My Friend Alexa: Rant post 3 – Writing is a profession too

In the last couple of years, I have earned the displeasure of a bunch of relatives for not staying in touch. Some have even labelled me a snob for not picking up calls to catch up on life. Eight years of corporate life, filled with multiple con-calls throughout the day, customer queries, and work-related conversations had the phone glued to my ears. When my son was born in 2015, I made a conscious decision to stay disconnected.

Within a couple of years, I had successfully managed to rub them on the wrong side with my assumed ‘snobbish’ attitude. Instead of getting worked up about the unfairness of the deal, I took it in my stride and decided to stop giving explanations. If people didn’t understand the difficulties of raising a new-born with the husband on an outstation medical duty, they didn’t deserve my time.

In 2017, when I began writing and eventually decided to make it a full-time profession, there were quite a handful of ‘well-wishers’ who wanted me to go back to a real job. According to them, penning down thoughts was a hobby that I could pursue while continuing with a corporate job. They gave examples of their ‘super mother’ friends and acquaintances who had managed motherhood, high-profile’ jobs, and hobbies with elan.

Initially, I took a lot of pain to enlighten my near ones that I wasn’t pursuing a hobby; I was turning a passion into profession. Did they understand? Hell, NO! Some thought it was a stupid idea, some spoke about how my son was soon going to grow independent and make me regret my choice, and some didn’t even think twice before labelling me an escapist. Thus began my first step into a new profession.

Last year, I decided to get a professional degree to add value to my career. The snide remarks related to going back to academics in my late-thirties only made my resolve stronger. I kept a screenshot of the payment I made for the course. It came handy to combat those who thought my husband was paying for my third post-graduation. While writing isn’t a great paymaster, it isn’t impossible to earn the amount needed to fund my studies. Unfortunately, many in my immediate circle still have trouble understanding it.

Even today, I don’t pick up calls unless they are from my immediate family, very close friends, my son’s school or an unavoidable urgency. I prefer to revert over messages as per my convenient time, ensuring that I respond to each one. Writing isn’t a job that can have anyone working with my mind switched off. My mind is active even as I go about my daily chores. So, when I sit down to write, I shut out the world and plunge into creating a magical world. Like Stephen King advises in his book ‘On Writing’, “Write with the door closed.”

Creative endeavours require as much hard work and support as any other profession; the return on investment is much slower and lesser. But that didn’t deter me from diving into this new world after taking a 180-degree turn from my previous profession. And I am not the only one fighting a battle for creating a new identity as an author. The least that a ‘well-wisher’ can do is acknowledge that writing is a real job.

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  Stay tuned to read my fourth rant post in this series.

My Friend Alexa : Rant post 2 – Doctors are humans too

If you have read any of my posts, or follow me on any social media platform, you would know that I have a doctor for a husband. As batchmates from school, best friends, and eventually a married couple, we have explored the joys and sorrows of life for more than two decades now. Yet, nothing prepared us for the most difficult phase of our lives that began in March 2020.

After the pandemic hit, his posting took him to one of the Government hospitals in a faraway district of Bengal. My father, who travelled to our home town just before the pandemic struck, couldn’t return because of the lockdown. My in-laws, who had come for a month’s visit to Kolkata, had no option but to stay back. It was a tough time becoming the primary caregiver to a five-year-old son and ageing in-laws while balancing the MFA course.

As we grappled with the new normal, my husband’s work schedule went from bad to worse. They were working round the clock, without a break. The fraternity of doctors, nurses and primary healthcare workers were fighting like frontline warriors. Yet they also had another fight to get the requisite number of PPE kits, N95 masks, sanitizers and other essential items.

Doctors are humans too

Within a couple of weeks, I saw people banging utensils to show appreciation for the fraternity, helicopters showering flowers to show gratitude and a top Bollywood actor re-releasing a song comparing the dedication of doctors to men in uniform. Although I could never stop worrying about the risk his profession carried, I felt proud of his service in this crisis.

The facade was short-lived. A few days after the thali-banging ceremony, one of my husband’s seniors from college was asked to shift by their residential complex society because his duty exposed him to the deadly virus, making him a threat to other residents. They didn’t have the common sense to think that the same doctors would risk their lives to treat them from Corona. Thus began the discrimination against doctors.

Violence against doctors is on a rise. In Bengal and the rest of India, there are very few days when one doesn’t hear of friends/relatives of patients beating up doctors without any provocation or reason. Last year, one of the junior doctors in Kolkata was hit by a mob in such a brutal way that his skull cracked. Every profession has a few rotten apples that bring their line of work a bad name. Then why is it the doctors who are at the forefront of facing such violence and discrimination as they risk their lives to save that of others?

Despite their selfless service, there are instances where doctors haven’t received any payment for months, they were asked to vacate rented accommodation, and have faced the falsified allegations of medical negligence. They go through such trauma at a time when most of them haven’t even seen/met their families for months at a stretch. Even when they return home, they keep themselves isolated for days before embracing their child or hugging their loved ones.

I refuse to agree with the age-old belief that doctors are second to God. It puts them on a pedestal with an unnecessary pressure to be capable of performing miracles. What we need to understand is that doctors are humans too, battling health and wellness issues, as put their problems behind to cater to the needs of a patient. While they continue serving the citizens with care and compassion, the least that they deserve is our respect, kindness and gratitude.

For the last nine months, I had a tough time explaining to my son about why he gets to talk to his father mostly over video calls. I heard the panic in my in-laws’ voice whenever they called me to check on their son’s schedule. I saw the concern in my father’s eyes every time he hears about my husband skipping meals to attend to his duties. And I have been trying to push away every negative thought from my mind as I grapple to hold the family together. And, I am just one of the many families who have lent their unrelenting support to a doctor/doctors in the family.

As a doctor’s wife, I am proud of the way my husband and his fraternity has been on duty during this crisis period. As a thinking and opinionated individual, I also want to scream out at the apathy of those in power and the blood-thirsty mob culture that has become a threat to the sanctity of this profession. None of us signed up for this level of unnecessary tension and stress. So, please stop considering doctors equivalent to God and expect them to have magical healing powers. I would rather request you to treat them as a fellow human with the same dignity and compassion that an individual deserves.

“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign.  Stay tuned to read my third rant post in this series.