College is where you find out who you really are they say, the time when you experiment, when you discover new things about others, about yourself. I wish I wasn’t a stereotype, but alas.
There are so many things I’ve learnt about myself but there is one thing I’d like to address in this post. Its deeply personal and I’ve never said it out loud before. So if I’m procrastinating (which I clearly have been) about this post, its because of this very reason.
Up until I was 14 if there was one thing I never questioned was my faith in the Almighty. I grew up listening to stories about Ramayana and Mahabharata, about the counsel Krishna gave arjuna, about the legend of ganeshas elephant head, about hiranyakashyapa and mahabali, about garuda and ashwathama. Hindu mythology makes for excellent bedtime stories, believe me.
And being the south Indian Brahmin girl I was raised to be, I diligently learnt shlokas and Vedas (just the one verse actually) and dutifully recited them whenever we went to a temple.
But then came the rebellious teenager years, and boy was I difficult teenager. And as if almost on cue, I started defying all that I was taught. Dare I question god or his ways, in my house that was blasphemy! My parents the simple minded folks, would like to close their eyes, heads bowed in reverence in the prayer room every morning and get on with their day, without questioning everything. But the arrogant science student in me, would have nothing of that.
So we fought. And I yearned for some understanding at home. Soon, however, I left for med school. In my first year i was barely able to handle Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry and therefore Mr. God took a backseat in my priority of thoughts. The following year I happened to have some time on my hands. So I decided to address this little thing that kept gnawing at me. I started going to church to find “meaning”. I read bits and pieces of the bible. I said Hail Mary every night and sang hymns singing his praises. That phase soon fizzled out.
I spoke to many an interesting people in the process, atheists, agnostics, converted Buddhists, lots of wannabe “seekers” like me. But, something just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t fit in what I thought about this God person. At this point all I knew was just saying a little “Please, help me, I’ve tried my best” right before I entered the exam hall made me feel better. ( Med school has a lot of exams, so whatever it is that I felt, only intensified over the years)
I spoke to my Uncle, like I always do when I’m posed with a life altering dilemma and after he heard all my doubts he chuckled and told me “The answers you seek aren’t easy. Centuries have passed and scholars have come and gone but nobody knows “What is God”, so my dear do tell when you find answers. It’s good that you’re questioning it, but while you’re at it, do not dismiss the word of the Lord. Of what use is this arrogance anyway?”
I’d be lying if I said I had an epiphany then and all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Or that I became a believer instantaneously. I think about it time and again, I think about how I feel about Him. But now I also find myself going to a temple or a church for some peace and quiet when I need solace. I don’t have the answers yet, I don’t know if I ever will but I’ll never stop looking. But what prompted me to write this today was a certain incident that happened with me two days ago.
I was the MICU intern this last week of medicine posting. And on the last day, we lost a patient. He was a case of chronic liver disease with severe anemia. His vitals were stable to begin with but slowly he started desaturating and was intubated. I’ll save the details for a fellow medico.
But he had a cardiac arrest at 3 am that morning and we lost him. I was called in to type his death summary and the man had a million things that were going wrong with him. So I discussed with my post graduate, had we changed the order of problems we had tackled could we have saved the patient? And he said he didn’t know. There’s no way to know, is there?
I realized I was going to face similar situations in the future too, sooner than later. I am going to lose patients by acts of omission or commission. Being the control freak that I am, if I make one small error I will beat myself over it. But how do you know where to draw that line? To know a mistake and correct it for the next patient but leaving it at just that.
And right then I had an epiphany, to stay sane in this profession, I need someone bigger than me. To tell myself every night that this is the best I can do for my patient, God knows it. I am going to have to accept that there are things beyond my control and “God” will take over from here.
The cynics will say I just need someone to blame when things go wrong. The church goers will say Jesus will keep me in the palm of his hand. In my house we believe God came down in his many avataras and we pray to each one of them on a different day. But to me, He is power. A power greater than all of my imagination.
And he’s cool that way isn’t he? Whoever he might be. All of us have such diverse ideas about him and yet we all have this tiny thing in common. Faith.
It’s a crazy thing, this faith. It can move mountains.