly wagging his tail. He tried to jump up but was too weak so he lay right below her. Me and mom were almost awake the whole night, taking turns to check on him. He slept soundly and seemed really calm.

He was given another drip the next day, which took a lot of mine and Alok’s strength to hold him in place. We had to tie up his mouth to prevent him from damaging the catheter or the drip and hurting himself. While Alok was holding his paw I was holding the rest of him, brushing him and soothing him. He was doing the usual whistling. I took my face close to his. And he rubbed his forehead on my face whistling loudly. I knew he did not like being there, being held like that, with that drip thing attached to him. Tears fell down his eyes. I kept distracting him by making the usual lovey sounds when I play with him, constantly talking to him and wiping his tears. The drip was flowing really fast and in half an hour, everything was over.

I took him for a little walk, he ruffled his hair (it was a relief to see him do that). He then peed normally with one leg up. And ran away from the clinic. He was not ready to wait there so I had to walk him to the nearby park. I had to catch my flight back to Mumbai in a couple of hours.

He rested peacefully for the rest of the time I was at home, packing and getting ready to leave.

My mom kept me informed about his situation. He is doing great now. He eats, barks and goes for a walk, climbed up the bed. Another week and he will be back to being normal. His blood reports are normal now.

What makes me really confused and question a lot of things is the fact that my grandfather was a compounder in govt. hospital and was very respected for his knowledge, dedication and humility. He has been a hero when it comes to his profession. He has saved so many lives that people still recall incidents of his bravery. He took care of his extended family while feeding two children and a wife, all on his salary and incentives which weren’t really a lot. He taught his younger brothers, married his sisters, bought acres and acres of land and what not. All from his profession – Medicine. Of all the people,  he understands the possibilities science has, the miracles it can do (he himself has witnessed many) and what should one do in a medical emergency.

To see him, transform into what he is now was really shocking for me. What has changed? What happened in last couple of decades of his retirement? What makes a man chant Bhagvad Gita instead of suggesting medicines and injections that could save a life? What doctor would give up on someone dying?

I love my grandparents a lot. I still do, even after this incident. Because I can’t blame him entirely for this behaviour. There must have been a lot of factors that may have led him to become what he is now.

This incident shook me greatly from within. An illusion breaker. I never had any problems with my family practicing religion. This however, was a bit too much I think. Specially when no one is family is illiterate. They have all seen enough life to understand the value of it. When my mother was thanking Radhe Vihari  for saving Knowey, I didn’t really say anything but felt a bit appalled. My father ran out of a meeting because he knew how important a couple of minutes can be to someone’s life. That doctor came to his clinic half an hour early because he knew how crucial that might be for a dying creature’s life. They saved him.

I am sure chanting Gita would not have granted my dog his salvation in case he died that day. But what about salvation of people who just watched someone die when they could do something? Would they attain it?

 

The West Coast 2.0 – Color of War, The Tank Engine and The Reprise

Continued from here.

I was waiting at the exit. A lot of people were coming
out. Suddenly I saw Orso coming towards me. He stopped in front of me for a
second, smiled, snatched away my crutches and ran. I ran after him, chasing
through all the people.
“I need my crutches. How could he just…. bitch!”
Shortly after, he took a left run into a very narrow
alley of old row houses. The road was paved with red bricks. I was losing him.
I saw him randomly enter a house at the far end of the street. These houses
were mostly brick and plaster with very vivid colors that had now become dull,
having been exposed to the weather. I could see traces of rains and storms that
had damaged the walls and boundaries. The railings and gates had all become
rusty with traces of paint here and there. Grass and weed all around suggested nobody
was maintaining these houses. I doubt if anyone even lived there.
I reached the spot where I saw him enter to find an
old oak door on a very unfinished orange brick wall. It was the entry to the
backyard of a very old house.
“Good that you are here, food is ready,” my mom said
stirring something on the stove sitting in the backyard. I was confused. She
had moved her full kitchen in open air.  
 She served me
hot rice and dal and went in the house to get something. I was not sure what. I
waited for a minute.  I needed my
crutches as much as I needed to eat. I was starving for home cooked food. And
it was right in front of me. I could smell the ghee.
“I would be back in a while” I whispered to myself and
ran again.
I had lost track of this guy. I had no clue why was he
running away with my crutches. Didn’t he know I need them?
The row houses abruptly ended giving way to a long
stretch of abandoned warehouses with a lot of rusted iron pillars, old
machines, grass and gravel. I could see Orso running at a distance approaching
what seemed like a big group of people circled around something.
I tore across the group and reached for the center
looking for Orso but instead I find Sai.
“Where are you man? We need to start shooting?” he
screamed at me, really angry. There was a RED camera on a high hat sitting in
the center with a girl operating it. There were two actors at a distance doing
something. Their faces were not visible.
“Orso is running away with my crutches, I need them
back before I can start shooting”
“Are you crazy? You are already running. You will be
fine without them. Forget him. We are losing time”
“You don’t understand. I need them” I answered him
looking around anxiously for I knew he was hiding somewhere between the people.
Orso appeared again behind all the people. Looked at
me, teased me showing the crutches and ran away. I was not letting him go this
time. I threw myself on the crowd in an attempt to get past them. But they all
began to close in, looking angrily at me. The more I struggled to get past
them, the more they pushed me to the center.
And then they just gave one fierce push and I went
flying in landing on my cast again…
THUD!!
I opened my eyes with a jolt. I saw the warm amber
evening sunlight flooding the room through the small window on my left. It was
lighting up a collage of Sai and Nehal (his girlfriend). I remembered it from
his room in New York. I also noticed around 50 blue sticky notes neatly aligned
on the adjacent wall. I looked around – a lamp on my left with a side table
full of random stuff, a big desk on my right purposely kept clean to
accommodate my computer which was still packed.
My foot was on three pillows, back to normal size and
devoid of any pain. I wiggled my toes – still no pain. There was a pristine
calm around. Given the fact I had just woken up after a shitty weird dream, I felt
a little dizzy. But everything else seemed fine around me.
“Sai?”
“Hey…wait…I am coming in…” I heard his voice from the
other room, probably from the kitchen. He came running in the room.
“How are you now? How’s your foot? Is it okay? You
need something?” he threw all the questions at me in one breath. He looked
really concerned.
I smiled at him. “Yes, I am much better now. Just
hungry but not dying.”
“I can make pasta. 
You are ok with that?”
“Yeah man, go for it. Anything is fine with me,” I
said encouragingly even though half sure of what I just signed up for. But my
past experience with Sai’s culinary skills had been good.
A lot of things were different in LA. One of them that
hit me eventually was the food situation. Last few days, I had been fed like a
little girl would feed a starving puppy. From amazing scrambled eggs and cheese
to mouth watering Alfredo pasta and what not. My roommates too cook kickass
stuff for usual dinner. I was mentally prepared to let it all go. Or at least I
thought I was.
The next thing that was really killing me was jet lag.
I was three hours ahead of this place. While usually I work till 3am without a
problem, as soon as it would hit midnight here, my brain began to shut down.
Given Sai’s day schedule of organizing the shoot and classes, he would only get
time at night to talk about the project.
“Let us begin with the shot list?” Sai would ask with
a lot of excitement in his eyes.
“Yes. Sure” I would reply with equal enthusiasm but
another 10mins and I would pass out.
“Okay, let us do it tomorrow then” the poor guy would
leave the room.
Because of my foot, even though I wasn’t doing a lot
during the day, I would get tired very easily. I slept a lot during the day and
still fell asleep by 11pm-12am. My brain wouldn’t just focus on anything. I
could see Sai worried about it.
I had to fight and get back on track. So the next night,
I decided to not sleep till I was done with the shot list. We sat outside the
apartment. Sai made this ‘herbal tea’ for me to keep me awake. I took a sip and
it was close to what Conc. H2SO4 might taste like. I was
awake. Fuckin AWAKE! I gave Sai a petrified look.
“Good right? I will make some more. I made extra
strong for me. I just put one bag in yours. You want to taste mine?”
In the next two days we finished the shot list and my
jet lag got better. My days were pointless and free. Locked in that apartment,
I would have only two options – sit by the computer and refresh Facebook feed
or lie down and sleep.
Getting food or water from the kitchen was an
adventure. The (not so) fun thing about crutches is, you can either walk or
carry things. So I would hop to the kitchen where Sai would put the table right
next to the kitchen counter, with food on the stove and plate and cutlery on
the table. I just had to manage to heat the food, put it in the plate and eat.
But being the hungry hippo I am, just food is never
enough. Snacks and sweets have always been one of my favorite things. And
having lived with Orso for all this time, well, I was a hippo and pig combined
now. I would stuff my pockets with whatever I could find. Muffins, energy bars,
cake or chips, a couple of bottles of water and whatever I thought would be
useful to survive my hours of loneliness in that room. I would shove it all in
my pocket till my pants would almost drop. I would then hop back and put
everything on the computer table.
When Sai would come back, there would be a pile of
wrappers! I am not saying I was proud of this. The last thing I would do on
this earth is to make people clean up after me. But then I had no choice. Funny
thing about this was, even though I was eating junk all the time, my weight was
going down with every passing day.
None of this food helped me think though. My thought
process was very cloudy. I could not think of all the answers to the questions
Sai would ask about the film. And with every failure to answer a question, I
would hate myself so much. I wanted to take a walk with headphones on. I wanted
to just sit somewhere and breathe the fresh air. The room had become my prison
now. Those pines I could see from the window didn’t even move much. It was more
like a painting on the wall.
On the brighter side of life, Sai had plastic chairs.
So we figured out a way for me to take a shower. Absolutely awkward and
ridiculous as it may have seemed to anyone who would have seen, it was totally
effective. I could sit on the chair and extend my foot out of the shower
curtain and place it on the toilet naturally avoiding water to drip towards my
foot (Gravity bitches!). My first shower since my injury, roughly a week after,
was like I just took a dip in the Ganga.
I felt clean, from inside as much as from the outside even though I had to
shower from my back.
My first visit to the location was a reality check. It
was an old theater. I had to walk to the theatre from the car and by the time I
reached the main door, I was exhausted. Walking with the crutches was a really
tiring process. The owner was late and we had to wait outside. After ten
minutes, I gave up and took a seat in the restaurant next to the theater. I
could now feel how difficult my time in the next few days was going to be.
On the other hand, my first meeting with my gaffer,
Neil, turned out to be very reassuring. I was convinced that he was going to be
an asset. A brief discussion with him and I felt like a cinematographer again.
As I talked more to him about the lighting plan, it occurred to me, I actually
had not forgotten anything. Like some magic spell, everything began making
sense again.
The next thing that helped me a lot in getting my head
in the game was the first full costume rehearsal with actors. Meeting with the
costume designer, the make-up artist and all the actors, I felt how much
excited they were to be part of this project. I could feel their dedication. I
was blown away by the amount of work Alison (costume designer) had done on the World
War I uniforms.
Even though it is not part of my job description, I
have always made good friends with the cast and non-cinematography crew members of the projects I shot. And the warmth and respect I received from the people I
met at the rehearsal gave an immense boost to my self-confidence. Sai and me
were on the same page during the rehearsals. Finally the punishment of doing
the floor plans and shot design with that tea showed seemed helpful. I met John
Karbousky, one of my first friends and NYFA mate when I came to NY two years
ago. I always remembered him for his exuberance on set. And he had not changed
at all.
I was ready to shoot Color of War.
By our first shoot day, I was actually much better at
walking with my crutches. The process was still very tiring. But I was slowly
gaining more stamina and could go further before stopping and breathing. Not to
mention my inability to run around and check every piece of equipment was
frustrating me. But I had a good team that communicated well with me during the
most boring process of this business – the equipment checkout!

The tank engine at the checkout

There was no chair. I was so mad. I was at the
location for our first shot and there was no chair. I found stairs and parked
myself cursing the production for not having a chair when they knew the DoP
couldn’t keep standing. I sulked for a while. And then asked myself why was I
being such a diva? This was my film and this was exactly what I wanted to do. A
chair was not reason enough to get upset. I knew it was a genuine mistake and
it would not be repeated. I was never the complaining one. I hated myself a
little for that behavior of mine.
“Before we set the dolly, let us find the positions
and frames” I head Sai screaming.
Ideally I would get up, pick the camera and fix the
frame. I would decide the lenses, mark the dolly positions and give cues to the
dolly grip and AC as per the director’s requests. Since this was a very small
shoot, we did not take permissions for generators, which meant I had no
monitor. I just got up and crutched my way to the set. This was it. And my foot
was not an excuse for not doing my job right.
Next few hours, as we took the first shot, I hopped
back and forth with the dolly, keeping my eye on the frame. For those few
hours, I was walking. I also didn’t care if there was no chair. I didn’t need
one anymore. I was looking at the shot Sai and me had dreamt about for months,
become reality in front of me.  The red
wall, the glasses and the flawless costume – Color of War was now taking shape.

Tom setting up dolly tracks

I sat in the car and realized what I had been ignorant
about for last few hours: my foot and the unbearable pain and swelling it had
because of constantly standing for hours. I had to go up the stairs again to
get back to the apartment. I was a mess, though only physically. In my head, I
was satisfied like never before. We looked at the footage over and over again.
We got exactly what we had thought of. I popped in a painkiller. Day one was
over, five more to go. My war had just begun. It was a brilliant start.
It is funny how we always take certain things for
granted. The ability to walk around is one of them. Once deprived of it, you
realize how many things are actually connected with that one ability. The next
few days of shoot taught me a very important lesson in life – communication. I
have always been the guy who would not waste time in explaining things but
would just do things himself to save time. However, when faced with a situation
where all I could do was to talk on the walkie and get things done, it dawned on
me I needed a lot more vocabulary, precision of language and patience in order
to make the crew do what I wanted them to do in the least possible amount of
time.
Of course, like every set, some crew members were
outstanding in making an effort to understand what I wanted and implement it to
my satisfaction (sometimes even better than that) while a couple of others
couldn’t handle the fact that a physically unfit guy sitting in a corner was
ordering them around. They sometimes misunderstood my politeness for
incapability and my silence for lack clarity of thought. They would pop up
their suggestions, change things around without telling me and would always
argue back refusing to carry out what I wanted them to do. In an ideal scenario
I always welcome suggestions. But when pressed against time, I prefer that
people trust in my vision and me and play along. So far, I have never been
blank on a set. And I still wasn’t.


One of the key factors of Sai and my collaboration is
homework. We do our homework extremely well. We know what we are looking for
and have very clear expectations from each other. We never discuss anything on
the set. I give him the set, lit and ready with the correct frames and he gives
me the perfect performances without 24 retakes because of an actor forgetting
their lines. And after months of homework and hard work we had put into this
project, when people disregarded something I told them because they thought it
won’t look good was totally unacceptable to me.
With constant clashes of ideas and confusions, I
finally had to give away my politeness and get rough with the smartasses.
Sometimes I had to rudely snap people, some other times I had to jump into the
middle of the set to take charge of the situation and a couple of times, I had to
raise my voice. I even lost my balance and fell twice on the set. Sai freaked
out. But everything was eventually fine. My AD and my gaffer were a boon to me.
They supported me in everything I wanted and needed to do. But I did
understand, that nobody really wants to listen to a guy who can’t even stand
without support. It is a weird mind game.

Neil the ‘Gaffer’

“So where are we shooting?” I asked Sai upon reaching
the beautiful green countryside at 7am, our location for the last two days.
“It is a little far from here, I suggest we carry a
chair when we take you there. If you get tired, you can sit,” Sai explained me
trying his best to not freak me out.
From the roadside, the location was almost 500meters
into the woods through bushes, thorns, trenches, stones and sand. You couldn’t
even see the spot from there. I could have fainted. There was no way I was
making it till the end. I was trying to find possible solutions but nothing
seemed to make sense. As much as I was scared to do it, I had to do it.
“Don’t worry. I will take you there” came a voice from
behind. It was Tom.
From the day he came back after his vacation, he had
been my savior in going up and down the stairs. He was the perfect height to
support me and he genuinely wanted to do it. Not that Sai had any trouble doing
that. Also, his presence in the apartment broke the monotony of Sai and me
talking about the project all the time. We go pretty well with each other. I
always found him to be a nice guy. But then I discovered how caring and
affectionate he could be.
“Put your arm around my shoulder and feel free to put
your weight on me. Just be careful of your foot and take your time. There is no
rush. We will make it there”
He gave me the assurance I needed the most at that
point. I missed Orso. A lot.
While me and Tom slowly moved through the uneven
trenches, often taking longer routes just to avoid very steep slopes, Sai
walked ahead of us clearing the way for us. “Wait guys” he would scream every
now and then. He would go to a tiny stone and remove it totally ignoring the
big rocks around it. Tom and I looked at each other shaking out heads. But
then, the gesture was more important to me. He was just trying help.
It was a painful journey. My left arm was hurting half
way through and I knew Tom’s shoulder was also giving away. He was almost
carrying my full body weight. My right knee is the bad knee and because of all
this stress, it was beginning to hurt really badly now. I was scared of it
popping again. That would just be the end of my career. Not to forget, escaping
all the thorns was impossible. Some would get tangled in my cast; others would
just scratch my toes. It was comparatively easier to walk on rocks. But on
sand, the crutch would get buried and I would lose my balance. Tom would
immediately swing to support me. We would stop every ten minutes to breathe.
 It took us
around forty minutes to reach shoot location. I wanted to just lie down. We
were both exhausted and drenched in sweat. And it was just the beginning. I had
to do this three more times in the next 36hours. That was all I could think of.
I didn’t want to leave. I would have happily camped there at night just to
avoid that terrifying trek. I could have cried at that point.
The rest of the day was not a cakewalk either. The
wireless video transmitter kept on losing feed and I lost image on the monitor
every now and then. They couldn’t figure it out and I knew if only I could get
up and run around, I would find a solution. But alas, I had to trust what
everybody was doing and believe the damn thing was faulty. My operator wouldn’t
listen to me and would stop responding on the walkie. My AC would take the
walkie from him and talk. So I would ask her to tell the operator what needs to
be done. Clearly, this was his plan to annoy me. Given my past experience with
him, I was not at all surprised.
I pretty much sat at my seat for next 12hours. While
all the guys (and even some girls) were relaxed about the fact that they could
pee anywhere, I was particularly scared of that because I could not walk
anywhere. The little tent they put up on me flew away with every strong gush of
wind. People around me would run to make sure it didn’t fall on me. But I
couldn’t really do shit about it. Like an idol, I would keep sitting there with
my one foot on an apple box.


But again, I was happy with the footage. It looked
beautiful and more than me, Sai was happy with what he saw (of whatever he saw
in between the frequent misconnections of the transmitter).
It was time to wrap and the fear of going back started
looming over me. I seriously did not want to go back. Everything got wrapped
and there was just me left in the middle of nowhere sitting on a chair. For ten
minutes I was wondering if Sai or Tom remembered that I had to get out or did
they seriously like the idea of leaving me there.
“Shall we?” appeared Tom from the bushes. “Let us not
include Sai this time. I am sure both of us can manage on our own.”
“Yes, I am sure” I smiled and got up to my feet. It
felt so amazingly good to stretch.
The way back was again slow and painful. But not as
bad as the first time in the morning. Tom kept me engaged in conversation. We
bitched about Sai (we are really good at that). And before I could realize, I
was already by the road. I felt a little more confident and could think of
coming back the next day.
My foot was swollen, hurting and really dirty from all
the sand. I cleaned my toes, took my painkiller and passed out.
Tom probably has over 20 pictures of me sleeping in
the car. He woke me up when we were at the location. Having done it twice, I
was much more relaxed and confident in going through the whole mess again. I
even knew the danger spots and the safe points where I could land my crutch
firmly. It took us lesser time now. But was equally tiring for both of us.
My operator had quit last night. He had no ride to
come to the shoot and when he requested the producer to arrange for one, the
producer blatantly refused to offer any help. I was not sure if I was mad at
the producer for doing that to a very crucial crewmember of the shoot or I was
happy about the fact that he was no longer on the shoot. I had my plan B. I
offered Neil to be my operator and he confidently agreed. Having done such am
amazing job so far, I had no doubts about his work.

Neil the ‘Operator’ with his foot on my awesome AD Lindsay

 And he did not disappoint me. Everyone could feel the
set moving faster today. My communication with him was fluent and efficient
because he not only responded promptly but also understood me beyond my words.
He had been an amazing gaffer so far. He would always stand by me no matter
what to be able to listen to what I had to say. Never did I have to look for
him. It really made my life easier. I owe this film to his efficiency because
his efficiency reflected as my efficiency to everyone.
The day was long and complex but was one of the
smoothest one we had so far. We got all the shots we needed including the ones
that had special make-up effects. The wireless monitor too was responding. I
figured it was the tree in-between that was the culprit for the loss of signal.
I was seated at the different spot now. And I had a clear view of the camera
and the set.
“And that’s a wrap!” I heard Sai screaming at a
distance. Everything froze for me.
I remembered saying goodbye to Orso at the airport,
scared of what was coming my way. I remembered all my worries of not being able
to deliver because of physical limitations and the mental block I had. And
there I was, done with shooting Color of War. Almost, if not exactly, as I had
thought the film would look like.
“You know Tom. Remember how I always mocked you as
Thomas the Tank Engine? I don’t know if you noticed but you did actually become
my tank engine. “ I told Tom on our way out of the set, for the last fuckin
time.
He laughed for the rest of the way. He really liked
the thought. We of course bitched about Sai again. But neither of us felt
tired. Or maybe we did but we didn’t care anymore. It was really strange to
think but I had kind of started to enjoy this little ride. I was going to miss
it. I am sure Tom would not.


Everyone took pictures, hugged each other goodbye and
congratulated me on the brilliant work. I thanked all my crew members for their
work. But in my head, a new thought had just popped up. In a normal
situation, if asked, I would refuse to walk through that path on one foot.
Because I always thought I was not strong enough to do that shit. And standing
there, having done it four times, I felt I underestimated my own strength. I
was fine. I didn’t die. Nor did I fall and break more bones. I just managed
fine. I needed no chair, no stretcher nothing. It was another very important
lesson for me in life. I had just acquired a whole new perspective.
My condition was temporary. Today as I am writing
this, I have already removed my cast and I am resuming walking. In a few days,
I would be a normal walking human again. But I couldn’t help but think of all
those people who have to face all these miseries daily and nothing would change
for the rest of their lives. I already found myself more sensitive to everyone
who had any kind of disability and was fighting with it, living his or her life
at par with the ones gifted with a healthy body. I was already humbled and had
immense respect for all the people I had seen dragging themselves in the train
or on the streets, to work, like everything was fine and normal. People
applauded my patience and strength. But to me, it seemed nothing when compared
to the ones who don’t even have a bear or a tank engine to help them in their
journey. And yet, they don’t give up.
My war was over. But for millions of others, it will
continue till they live. And everyday they emerge victorious. I salute each and
every one of those fighters around the world.
I felt grateful to everyone who had made even the
smallest gesture to help me, support me and cheer me up. Sai had been extremely
patient with my mood swings. Tom had done everything he could to make sure I
was safe and sound. I could see respect amongst all my crewmembers (even the
ones who were indifferent in the beginning). And of course, my beloved bear,
Orso, who had been my constant moral support all these days on phone listening
(actually reading) all my rants and bitching, giving me hope and strength to
keep fighting and going on. He would call regularly just to make sure I sound
fine. I missed him. I wanted to hug him and thank him.
The next ten days were easier because I decided to
edit the film. Instead of pointlessly wandering around the house and scrolling
through stupid Facebook feed, I was now making my way through the edit, which,
was one of my favorite things. Sai was always supportive of the idea of me
editing it. Even though we had planned we won’t but at that point, it only
seemed sensible.
As the day to get back to New York came closer, I got
more and more excited to meet Orso again. I was supposed to edit Favorite
Things with him and the very idea was so much fun to think about. And now that
I was much better with my foot, more independent and confident, I felt much
better about the whole travel back.
We left for the airport on time but there was horrible
traffic on the highway. I was getting really impatient, as I did not know what
would I do if I missed the flight. I didn’t want to stay back as I had a lot of
things planned back in New York.
“Where does all this traffic come from? I mean this is
a highway, there are no signals so why is everyone NOT MOVING?” I asked Tom
like frustrated little kid.
Sai and Tom were both amazed at this question.
“I don’t have answer to that Himanshu. There are just
too many people on the highway, it is rush hour.” I tried his best to be
patient. I knew that was a stupid question. And I regretted saying it out loud.
Of course I knew the answer. And I knew it was no one’s fault. Let us just say
I am not very proud of that question.
I did miss my flight. But luckily I got the next one
and I was just in time to catch that one. I bid goodbye to my tank engine. I
felt strange because I was not sure when was I going to see him next. I was
sure going to miss our conversations. I wasn’t much worried about Sai because
we were going to meet in India in a few months.
BEEEEEEEEEEEP!
“I am sorry. But the machine beeped!” told the
security personnel.
NO SHIT SHERLOCK! 
“So?”
“So we will have to thoroughly frisk you again. This
machine checks for explosives and other chemical residue. And your palm didn’t
clear the test. It may be medicines because you have an injury. Or it could be
false alarm. I will have to call my senior and he would do the frisking”
Brilliant. This was exactly what I was looking for. I
missed my flight due to traffic and I would miss this one because of security
check. The senior officer took me in a small room nearby. He made me stand and
ran his hands over my body multiple times. It felt weird because he seriously
firmly frisked my body. All of it.
“Sorry man. I won’t be able to meet you at the
airport. But I will meet you tomorrow for sure.” I got Orso’s text. I still
sent him my flight details. Something told he would come to the airport and
this was all just a joke. He and his entire family were reaching New York the
same day as I was supposed to reach. I had anyway asked Sameer to meet me at
the airport because I wasn’t sure if Orso would be able to make it. Although
now I knew he had had landed and I was sure he would come.
I made it fine to the flight. I had a middle aged
couple sitting next to me who were very friendly and kept me engaged in
conversation all throughout my flight. She laughed really loudly at all of my
jokes. As much as I was enjoying the appreciation for my average sense of
humor, her extremely loud laughter was drawing a lot of unwanted attention from
fellow passengers and thus, I decided to keep shut.
At JFK, I saw the friendly smiling bearded guy wearing
his favorite white batman t-shirt – Sameer. I hugged him. I was genuinely happy
to see him. I was so happy to be back. It was like coming back home even though
I knew this was not my home anymore. I was soon going to leave it. Orso did not
come to airport. Of course I knew it and I didn’t feel disappointed. I just
laughed at my own stupidity.


As me and Sameer got out of the airport, one taxi
driver came by and said, “Where would you go sir? Jersey City?” he was talking
in Hindi. I asked him about Newport.
“$300!”
“No. Sorry, not happening.”
“Come on sir. Come here.” We heard another guy
shouting in Hindi.
“Okay 90. That is the standard rate sir. Let us go!”
promptly said the cab guy, grabbing my luggage.
I agreed. Sameer and I had the same thought. Did we
just have a déjà vu? This was exactly like any Indian Railway station or
airport. I couldn’t believe I just bargained my way home in Hindi in New York.
“How was LA sir ji?” asked Sameer in cab.
“I don’t like LA. And you wouldn’t like it too!”
“What? Why? Is there any specific reason for not
liking it?”
“Well, the reason I am going to say is good enough for
you to hate LA. There are no Delis”
“Shit. I hate LA. Why would anybody go there? I would
die of hunger! NO DELIS?”
We laughed as I saw the bright twinkling Empire State
building from my window.




You can look at more pictures from the set of color of war here.

The West Coast 2.0 – The foot, the bear and all the despair


July 3, 2013

“Sir, as a part of the security check, I
will have to frisk you. I will run my hands over your body and I will approach
sensitive areas with back of my palm. If at any point you find it
uncomfortable, please speak up. You can choose to have a private screening or
we can do it here” said the police officer in the most monotonous voice
possible.

“Here is fine” I replied, impatient
and annoyed. And of course in immense pain.

“I will keep your crutches aside for a
minute if that is okay with you”

“Yeah that’s fine”

I was almost losing my frame of reference with
things around me. In the last few days, a lot had changed in a very short time.
I was still trying to make sense of everything good and bad that happened. I
wasn’t even sure why exactly was I at the JFK airport at 5am on a wheelchair
with a fractured foot.

Too busy contemplating what was coming next; I
didn’t even realize the check was over. I had the most strange, cold faces
around me. They were all looking down at me: some with sympathy, some with
curiosity and others with sheer indifference. I was definitely not helping them
through the start of their day making them go out of their routine for security
measures. Not my fault though.

As the officer moved out of my way, beyond the
line of people, I saw a very familiar face, whom I believed had already left.
But he was right there, smiling and waving, standing as close he could to the
security check border. Overwhelmed for a second, I took a deep breath smiled
and waved back. The wheelchair assistant began to maneuver me towards the
elevator. I tried to keep my eye contact for as long as I could. As the
elevator doors shut, I knew I was on my own now.

In an ideal situation, all this would have been
a matter of few minutes. But as things turned out, every minute for me was like
an hour sitting by the gate. Boarding was still an hour (real time hour!) away.
I looked around for things to distract me. I remembered I had forgotten to take
my travel pillow. I saw one on sale at a newsstand. I couldn’t muster enough
courage or energy to walk to it.

Never in so many years had I felt this sense of
disability and dependency. This weird sensation was slowly sinking in, of
having lost control over a major part of my body and life. And I knew, I had a
long way to go from there. The airline staff needed to move the chair I was
sitting in. As I tried to get up, I almost toppled. The guy on duty at the gate
ran to hold me. Luckily I gained my balance again. People around me quickly
reshuffled and gave me a seat nearby. I moved to the seat, smiling and thanking
everyone for their help. Inside, I wanted to just scream. The otherwise
absolutely mundane world had suddenly become a scary dark lonely place. It is
funny what your mind can do to you at times.

Few days earlier


Zach and I always have this habit of fooling
around while walking on the streets. If he were walking in front of me, I would
hold his backpack and pull him aside. He would do the same if I were in front.
Like a couple of stupid 6year olds, we were playing this game while Orso and
Dan were busy talking serious stuff. We were on our way to the West 4th St.
station to catch the A train to Far Rockaway beach. After almost a month of
crazy hard work, this was our moment of celebration. I had just bought these
weird flip-flops and for $24.99 they were not at all comfortable. It was
already past 3pm and we still had an hour of train ride.




We began descending down the staircase of West
4th St subway in high spirits of getting closer to the sand, the sun
and the sea. Almost at the end of the staircase, I felt a pop in my right knee. 


My right kneecap has always had this problem of slipping off its position
resulting in immense pain and immediate body reflex to straighten out my leg in
order to bring back the cap to its normal position. Most of the times, I escape
any serious injury when this happens. This was not one of those times. 


Due to the reflex of my body to straighten out my leg while still midway bent,
I swung around on the left foot that remained jammed on the stair because of
the flip-flops. As a result, all my body weight shifted to my left foot and I
spun around while my ankle remained lodged on the stair, unable to turn with my
body. I fell on the ground, on my hands without hitting anything else while my
left foot still on that stair in that same position. 


Everyone around me grabbed me, trying to help me get up. I heard Dan and Orso
ask me “Man, are you okay?” I opened my eyes and saw my sunglasses on
the floor with people still walking by. I managed to grab them and asked Orso
to hold on to them. They are a precious gift and broken sunglasses with a
broken foot would have been a little too much to take. 


Completely surprised, Orso just grabbed the sunglasses still wondering if I was
okay or I hit my head somewhere. Very carefully, I got up to my feet. I had
lost all sensation in my left foot by now. I dragged myself to nearby stairs
and sat there. I wanted to throw up. I was in a state of trance, half aware,
half unconscious, and barely able to speak or keep myself still. The pain in my
foot was now growing and it was sickening but absolutely familiar. 


Shit. Shit. SHIT. I had just fractured my foot. 


Moments later, i felt ice. Apparently, Orso made a run to the nearby pharmacy
and grabbed a big pack of ice. It was definitely soothing, but not enough to
make me calm down. I was extremely uneasy. 


One thing that I could think of was that I was glad I had Orso and Zach with
me. For I could probably lose my senses without being scared of anything. I was
in safe hands. Without wasting any time, they took a decision that I needed to
be taken to a hospital a.s.a.p. My foot had already swollen up to three times
the normal.


At the Beth Israel Medical Center, the next big question turned out to be where
could one find a wheelchair? While Zach held me, Orso ran to the emergency room
to get a wheelchair. Meanwhile, a lady passing by pointed out to a wheelchair
right by the entrance door. Dan got it and I sat in it. As Zach began to take
me towards emergency, Orso emerged with a Radiology wheelchair, running towards
us. His face, happy and grinning like he just found the biggest treasure of the
world. I am not going to forget that face for the rest of my life.  For a
moment I thought, Zach and Orso were going to joust. 


The next 6hours went past waiting. Only one could go with me and Zach chose to
go. I must say that was the slowest ER department ever seen. I am sure they did
not find my injury serious enough to run around crazy. Still, I expected a
little more concern. 


“Your name should now be Himancast! Since you have a cast instead of a
shoe!” was Zach’s idea to cheer me up. He continued to laugh and I knew
there was more. After much insisting, he blabbered “And if they choose to
amputate then your name can just be Himan.” I could have cracked open him
skull for that one. But then, a part of me was already laughing on it. 


“Okay we got the X-Ray and CT scans. Not good. A lot of stuff is broken.
Are you sure you slipped on the last few stairs? This seems like you fell from
two floors”


I wanted to thank the doctor for scaring the hell out of me. Meanwhile, Orso
being Orso broke into the hospital area secretly. He even took a picture of the
security guards as he sneaked past them. I was not surprised. His cheerful face
was anytime more welcoming than that of a pessimistic doctor. 


“I am going to put a temporary cast. You will be given a couple of strong
dozes of painkiller. You must consult our orthopedic surgeon in the coming week
for a proper treatment. What we are doing is just to keep you comfortable for
next few days till you see him. But I tell you, this does not look good.”


And came an injection shoved straight in my thigh. HOLY MOTHER OF…..!!!
AAAAAARRRGGGGHHHHHHHHH! That almost killed me. I could feel the medicine slowly
flowing through me. 


Okay, that was the lamest injury ever. Did I fall off a couple of floors while
taking this amazing cool shot? NO. Was I saving somebody? Fighting crime? I
mean I have lifted heavy ass dollies on the narrowest staircases without even a
scratch. Have had so many narrow escapes from very dangerous adventures (Zach,
remember the cycling adventure at your place?). And then I fall off the second
last stair and fracture my ankle. So not cool. I find that really disappointing
and in a way, God’s joke on me. I could hear him laugh his ass off somewhere
close.

The cabin crew welcomed me smiling as I dragged
myself towards my seat.

“Oh…how did that happen? You don’t even
seem to have gotten used to of the crutches”

That was indeed true. I still sucked at walking
with those things. I smiled at her and told her my lame story. At this point, I
did consider the possibility of coming up with a very interesting story that
people would find more exciting. However, that seemed too much of work.

Settled in my window seat, I felt a little
relaxed even though my foot was swollen and hurting.

“I can take those and keep them up here. If
you need them, just call for assistance and we will give them back to you”
asked one of the hostesses. I was holding on to my crutches like they were the
most precious things I had. Technically speaking, they were. I thought for a
moment then gave it to her.

Even though I have a decent experience of leg
injuries, I had never travelled all by myself with one in an alien land. And I
was freaked out at the amount of struggle a person with crutches has to undergo
in a public place to even do the simplest things in life – PEEING! I had
decided I was not going to drink anything on the plane. I could not afford to use
the plane restroom. I would be doomed if the plane lurched while I was in there
and there was no Orso around.

Not having slept at all in last 24hours finally
got on to me. I was glad to slowly pass out as the plane raised its nose.





Once home, the reality hit me and pretty hard.
I had to leave for LA to shoot Sai’s film on July 3rd. My first instinct was to
call Sai and tell him. Not only was I about break hell on him and his project,
I could also see all my commitments for the next two months going for a toss.
No more edit lab job meant no more money. I still had a day of shoot for Orso’s
Favorite Things. That too, a very intense, handheld shoot day. I was also
supposed to shoot Azaan’s thesis, edit Stefano’s project. The fact that I could
not walk meant I was pretty much good for nothing.


If my injury were as serious as the doctor told me so, it would also make sense
for me to go back to India and get my treatment there. Which meant bidding
farewell to New York and all the people here two months earlier than planned.
Not to say, the last thing I wanted to do was to go back to India in a broken
condition. Not the best of the sight for my parents. 


Wow. Every minute that I spent thinking, life began to lose its color. I was in
bed with a broken foot. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without help. Water,
food or anything I needed had to come to me now. And guess what? Mom was not
here. I had no idea how I was going to manage my life now. 


“May be..I should just call it off and go back home” were my thoughts
when…

“Hey man…so…I am going to take a shower. Here is pen and paper. Write
all the foods you like. ALL OF IT!”


For a moment I felt like being an adult about it and not write anything. I
wanted to convince Orso that “I am fine and I don’t need all
that….” The hell I was fine. I began scribbling. By the time he came
back, almost a full page of stuff from Oreos to Dorritos was in there. 


“And yeah, order the biggest and most awesome pizza that you can possibly
find. I will be right back” 


“But…”


“No buts bitch! You are sick…”


I gave him an angry look.


“Okay not sick…broken…and broken people just relax and eat. Don’t
worry, everything will be alright.”


I knew life was going to be tough ahead. But this was definitely a good start.
My room was full of food. There was a big box of Fruity Pebbles and every kind
of chips and dips, boxes of muffins and cakes. There was more stuff than I had
written in the list. But then he has always been a cheater that ways.


My doctor’s appointment was two days away.
And I had the following scenarios:


1. If my foot turned out to be a very serious injury and needed surgery and
stuff, I would go back to India immediately. Good-bye New York. It was a
pleasure. 


2. If my foot didn’t need surgery but was still serious enough to not be able
to travel, I would have to cancel my LA trip and stay in New York. This option
had its consequences. Good-bye Color of War. 


3. If my foot wasn’t seriously injured and I was allowed to travel, then I
would catch the flight to LA (supposedly the next morning from the doctor’s
appointment).


So, the next two days were amazingly hard to pass given all the contemplation
going on in my head as to what it would turn out to be. The pros and cons for
each of these possibilities, what would I lose; there was not much to gain
anyways.


However, I never missed mom again (at least for next few days). Or anybody for
that matter. I had my whole family and friends, right next to me, all combined
into this one blonde Italian guy. Oh, he’s not naturally blonde, just lost a
bet! Ha! He did turn out to be a pain in the ass sometimes because of all the fun
he made of me. And that smartass always kept a safe distance from me and made
sure I did not have stuff to throw at him. 




Having grown up as a single child, I definitely did not know the good and the
bad of having siblings. I had cousins so I had a vague idea. My friends who
have siblings always told me all sorts of possible fights you can have and how
I was a lucky guy to not have to share everything. But to have a selfless
little brother was a feeling unknown to me until now.
The difference between mom and rest of the
world is you don’t have to tell her what you need or want. She knows it.
Considering that, Orso was doing a fabulous job. Not only just food. He just
somehow understood what might be the next best thing to do to help me stay
comfortable and distracted. Of course, he fed me and fed and fed me some more.
He almost never left me alone. Except for when he had to talk to his
girlfriend. That shit is necessary. I give that to him.  
He was also working on his application for BFA.
So he had to make frequent trips to the school. For few hours that he HAD to go,
he would check in every now and then to make sure I was fine and alive. He
would bring everything around my bed so that I could reach those muffins or
cookies or water whenever I needed. He would give me his laptop and I had a
spree time watching old Cartoon Network shows on Netflix, Courage being the
favorite one.
“You wanna use the bathroom?” would be his
first words upon his return. Like he was wondering how long it had been since
he left me. It was really interesting for me to notice how spontaneously and
naturally all those thoughts and gestures came to him.
I didn’t know shit about walking on crutches.
And Orso just made it easy. He would hold me up on my left shoulder making it
unnecessary to use my left crutch. Just the right one to hop. He found it
faster and safer. It definitely was. However, I am sure I was not the lightest
of the creatures. All my trips to the toilet became a collaborated effort –
comfortable and easy.
People help you because they need something in
return. Or they help you if they are tied in some natural or social bond with
you, which entails that they have to help you irrespective of their
willingness. And then people help you because they want to, because they care.
And when they help because they care, you don’t feel burdened by their help.
They don’t let you feel you owe them. And then everything becomes easier for
the one being helped. He can breathe easy. What it also leads to is
strengthening of the bond between the two.
Not even once did I feel a sense of
embarrassment or awkwardness. It was like Orso had always been with me.
One night, he went to get my medicines at
around 10pm. I dozed off and woke up to find him return.
“I couldn’t find one of the medicines. It’s not
available anywhere”
I assumed he came back from Hoboken CVS. I
looked at the watch and it was 4:30am.
“Where all have your been bitch?”
“CVS in Hoboken didn’t have them so I went to
Manhattan. All across 14th street till first avenue. None of the
pharmacies had it. I am sorry man. I will find it tomorrow. I was trying to
hurry up because I didn’t want your pain to start again. But couldn’t find it”
I was amazed. This kid was running around the
whole of Manhattan on foot all the night looking for this painkiller? I felt so
much guilty. It is all about the choices you make. He could have just left me
at the hospital saying “Sorry about this man. Hope you feel better. Lemme know
if you need something.” Instead he chose the harder path. What could have
possibly made him do that? There is definitely hope in the world. ‘Selfless’
had a new meaning for me now. So did “brother”.
“Come on man…you didn’t have to run around the
city. It’s fine. Go sleep”
And like a baby he passed out. I kept looking
at him for a while surprised at how life turns out. Little did I know that the
kid who accidentally kicked his station in the edit lab and was freaking out
would be like my guardian angel one day? Orso means bear in Italian. How
ironic. I doubt bears do stuff like this. I could not have done without this
bear.


 “Your
fracture, my friend, is not a big deal. It should heal in about 6-8weeks. We
will get you a cast. And you should be fine” announced Dr. Miyakaza.
For a moment I could not believe what I heard.
“Doc, I need to travel to LA for a project. Do
you think I can?”
“Ahh…yes, you can. I am only scared if you
develop cramps. But you can avoid it by constantly exercising your foot, drink
a lot of water and juices. You should ideally be fine.”
I looked at Orso. He gave me a reassuring nod.
I smiled.
There it was. Option 3. I was going to LA. That
was such a relief. Then the painful long walk to the street from the doc’s room
made me think otherwise. Walking on crutches is not only tiring but also really
frigging difficult. Every now and then I lost my balance.
“Take your time bitch. No hurry” laughed Orso
walking by me.
The rest of the day went in packing and
preparing. Orso made a deal with me. If I edited the trailer for Favorite
Things, he would pack all my stuff. I know he would have done it anyways but to
contribute in some way was more comforting for me. He did all my laundry,
cleaned my room and packed all of his stuff. I felt really sad at this part. To
see him pack and take away everything that was his. He had been living with me
for almost a month now and I had gotten so used it. But it was necessary as I
was subletting my room to another guy and the room had to be clean as new.
We had dinner from Johnny Rockets as a
celebration to the fact that I was going to LA. And Orso bought some super cool
t-shirts for me. One had a bear on it wearing exact same sunglasses as he has.
I had to leave for the airport by 4:30am. It
was already 3:15am and we had just finished the trailer edit. I switched to
color correction and realized the program was behaving weird. After futile
struggling for half an hour, I had to give up. My foot had begun to hurt from
sitting for a long time. I was getting anxious as the time to leave was coming
closer. All this with my computer misbehaving made it impossible to
concentrate.
“I can’t do this. I am sorry. It’s not working”
“It’s fine man. We can upload it without color
correction” Orso suggested but I could sense the disappointment in his voice.
He was really excited and keen on releasing it before I left. I was the one who
had promised him that it would not take me long to color correct. I felt my
failure. Especially after all that he had been doing, this was the least I
could do. I had to do something.
A brain spark struck me. I copied the trailer
from his hard drive to my computer.
“I am taking my computer with me. I will work
on it as soon as I reach LA”
“No man. Don’t worry. You don’t have to. It’s
fine. Don’t carry your computer just because of this. Specially not in this
condition”
I gave him a stern look and he knew I was
taking the computer no matter what. He packed it for me. We were giving the
final touches to my packing when the cab guy called. Time to go.
My ride to airport was hardly 15mins. Orso took
a nap in that time. I was wide-awake. It occurred to me I was so not prepared
for this. I was heading to LA to shoot a film when I can’t even stand properly.
I wasn’t even sure if I would be more of an asset or a liability on the set of
Color of War. I realized I had suddenly become such a big responsibility. Sai
has a million other responsibilities to take care of. I know how crazy
filmmaking can get. And adding stuff like feeding me, taking me to the toilet,
helping me walk around etc. to all that madness seemed so unfair. I wasn’t even
sure if Sai understood properly my condition and was even mentally prepared to
deal with what was coming his way.
Last few days seemed so easy because I had
somebody giving his 200% attention just to my wellbeing. That was definitely
not going to happen in LA. And in all this, I was supposed to shoot a film. I
couldn’t think of anything even remotely connected to cinematography at that
point. I couldn’t even recall scenes or shots. I was blank.
Orso was surprised at how fast we reached
airport. I got out of the car. He took out the luggage. I readjusted my
position and lost my balance. My left crutch fell. Tried my best to gain it
back but in vain, I was tripping to my left. I didn’t want to touch the ground
with my left foot. But if I didn’t, I would just fall. A couple of people
around me saw this and started screaming but none walked towards me. I was desperately
trying to hold onto something but there was nothing around. I was sure to fall
and hit the concrete. Suddenly two hands just grabbed me and a figure pulled me
away. I couldn’t see but I could feel whom was it, breathing heavily, scared
out of my wits. Orso’s hands were holding me tightly. That was a narrow escape.
“Man…are you alright?”
Such was my condition. Left alone for 10 seconds
and I couldn’t hold still. The hell would I go and shoot a film. I took a deep
breath.
“Yup. I am fine. I am…fine. Let’s go”
Was I? I asked myself. I had reached the rock
bottom of my self-confidence at this point.
He helped me check-in and asked for a
wheelchair. When wheelchair arrived, he helped me sit in it and handed me my
crutches. The wheelchair assistant began pushing me towards the security check
in gate. Orso ran to catch up.
I made him stop. I had to say good-bye.
“Man. Take care and don’t worry too much
alright? Everything will be fine. Enjoy your time. Call me when you reach okay
bitch?”
“Yup” I mumbled reaching out for an awkward hug
from the wheelchair and those stupid crutches in the way. I did not want to
leave. I wanted to turn around and go back home. But I guess it was too late.
The wheelchair began moving again and I saw Orso left behind the queue of
people waiting for security check. I was given priority because of my condition
and I had to be manually screened.
“Sir, as a part of the security check, I will have to
frisk you. I will run my hands over your body and I will approach sensitive
areas with back of my palm. If at any point you find it uncomfortable, please
speak up. You can choose to have a private screening or we can do it here”
said the police officer in the most monotonous voice possible.


With the sun shining brightly on my
face, I opened my eyes. That seemed like a nice long sleep. Not only did I feel
good but also I was happy that I had made through most of my flight sleeping. I
looked at the watch.

07:02AM. Nice. I slept for hardly forty-five
minutes. Perfect. Yeah. Five hours to go. I looked at my foot. It wanted to pop
out of the cast, a million needles piercing it. Exactly what I needed. Did I
hear laughter again?

I was stuck in a strange cycle. I could not
take my painkiller because I had not eaten anything. I was scared if I would
eat and drink stuff, I would have to use the bathroom. And, if only I could
take my painkiller, I could sleep and ease my pain. I chose to bear with the
pain.

Tried to listen to music and after skipping
around twenty tracks, I decided it was not working for me. I needed something
more distracting. I looked up and saw this small TV screen in the center of the
plane showing some documentary of this guy who trained dogs. I hooked on my
headphones to the armrest and let myself slip into the world of Caser Millan,
an illegal immigrant who eventually became an icon in dog training. Some not so
famous TV shows also followed that were, I would admit, funny but none had any
titles or credits. Weird.

My flight landed earlier than scheduled. Sai was
stuck in traffic. And my foot was now a complete mess, swollen and hurting like
someone dropped a hammer on it. Luckily I had escaped any cramps. Not sure if
they would have hurt more or less. I had not slept for almost 32hours. Last
thing I ate (which was awesome) was 18hours ago. Yeah, my second trip to LA and
nothing had changed.

I saw Sai running towards me. Phew! He just
saved me from dropping unconscious (or maybe dead!) at the waiting area of LA
airport. In his car, on the way back, I thought, the worst was over. Here on,
it should not be difficult. After all, I finally get to shoot a project with a
professional crew, just sitting by the monitor giving instructions on the
walkie. He has a car so moving around is not going to be so difficult. He stays
in a house so I don’t have to worry about stairs or elevators.

We stopped by CVS Pharmacy to pick up the
medicine Orso was not able to find earlier.
“I am sorry but I cannot give you this drug.
This prescription is from another state. We are not authorized to dispense
drugs prescribed in a different states”
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDIDNG ME?
“But it is a legal prescription. You can crosscheck.
I am in a lot of pain. I need those.” I pleaded showing her my foot.
“I am sorry sir. We cannot give it to you.”
“Any other medicine that you can give? As a
substitute?”
“Sorry sir. We are not allowed to do that.”
At that point, I had lost it. Sai drove away
sensing my anger. He drove to McDonalds to pick food, as he knew it was the
only thing that could possibly cool me down. However, McDonalds might not have
been the wisest choice I would say. I took a deep breath and thought to myself
“Forgive him lord. He does not know what he is doing”. Kidding. I didn’t care
what. I just needed to eat.

As he parked his car in his parking lot, he
looked at me and smiled. I understood what he meant. There were no apartments
on the ground floor in that building. He lived on the second floor. And of
course there were no elevators in the building. Filmmakers!


The only way to go up the stairs was to use
Sai’s support and hop…step by step…AGAINST THE GRAVITY. I took the first
step and every part of my body jolted. The fuck am I doing here?  One more step. My foot gave a loud pang of
pain. I should have never gotten on that plane. Hop. I will have to go through
this torture every time I had to go out of the house? NOOO WAYYYY. Hop. My
building in NY is so convenient and accessible. Why would people live in a
building with no elevator? Another step. I felt my body weight grow heavier. So
now I was hopping on my bad knee. If it popped, I would be done. Hop. Hop. Hop.
Mommmmmmmm….daddddddddd…Orsooooooooo……Anyone……Hop. Hop. He better
has Oreos in there, waiting for me.

“This is the apt” Sai pointed to the
first door by the stairs. Finally.

He quickly arranged for pillows and elevated my
foot as I sunk into the bed.

“Give me the bottle for my painkillers. In
my bag.”

I gobbled the burger Sai picked earlier and
gulped my medicine (appropriate dose).  I
did want to kill myself though.

Waiting for it to kick in, I stared at the
ceiling. Those inspiring thoughts that everything happens for a reason. I could
see none at this point

“Why did I do this to myself?”

WHY?


To be
continued…

A filmmaker’s check list

Hundreds of filmmakers graduate from the New York Film Academy every year. And funny but true, they all have a similar point of view when it comes to selecting a location for shooting and certain other aspects. Presenting a lighter side behind the psychology of a filmmaker:


Every filmmaking student in NYFA is probably given the following cheat sheet at the start of the year which gives them the 10 most important points to take care of when selecting a location for shooting:


1. The location should NOT be anywhere closer than 8-10 blocks from any Subway station. This point is very important and should never be ignored. You must consider how important and healthy it is to walk a mile before and after shooting.

2. The shooting floor should NEVER be the ground floor. The lowest it can be is 3rd floor. The best of the shots always are taken in apartments on 6th floor and above. It has to do with the magnetic forces of nature that affect the creative thinking process. 

3. There should NOT be any elevators or escalators in the apartment buildings. Elevators hamper creativity to a great extent. They block good ideas and reduce efficiency of the crew. Specially when the equipment is for a thesis which includes dolly and all possible lights, 10 c stands, metal tracks, sandbags etc, it is always beneficial that the building does not have elevators. In fact, try to find narrow and steep staircases. They are always better than those wide comfortable ones. Specially if it is PeeWee or Fisher dolly being taken up.

4. The sound people love challenges. An apartment near a signal and specially if those are the routes for ambulances, fire brigades and police cars, the sound guys feel thrilled (some even feel something which can be compared to orgasm). An apartment in a silent neighborhood without construction or repair work in progress is too easy for sound recordists. They feel useless and probably will quit the shoot halfway. You want to make their dream come true, choose a location which is on a signal as above near the JFK airport!

5. A good temperature is necessary for people to work. Air conditioners in summers and heaters in winters are extremely overrated concepts. In reality, the crew feels much more home without them. So when selecting an apartment, please always choose an apartment which is devoid of those useless fixtures.

6. If the sound guys love challenges, the cinematographer’s are also not going to accept a project which is a piece of cake. If you are shooting night scenes, ensure there are large windows in the entire apartment. Cinematographers always have meters and meters of duvatin that they never bring to set. This will make sure they bring it to the set and use it. DO NOT rent duvetyne in advance if you see large windows in your apartment. Those decisions are meant to be taken on the set during lighting and should be left on the cinematographer. It is NOT your job. The more number of windows, the more difficult it is for the sound guys too. So this one step will take care of the hunger for adventure in your cinematographer as well as your sound recordist.

7. Cinematographers always cry about power. DO NOT listen to them. The apartment you choose should NOT have power outlets that can withstand anything above 10 or at the max. 15amps. Also, there should NOT be many different circuits running in the apartment. Maximum different circuits should be two. If the power trips, it can easily be reset from the breaker box. And there is always time for all those things on the set. The thought of selecting a location based on its power rating is pointless and should be highly avoided.

8. Crew is NEVER in need of good food. They hate to be fed sumptuously. So choosing a location which is away from any good restaurant or food chain is the best thing you can do to yourself and the crew. Most of the people eat anything. Cold cut sandwiches are very healthy and go well with water. Save yourself the pain and expense of getting good food from a nearby good food outlet. Choosing a location away form any reliable, hygienic food outlet will help you all throughout your shoot schedule.

9. One of the things that are highly overrated is space. NOBODY needs extra room. The smaller the apartment, the better it is since the closer the crew remains with each other and to the equipment, the more they bond with each other and this keeps the tempers running low. Specially if you are shooting all across the apartment (living room, kitchen, bedroom, even closet! – all in one day) it is probably a good idea that the apartment is small. Allowing crew to sit idly is worst that can be done to them. If they have to keep moving stuff every hour for the next shot, it keeps them active and very calm. Cinematographers may ask for stupid things like a staging area for equipment (like all the other useless things they always demand, huh!) DENIAL is the best way out. They don’t need it. It is just a place where equipment is kept neatly and organized, out of people’s way (How mainstream and boring right?).

10. Always choose apartments with polished creaky floors, extremely fragile furniture and WHITE walls. This will not only help the crew manage things better while moving C Stands and other sharp metal objects since they have to stay careful not to scratch, but will also help the cinematographer light up. White walls always reflect light and will give you better exposure. So what if the cinematographer has to use extra flags and go crazy with black wrap trying to cover leaks etc. It is their goddamn job. They better do it. The creaky floors will come handy when dollying. The sound of the creaky floors gives the dolly grip a sense of rhythm and helps them gauge their movement. Also, for shots where the camera operator has to walk along with actors, the more sound his feet make, the better it is for the sound guy. (psst…sound guys can remove any extra sound! They don’t tell you but sure they can!). 

 If you choose a location with has all the above qualities, you are going to have a wonderful shoot. Expect results that look very similar to any Stanley Kubrick film. In fact, give out references from those films to your cinematographer. They sure can achieve it.

And always remember the magic words “We are on a tight budget!”

Have a great shoot. 

Readers, if you have any more points, feel free to comment. I would love to add them.

Filmmakers, hope you see the lighter side and don’t take any offence. 

The west coast! Part 2

Continued from here.

I took a thorough look around the La Hacienda Shopping Center. I could definitely find toothbrush, paste and soap but I was sure not gonna find t-shirts. Not even any promotional ones. At that point, I could have promoted any goddamn brand on this earth if it provided me clothes.

I picked up the items, took another optimistic round of the place looking for t-shirts, it did not have any. I was walking towards the check out when I heard two guys loudly talking in hindi. The voices came closer and finally I saw them stand in the next row to check out.

Something got on to me. I immediately changed rows. They noticed it but remained glued to their conversation about some common person they were bitching about.

“Do you guys live around here?” I asked them in hindi (a very calculated move).

One of them was taller and bulkier than the other. He felt a little hesitant in answering my question and he looked at the other one with a look ‘Dude, you deal with him. He looks like trouble!’

“Yes, I stay here. What happened?” said the shorter, thinner guy in a very calm, warm and welcoming tone.

“Do you know anywhere I can get t-shirts right now? My baggage was misplaced by the airline and I am here for an event tomorrow. I need to buy something to change to” I said, trying my best to sound as calm and composed as possible, without scaring the hell out of them.

The face of the tall guy turned red. As if what he was thinking, was exactly what I turned out. A begger or a theif or a gangster who would first ask for help, then will slaughter them and run away with their money. (To be honest, at that point, I would have just ran away with the clothes!)

“Try walgreens…or”

“I already did. They are closed”

“Ahh…well, the clothing stores must all be closed. Try those 24hour type stuff like CVS etc.” he said as he moved out after paying for his stuff.

“Thank you”  I replied with a smile.

I had only one option- to start walking on El Camino Real since I was more likely to find some store open at 10:30pm on this street than any other street in Sunnyvale. My feet and back now started to hurt.

I walked out of the store and looked around.

This part of the country is amazingly beautiful. Wide clean roads, lots of trees and greenery, a refreshing weather and so much peace. It is everything what New York city is not. On a normal day, I would have loved this relief from the dense jungle of concrete with 1000 kinds of smells and noises, helicopters, police sirens, ambulances, fire engines all going on at the same time, rains and wet streets. If it is not raining, then it is stuffy, hot weather. And above all, people! New York is stuffed with people.

You cannot walk without people bumping into you with their “Excuse me” that sound like “Once upon a time, when the Almighty was writing the destiny for us humans, he wrote that on this day, at this very hour, minute and second I shall cross the street. You have the audacity to question the destiny? How dare you walk ahead of me, in the same direction? Move away you wretched creature. I cannot walk slower or faster than this speed. I cannot walk a step to my right or to my left, however wide this street may be or however much space do I have to walk ahead of you from your side without disturbing you. I will walk as I am destined to. So EXCUSE ME!”

Not to forget their heads would be buried in their iPhones, ears would be stuffed with earphones playing music so loud that you can tell which song is playing while standing 5feet away from the person. I swear one day I would just turn around and lodge at least 10 tight slaps on the face the next time they go “Excuse me” that rudely when they can see I have moved and made way. “Oh, you moved before me saying excuse me? Well,  let me be sure, just in case! EXCUSE ME!” If only Excuse Me! could physically slash a person, there would be blood shed everywhere in New York!

A bunch of retard hipsters. Feel like taking up Ra’s al Ghul’s philosophy sometimes.

Right now, though, the whole idea of so much space was not comforting. What I could find in NY within one block of walking, here it might take 2 miles to find.

I took a deep breath and started walking towards the street crossing the parking area.

“Let’s go”

I turned around to find the two indian guys standing there.

“Where?” I genuinely asked.

“To buy you t-shirt. Hop in, I can drive you to the nearest place that may be open.”

“No it’s fine. I will walk. I don’t want to bother you so much”

“Come one dude. Just sit. It won’t be a problem at all” he said with a tone of finality that now he had made up his mind that he would buy me t-shirt so he would. Nobody must come in his way now. Destiny!

I sat in his Honda Civic.

“Friend, you will have to adjust as my friend has just come to Sunnyvale and all his luggage is in there” he politely requested me turning on the engine.

“I can sit on the roof or in the boot if needed at this point.” I genuinely meant that statement.

They laughed.

Then began the search for t-shirts. One by one, each store was crossing by, closed. We were having the basic conversation about how airlines fuck it up at times, he was talking about some other places he has stayed and was wondering what all stores could be open at this hour. They asked me, what did I do and why had I come here.

After driving around for around 20mins, they finally spotted something.

“There we go. CVS Pharmacy, 24hour store”

He drove in and parked by the entrance. More than happiness, I felt a sudden fear inside me. I sure was at CVS but how I got there, I had no clue. In the whole driving around, I lost track of the route. Also, considering 20mins of driving around, this was not walkable distance to the hotel. My phone battery was about to die. No GPS. Wow! It sounded just a perfect trap I fell into.

I got out of the car and was about to thank them for this ride when the guys walked out too

“We don’t have much to do this evening. Let’s help you find your stuff”

I was amazed. Really? They want to help me find t-shirt in CVS pharmacy?

“What’s your name? I am Gaurav and he is Harish” said the thin guy. He was doing all the talking. The other guy was definitely not happy with all this helping a fellow Indian business. ( I am assuming Gaurav, read on)

“Himanshu. where are you guys from?”

“We are both from Mumbai”

Ahaa….that explains it. Only Mumbai people know how to help others. I can safely say this because I have stayed there for 4years and in Delhi for 2 years. If it was Delhi and I said yes to get into a car, well, let us just say, it wouldn’t have been quite comfortable to sit.

It took us 15mins of going through aisles and aisles of stuff before one of the guys shouted “Himanshu, come here! I found them”.

I ran to him. And there it was, a round rack of t-shirts. I thought it was glowing in golden light. I swept through them and picked two t-shirts, one grey and one black. Took another look and realized, I picked the best ones. The others were surely recycled clothes made from rags of waste cloth.

I picked up a pack of underwear too. It was like a dream come true. Finally, I could shower and feel like a human.

They sat in the car while I stood by the driver’s seat.

“Guys…I don’t know how to…” I began, thinking hard of a nice thank you speech.

“Get in the car. Don’t you have to go back to your hotel?”

“No its..”

“You can’t walk back my friend. It is too far.”

I quietly obeyed and took my seat. Phew!

“So where is your hotel?”

“You can drop me to the same shop where we met. I can walk from there”

“Buddy, don’t hesitate. We have to go back anyways. If you hotel is nearby, we can drop you there”

“Hotel Wild Palms. It is on the corner of Wolfe and Fremont av.”

“Perfect. We will anyways take Wolfe to get back home. We can drop you on the other side of the street. Hope that is ok with you?”

They were talking as if they owed it to me.

“Thank you so much. That would be fine.”

On the way back, I realized, the hotel was far from that place. I would have walked for almost for 45mins before I could have reached the hotel. They stopped the car next to Wendy’s which was right in front of my hotel.

“Alright man. Wish you all the very best for your event tomorrow. Take care. Have fun.”

“I don’t know how to thank you guys. Thank you so so so so much. You saved my life.”

“It is absolutely fine dude. Don’t worry at all.” he said with a genuine, big smile.

I looked for my business card but couldn’t find it. I remembered I gave the last one I had in my wallet, to the guy next to me in flight. Dumb me! Grrrr

I picked up my phone. It was dead already.

“It’s fine dude. Relax” he said seeing me struggle.

I got out of the car and they sped up. On my way back to the hotel, the whole incident started to go over again.

“They were like two angels who met me, helped me and disappeared. Harish and…..what the…I forgot the name of the first guy. I can always…wait…I never took their number. But I could have given my…so now I had lost them forever. May be…that was how it was supposed to be…they were meant to help me…at a point when I needed help…I was stupid…I didn’t even offer my number for the very sake of helping them when they come to NY sometime. I was just too exhausted and overwhelmed. Well, they know my name and New York Film Academy. I am sure, if they want to, they can always look up. But why would they? What if they have forgotten my name by now?”

Lost in these thoughts and feeling so relieved, I reached my hotel room. Kept my dead phone and turned around to look for a charger. Whoa! My charger was in the bag. So now my phone’s dead. And I don’t have a charger. And guess what? I have Nokia E72. No way on earth, anybody would have a nokia charger in that hotel.

Challenge accepted.

“Hello, this is Valerie. How may I help you”

She was this beautiful, charming receptionist at the hotel front desk. At 01:00am, she was so happy, fresh and welcoming.

“By any chance, would have a charger for this Nokia phone?”

She looked at the pin.

“Let me have a look sir. We have a bunch of chargers, this will take some trial and error”

She took my phone and went in. For next 15mins, I heard a lot of rustle and boxes. Then she came out with two chargers. I tried both of them. None got even close to fitting.

“I am sorry sir. That’s all that we have that comes close to fitting in that pin”

So that was it. I was going to be without a phone till my bag comes back. That is, if my bag comes back. Of all the things I cared about was my camera. It would be last thing I would want to lose. I could buy everything else in the bag, 3 times again but not the camera. I was regretting leaving it in there.

“Thank you so much for your help” I turned around, and dropped my phone which opened into its pieces (how nokia phones fall). While gathering it together, I saw something that held my attention. I looked at the data cable port which was a micro USB. I remembered my Samsung phone had a similar charger pin. If I could find that, I may well be able to charge my phone.

“Hey, would you have a charger for this pin?” I showed her the USB port.

She looked around and found a Nook charger that fit perfectly.

My eyes gleamed with joy. I ran to room (figuratively). Plugged it in.

It didn’t turn on. I waited for few minutes. Usually Nokia phones take a while after being discharged.

Nothing happened. I picked up the charger and crawled back to the reception.

“It doesn’t work. Is anything else that I may try? any Samsung charger?”

“Well, let me see. I must have something else.”

She went back again and the same, boxes and rustle. She came out with a blackberry charger with similar pin. I again turned around to run back when I thought – what if it didn’t work too? How about I check it here? And I saved myself from being a total moron again. I plugged it in in a nearby outlet and there, my phone sprung up to life, immediately.

A relief settled inside me. I thanked her and came back to my room. Looked at the watch. it was 02:00am. By the time I was done with shower, changed and went to bed, it was 02:35am.

As I lay in the bed, this fatigue took over me, as if I was sedated. After running around for 52hours straight, I finally got to sleep in peace. Well not really so much peace since my bag was still lost somewhere but it was an end to a physically draining day. I had to get up at 7am again because my event started at 9 and I was supposed to report there at 08:30am. It was around 10miles from my hotel.

The bed felt so cozy and warm. I blinked. It was 06:40am. Aaron was already up. I thought if I didn’t get up at this point, another small doze of sleep might get me late. So I got out of bed. I only know how much of resistance my body exerted on me. But with a conviction, I finally was out of bed.

The breakfast at the hotel was amazing. It took away my grumpiness of lack of sleep. Awesome pancakes with fried eggs. Reached the venue, shot a crazy football event for the whole day without taking any breaks at all. All that we had there to drink was Pepsi Maxx which was the sponsor for the event. And it tastes like sugar syrup even though they say it has zero calories. I tried drinking one but couldn’t finish it.

Around midday my phone rang.

“Hello sir, I am calling from Delta Airways. I am afraid I don’t have a good news for you.”

Damn these people. Who trained them? What was it now? “Sir. The flight in which your luggage was coming lost its way and is now in China. Poor little kids want to take your camera. Being America’s biggest and most responsible airlines, we have to take your permission before we can donate the stuff to them since the flight is not coming back. It is much hassle on our part to bring it back. It is better we dispose it off”

“Sir. The flight by which your luggage was supposed to come….one second sir”

She put me on hold to talk to another person, at the worst possible moment in that sentence. I could have taken a cab and reached the airport at that moment, out of sheer rage.

“Sorry about that. Sir, the flight is delayed by 4hours. So we will be able to deliver your luggage only by 5pm.”

“That’s fine. I am anyways out till that time. Thanks.”

Why would they do that? What have I done to Delta? Why? WHY? – were some questions raging in my head as I resumed shooting.

At 03:45pm my event manager gestured that it is a wrap. He was biting through a chicken leg piece. I and Aaron looked at each other. We were dying of hunger. We decided we must exit this place before he thinks of some more shots.

The had given us black t-shirts which I had to wear above the t-shirt I was wearing. If I had known I would be provided t-shirts at the venue, I wouldn’t have gone hunting for it. Never mind. I was boiled inside those two layers of clothing. Shooting the event in direct sun of California, I was more than well cooked.

At 4:45pm I reached my hotel lobby. A guy entered with me and stopped at the reception. I crossed the desk heading to my room when suddenly it struck me. I took two steps back and looked at the bag the guy was holding.

IT WAS MY BAG!!

I ran to him almost knocking him down and snatched the bag from him.

“Finally!”

Totally puzzled at what just happened, he said in the most confused tone “And…that I assume…would be your baggage…May I know your name….sir?”

“Himanshu Dubey” I said, not even looking at him. I was busy opening the bag and checking its contents. Everything was in place. Well, not exactly in place but in the bag. It seemed they played soccer with my bag. But the good part was, it had my camera in it. I switched it on. It was working fine.

“Then…please sign here”

I scribbled my name and disappeared. He must have thought what a douche I was.

My room was at the extreme back side of the hotel. I ran to my room with my bag, Aaron behind me. Quite close to my room, I head loud screams of a girl. Chinese girl to be honest. How I knew that? I don’t know. But it was obvious it was a Chinese girl. That was some lovemaking I must say.

Red light. I tapped again. Red Light. Again. Red light. My room won’t open. Aaron tried his card, same.

I took a deep breath. I knew what could have gone wrong. I walked back to the reception trying not to pay attention to the screams.

“Sir, I am sorry but there is no credit card associated with that room. That is why we have revoked your access. We need a credit card in order to let you in”

Amazing. Just what I was waiting to hear. American Logic at its best.

“So you are trying to tell me? The room I checked in yesterday, stayed one night, had breakfast in the morning, where all my stuff is kept in, I can’t get back there? How did you let me in yesterday?”

“I don’t know sir. I was not at desk at that time. Your event manager spoke to Valerie and she arranged everything. I am just doing my duty. If there is no credit card authorization associated with a room, we cannot grant access to it”

I called up my event coordinator, Nisha and she spoke to the receptionist. A couple of minutes later, the receptionist gives me back the phone.

“I won’t talk to her, she is screaming at me”

Deep breath. Deep breath.

“Nisha, I will call you in a while. Let me sort this out” I disconnected the call gathering all the patience I could.

“So, let us sort this. First, help me out here. Can you explain me the situation? Why was I granted access and now why can’t I get it?”

“Sir. Your stay has been fully paid for using a third party website. We do not get the credit card information from that website when we get a booking. But we need a credit card for incidental records. Only then we can give a room to a person. That’s the law. We were told that a credit card authorization form and picture would be sent to us by fax/e-mail but as per our records, we have not received any of it.”

“So all you need is a credit card?”

“Yes. It will not be charged sir”

I pushed my card across the table.

“I have a debit card. I think that should be fine?”

“Absolutely sir. There you go”

She scanned my card and flipped two new access cards across the table in a fraction of a second.

I walked back to my room. The girl was still screaming. But it seemed the position was different this time. Totally ignoring, I entered my room.

Aaron, who was waiting at the room, asked me “What happened?”

“Nothing. Just a slight confusion. Don’t worry”

I took a shower, shaved and changed into my clothes. Heaven. I had planned to meet one of my Indian friends who was in Santa Clara. It turned out he was very close to my hotel. The plan was to meet him and chill for a while. I got ready, took my camera and rushed out. The girl was still screaming. That is some stamina (at least for screaming!).

I met him after a long time. And in conversation he got to know that I had not eaten anything since morning. He had some left over rice and curry (rasam). I have to admit this. I am not a fan of rasam or sambhar. Not that I hate it. But I would never order those things. But, that day, it tasted like the best thing I had ever had. It took me a minute to lick the plate clean. Not that it was not well made (it was indeed delicious!), but hunger has this tendency to make things taste better than they are.

Sitting in his peaceful home, with golden evening light coming through the windows, sound of kids playing nearby, it was so serene. It was like a bliss to me after so much of rough time I had had so far. I was in my own world just breathing.

After hanging out with him for sometime, I came back to hotel, and as I was crossing that room, a huge, tall, fat typical american nerd type guy (glasses, long hair and disgusting look on his face) came out followed by a pretty Chinese girl. Damn! I was right. It was a Chinese girl. Looking at the guy, nobody could have made out they had been having sex for over 4hours now. Or even more. But looking at his physical dimensions, the screams were probably because of his weight than anything else.

 My flight was at 11am the next morning.

“Mr. Singh. Pick me up at 9am from the hotel. My flight is at 11”

“Don’t worry sir. I will be there” the typical Indian assurance.

So my taxi was booked. I slept early that night to make up for my lack of sleep and rest. I was genuinely glad that this adventure was over. I couldn’t sleep too well. I would wake up every now and then to realize, there was still time to sleep.

I got up early and enjoyed the amazing breakfast, in peace. Nowhere to rush, nothing to do. Then I locked my room and came to the lobby to wait for my cab.

At around 09:30, I called up this guy

“Sorry sir. I am stuck in traffic. I will take another 30mins to reach your hotel.” The typical Indian timing.

“I am sorry but I will have to take another cab and go. I won’t be able to wait for that long”

I asked the hotel guys to get me a cab. In 5mins there was a cab at the hotel entrance. I looked at the hotel, the surrounding roads, El Camino Real and the Wendy’s. I couldn’t help but smile how last 48hours had been for me. The drive to the airport was something I don’t even remember. It just passed by like a flash.

I wanted to thank the lady at the Delta Airlines counter for getting my bag to me. But I reached airport barely in time, thanks to Mr. Singh, to make it to my flight. I was finally going back. back to NYC.

“I will come back. I will come back very soon. I like this place” I said to myself as I handed my boarding pass to the security personnel. I had checked in my baggage this time. Interestingly they asked me to pay $25 for this. I didn’t care.

Sitting in the flight, I felt the exertion of all the not eating and sleeping. I felt tired. There were so many things that awaited my attention in NYC, I felt a time bomb ticking as I came closer and closer to my reality, New York City.

“Sir, would you like some beverage?”

“ahh…what options do I have?” I said, lost and sleepy.

X___________________________________X

The End. (Phew!)