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Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Why I trek

All of us have some moments in life that we cherish and feel happy about whenever we think of them. There are the times when we have are exhilarated and ecstatic about something in life. Interestingly these are also the times when we are thinking about nothing. The feeling of nothingness stems from a state of non desire. This is about self actualisation. We are so satisfied that we dont need anything more in life.

Being on dialysis for a while now, we get to see so much suffering, so much pain, so much agony, so much trauma that these moments to cherish are very rare.

Nature in its own way is so beautiful that in return for the exertion in trekking it offers some beautiful moments. The mountains, the valleys, how they complement each other. The good times and the bad times similarly.

The Heat of summer and the chill of winter and the wetness of the monsoon in the tropical areas complement each other. The moods that we have similarly.

The water of the rivers, the fire of the forests, the mud of the countryside all complement each other.

The balance is so sublime the beauty so pristine. When I trek I am stunned by the beauty of nature into a state of nothing ness. Each moment a unique experience to be cherished for a lifetime.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Article in DNA featuring me



How can I think positive when my life is falling apart? What have I done to deserve this? Why me?” These were Rakesh Sharma’s thoughts when he found out that he needed an angioplasty. Seven years back, he had a bypass surgery after a severe heart attack. Being Christmas, the doctor who conducted the surgery wasn’t the renowned cardiologist Rakesh would have liked. Six months later, when he came to Mumbai to visit his family, the 40-year old NRI was rushed to the hospital with chest pain. The electrocardiogram (ECG) showed unusual activity and his cardiologist suggested the possibility of an angioplasty. A second — and third — opinion revealed the same thing: His cardiogram showed a flaw in the bypass — one artery had not been operated upon and this was now showing a blockage. Disturbed and disillusioned, Rakesh put
his foot down: “There’s no way I’m getting this procedure done. I can’t afford to get my heart operated upon every six months. I’d rather die, if I’m fated to.” His cardiologist spent an hour explaining why he was lucky to know what the problem was and that he still had a chance: An angioplasty is safe and will definitely improve things, he said. But it was his mother who managed to convince him: “This is what God wants. It’s for your own good.” So after numerous tests and consultations, Rakesh agreed. Last year, when he came to India, he paid his doctor a visit. “Doc, the positive discussions that I had with you and my mother really helped me,” he said. “I’ve had a completely asymptomatic five years. And when I think back to those conversations, I still feel motivated. It still helps me control my diet and lifestyle.”Like Rakesh, a number of people who suffer from chronic diseases — like cancer,hypertension, diabetes and AIDS — believe that approaching the doctor with an open mind and staying positive throughout the treatment has helped them get better faster.
“If one stays positive, vital physiological parameters stay normal,” says Dr Ramakant Deshpande,surgical oncologist at Lilavati Hospital. Doctors agree that
staying optimistic is important for the patient, family and the doctor.
“Sometimes, patients with chronic diseases feel that they are hooked on to the treatment for life. This can be a depressing thought,” says Dr Jatin Kothari, nephrologist at the PD Hinduja Hospital. High cost of treatment, constant
vigilance and the time consumed by procedures such as chemotherapy and dialysis,
can take its toll on the entire family. “If patients stay positive, they are more
likely that they will follow up with their treatment. This improves recovery,” adds
Dr Dehpande. “We have seen that patients who get depressed and lose the will to live
can develop complications.” It is important for the doctor to spend some time with the patient and the family to explain the procedure.
“The doctor should make sure that there is no fear that can lead to negativity,”
says Dr Siddharth Dagli, consultant cardiologist.
“Medicine does not adequately describe this, but it has been seen that attitude
plays an important role in recovery.” And this is entirely scientific. “Staying
optimistic releases neurotransmitters — chemicals that conduct electrical impulses
in the brain — that liberate endorphins in the body. These endorphins are natural pain and stress relievers and enhance the healing process by improving the body’s immune response,” explains Dr Dagli.

Exercise, agree doctors, plays an important role in releasing these endorphins. Various studies have shown that exercise after chemotherapy boosts the activity of infection fighting T-cells. It also improves physical functions, such as endurance, body strength and volume of oxygen intake. Whether it is cancer, AIDS or heart disease,exercise reduces weakness,muscle cramps and fatigue, say doctors. The knowledge a patient has on his/her illness is also dependent on the attitude. “A person reads up on the disease and prepares himself to deal with the pain and
cost of the treatment,” says Dr Deshpande. Instead of brooding, if the patient considers the short-term effects of the illness, it becomes easier to take it one day at a time, says Dr Kothari. Like Samiir Halady, who has to undergo dialysis twice a week, every week, for the rest of his life. Diagnosed in 2002 with
Membranoproliferative Glomerulonephritis (MPGN), the 35-year-old MBA read up
about the disease on the internet and decided that since he had to live with failed
kidneys, he might as well get used to the idea. “I realised that I shouldn’t be comparing my problems with those of others,” he says. “I didn’t let myself get into the mould of ‘why me’ because I knew that I had to get emotional strength from myself, not from others. So I live the way I want to, and take my illness one day at a time. I’ve told myself that everyone lives with problems… and this is mine.”

For both Samiir and Rakesh, and most patients suffering from cancer, diabetes and ther diseases, the family plays a very important role in helping the patient stay optimistic and happy. Support groups for cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism and AIDS, among other illnesses, play a tremendous role too. “Knowing that someone else is dealing with the same, or similar problem as you, makes it easier to stay happy and move ahead with treatment,” says Dr Deshpande. Sometimes, there are religious groups and individuals that step up to help bring in this positive attitude. “At the end of the day, whether it’s the family, a priest or the doctor, what is important is that the
patient remains happy and optimistic about his/her chances,” adds Dr Dagli. j_geetanjali@dnaindia.net

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Rajmachi to Kondivade





Normally we carry a lot of glucose powder and ORS products when we trek. This time I was trekking overnight after a long time and the others for the first time. We were not having sacks big enough to take everything. Hence our stocks of these important supplements were low.

Our hosts told us that the way down would take us around 2 and a half hours. We started. The starting of the route itself was mucky. We were scared after the scare the previous day. WE kept to the rocks. It was taking time but we were ok with losing time. Losing our legs in that muck was definitely more scary.

The rocky patch started. There were luckily nice arrow marks made by trekking groups to make life easier for all of us. That was a really nice gesture from someone. This route as I remember was full of diversions and it was very easy to lose our way.

The rocks were slippery. It wasnt raining as heavily, but the way was quite dangerous. One slip and it would have become the slip of a lifetime. I had a fistula on the left hand. I had to guard it very carefully. Hence the levels of concentration required for me were much higher. The way was very steep as well. Thankfully there was no muck now, but there were rocks.

We would have trekked for around 2 hours. We reached a huge opening and met a group of trekkers ascending. We exchanged pleasantries and chatted as if we had known each other for years. It is so surprising that in the city when we meet anyone we know we dont have time to even shake hands, leave alone have a meaningful conversation. And here we were chatting with guys whom we had never even met, never even imagined that we would meet.

We asked them how long it would take us to reach the base. Pat came the answer ...3 more hours............we asked the same question again. We thought we had heard wrongly.

Maybe the villagers have a different benchmark of time. Maybe their watches run slowly or their feet move faster.

We continued the trek. It was like one steep descent followed by an opening with some beautiful scenery and then another steep descent.To add to the confusion were some insects which on the outside looked like mosquitoes. They were all over the place, in our face, stinging our legs and making the effort to concentrate even tougher.

Tough it was. My limbs had started aching. We stopped by a nice rivulet and had a bath. I actually lied down along the flow of the river and it was so refreshing, something that needs to be experienced more than expressed.

Maybe the photograph says more than words anyways.

We started from here refreshed and energised with some biscuits. Somehow, we managed to reach the village and had lunch at Vanvihar and pulled our weary legs back home.

I had managed to do an overnight trek. Yes, I ended up with aching thighs and red dotted designer legs (courtesy the mosquito like insects) but it was all worth the effort.

What an end to a most eventful and memorable trek!

Rajmachi Accomodation

We were in Rajmachi village. The place is a small hamlet with around 15 houses. There is no electric supply in the village. But the mobiles can catch a signal. Speaks volumes for the difference in efficiency when a service is privatised.

The house where we stayed belonged to the Janere family. They were very warm. The place was also very clean and food was freshly cooked. We had the basic food of that area, nothing spectacular but it was tasty and very refreshing.

The fare was bhakri (bread made out of grains, rice in this case) vegetable, lentils and rice along with the staple pickles. After lunch, I was feeling very tired. I realised that I had got hardly 4 hours of rest post dialysis and had walked for around 20 km. That too with the scare of my foot getting stuck in the quick sand. I opted out of climbing the fort. I handed my camera to our group to capture the photos and rested at our abode. I changed into dry clothing and pulled out my sleeping bag, wrapped it around me and sat by the wall.

Just thinking. The last time I had come to Rajmachi, we were a huge group. That trekking group has now disintegrated though most of the key members are in touch with me. How my kidney ailment brought with it so many years of inactive life till I decided to take the bull by the horns and get back to trekking. Trekking was my passion, my life, the source of the force in me.............I guess it still is.

We had an early dinner and sat chatting. There were so many facets of our personalities which we were unaware of. In the hustle of the city we never have time to even look in the mirror in a relaxed manner. As Keats had once famously said "We have no time to stand and stare"

On the contrary we had nothing to do and I for one could actually sense the body starting to demand its share of sleep. These are small things which we seem to have forgotten since we have grown up and opted to become a part of the rat race.

And then sleep happened. It happens in the city too..........but then it was different. The place was different. The air was clean. We had wholesome freshly cooked food. And we didnt even realise that there was no electricity. At home, I would have got so restless and impatient till the current was back and here we were getting into that beautiful state called sleep.

We had a long way to travel the next morning. I remember it had taken us some 5 hours the last time I came here.

What we didnt contend for the next morning was that there was no lavatory. Yes, we had to take a walk into the wild and help ourselves. It was raining heavily in the morning and I actually took a long walk in the wet wild and found a spot totally isolated from civil life and good enough to defecate without being spied upon.

We were back to the basics. Back to where we came from..........

N.B. The place is wonderful to stay and the hosts are nice. They can be contacted on the number 00919850104191 and the name is Suresh Janere.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Lonavala to Rajmachi

This was the first time I was trekking immediately after dialysis. I had dialysis till 1 am at night and then had taken an early morning bus to Lonavala. The bus was late and made me feel I missed out on an hours sleep. But the journey was comfortable. We reached Lonavala at around 11 instead of the scheduled time of 930. We started the trek at around 1145.

The way was long. Around 20 kms in distance. I had just had my dialysis the previous night. I had slept only for 4 hours after that. I knew it would be tough.

It was also raining heavily. There was no sigh of respite in the rain. The fog was also very dense and visibility was low. We started off. The villager who had arranged for our accomodation had told us that he takes around 2 hours to complete the distance and we would take a maximum of 3 hours. But I knew from my experience that it would be much more.

The Tungarli dam in the front was a cursor of events to follow. The huge rock wall right in front. We started off in earnest. Taking nice pictures along the way.

The scenes on the way were really beautiful. There were several waterfalls. One more beautiful than the next. But we had to complete the distance and then the forts. We were already more than 2 hours behind schedule. Hence we took only brief halts at a couple of waterfalls. We didnt go under them lest we get enchanted with them and choose to stay in them for long. We had miles to go before we slept.

The views were simply great. Simply enchanting.

We met a group of trekkers returning and asked them how long it would take. They said 3 hours more. SO maybe we had covered around one fourth the distance we thought. After around an hour and a half, we asked another group of trekkers who were going in the reverse direction. Three hours they answered!!

Vow...three hours seemed to be a standard answer. Were we moving ahead at all or moving in circles. It was difficult to imagine that the walk was so long. But it was. it was a test of our endurance.

The path had lots of rivulets which we had to cross on foot. These rivulets were having very strong currents and there was always a fear that our ankles might sprain and we had a really long way ahead of us. The rain was also not showing any signs of abating. The visibility was poor. The rain and the flowing water was helping the mud accumulate in low lying areas and there was the wind as well. At one place I knew there was mud, but it was looking quite ok. So the risk was only that my shoes would get covered in mud. i stepped into it.

Whooooooooooooooosh .. the muck was almost like quick sand. My leg went in knee deep. It was going further in. Luckily my other leg was on firm ground and with the help of my friends I could haul myself up. The force that I had to exert with the stuck leg was so much that even after 5 days that knee is still aching badly.

From now on I was a bit shaken and a bit scared as well. This was a close shave. We met another group of trekkers .How long would it take we asked. We heaved a sigh of relief when they said two and a half hours. Finally...time was moving.Finally!

The walk continued in beautiful weather and amidst waterfalls. On the way we saw a couple of SUVs stuck in the muck. Thanking our luck that we didnt meet the same fate we carried on. We took a brief halt at a stream to rejuvenate ourselves with some biscuits and then moved ahead.

We reached the base village at around 4 pm where our host was waiting for us. But they had not cooked the food as they were not sure whether we would make the distance. They didnt want the food to get wasted.

But yes, we had reached our shelter. Our home for the evening as we called it.

This adventure is quite long and deserves more space than just one post. I would like to take this from here in my next post. The fort and the stay and then the way down to Kondivade were all an adventure in itself.

My limbs were aching by then. Now my arms are aching.........so till my next post adieu.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Rajmachi - Preparations

Rajmachi is a beautiful place which is in between Lonavala and Kondana. The base village is around 22 km from Lonavala by foot. There is no level of difficulty as it is a bullock cart track. But due to the distance it requires decent levels of endurance.From the base village one can go to the twin forts of Shrivardhan and Manoranjan. There is a route from here that leads us downhill to Kondana via the waterfalls which we covered in the last adventure.

This distance cannot be covered in one single day. Hence we need to spend the night in the rajmachi village. As the organiser it was important for me to make everyone as comfortable as possible. We had to look for accomodation (either tents or a roof to stay under), food, if required the implements to cook the food, and sleeping bags etc. to spend the night in comfort.

We plan to visit this place on the 15th of August which happens to be the Indian independence day. It is also part of a long weekend. We look forward to a great adventure and fun.

But I was worried for everyone. I have trekked overnight on numerous occasions, but no one else had done it. Even I was going for an overnight trek after around 7-8 years. So I was not used to sleeping in alien conditions.

Thanks to the internet and my old trekking contacts, I could get the phone number of a villager who lives in Rajmachi village. I could arrange for food and a roof to stay for everyone concerned. That would mean everyone would have to carry that much less. We now had to carry only our bedding. More than half our load requirements were eliminated. Yet when it was communicated to the group there was dissonance in some quarters that we had to carry the bedding. Well, anyways I could not do more than this. So I let it be.

Human beings are so used to a certain degree of comfort that we expect these conditions wherever we go. We are ready to pay for it, but when it comes to organising voluntarily, there is no one to take the lead. Nor is anyone ready to lend a hand in the process. I guess it is because we have never faced a situation where we have been forced to meagre resources only to survive. Survival is the key. This is what dialysis teaches you. At least that is what it taught me. Live from day to day. Survive. Hang in there. There is truly so much in common between dialysis and trekking.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Kondana - The waterfall of Joy




Mumbai local trains are really crowded except for unearthly hours. And it suits us as we start off on treks during such hours. Our group wanted to introduce their kids into trekking. Something that we discovered at a much later age.Consequently, for Kondana, we were travelling with three kids of 4 years age and one kid of 10. We decided to travel at earthly hours.

The night before we were to trek there were a whopping 23 confirmations and I was really worried how we would manage such a group with the kids and the rivulets we had to cross as part of the trek. But it was really raining heavily...pouring heavily in fact and there were many last minute drop outs. We were 8 adults and 4 kids finally.

So we took the 7 am train from CST for Karjat. The train started getting crowded at Dadar. One of our friends could not board the same bogie as we were travelling in. Few others were in the same bogie but it was so crowded that we were not able to locate each other. Finally the crowd eased at Ambarnath and we were able to wave hands and console ourselves that the group was in one place.

We reached Kondana at the Vanvihar at around 10 and had breakfast there. It was a great feast of Kanda poha and upma, freshly cooked and piping hot chai.

We started off with the kids in tow. It was raining very heavily and I was worried about the rivulets being difficult to cross as the currents were really strong. I nudged my friend Shyam and confirmed whether he had carried the rope. Yes he had. Thank God for that. I heaved a sigh of relief.

There were around 6 rivulets which we had to cross along the way. The road led to the beautiful Rajmachi but we had to take a diversion on the route to reach the exquisitely carved Kondana caves.

These are Buddhist caves many centuries old yet the carvings are quite intact. The beauty of the caves was accentuated by the waterfall which was like a natural curtain in the front end. It was sheer beauty. We took shelter in one of the caves and had some light snacks. We had ordered for lunch at Vanvihar.

The fall was so enticing that I went under it immediately and the waters falling from at least 4-5 storeys height was so refreshing and invigorating that I went under the fall at least 6-7 times.

What a feeling it was. Nature is so beautiful. It is life giving. Yet when its time, all life has to cease and make way for new life.

And all treks however beautiful they might be, have to end. The same happened with this one. We returned to Vanvihar, had our lunch and made our way back to Mumbai. This time we took a different decision. We bought a first class ticket. The kids had bonded well and also enjoyed the trek. We wanted them to enjoy the journey too.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Dialysis - An adventure in itself

5th August 2008
Sir H.N Hospital
Mumbai

I was on dialysis. I had loose motions in the morning and had taken a half day off from work. Hence I had rescheduled my dialysis for the 4 pm shift so that I could get enough rest at night.

It was three hours since it had started. I was feeling tired. This normally happens during dialysis. Normally the last hour itself is equivalent to the first three hours. I was feeling slightly uneasy as well. Suddenly felt extremely uneasy. I called out to the nursing staff. By the time they came I was not able to see anything. I was totally blacked out. The world for me was a blank slate, colourless and without any life in it.

They were trying to measure my blood pressure. They kept trying. No success. They were giving me saline through I.V. Well it was not making any difference. Suddenly life was restored. I started shivering. I had got a bout of rigors. I was feeling extremely cold, thus realising that along with the blank slate, the world was truly very cold.

While I was shivering, I could feel my body temperature going high. When there is coldness in the air, it ends up in so much unnecessary heat which hurts everyone concerned.

And to add to this, I suddenly realised that I was not able to breathe. I was gasping for breath. All the above symptoms have occurred sometime or the other during my five years on dialysis, but breathlessness was something I had only heard of. This was the most scary thing. I was writhing on the bed now. Trying to get that one whiff of oxygen. I was gasping for air, for life.

They put me on oxygen. And dialysis was stopped. I was in this state for at least 2-3 hours (I realised that after I recovered). It was like I was back from another world. Totally blank, cold, hot and yes lifeless.

I was back home........................

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Love - The million dollar question

With dialysis it is a known fact that life span is compromised. Even with transplant the quality of life can never be compared to something that is totally normal. And yes cadaver transplant don't last forever.

Being single, I always felt that it is not fair to the other person if I want to get married. But at times, one does feel the need for someone to share your sorrows, your joys. Someone who can understand what you are going through and be there even if just to listen to you.

There have been times when I did start liking someone, but I have restrained myself from communicating my feelings to the person as I felt that things wouldnt work out. Either there would be a rejection or acceptance. With my physical condition I might not be able to accept the reality (would be tough for me due to my fluctuating BP) as well as do justice to the other person.

Then how does one resolve this issue. This is the million dollar question.

Option 1 Communicate your feelings and risk deterioration of health and injustice to the person concerned.

Option 2 Live with the feeling and continue to hide my feelings which is not being fair to myself.

Either way it is being unfair to someone...either yourself or the loved one. Love had truly ended up being a four letter word.

Its a catch both ways

That's what I understand by Catch 22

(I have always settled for the second option. I dont mind being unfair to myself, but not to others...........)

Comments are invited to this post

Bhimashankar - The return journey

Well the trek was over. So were the prayers at the temple of the Lord. But the adventure was far from over.

Since the trek was long, we had two options. Either stay at the village and trek down the next morning or return by public transport. Since we wanted to rest a day before the next working week started we decided to take a bus back home. We were all famished and really hungry. But the buses back were very few. We had really trekked quite far. The time taken for a direct bus to Mumbai was also around 8 hours. And we had missed the direct bus. Now we had two options

One is travel to pune and take one of the buses to Mumbai. There are buses between these two cities every fifteen minutes.

The second option was to get off at a place on the way and then take a connecting bus to Mumbai. There were two such places which were fairly important towns on the journey and there was a high likelihood of getting transportation to Mumbai. MAnchar was one and the other was Chakan. The local shopkeepers advised us to get off at Chakan as the chances of getting transportation to Mumbai was better.

We got into a state transport bus bound for Pune. We were really hungry but we skipped our meal as the next bus was not in the next hour and a half at least. WE thought there would be some food available on the way. We finished our stock of biscuits and boarded the bus to Pune.We were to get off at Chakan. One of our friends got off at Manchar (on the way to Chakan) as it was more convenient for him to return home to Kalyan from here. The bus journey was very bumpy. Though the roads were good (this place is really in the interiors and the roads tend to be not so good here), the bus could belong to any museum and it was a memorable journey all the way.

At Chakan when we got off, the ST stand was nowhere in sight. Well when we found it, we learnt that there were no buses to Mumbai at this time of the day. We were stuck. And extremely hungry too.........We decided to take care of the hunger pangs first and then address the issue of return transport. Worst case we would have to stay in a hotel in this small town. Our credit cards would come in handy then (None of us were carrying that much cash!)

Food was also difficult to come by. There were no clean restaurants there too. It is very funny. When we trek we enjoy tea and snacks at joints which are just makeshift, forget the hygiene. But when we are in a town we expect lot of cleanliness. I guess its something to do with the environment. If the air is clean anything goes, thats the real hygiene factor.

We decided to have whatever we could get our hands on.We found a joint which sold "chinese" food. Well this chinese food found in interior India is really spicy and is very much unlike true Chinese. And he didnt have much on the menu either. Just a couple of preparations, which we had to gobble us because of lack of choice.

I was very tired and this time I forgot to request the chef to make the chinese without the MSG. I realised it when they served us the food. I was scared. The interdialysis weight gain really goes haywire with that chemical.Also it puts a lot more pressure on the already failing kidneys.

But I was really famished and quietly had the food that was dished out. We were already thinking of how to make our way back to Mumbai. The restaurant guy told us about a junction where we could get jeeps and "other" transportion to Mumbai.

We went there.

The jeeps are 7 seater vehicles (SUVs) and they were travelling to Mumbai to pick up the morning newspapers for sale in Chakan. The going rate was around 90 rupees for a ride to Mumbai. They were planning to have 11 passengers plus the driver in the 7 seater vehicle. Even cattle are treated in a better manner. Maybe because they would have protested this kind of treatment. But humans take it lying down. I could not imagine myself shoved into the vehicle and spending around 5 hours to Mumbai when all my limbs were aching. I would rather spend the night in a hotel and return the next morning.

We looked for the "other" transport. We were also exploring the option of travelling to Talegaon from where Mumbai buses were supposedly "more frequent"

A young lad came to me and asked me where I wanted to travel to Mumbai. I replied in the affirmative and he led us to a tempo which was carrying milk to be delivered to Mumbai households early the next morning. He said he would charge 80 rupees. We were to sit next to the driver and travel to Mumbai. We were told that there was one more passenger who would get off soon. Till then we would have to adjust and thereafter it would only be the driver and us in his cabin. We took the offer.

When we actually sat we realised that the other person was to get off at NewMumbai which was roughly 20 minutes away from Mumbai and the lad who alked us into the deal was also going to be around for the whole journey. We were too tired to even think of getting off the bus, so we stayed put. One of our friends decidd to stay back with relatives in Chakan, so it was two of us, the driver, the lad and the other gentleman in the drivers cabin. It was a lesson learnt in capacity utilisation.

We reached Mumbai after several halts. My friend got off at Andheri as he lives in the western suburbs. The driver promised to drop me home. We reached Sion after several halts. Delivering crates of packaged milk everywhere. I enquired with the driver how long he would take to reach my area and he coolly said at least a couple of hours. It was already 230 am and I paid him off and made my way home.

Home Sweet home!!

I reached at 3 am, had a shower, put on the ac and slept off.

Lots of satisfaction, some lessons and an unseen smile on me..........