3 Ways to Improve your Creativity

Nobody Can Beat Indians At 'Jugaad'. These Posts Are Proof

Remember the chemistry teacher who went viral for setting up a makeshift tripod? The milkman who ensured social distancing from his customers with his simple contraption? The Covid 19 pandemic truly brought out the best of the quintessential Indian jugaad. Would you call these people as creative? Or is creativity limited to the Picassos, Alexander Flemings and Steve Jobs of the world?

What is Creativity?

Hesiod and the Muse

According to Greek mythology, the Muses were divine young women that descended to earth to whisper creative ideas in the ears of humans who then went on to produce masterpieces of art.

More recently, the psychologist Sternberg defined Creativity as the capacity to produce work that is both novel and useful.

Even though we have come far from thinking of creativity as the work of whispering muses, a lot of us still continue to hold on to the belief that creativity is the gift of a select few.

Are you born creative?

Research has found creativity to be linked to intelligence and genetic influences of creativity have also been identified. (Han et al, 2018) However, the Investment theory believes that intelligence is ‘a necessary but not sufficient’ condition of creativity.

Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman affirms that teaching creativity isn’t about unlocking a special mental app. He says that these apps came pre-installed, thanks to our evolutionary lineage. Today it is believed that creativity is just another skill that can be learned and sharpened, like any other. However creative (or uncreative) you believe you are, your creativity can be enhanced.

How can Creativity be improved?

1. Aha! Watch your Mood

Neuroscientist Mark Beeman and cognitive psychologist John Kounios conducted a research where they analysed brain functioning using EEG and fMRI of people who solved word puzzles. (Kounios & Beeman, 2009) They found that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of the brain had an increased activity when the problems were solved using a concept called insight or ‘Aha moment’- something that has been long associated with creativity.

Free Close-Up Photo Of A Digital Image Stock Photo

This ACC area detects non-obvious ideas or odd thoughts (the creative ones) and directs the brain to pay attention to them. So how can one activate one’s ACC? The answer lies in an unlikely area – our mood. When you are in a good mood, your ACC becomes more sensitive to strange hunches and off beat thoughts. Activities like practicing gratitude, mindfulness, exercising (including walking) and a restful night’s sleep all help to increase our feel-good neurochemicals – serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins and dopamine, which boost the ACC functioning.

Various experiments have showed that in our REM (dream phase) sleep, our brain replays memories and extracts significant patterns or lessons. In the non-REM (deep phase) our brain then makes connections between these patterns and information that we already know. This is how ‘sleeping on it‘ helps to arrive at new solutions to problems. A famous example is when James Watson discovered the double helix model of the DNA after dreaming of two intertwined serpents.

2. Switch it up

Being open to new experiences (reading, travelling, socializing with people outside your field) gives you a lot of knowledge which can serve as a base for your imagination to leap from. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist known for his theories on creativity says, “Creativity does not happen inside people’s heads, but in the interaction between a person’s thoughts and a sociocultural context.”

When was the last time you learnt something new? Kaufman notes that creative people are curious and push themselves out of their comfort zones.  Sign up for courses on completely novel topics, learn a new hobby or simply go on a deep-dive google search about something unfamiliar like – Sekhmet the Egyptian Goddess or Gothic stained glass windows or a Red Panda. Your brain will jolt out of it’s auto-pilot mode to make interesting connections between these new nuggets and existing information to come up with creative new results!

Making small changes in your surroundings is another way to fire up your creativity. Tiny changes like in the stuff on your desk, the bulletin board that you sit facing or even major ones like changing the colour of your walls helps stimulate the creative process. Dr. Mark Batey found that surrounding oneself with images of nature or plants helps increase creativity.

3. Making space

Carve out moments of solitude – to work alone without the distractions of emails or social media notifications or to simply zone out. The next time you are stuck for a new idea, move away to a mundane activity that doesn’t require your full focus and allow your mind to wander away. Your subconscious mind is likely to run through new ideas in the background (called as a period of incubation) before coming up with an eureka moment of a solution! This is why many people get their best ideas in the shower, when their brain goes into a low frequency alpha state that fosters divergent thinking and hence creativity.

Free Person Sitting on Bench Under Tree Stock Photo

A concept called psychological distance has been found to improve creativity. Anything that we do not experience as occurring here and now is said to be psychologically distant. In a study by Jia et al (2009), participants could find creative solutions to problems when they were told that the problems were developed by a far away institute versus those who were made to believe that they came from a nearby institute. Just thinking that the problem was occurring far away helped the participants be more creative. Similar results have been found in studies involving participants working on problems in the distant future versus near future.


Like a muscle, all of us can improve our creativity if we only work on developing it. Just watch your mood, switch it up and make space!

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have”.

– Maya Angelou


Han, W., Zhang, M., Feng, X., Gong, G., Peng, K., & Zhang, D. (2018). Genetic influences on creativity: an exploration of convergent and divergent thinking. PeerJ6, e5403. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5403

Jia, L., Hirt, E. R., & Karpen, S. C. (2009). Lessons from a faraway land: The effect of spatial distance on creative cognition. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(5), 1127–1131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2009.05.015

Kounios, J., & Beeman, M. (2009). The aha! moment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(4), 210–216. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01638.x

How to Talk to a Depressed Friend

A year ago, I lost touch with Sharanya*, a very close friend of mine. The calls and chats gradually ground to a halt for six months. What happened? Sharanya and I did not exactly have a huge dramatic meltdown… I wish we’d had one. It was all very slow, very imperceptible. I could see that she was going through a rough patch, I tried to be there for her, but she told me, “You’d help me best if you left me alone.” It hurt to hear this, but I reluctantly decided to give her what she asked for.

It took a lot of soul searching to overcome the pain of rejection. It took even longer to realize the real culprit – my friend was depressed. What I thought was the judicious thing to do – giving her space, was actually the very opposite of what I should’ve done. We all have loved ones who’ve faced the blues and lashed out at us in their pain. Depending on our personalities, we lash back or just slink away like I did. So what should you really do for your depressed parent / relative / friend / spouse? How  can you be there for a depressed person? What should you say? Here are some tips on how to talk to a depressed friend:

Asking open ended questions

“What’s on your mind?”

Initiating a conversation when you suspect a loved one is depressed can be awkward. Relax, it’s not the movies – you don’t have to say that one mind blowing, goose bumps inducing dialogue that will make your friend jump back on their feet, ready to take on the world! You can start a conversation by being direct, but gentle, “I feel like you’ve been having a rough time recently. What’s on your mind? How can I help?” Without being too pushy, ask open ended questions.

And what do you do if your friend does not want to talk about their feelings? Just be there for them, spend time with them, check in on them and let them know that you are there for them, whenever they feel like they are ready to talk.


“I get you.”

When they talk, listen to them in order to understand them (and not to instantly fling out quick-fix solutions like a ninja’s knives). Leave your cell phone aside, and give them your full attention. Validate their feelings with “I get you”, “That sounds difficult” or “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Helping with Daily Chores

“What can I help you with today?”

With depression, keeping up with day-to-day chores can get overwhelming, more so when the backlog keeps piling up. Instead of a vague, “kuch chahiye ho toh bataana”, specifically ask your loved one what task you can help them with today – cooking a meal / sending one over / picking up medications or groceries. If you can make the time, offer to come over and accompany them for a particular task with some music.

Occasionally they may cancel plans at the last minute. Be understanding, let them know that they need not feel guilty and that the rain check can be encashed later, whenever they feel like it. What you offer may not be what they need, so suggest, ensure they aren’t hesitating and then leave it to them.

Continuing to be there

“I’m there for you.”

While you may have the patience initially, it may wear thin as the weeks go by. After seemingly happy days when you feel that your loved one is back to their erstwhile normal self, they may spiral down. Understand that it may be one long roller coaster ride. Take a break if you need one and recharge your batteries (you’re human too!)

At times it may seem to be like a one-way street with no reciprocation. Hang in there without losing faith in the relationship. Stay in touch through calls, hugs, messages, or “Bass aise hi yaad aayi teri” or even silly memes on inside jokes if that’s your jam!

Knowing your enemy

“I’m so sorry for what you’re going through.”

Read up about depression and the possible symptoms. Depression can take on varying forms like anger, lethargy, confusion, memory loss, excess sleep or tiredness or even actual pains in the head or tummy! Read up about the myths, misconceptions and danger signs to watch out for.

Dissociating the person from the illness

“It’s not you, it’s the depression.”

Sometimes depression causes people to feel like they are a burden or that you would be better off without them. Remind your depressed loved one that it’s an illness from an imbalance of chemicals in their brain and not a character flaw. Telling them what you like about them and that they matter to you will help. If you do get angry at them, reassure them that it’s their illness that you are frustrated at and not them.

Getting expert help

“How can we help you get better?”

Though we feel like we could be better than Shah Rukh Khan from Dear Zindagi, counselling is a legitimate profession that needs training. Whenever your friend is open to the idea, help them find a therapist and offer help to set up an appointment. If medications are needed, offer to accompany them to the psychiatrist like you would take them to an orthopaedist if they were to break a bone. Depression can cause them to feel too drained to keep up with the visits. Keep checking in regularly. Nudge, don’t shove.

Oh, what about Sharanya? I’m ashamed (and relieved) to say that she reached out to me on my birthday. Her depression hasn’t gone fully, but is much better now. Also, we both are closer than ever before.

* not her real name.

Details of Illness

“Do observe all the symptoms of your illness and report even the minutest of changes”, says your homeopathic doctor. “Yes, yes doctor, I’ll do that” you promise your doctor, but you can’t help coming away feeling, “what is it that I have to look at?!”

So here are some things that you can observe and report about your illness:

  • What are your complaints?
  • Since when have you noticed these symptoms?
  • What is the exact location of your pain / eruption / sensation?
  • How would you best describe the type of pain / sensation that you get?
  • Can you trace back the beginning of your symptoms to any event? (Diet / Accident / Injury / Over exertion / Weather change / Mental Upset… Don’t worry if it’s scientific or if it sounds silly. Your doctor will figure out if its relevant. If it correlates to the same time as the beginning of your complaints, do mention it.)
  • What are the factors that increase or decrease your complaints? (Movement / Time of the Day/ Season  / Body position / warmth / cold / Consuming a particular food item / pressure / draft of fan / noise / light / talking etc.)
  • Any other complaints that occur along with this complaint?



Why do Homeopathic Doctors ask so many Questions?

“I can figure out when a patient has been taking homoeopathy,” said my father amusedly over a meal one day. You see, my father is an allopathic general practitioner. If you were to visit him with a cough, he’d hear you out, ask you a couple of questions, examine you and off you’d go with a prescription. In and out of his cabin under five or ten minutes!
But if you came to me, a consultation would just be beginning when you thought it had ended. I’d bore / irritate / surprise you with seemingly inane questions like what time of the day does your cough increase or what colour is your phlegm.
Yes, it’s a different experience. But once you get the hang of it, you become an expert at observing and narrating your symptoms in detail. Which is exactly how my father would know when a patient has been taking homeopathy. A patient once put it as, “I went on and on about the colour and the smell and what not about my poop. The way your father smiled, I realised then that he didn’t need so many details. But I’ve gotten so used to it now…”
So why do homeopathic doctors ask so many questions?

God is in the Details

They say that God is in the details, but for a homeopath, it’s the remedy that is in the details. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have a dry cough. I have about 514 remedies that I can choose from. So how do I know which one to pick for you? If you go on to tell me that your cough worsens while you are eating, that narrows it down to about 93 remedies for me. Then if you say, ‘Doctor if I am just sitting still, I am okay. Whenever I do any movement, I begin to cough’. What a great observation, but that still gives me 79 remedies to think about. Now if you say that you get a stitching kind of pain in your chest every time you cough, and I consider everything that you’ve told me so far, it still boils down to about 31 odd remedies. (And that is why I will continue to hound you with questions!)

The Timely Call

Just then you happen to get a phone call from your boss, whereby you apologetically excuse yourself, step out, answer your call and come back into the warm cabin room. And this warm air in the room sets you into another fit of cough. ‘Oh yes, I’ve noticed this every time I walk into a warm room.’ The minute you say this, a smile spreads across my face. A combined analysis of your fantastic observations have just narrowed it down to two remedies for me now! I ask you about your thirst for water and you narrate how you’ve been as thirsty as a sponge since the last two days. Cha Ching! We’ve now struck gold!! A few more questions to confirm that I have the essence of what remedy you need and now I have that one remedy out of the 514 that fits your condition exactly and will work like magic.

One size does not fit all

Why do you need so many remedies for dry cough? Why can’t you just have one size that fits all and get done with it? Well, homeopathic medicines believe in treating the person with the cough and not just the cough. And just like no two people are alike, neither are their coughs. Some people have a cough that comes on only at night, while others get a bout when they talk. I’m sure you’ve noticed how different the illnesses are with every member of your family. Not just the symptoms, but also what triggers each illness, how quickly it comes on, how long it drags out, what depth it goes to, how much damage it leaves behind … It’s all so different for every person. Different people with different ways in which they are affected need differing remedies too, don’t they?

It begins at the end

If Mr. Kamat came to an allopath with cough since more than three weeks, night sweats, evening fevers and weight loss, the allopathic would gather that this is what Mr. Kamat has in common with  all patients who have tuberculosis. A few tests would confirm the diagnosis and this is where the story would end with a standard regimen of treatment.
However with a homeopath this would be the beginning. After a few tests to confirm the diagnosis, they would try to find out what it is that sets Mr. Kamat’s tuberculosis apart. None of the common symptoms that led to the diagnosis would be considered. Just like we saw earlier, all peculiar symptoms and signs would be analysed to pick a remedy that specifically suits Mr. Kamat’s tuberculosis.

Knowing what to look for

So how would you know what symptoms are common and what are important for your homeopath? Well, that’s not your headache, it’s your homeopath’s. All you need to do is observe yourself and report anything that you notice is a change from your routine self. Which of them to use to diagnose your illness and then which to use to diagnose your remedy is your homeopath’s job.
“Oh but Doctor, when it comes to my kids, I want to be absolutely sure that I am not missing out on anything. If I know what to look for, I will see it better. Can’t you give me a list of things that I need to observe?” Mrs. Lokhande said to me one day. I was amazed at her diligence, her intelligence and her burning desire to leave no stone unturned for her kids. Mrs. Lokhande, this one is for mothers like you – a list of things that you can observe for various types of complaints…

No… two… no, no, three!

no two, no no three

Jason* is one of the cutest three year olds that you could ever meet. He has eyes which actually twinkle brighter than Sirius and are constantly dancing with wonder like the Northern Lights. His smile is a mix of a hint of shyness, loads of what-mischief-should-I-do-next and tonnes of just pure happiness… a smile that hardly ever leaves his face (even when he is really sick too!).

Jason’s cough

Jason had been to his grandparents’ place. He had developed cough and had been brought by his father to the clinic. Homoeopathy is a customized medicine system and we have different sets of medicines depending on whether you fell ill after you had oily food, cold drinks, simply over ate, or… (you get the drift, don’t you?) With this in mind, I was asking Jason’s father if he knew what had triggered Jason’s latest episode. His father admitted that he wasn’t sure as he had not accompanied Jason, “Actually the kids had gone with their mother. And she couldn’t make it here today. It could be any of those things really, you know how it is with grandparents never saying no to kids!”

The predicament

Jason’s sister who is five years old is quieter, more composed and it takes slightly longer for her shyness to thaw. She had been observing this conversation. You could see on her face, the ‘should-I-tell-or-should-I-keep-quiet’ debate that was going on within. Finally she decided that it would be better for Jason if she did. To keep it subtle, she whispered to her father, in her mother tongue (how kids possess such wise judgement is something that always amazes me!)

I waited as her father translated, “She said he had an ice cream there.” I turned to Jason to see his reaction. Will he have a guilt-ridden face? Will he be angry at his sister for ratting him out? Will he be scared of a backlash from his father?

Out of the blue

What Jason did next was totally unexpected… He jumped off his stool and held out four stubby fingers. “No, not one, I had two… no, no three three ice creams! One pink and two white!!” “Oh wow” I replied reflexively, “You enjoyed them, didn’t you?” Jason nodded with a dreamy smile and his wide Disney-character-eyes brimmed with excitement. You should have seen the sheer ecstasy on his face as he relived that delicious memory of having three ice-creams at a go!

Clean Glasses, not Kaleidoscope

What a beautiful state of mind, I thought to myself. To just see things for what they are, without any prejudice. To not think of it as my sister complaining about me, to not worry about my father scolding me or my doctor judging me. To just take things at face value. ‘I had an ice cream and boy, was it yummy!’ To leave things at that. No shame, no guilt.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we too could clean up our glasses of the colors of emotions and past experiences? Wouldn’t it be better to just view things as they were, rather than through a complicated kaleidoscope? No ‘she always does this to me’. No ‘he did it on purpose’. No ‘this always happens to me’. Just facts. What a pure way to look at life!

Prejudice is a Learned Trait

* Name changed to protect his cuteness from the evil eye (just kidding!)

A Mother’s Predicament

A mother's predicament

“I have decided I will kill my son.” (I could feel my eyes popping out of their sockets. Calm, Amrita calm, I told myself. She really dotes on her mentally retarded son. She wouldn’t do anything drastic simply out of frustration). I steadied my voice and asked her, “Why would you say that?”

I will kill my son

“Doctor, I am 49 now, how many more years will I be around? Fifteen or twenty at the most. His father left us when he was five because he wanted a better life. If his own father couldn’t take it, how will anyone else? I cannot imagine leaving my kid all alone in the world like that. The day I turn seventy, I will kill my son and end my life, before I become incapable of taking care of him.”

Preeti said this with a shrug of resignation, but her moist eyes gave her away. (My heart went out to her. How much it must have pained her to decide that this was the only solution! Why did some people have such tough lives?)

Another mother

Coincidentally (or maybe not!) the next appointment was Aasma, the mother of an autistic ten year old. I had been seeing Aasma since the last five years when she would come for her daughter. I had always admired the inner courage of this soft spoken lady. Now when I got to know her better as she came as a patient herself, my admiration turned to awe. Aasma had not been encouraged to study much thanks to a conservative background before marriage.

But when her daughter was diagnosed with autism at age four, she finished her graduation and went on to become a special educator. Her supportive husband always proudly talked of how she would manage her daughter’s various trips to the speech therapist, occupational therapist, special school and various doctor’s appointments along with her own studies. And now, she was studying to become an MBA! Amazed, I asked her what had inspired her.

I have an idea

“The more in came in contact with parents of such kids, the more I realized how blessed I was. My husband never once grumbled about spending so much on various therapies for my daughter. But I met so many parents who weren’t as lucky as me. That’s why I thought I would become a special educator and do something for these kids.”

“Why the MBA then?”

“This may seem silly to you doctor, but I worry a lot about what will happen to my daughter lest something happens to us. We have a close knit family and I am sure they will look after her. Also I believe that God-willing I will be able to make her independent enough to live a decent life. But God-forbid, should she need any help… So I have this idea. Umm… it seems a little too unrealistic now…”

I nodded encouragingly for her to open her heart out. She shifted uneasily in her chair and took a deep breath as if to suck in as much courage as she could, and went on, “I want to open something like an old age home for these kids who may outlive their parents. I know how it is to lie awake at nights, fighting a losing battle against unanswered questions like – what after me? If we like minded parents could all rally together, we may be able to put out each other’s misery. I know nothing about venture capital or risk management of a business. So I thought…” Woah!

Two stories, One learning

It’s true that the two mother’s stories and their predicaments were not exactly the same. But what had led to such diametrically opposite outlooks towards life? Would Preeti’s outlook have been slightly less bitter if she’d had the support of a kind spouse or sibling or parent? I don’t know.

Birds with broken wings help each other fly

But I do know now, why some people face such hardships. Only when you have truly suffered a pain, can you know what the other person is going through. And only when you truly know what they are going through, can you help them the best.



Cancer was the Best thing that Happened to Me – A Cinderella Story

Cancer was the best thing that happened to me - a cinderella story

“About six years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer”, the beautiful forty six years old Mrs. Sapna Mirchandani* began narrating her case history.

(Oh no, I told myself, Brace yourself girl. You can’t get all mushy now. You have to keep your cool if you want to think straight and help her.) I clenched my jaws and steadied myself for a heart wrenching tale of how Cancer had poisoned this lady’s life. She continued, “Cancer turned my life upside down. It was the best thing that has happened to me in my entire life.”
“Uh…huh”, I nodded, “Wait… what??!!” (Man, this was one unique story!)

Chores, Chores, Chores:

“Yeah”, continued Sapna, almost enjoying my confusion in a smile that she tried to suppress. “You see, earlier, my life was all about running from one chore to another, caught between my kids and husband and mother-in-law. All the time, I would constantly think about what I had to do next – make my husband’s tiffin, get my kids ready for school or college, drop off my kids to their classes, look after my mother-in-law, attend to my parents or relatives, cook, iron, clean, dust… (Though it’s the same story for most Indian housewives, isn’t it exhausting even just to listen?)

And you know what Doctor, I never took time to enjoy any of this. I was too scared to try cooking new recipes because I was afraid my mother-in-law wouldn’t like it. When I was getting my kids ready for school, I was too busy thinking of my next task, rather than enjoying the time I got with them.

The worst part was, all this was self-imposed. Everyone around me must have seen how unhappy I was, but I turned them away. We could easily afford help, but I refused because I thought it would mean I wasn’t doing my duty. (I learnt later that her husband was a very successful businessman and when she said ‘easily afford’, she meant ‘really really easily afford’) My mother-in-law is a very nice lady (I told you, this story was unique!) but I declined when she volunteered to help. If I ever did find time to go meet my friends for an hour, I would rush back in half the time, worried that I would be needed at home.”
She was a modern day Cinderella, I thought. A Cinderella who was burdened by her chores, living her life unhappily for others.

Getting Diagnosed with Cancer:

“And then, I was diagnosed with Cancer”, Sapna continued. “It was such a peaceful time for me. I did not have unbearable physical pain. And thanks to the chemotherapy, I wasn’t allowed to meet too many people. (Certain chemotherapy knocks down your blood’s good fighter cells too, lowering your immunity temporarily. Hence, chemotherapy patients are advised to avoid contact with possible sources of infection including crowds.) We hired a temporary domestic help. My husband would mop the floor so that the maid wouldn’t have to come to my room. My mother-in-law cooked for me. My kids looked after each other. And me… Ah! I had all the time in the world to do things I had put off for years! I read a lot…about people who had battled cancer, about spirituality.
It was like a pause button on my life. I had a chance to review my past years, to realize why I had been so unhappy and to introspect on how I could mould my life ahead.
It struck me – all my perceptions about my duties or what my mother-in-law or husband would say were just that – my perceptions! It was all in my own goddamn head.
This modern day Cinderella had her False-notions-of-Duties for an evil step mother and Towering-Expectations-of-herself for step sisters. They were keeping her from enjoying life, nay even living life.

Cinderella’s Fairy God Mother:

What had changed Cinderella’s life after she met her Prince Charming? Was it becoming rich or finding the love of her life? I think not. She probably worked just as hard after she became a Princess too. I think the magic happened when her fairy god mother opened her eyes to the possibility that she could be a pretty, lovable Princess who could steal the Prince’s heart. As for my modern day Cinderella, Cancer came like a fairy god mother for Sapna.

After this introspective pause of self-realisation, Sapna turned her life around. She hired the maid for good. Her husband opened up a small business for her, which let her spend 3-4 hours outside the house, doing something of her own will. She made more frequent plans with her friends for going to the movies or plays. She joined a couple of cancer support groups so that she could help other cancer patients deal with their suffering. She tried new things, laughed more, loved herself more and gave more joy to her family.

Sometimes, patients give you much more than you can return. Sapna left me with a high that no marijuana could! I promised myself that day – I would not wait for a fairy god mother to come and wave her magic wand to alter my life. Once every year – on a birthday or on new year’s – I would give myself a pause. A pause to reflect if my life was going in the personal, professional and spiritual direction that I would like it to. If not, I would see to it that I kept correcting my course regularly before it was too late. After all, not all magic happens overnight; some magic takes months, decades and even lifetimes…

magic 2*Name changed

Does an Ostrich-Patient Live Longer ?

ostrich effect in health

“Good Morning Doctor” beamed Gagan* in his loud booming voice.

You couldn’t help but bask in the sunshine that this simple man brought into the consulting room. Gagan was a 45 years old ex-army man who suffered from Ataxia. Ataxia is a condition of the nervous system in which movement is affected. (This means that Gagan tottered and slurred like a drunk, without actually drinking).

Undampened Spirits:

Gagan’s Neurologist had declared the inevitable fate of his disease, “There’s nothing much that can be done, you’ll have to live and die with this”. However, it didn’t seem like this had dampened Gagan’s spirits. (I confess, I even wondered how much of the medical mumbo jumbo had made sense to the poor soul.) Gagan would thrill me every month with his dedication to the advised exercises and his progress – “I can now lift a bucket of water”, or “I went through the entire month without a fall”.

A Stark Contrast:

Gagan always reminded me of another Ataxia patient, Prof. Dandekar* a 42 years old Lecturer of Physics. In contrast to Gagan who couldn’t even pronounce the full name of his disease (Spinocerebellar ataxia can be quite a tongue twister), Professor Dandekar was almost a master of his disease – the incurable pathology, the limited treatment options, even the latest research. I would have to read frantically so that I could keep up with him! He was improving slowly and steadily, as is expected for someone with his pathology. But it was not as fast as Gagan.

One day the Professor’s wife grumbled, “Doctor, every spare minute that he gets is spent researching about how soon he is going to become wheelchair bound.” The Professor’s counter-argument was not weak either, “If I know what I am dealing with and what to expect, I can be better prepared.” It was then that I began wondering…Was Gagan recovering faster than the Professor because of his ostrich-like ignorant bliss? Do Ostrich –patients live longer?

A Heavy Orange:

If you compare both men, Age group: similar, Progress of disease symptoms: similar. I must admit, their illnesses were not exactly the same. Gagan’s ‘Spinocerebellar Ataxia’ and the Professor’s ‘Friedreich Ataxia’ have different patterns of genetic inheritance. But it isn’t like comparing apples and oranges – it’s more like comparing the mandarin orange with the sweet orange. Not too different, right? How then, had Gagan made a beautiful juice with the orange given to him, while the Professor had got bogged down with the weight of his orange?

Multiple studies  (like this) have been conducted since the 1980s where they asked people to rate their own health. These people were then tracked over decades and it was found that those with poor self-rated health were found to be associated with higher mortality rates. And surprisingly, medical history, heart disease risk factors, and education are not able to explain the association completely. So if you think you are healthy, you are likely to live longer, sometimes even irrespective of your actual health!

What killed Vickie:

In 2014, 23 years old Vickie’s parents petitioned UK’s Health Secretary for patients of terminal illness’ right not to know. Vickie was suffering from AML, a blood cancer she had been battling on and off since 2012. Vickie’s parents alleged that she had died within two weeks after she was devastated by her doctor’s explanation of her low chances of survival. What really killed Vickie – the cancer or the hopelessness of cancer?

Off course, there is no denying the fact that for almost all diseases, the earlier you get diagnosed, the better your chances of treating or even preventing the disease spreading to others. But sometimes, people like Gagan really make you wonder whether knowledge is power or ignorance is bliss. Was the knowledge of her incurable disease responsible for taking Vickie’s life? Would the Professor have healed faster had he not been informed that he would continue to suffer from a progressive illness that would kill him one day? Would you rather be an all knowing owl or the supposedly stupid ostrich? If you ask me my honest opinion, I do not know. These questions remain unanswered for me, at least for now.

Or would it make more sense to know a little about your disease but still have a hopeful belief and work towards recovery? I guess a little moderation never hurt anyone…


any fool can turn a blind eye

*Real People, But Not their Real Names.

How Homeopathy Taught Me To Steal Shoes

How homeopathy taught me to steal shoes

“Wow, you just read my mind! How do you do that?!”

“Doctor I bet now you know me better than my husband of thirty years does!”

“Uff, one should never have a homeopath for a friend…. They know you so well they can catch your lies like that (snapping fingers)!”

If you have been a patient of homeopathy or have a homeopath for a friend, the above instances would feel familiar. I for sure, get a lot of that! And no, I have no mind-reading super powers nor do I have an extra ordinary IQ. It is because Homeopathy taught me to steal shoes…

How I learnt to steal shoes:

Homeopathy believes that when you have constant headaches, it’s not just your head that’s sick, but it’s you that is sick in toto. That’s why a homeopath will try and understand the entire ‘you’ vis-à-vis your headache – why you keep getting them, how you have been affected mentally or emotionally, blah blah. In-depth patient interactions over a decade is how homeopathy has taught me – to steal (ok, maybe steal was an exaggeration) – to borrow your shoes, walk around in them, and get how it feels to be you walking through your office, your home, your relationships, your dreams, your hopes, your fears and your lives.

Or so I thought:

Lost in my reveries last week, it struck me and I got off my high horse of being in the “high and mighty profession of homeopathy”. Isn’t this true of every profession?  Whether you are a software engineer trying to understand the end user’s needs to give your software a user friendly UI, or you are a salesman trying to figure out why your customer should prefer your insurance policy over the others…. We all have to learn to steal people’s shoes and walk in them. Not just to sell to our customers but also to understand why our loved ones react in certain peculiar ways that they sometimes do.

The time I failed to steal:

All this stealing shoes business is easier said than done. Just yesterday, I found myself utterly exasperated by a friend who loves to gossip. (I did not have a problem listening to her gossip about others, until I got to know that she had gossiped about me too!) Let’s call her Reena (to be honest, she still is my friend, wears pointy high heels and could seriously maim me!) Coming back to the story… my frustration, anger and hurt had swollen up my feet so much, I could not get my feet to fit into her shoes! I decided to sleep over my options which varied from a heart – to – heart talk to pounding her to a pulp (puny people do tend to have obese imaginations!)

Sense Prevails:

Today morning, I woke up with a clearer head. I realised that, I needed to get back on my trusted horse of homeopathy. I tried to wiggle my still sore feet into her shoes. Why did Reena gossip? Well maybe, she wanted the attention of the group… Maybe it was just an attempt to spice up a conversation… Or maybe it wasn’t intended to be hurtful gossip. But that was just who she was, and nothing I would say to her would change the person underneath. If I had that much of a problem, I could stay away. Or I could “get” her and let go off of the hurt.

And that is how homeopathy taught me to steal shoes.

You can steal too!

Whether a software techie or an insurance salesman, you are probably already doing it at work. If we could try to do the same for every loved one, acquaintance and even stranger’s shoes – we’d all suffer from lesser sore feet, lesser bruised egos and lesser hurt hearts.Walk a mile in his shoes