Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dealing with body wastes and other issues - III

Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story (PDF) in which he described an empire that wanted to build a map. The maps they had seen before were not precise enough. They had too much approximation and inexactitude. They kept making bigger and more exact maps and eventually made a map of the empire that was the size of the empire, and “coincided point for point with it.” But even this map could not capture the totality of experiences within the empire. Sure, it could tell you exactly where a a road is or where a building is but it couldn’t, for example, tell you what that building smelled like.

This blog is like that empire-sized map. It may give you some idea of being and looking after a bed-ridden patient but it will not be exact. For eg., you will get only a distant idea of what it is like to lie on your feces , the physical and mental strength required to clean me up after I make a mess of myself etc. But no matter how hard I try, you will not get the complete picture. You will get only an approximate sense of the smells, the disgust, the fears, the anger, the impatience, the relief, the exhaustion, the reminiscences, the little occasions of happiness (kochu kochu santhoshankal, as the title of a Malayalam movie put it)...

In the midst of all this, Jaya has had to contend with emotional blackmails which were much more frequent than now during the time I was admitted in the hospital. I have maintained a diplomatic silence about who all were part of that group. When the group includes relatives, it doesn't put you in a good mood. Although these numbers were small and the carping was infrequent, they were enough to hint at the validity of the saying that friends are god's apology for our relatives.This was a major contributor to my becoming a strident atheist,perhaps the only such black sheep in my extended family. As Rajnikanth said, "En vazhi tani vazhi."

All the people who have tortured Jaya have been ardent believers. If they are the exemplars of religion then I am glad I don't have that affliction. We are all hypocrites to varying degrees on various issues but if you want to find the biggest hypocrites of all, you have to look among the religious. And you won't have to look very long. Very religious people are extremely good at giving advice to others but how about following their own instructions? C'mon that is not part of the deal, is it?  They seem to blithely ignore the fact that there is a significant difference between talking and walking the talk.

It is the height of arrogance to think that the spook who ostensibly created the world has the time to listen to their pathetic whining (aka prayers).To have convinced the major part of the world that this implies humility is a miracle. The fact that I haven't read the books of the major religions does not disqualify me from criticizing them. As Dawkins said, 'You don't have to read Mein Kampf to have an opinion about Nazism.' It is the same about any other belief system. The effects on the real world of a particular belief system can be seen.

The marketers of religious stuff like charms, amulets, religious books (mostly bearded guys in some saffron uniform) and the alternative medicine guys remind me of a gang called 'The Vultures' that I read about in in a Phantom comic. Their modus operandi was to attack towns that had just suffered some kind of natural disaster like floods or earthquakes. Their rationale was that the people in such places would be too devastated by their misfortunes to put up much resistance and hence would be easy pickings.

I saw a debate in Malayalam (the other two parts can be got from the link) which was typical of the kind of arguments I used to get mainly in the first couple of years after my stroke. It is very difficult to argue with the purveyors of superstition who will use all the tricks of the trade to get you to do what they want.Bertrand Russell made a very pertinent comment :"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. " As Voltaire said, " incantations will destroy a flock of sheep if administered with a certain quantity of arsenic." But it is always the incantations that get the credit not the arsenic. It is probably a blessing that I cannot speak because arguing with them would have been a waste of time. This is another of the 'advantages' of suffering a brain stem stroke. The problem is compounded by the fact that these days everyone is a Google educated doctor. "In a video review of --

But first I must tell you about an old man of around 80 who lived near our house. His wife suffered from Alzheimer's. He was always shopping around for a nurse for his wife because he was often dissatisfied with them. For example, when his wife accidentally passed stool on the toilet seat, the nurse refused to clean it and at his age, he had to do the cleaning. His wife's mind is so far gone that she can't even recognize her children but from somewhere in the recesses of her shattered mind, she recognised that her husband was the person to trust so she will listen to what  he says even when she refuses to do the  same thing if told by others.

He is always cheerful and positive inspite of his difficulties. He says that he has had a good life and if he faces some difficulties now, it is part of life. For long,he resisted the idea of staying with his children because he did not want to disturb them. He recently shifted to his son's place because he once had a fainting fit and became worried about what would happen to his wife if something happened to him. ( To emphasise the point that this could happen to anybody , his son is the MD of TISCO.)

In this video review of Family Matters (it was this review that persuaded me to read the novel and the other two novels by Rohinton Mistry, Such a Long Journey and A Fine Balance), the reviewer Robert Adams says that the novel touches on many unpleasant details of looking after a bed ridden patient when it describes how Roxana looks after her invalid father, at which point the audience  laughs. Adams says, 'those of you who find that amusing, I promise it will come so and you had better hope that there will be some one like Roxana to take care of your bodily functions, that love will pitch its mansion in the place of excrement.' I couldn't agree more with that statement. 

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