So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Misfits)

Because it’s an excellent school.

Because they have good transport services.

Because I don’t like their attitude towards parents.


The number of times we have moved from school to school… By the time I was 14, I had changed 6 and still did not have a clue which college or colleges I was going to land to.

My Mom is a strong, smart but a foolhardy woman. Once she sets her mind onto something, a decision has been made and almost nothing can change it. I could say that nature of her affected our childhood in many ways but I would be wrong to say that the overall footing was not on the positive side. Look at me, I’m a doctor in the UK. That is my biggest achievement.

Most of those pursuits for our ‘touristry’ was to be on a competitive English based private schools. One that compared to or stood at least on minimum standards to the international levels. Barely made to school herself in a rural area of Nepal, she emphasized all her life on education. My dad was a school teacher before he joined the army at the age of 17. From what he tells me, the principle was, ‘to learn and to pass on’. Once he upgraded from his class,he had to take a teaching position because there weren’t many or any to teach others.

I know anxiety and the forms emotional transformations it goes through. Our minds are like a maze, if you don’t know the route, it is one labyrinth after another. I don’t know much about my dad, he has never been an outspoken person, always kept things to himself but Mom… With every year I grew, I saw her pass through a lot of phases.

She didn’t know the language, the city people spoke. Yet there she was with 3 children and a fourth one on the way, alone, with no relatives, with no friends. She had travelled through different countries; Hongkong, Brunei and UK by that time but still didn’t have a right skill set to adjust in a society of learned men, who boasted their professions of being government officials, journalists, teachers and so on. She felt isolated, wasn’t particularly articulative as you can imagine but developed this over-protective sense of self for herself and for her children. She was constantly worried. She tried so many times in little words she could express that she wanted to be a part of this new society, but community seldom accepts ‘odds’; ‘a category’ people are placed in, if they don’t fit in their standards of normal, or are from different socio-economic or ethnic/racial profile. So, slowly she started turning to an angry woman, while trying to project herself as a strong one.

It wasn’t just about language, it was also about religion. People we were surrounded with were strictly hindus, she wasn’t as religious with rituals as they were and didn’t know her Bhagavad Gita by heart.

She slapped a policeman one. ‘Don’t you dare, look down upon me as a helpless woman with no husband in sight and 3 little children. You think I can’t step up to you?’. That was the day she stood for herself. There was no ignoring and fighting this woman then, if they wanted a black topped pitch road to go through their neighbourhood left and right; she had to be a part, she had to be willing to offer the land.

As we age, we start becoming mature and start to understand all these processes that are happening in our life. It is only when I came to UK, I really understood the hardships they had been through. It can’t have been easy for a couple who spoke only ethnic language and grew up in an isolated remote place where they had to walk at least 2 hours a day just to get to a school and 3 day to get to nearest town to even see a bus; to come to the UK, to Kathmandu city, to other developed countries, back and forth, back and forth and to start a life. 

16 years of English education through top schools. Endless entrance exams. Never understood what she was chasing for, what was her hunger for. I wasn’t a happy teenager, I must admit. Top 3 positions didn’t mean anything if you weren’t 1st. I was excelling on every fields I worked on, but they only seemed frivolous. Nothing was enough. Till the day I came to UK. Imagine my dismay, when I couldn’t even understand and reply to an electrician where the problem was and since how long. I realised taht very minute, all those years of books and language training weren’t adequate, weren’t ever going to be adequate. If I didn’t want to be queer and an outcast in my society, I had to rise up, put in double the effort than a person standing next to me just to stay in the surface. All these chase and hunger throughout her life now made sense, she simply didn’t want her children to be rejected as she was.

A patient came to me sobbing like a child, her tears flowing constantly down her cheeks when I was on a training placement on GP. She said her mother had passed away recently, and she needed to make her funeral arrangements and go through a lot of paperworks, but her anxiety wasn’t letting her do any. She said, she sits in her room with a pile of envelopes that she  barely goes through, even one by the end of the day, and weeps all night because she knows she has to do it but can’t find any courage. When the phone rings, her anxiety goes through the roof, and she starts panicking. And ever since she heard about her Mom, it has gotten much worse because she no longer has any emotional support that her mother used to offer . ‘There are bank procedures, gas and electricity bills, water bills, council tax, death registration… and I haven’t even seen my mom. I can’t get myself to step out of the house. I had to force myself to get here. So how do I do all these? I’m the only child, I have no siblings to turn to. It’s all overwhelming…’ She couldn’t stop sobbing. Her tears were relentless.

I could relate to her in some ways. I have seen my mom go through the bills. Go through the numbers over and over again until she finally gave up and requested me for help. You would think after all those years of moving, adjusting and meeting new faces everyday myself and seeing her go through those things; I would have become immune. You would think, I would have been well desensitised by now with all those triggers. But not everyone reacts that way I suppose. I feel overwhelmed too at times especially with moving places, with moving jobs, with new environments. I too perhaps over the years, have gathered along heightened response to ‘anxiety’ on my ‘fight and flight’ decisions. 

I can understand why she would be stressed with these online forms, bills and subscriptions. World is changing fast, getting automated and computerised everyday; not everyone one of us is fast enough to keep up with the pace. Her triggers, now on COVID era has proven to be a major potential threat for a big disease burden on mental health, especially with older and vulnerable populations.

GPs are concerned that fewer older generations are requesting consults. There are phone consultations available I’m sure for every practice, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t apply through e-consult, in case phones were not available. What about setting video calls meeting with offices? I have just managed to learn it myself. Everything has now moved to online chats and help forums. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is out there crying out of frustration unable to navigate through computer pages. 

‘I called 111 saying I have a chest pain, because I’m tired doctor, waiting for someone to come and visit me. It’s always on the phone and just for few minutes. I haven’t seen my MH worker in person for ages. I just wanted to talk with someone in person’.

A support system is crucial for a well functioning community. 

I applaud mental health care workers and social workers who are trying their best to curb the negative effects of lockdown on mental wellness of their patients. I know, at present, the focus is on physical well being; but to survive out of COVID we need to be aware of our emotional well being too.

We need to know that not every mother will have the courage to beat her fears, not every father will have a courage to undo their mistakes and not every children will learn ‘circumstances are only a part of life, it’s not the end’.  COVID may shape us and our communities in lot of different ways than we can imagine. 

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Unfamiliar faces)

‘It’s good that they replaced all these alcohol based liquid sanitisers with gel based formulations. One of our alcohol dependent patients drank whatever he could find in the wards and ended up being admitted on H.D.U.’ I replayed the story that happened 2 years ago in a different hospital, in my head once again as I pushed on the canister to rub the gel and move on to a different ward.

‘Hey, don’t let the door open, George will get out again’, a nurse colleague requested, hurrying her way towards me, catching the patient on time by hand, before he sneaked away again to the corridor. ‘Sorry’ I replied, taking my hand away from the sensors for the automatic door.

It’s difficult to be in a constant watchout for this pleasantly confused 78 yr old man, who is mobile and otherwise fully independent with his needs, when there are other sick patients who require more attention. But the problem is, at present George is a ticking bomb. He has COVID, refuses to wear masks and will try to engage in conversation with anyone and everyone he’ll come across in the corridor. Therefore he is a potential super-spreader.

PPE. Personal protective equipment. The Guardian on feb 2020 posted on headline ‘WHO warns of global shortage of face masks and protective suits’.

In the initial first wave, with acute surge in COVID cases globally, there was a sudden rise in demands of PPEs; PPEs that frustrates George tremendously. Health care professionals all over the world at the time faced the challenge of risking their lives working in a lethal environment without any safety equipment. In a short word, the situation was ‘barbaric. To care for patients with an infectious disease that we knew so little about and without provision of basic protection measures. Like a warrior send out on a battle without a shield and a sword. A fireman without his protective gears and a fire trucks.

We lost a lot of friends and colleagues that time. News faces appeared on ‘The Telegraph’ everyday, that paid tributes to NHS staffs who lost the war. And although some studies show, proportion of death among healthcare workers with COVID was similar to the UK population with COVID deaths; I personally feel, the point was, these were the losses that could have been perhaps easily prevented.

‘We have to make sure we get it to the people who need it most, in the places that need it most’- WHO.

With the lockdown on third wave, like the Government, we too have learned from our previous mistakes as an organisation. The protocols are now much clearer, resources has been appropriately allocated and are thus available and made more sustainable.

Elderly patients like George still find it quite frustrating to see us move around with masks and protective face shields like that. Understandably, because they cannot relate themselves to a familiar face to establish trust. It is especially true for patients with Dementia, whose behaviour can fluctuate massively depending on the individuals they are with and the environment they are placed in. Everyone looks the same.

‘They are hard of hearing and often read lips to understand what is being said’, my consultant spoke standing 2 meters away from James, an 85 years old, opening his mask and asking him, ‘How are you doing today?’. ‘Good Doctor, good’ he shouted promptly.

‘It is difficult to make them understand how important it is for us and for them to wear face masks’ One of my other seniors also commented. ‘And to get nasal COVID swabs. But it has to be done, again in view of best interest and to protect other patients and the staff. In the process with all these PPEs and procedures, I think we should really evaluate if we are violating their basic human rights in anyways…’

Hopefully we are not.

But with changing rules and policies with COVID, honestly, I’m not really sure.  

So you are a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened (Failing words)

12. Failing words

Susan, should Mary’s heart suddenly stop, we do not feel attempting to bring her back to life by compressing on her chest would be appropriate. Her cancer has spread to her lungs, and liver. It’s a progressive disease. Even if we did manage to resuscitate her, intubation and ventilation in these conditions will only mean poor quality of life and a traumatic experience.’

‘No, you have to resuscitate her Doctor. She expressed that she wanted everything done. ITU, intubation/ventilation whatever that needs to be done’.

Talking about death and dying and end of life care has never been easy. For family, relatives and also for a doctor who has never met them before.

It’s a sensitive issue, especially in a grave situation and when the discussions about it has never been done. Family members are  understandably emotionally carried away during the situation and want to assure that no avenue has been left without giving maximum efforts.

‘DNA-CPR’ Donot attempt Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation- only means ‘no compression when the heart suddenly stops’. 

 As a clinician, we still do everything possible for management of our patients with DNA-CPR status to those without; including antibiotics, IV fluids, blood tests and investigations. We only step back on circumstances, when a person has a cardiac arrest (sudden death). Often, patients and family members feel this means treatments will be stopped, and this mis-conception in the community has led to many miscommunications between doctor and patients in the hospital.

Many times it is also difficult to explain to patients and relatives in these situations, that although as clinicians we will discuss about resuscitation and other invasive treatments with them to know their view points and come to a conclusion together with their active involvement; but ultimately it is a clinician’s decision, taken in a ground of medical facts and in view of best interest of a patient.

The outcome is, in presence of limited availability of resources chest compressions is not done on a frail 93 year old lady with advanced cancer; to force her heart to pump, by pushing it from outside while breaking her rib bones on the process and driving a pipe through her throat to connect her lungs to a complex machine, that requires strong paralysing gases, pain killers and sedatives to work. A low quality of life and  dependency from which she will certainly not come off from, alive.

I&V. ‘As in Intubation and Ventilation’ is an invasive and a painful process. We discuss this as an option even with those who were young and fit individuals and whose recovery chances are maximal. Not just when we think it may not be an option, but also when we think it definitely is an option. Due to misconception again, some patients feel disgruntled even about this. ‘It shouldn’t  be a question Doctor’, they say.  It may sound obvious, but patients do refuse it/ ITU admission for various reasons. These may include/not limited to feeling of being dehumanized. Being sustained on a machine like a vegetable; being washed, dressed and fed. Or because of previous experiences with loved ones or themselves.

With pandemic now, these difficult conversations has become more frequent. On a daily basis, and on every wards. 

We were taught ‘effective communication requires both verbal and non-verbal approaches’ in medical school. Along with voice/speech; we need to use eye contact, body gestures and facial expressions to convey our messages. These are not practical on times of COVID, when minimal contact is the rule and we have to initiate those conversations on the phone. I find myself  storming in my head everyday to find the right words to express my feelings and to make those ‘conversations’ as approachable as possible but words still fails me.. 

I pray despite all these  circumstances, families still get their closures.  

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Work. Work.Work.)

11. Work. Work. Work

I had COVID antibody test positive back in july2020.

Positive antibody test indicates you’ve had a virus at some point whether you developed symptoms with it or not. I recall a particular incident that happened about 2 months prior to the test, that prompted me to request it. I was doing my night shift that day, the last one on a row of 3. I was explaining to my patient, why avoiding an overnight admission for a symptomatic control of chronic pain was a better option for her, when suddenly my voice started cracking and sounding hoarse.  ‘What is happening to your voice?’ she asked me alarmed.

I called the hospital ‘covid staff line’ morning after and explained my symptoms. I did have a dry cough, but this was usually associated with season change, and did not in anyways affect my health. The staff member advised me booking for a test. She informed me it was not done at my hospital site so my options were either to drive to the test centre or if I could not because I didn’t drive; to isolate myself for presumptive suspicion of COVID for 10 days. My situation was, I lived alone so had no one to take me there. And understandably I could not take public transport.

We had staffing issues. NHS is already struggling with their workforce; employees working over their limits because vacancies are not filled and  vacancies not being filled because employees are made to overwork. And now the Pandemic, has  put the whole system to overdrive.

You cannot imagine the sense of guilt it puts on you when you take ‘off sick days’. Because you know, this means your colleague is working the shift compensating for both of you. And you feel that pain, because you too at some point had been compensating for your colleague when they were off sick. Of Course the hospital says, we have advertised locums(shifts at increased pay rate). But either the locum rate is not attractive enough to bring staffs into the hospital in covid situation or the policy is not clear of the support hospital can give should they need an overnight stay/other help or…  they are simply not taking it; which is conceivable because we do have families and children to look after and protect too.

I requested the staff member to arrange the test for me at the hospital I work at. If the test was  negative, I didn’t need  to be off because other than a hoarse voice I was not unwell unwell. I do know, ‘I didn’t need to be a hero if it meant I was putting hundreds of my colleagues and staff at risk’. She understood my dilemma and instructed me to speak with one of AE consultants to make an exception for test.

I got the swab. When the result was not back for 3 days, I called the COVID line. They apologised for delay in reporting saying they had documented my phone number wrong. It was negative. The same morning I received  a whatsapp call and text messages from a colleague querying when my result was due and that he felt, it had taken too long. I relayed the information the staff from COVID line had informed me but he sounded crossed at the phone and requested me to come to work right away. 

I was sad at the response. 

At my best I had tried to avoid the loss of my work days but here he was, my colleague being judgemental and difficult. He was apologetic to me later, when I confronted him saying ‘I didn’t wish it for me, I didn’t want to miss work but that was what I was advised’. He explained that he was stressed and felt swamped with work, had multiple nights in a row and the frustrations got the best of him.

I knew him. And I fully accepted his apology. Who could have better understood  than me, at that point what physical and emotional stress can do to a person.

A report by British Medical Association ‘Caring for mental health of the medical workforce’ 2019, states that ‘Previous research has found doctors and medical students are hesitant to disclose a mental health condition and reluctant to seek help’.   Why?

‘Doctor’ is one of the elite professions in the world that has a good  social recognition. On day 1 of medical school you will be told ‘It will be a difficult journey, toughen up!’. From then, your life will  be all about surviving exams, going through the courses, getting involved in projects, doing presentations, participating in leadership management, volunteering and  looking out for the opportunities; to get that one extra credential to make sure your application stands up against thousand others who have the same CV. Then you get a job. Maximum chances are, you will be placed at a hospital that wasn’t your first priority. So now you have to move away from your families or relocate them too to a place, where you will have to start from scratch both to adjust in society and in professional life.  Alright, finally feeling settled? Hold on a minute. Your colleagues have already passed their mrcs/mrcp exams. ‘When are you sitting for one?’ Your supervisor questions, every 4 month in a rotation. ‘This year you have to do 4 ACTs, 4 MCR, a MSF, minimum 3 CBD/minicex, 50hrs of teaching…..’  

Wait, can you please ask how am I doing first?

It’s competitive, like we are always on the run. We are conditioned to.  ‘Everyone seems to be fine, so I should be to.’ Till we realise we have a burnt out, and now it has caused a set back. One that will take again a long time to recover.

My friends are seeing therapists, one of my closest- had to go out of training recently after having had a breakdown. The stories are same with different hospitals and is not new. Part time training applications have definitely made it easier but they are only just starting and not every region are readily accepting it.  Non trainees suffer the worst because they don’t anyone to advocate for them directly. And on top of that, now COVID.

One of  my friends just came out of ITU having been ventilated for a week. I was oncall that day, when he first presented he was sweaty and short of breath. He had just mentioned to me a few days ago, how he had to come for a night shift after having given an exam in the morning. A paper of 5 hours. Is it really fair? Is it not a hospital’s responsibility to arrange a staff for a cover on important day like that?

It is ridiculous to even begin to speak how much we have to cope and expected to do so, without complaining. 

I have severe sore throat now with cough and hoarseness of voice. Did a covid test day before, which came out negative. My GP thinks it’s acute laryngitis with chest infection. So I had to call off today, because I can barely speak. It’s my first day ‘sick leave’ after 10months. I feel guilty, because?? Because of the mindset we have  at the hospital now is ‘If you have not tested positive , you are fit to work’. 

But I cannot. Because one, I need a voice rest. My job involves me talking throughout the day. Two, I am unwell. Three, I don’t want to be an ‘asian stereotype’ of corona coughing in the halls,  that now the world so readily places me in. 

Had I not been unwell, I had so many things I had to catch up on this week. Like a supervisor meeting I finally got  arranged. My consultant came back last week, after a long recovery period from severe COVID infection himself. I had a training day from ITU booked for tomorrow. Lord knows the number of emails I had to send just to get it sorted. I had to start an audit project with my data collection…

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (My safe space)

10. My safe space

I met my bf on summer of 2019, that year of Corona. And although distance and emotional turbulence rocked the boats of many relationships, we feel it has strengthened us.

He has been comfort pillow for me throughout the endeavours and although he had his own host of situations like being without a job for a length of time, he has never let the situation get the better of us.

We are close now. To the extent that our conversation once went like this, word for word
Babe I was so constipated this morning. But I knew if I take this dump it will most certainly obliterate my a-hole completely so I didn’t think it was worth it…

As a medical personnel, we are used to asking funny questions. One time I asked my patient, who had a major bowel surgery 3 days ago whether she had passed any wind from bottom yet. She replied ‘oh that’s an awkard question isn’t it? But if it pleases you to know, I did have a little whiff this morning’. And as you can imagine, we are used to funny answers. I had to explain to her, ‘farting’ basically meant her bowel has started to work, is propelling the gas down the colon therefore is a good news to us. But, trust me it doesn’t mean we are readily ready for conversations like ‘a dump obliterating a-hole’ always.

He is my support bubble. Having atleast one individual to hug sometimes in this mayhem really does miracles. ‘Come here to your safe space’ he said to me yesterday hugging me tightly, seeing me distressed reading a comment from a man whose mixed race daughter, had to cover her face everytime they went for a walk in the neighbourhood. ‘You know, I have some colleagues and friends who are mixed race with half an asian heritage.’ I said. ‘And physically they look more asian. May be more fair skin tone, lighter hair, lighter/different colour of eyes but still with dominantly asian features. I fear our children will be same, half English-half Nepalaese; and with all this happening. I’m worried about even bringing them to this world’. He sighed. ‘I’m sorry baby’ he said. ‘We just have to believe it’ll be a better world then.’

It was not his fault. He didn’t need to apologise. But that is the man, he is. It makes me appreciate and admire him more. He has always treated me with so much respect, attention and affection. When I am too tired to take the trains or can’t find one on my off dates, he drives all the way through the Wales and to the cities, almost 2 hr long car journey to reach me. And that’s just 1 way. And everytime we drive across the Severn bridge to come back to my place, back to my work, my heart dims a little, missing a sense of familiarity that was almost as cozy as home I grew in.

We learn everyday of our differences. And although by human nature, people do tend to look for similarities in their partners in terms of looks, socioeconomic/racial background we feel in these dissimilarities we have, we are building a strong foundation.

I wanted to see his family this Christmas for holiday celebrations. We decided it was best not to. I’m a high risk to them, because of my hospital working environment. And I wouldn’t want to be a cause of an illness. I haven’t even seen my parents for ages.

I have dated women from more than 19 countries’ stated a charming young man I went on a date at the start of that year. I remember feeling like a checklist of a world’s country map when he said that. ‘Unique’ he described me, trying to reeling me in with his  blue eyes. Curling my hair, I sat in front of my mirror for a long hour that day storming in my head whether I should be going on this different date… Surely I didn’t want to be with someone who had been collecting stamps from the globe. ‘Take a chance’ Said my friend, ‘you never really know’.

And I did. Showing up an hour and half late on a date, waving my hand across the road to a 6’2 feet tall man with a set of pearly eyes, curly hair and an infectious grin that extended up all the way near to both his ears…
I have never looked back again.

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Thank you)

9. Thank you!

Lockdown has made me fat. 

I have put on 4 kgs since the beginning of Corona. But that’s not the issue. Issue is my jeans don’t fit and I have a pear shaped body! Should I blame this to ‘Indoor gyms and sports facilities being closed?’ , ‘stress eating’ Or the ‘provision of one free meal per day’ given by the hospital, which I did really appreciate. Because, at the time of first wave, it was scary how shelves in the supermarkets were all empty. By the time I reached the store, people had swiped away all the breads, canned foods, eggs and even toilet papers; trying to stock as much as they can and prepare themselves for the worst. I thought I’d starve. 

This habit of rationing is not unknown to me. I have grown up in a country where political situation was never stable. You didnot know where and when there’d be gunfire’s between the government and the Maoist. The year was 2000. 6 years of constant bombardments on news of people dying, government announcing people to stay safe, parents reminding children everyday never to pick any random toys on the road and army men walking around local areas for community checks…

That too was a period of starvation and shortage of supply. Mainly of salt, sugar and oil; which Nepal depends on the imports. A pack of salt at the time cost us 50 rupees which otherwise would have been just 10.

My uncle used to say, ‘If only Nepalese brains were not constantly thinking about, what is load shedding schedule today, which pump station is giving out petrol, when is the next lock down happening, where do I get my ration for rice, when is Melamchi’s drinking water getting to our households? Etc. We’d be a whole new breed of people with innovative ideas.’ I think it is true. 

UK relies heavily on EU and overseas for import of fresh food. 

It is inevitable if the lockdown continues ‘panic buying’ will toss again the fine balance of demand versus supply in the  local supermarkets. Our farmers will not be able to supply for  66.8 million  population. Lets just hope the Government is smart enough to pick on that and take urgent actions.

BY now, you’ve probably guessed, my diet is mainly rice and noodle based. Naturally they were the first things to disappear being categorised as ‘long term storage foods’. So you can only imagine the happiness I felt, when a packet of 10kg appeared on my doorstep. Maybe someday it won’t make any sense, why in the world was I almost crying to receive it? For now, it absolutely does. After a long day of stress and emotional rollercoaster at work, all I ask for is  proper home meal. ‘Rice and Curry’, that’s it.

Funny thing is, that bag of rice was also ‘a clear message of genuine kindness and declaration of affection from my boyfriend’, in so many ways. Call me weird,  I regard it as the best showcase of romantic gesture I have ever received or will ever receive from anybody. 

Anyways  back to the story. During the first wave, we were working more and erratic shifts. Changing continuously between the days and the nights. We still do. But it is more friendly hours now. Those more and erratic shifts meant, we didn’t have time to stand in a long queue outside a supermarket and even if we did manage to have, we were too tired to make the effort. Thankfully, at the right time,a lot of superstores reached out to us and gave us priority slots. Tesco- had dedicated an hour every Tuesday and Thursday. Sainsbury’s between 7:30 and 8 am Monday to Saturday. And so did others.

It helped a lot. 

Especially those of us, who didn’t drive and had a lot of other commitments to spare a travelling time to gather food.  We are thankful whole heartedly to people and to those organisations and companies for taking care of us in times of need.

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Don’t be lured)

7. Don’t be lured

I have been buying lottery tickets. I have somehow managed to get my boyfriend to play ‘spin the wheel’ and ‘the slot machine’ in the internet. The max I’m betting is 50p at the time for a chance but I’m very well aware it might escalate to a few tenors a day. It’s not much. People bet thousands and millions of pounds in a day. I don’t have that money, neither a gambler’s heart.

Above everyone else, I should know what gambling does to you. As a child I remember, my dad would show up after many months; sometimes a couple of years from service in our home. After being with us a day or two, he would then disappear again with his friends. My Mum would go searching for him in the early hours of morning or sometimes send out a ‘search party’ to bring him back. But he never gave up on that habit of his, of ‘playing cards’. It didn’t matter how much mum threw tantrums or locked him out at night to sleep on cold floor. In the morning, he would get up and go  looking for his gambling partners. ‘An addiction is difficult to give up’.

Don’t you ever put your money on gambling’.
I recall him say to me one day.
It was during a festival in Nepal called ‘Tihar’ when people sit down with friends/ families once a year and play cards to celebrate. ‘I had bet all my savings despite not having a winning hand, desperate to push my luck’. One on one, with my dad, while my siblings called off their cards nervously.

This was years after, my parents had thrown away all their life savings and put our only home in the bank for a loan. More like laundered the money, and could not claim it back because it was illegal. My dad went back to the service that year very stressed, knowing it could be years before he could pay off the bank. Leaving my mum with four children at private schools and at mercy of loansharks. All these years of life have went by and I still haven’t forgotten that ominous day, when I found her unconscious slumped outside our gate. I thought she had died that day. We were only 8/9. 

I feel, I have inherited the addiction. Being on internet 24/7 outside work has not helped my situation. I have a strange delusion, I guess more like a feeling, that someday I will land with this big bag of money out of nowhere. All for me to claim, for whatever I wish to do with…

BBC News posted a headline in April 28 2020, ‘coronavirus pandemic ‘a disaster’ for gambling addicts.’

Of course it comes with disaster. The lure of money is dark. They call it black money for a reason. It comes to you with sweat, with tears, with bloods of millions. It has travelled the world in hands of rich, of poor, of good, of evil; through unsanitary crotches of a men smuggling it through the borders, through sweaty cracks between breasts. From places to the places we cannot even begin to imagine. Of course, the pandemic made it worse. 

Be wary what you are willing to risk…

I pray, may you survive this and come out of thlockdown ‘a free man, with no loan on your head and with your lovely family still on your side’.

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (A monsoon rain)

8. A monsoon rain

What do you do when you are at home 24/7 and don’t need to go to work, are not allowed to visit your friends or families, all the non-essential retails are closed and National/international travelling is banned? Just you and your support bubble.

BBC article on third of December 2020 writes ‘ ‘Pandemic has resulted in a lot of break ups and divorces’, which is very believable. Because I cannot imagine waking up and sleeping to same face and having to see it again every hour of everyday for a uncertain length of time. It is bound to peel off some scabs of old ones, to bring conversations that you always wanted to avoid or make you notice that one flaw in your partner that you wish you never had known about in the first place. Maybe it’s healthy for a relationship to have some distance between eh?

I’m sure lockdown has led to spikes in the number of conceptions in the world despite that. If you don’t have readily available contraceptions in the market and have more leisure time… But again, who knows maybe I’m wrong. May be it’ll go opposite way. Because of distance, lack of social bonding, financial stresses and etc etc. Baby boom or a baby bust? Personally my money is on the ‘boom’.

We all know pandemic has drowned many mutimillionaire businessess along with lot of locals. Especially restaurants if they are not doing takeaways, pubs & bars and entertainment venues. But, some have done exceptionally well. One of them is ‘porn industry’.

People are looking for an outlet.  Whether it’s for a sexual pleasure or for an emotional companionship. Some are even considering this period as an oppurtunity to be more adventurous. How do I know? Well, we certainly are seeing more cases of stuffed bottoms and vaginas in A&E. Hey, no judgement. So people like some excitement, it’s their life. But maybe, one should reconsider some of those plays if it’s causing them to have severe whole bowel inflammation or a major haemorrhage and days of hospital admissions?

It’s obvious. Gaming industry has profited. What about Amazon? Skyrocketed on its sales. Do you know, number of chocolates I have ordered and send them across to my colleagues and families? And the amount of money I have spent on DIY crap in there? What about Netflix? On my off days, all I do is sit on my lazy ass and watch Netflix till I feel like my eyes will pop out soon. My friends report they are doing the same. And think about Facebook, Wattsapp, Instagram. I have never used these as much as I’m using now. Every second I’m free, oh I am on it! Microsoft? All the hospitals and the companies are using teams.

Glad to see some local businesses thriving too. Those takeaway shops I had always liked. Local printing houses. People posting fliers and posters everywhere requesting ‘stay 2 meters apart’. And of course those selling face masks. ‘Mask is the new fashion’. Funnily, I even saw an electronic shop displaying some vegetables outside in open just to keep its business going… 

Maybe the empty roads  and the closed shutters are not just the sign of disaster; may be  like a monsoon rain that can flood a village, yet at the same time  soak the soil and be a blessing to farmers, there are also positives too. We just need to keep looking for that…

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Back to the roots)

6. Back to the roots

As the fear of Corona started to creep up so did the tension and commotion surrounding it. There were so many questions and very little answers. What are the symptoms? How is it getting transmitted? Who were getting affected the most?And how can you contain it?

‘All we knew was as of yet, no cure has been found. The best minds in the world are working on the solution’. Researchers, scientists, health professionals, the government bodies,  international organisations; all exhausting every resources they have, to come up with an answer.

Fear affects even the best of us.

It is at these times we divide. When frustrations cannot be vented, it results in hate crimes. Number of racial attacks against people of Asian descent has started to surge since pandemic. Be it in the form of physical attacks, derogatory language, verbal abuse or bullying. Instead of supporting the victims, Public figures commenting on the disease and referring to it as a ‘chinese virus’ has fuelled more injustice. Social media platforms has boomed with xenophobic bullies. Once again, swamped on hate for my asian heritage, I have found my faith in ‘humanity’ on a standstill.

They called me all sorts of words and shouted, I should go back to the country I came from’, My father tells me. ‘I noticed, people were staying 2-3 feets away from me, even in a packed bus. This was before social distancing and facemask came  into application’.

I worried for him.

For my mum, for my sister and for my brothers. 

I asked him not to go to work after that. He didn’t need to. We had enough to support him and my mum. But Dad likes his independence, says his work gives him enough exercise to keep going. I’m thankful, he is a patient person and does not respond to comments like that. Had it been my younger brother,  I imagine things would have escalated very quickly. One shouldn’t push ones luck in times like this.

It’s easy to support something for the sake of supporting. It counts when you support,  when people actually need you. It’s easy to be brave when no one is watching, hard to be brave when everyone’s eyes on you. Violence begets violence. Blood seeks blood. Have we not learnt anything from our ancestors?

All my life I’ve watched my dad and my uncles be very proud of being a Gurkha. I always hated that feeling, that unnecessary pride they carried around when they have lost so much in their personal lives. I watched as I grew,  how they expanded  and lifted their chest when they introduced themselves and the society nod in their recognition… In this pandemic, I witnessed a lot of that pride being belittled, a sense of belonging ripped off along with their badges from the uniform.

Remember where we come from, remember your heritage’. I recall my uncle’s words. ‘We are but the leaves and branches of the same roots’ I recall my aunt’s words. ‘Remember we have come from a land of adversity to a land of plentiful. We have given you opportunities, sacrificed so much for this. Never let us down’. I recall their words. Spoken in a  language I only half understand, in a tone that is half drunk, pouring away in bottles of beers/scotch and whiskies.

But it isn’t just a land of opportunity for me. I came here when I was 17. All my parts and the years of my life had been interlaced with this land even before I came here. Moving from barracks to barracks be it as a toddler, or school to school as a teenager,  no matter where I was, my life revolved around here. As did many of my friends. With their missing fathers, missing mothers, with their drug addiction issues and their mental health problems.

I have every right to stand up against hate and racist comments they make. We have every right to stand up against their racist harrassments. We were in service; we pledged to serve the queen and the land. We didnot agree to be torned off of our pride and our heritage.

I had always disliked my dad’s and my uncle’s vanity. Always wanted a life, away from a family of soldiers. Always ran away from social functions. Hated their life of rules and monotony. But, watching their head stoop low and smiles straightened out. I feel a flame firing up in my heart now. ‘I am but the branch and a leaf of the same root’. Maybe this recognition and acceptance  is what pandemic is  giving me.


So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Please wear a mask)

5. Please wear a mask

My dad works about an hour away by bus. My mum tells me he still wakes up at 4 am in the morning to get to work because he wants to take an empty bus, when he’s meant to start at work at about 6. He’s worried that he might catch Covid if comes in contact with more people. Can I blame him?

It’s annoying. Even though the TFL services are fully vigilant and are trying their best  to impose strict punishments  to enforce rules -for people to wear masks, people are still not complying. Be it a stupid teenager who wants to look cool and play daredevil, a 30 yr old princess who thinks her makeup is too good to stay hidden or a 55 yr old educated man with a suitcase- singing slogans about violation of human rights…

There is a limit to how dumb one can be.It is just simply impossible for those of us with normal intellect and a normal brain to comprehend that level of ignorance. It is at these times I think we should feel blessed to know that we are not  the ones dragging the human race down. Evolution left some of us way way behind.

My brother works in a warehouse. He tells me once upon a time, before Covid happened, it was bustling with people. Even on nightshifts, he used to have company of the security guards and and colleagues that would make work fun in some ways. But now, being there alone with other mate posted meters away to opposite end of the building, makes him feel dreary. When I hear him describe his work place, my hyperactive imagination places him as a lone guy on an empty city, cropped out from a movie scene about a zombie apocalypse! God am I glad, my 5’2 inch body is atleast sorrunded by people, has adequate lightening and a constant access to refreshments.

Some of them got forloughed’, he says, ‘Some of them left their job’, ‘a few I know passed away’. ‘It’s sad’. ‘There were some who we hired to work but soon there was outbreak amongst the workers so did more harm than good’. ‘People are desperate. Especially non-essential workers who lost their job. They have family who need to be fed. It wouldn’t surprise me if they hid the fact that they had been infected with Corona’.

He understands it.
I understand it.

The struggles of minimum wage workers, employed in UK at rate per hour. When he came here my older brother was 18, employed as a labourer himself in a minimum wage. He did a lot of jobs, any that the agent could manage to find for him at that time. Of course it was hourly and depended on day-to-day on what kind of job it was. And out of that, the agent took off 2% hourly rate. Of all the work he did manage to do, he describes ‘Job as a loader’, picking up waste for disposal and recycling as the hardest. He comments it being very physically strenuous. ‘I had to run, grab the bins and dispose the contents within given time.’ And they did that one stop after another. By the end of the day he recalls, being very tired, sweaty and painful with blisters on his feet from the ill fitting boots they had provided.

I sat in the shower for a long timeI really enjoyed the long shower that day but while I was in the shower, I had completely forgotten to close the door behind and our aunt accidentally walked in. That was one of the most embarrassing moment of my life’. He still laughs almost tearful recalling the incident. But my tears are not stopping every time he talks about it, because I can’t imagine a fat boy who never lifted a thing on his life, who cried and got himself kicked out from private karate classes and who never had to worry about money/responsibility his whole life had to do all that.

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Grab a bouquet)

Grab a bouquet! Grab a bouquet!’ Shouted a man, stood near a stall with stacks of flowers lined outside our hospital.

Can I have this bouquet?’. I asked picking up one with lovely roses. ‘Ofcourse whichever you like. It’s for you, for all the NHS staff.’

It feels wrong to accept these ‘thank you’ gestures. But sometimes, a little appreciation for effort really makes up for your gloomy mood.

One of the patient’s family members had a go at me on the phone that day. He was upset because  he could not come and see his dad at end hours of his life. Could not afford to self isolate for 10 days from work and also had to look after his Mom who was shielding. Video call was not possible since Mr Zee was too drowsy. Understandably, his son was frustrated , he wanted to be there for his dad.

It got me.
Made me feel demotivated. I don’t know how  time flew by after that. I only recall going home later that day sulking to myself. 

Nursing colleagues reported the same. Some families were being rude to them over the phone, demanding visit to the ward, being crossed on hearing about self isolation rules, angry about not being contacted on time to get update on day’s events, complaining about patient being transferred from one ward to another etc etc.

Hey Sis’, I called my sister that night. ‘What are you guys doing?’ I asked. ‘Just having dinner. Mom made goat curry’. She replied.

I don’t know why. Hearing that made me jealous that day. Felt unfair. For me to move all the way here so that I could be close to my family but to be staying away again. Counting days for past 9/10 years of my life, across the globe and  yet, here I am. 

In my dreams my little brother is  8-9 years old. He is 24 now. About to leave home soon. I feel silly  thinking  COVID might be taking away all the quality time I could have had with my brothers and sister before they leave the house and go their own paths? I already missed my wrestling and Chokeslam phases with them. I don’t want to miss more.

People are going to come into our lives and soon they’ll take more priorities…

We do wish we could be like a human sponge to soak up all the misery. We really do understand how you feel. But we do have much in our plate too. If you could see that and be a little kind to us as well’.

‘Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is a dream.’

I hope like the song goes, we all wake up from this nightmare soon. Till then, you can borrow this song I use, to ease my mind. 

So a Doc, a foreign cuisine and Corona happened? (Broken Hearts)

3 – Broken Hearts

A patient said to me’ I have a broken heart doctor’. Knowing that she just lost her husband to COVID battle recently,  I sighed on aggreement.

My son asked me, mom why are you like this? What happened to you? And I replied to him because my heart is broken. I miss your dad. He didn’t understand, he thought I’m just grieving. But doctor, my heart really is broken. It aches. That’s why I am so unwell.  My cardiologist said so’.

I did not understand what Debra meant at the time. Yes people do have heart attacks, anginal episodes following stressful situations and emotional shocks. But a medical terminology called a ‘broken heart?’. Naturally out of curiosity I opened her notes and started looking at the letters. Found out she had Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also termed as ‘broken heart syndrome’.

The triggers for this condition are often intense physical or emotional events that causes release of high levels of stress hormones thus  damaging the heart muscles. It then starts ballooning at its apex causing ineffective contraction of it’s pump action resulting in various symptoms.

Good news is, it is a reversible. It may take weeks or a few months but she will be back to health. But I don’t know,  if she will ever recover from that emotional injury. I hope she does.

The pandemic severed many ties.
There were times when I, myself, felt I couldn’t go on.

A dying father and severely unwell son on bays next to each other. A woman who chose to slowly die refusing any form of treatment after loosing her husband in the same admission. Another, having an anxiety attack in corridor next to the ward, she last saw her husband being wheeled. A daughter who had finally met her birth mother but lost to Covid and cannot attend her funeral.

A wife whe came to bid her husband goodbye on his deathbed, contracting the virus herself, and presenting to hospital gasping for breath. A man on his 40s tearing relentlessly, unable to
communicate his feelings because he can’t speak English.

The story goes on and on.

News after news.

It is tiring.
Through the 1st lockdown.
The 2nd lockdown.
Now a third…

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