An example on overcoming laziness when setting out to the gym – a common experience.

I think all of us fitness freaks have those days of laziness, where we give way to the lazy area of our brains and become a couch potato, making the whole day miserable.

Today’s dialogue with my tired – excuse – generating – brain:
Brain: Don’t you think you worked enough today? Do you have to slog at the gym too?
Me: Hmm.. u think so? I do feel awful.
Brain: Yes, time to go home, sit on that couch and enjoy that cup of tea, with some biscuits.

Me: Sounds good- except, I don’t think I’ll feel fresh after doing that.
(stopping car at intersection and thinking)
Brain: Oh no
Me: OH YES..

Result: A wonderful euphoria at the end of the day with just one hour of cardio. Apply this whenever you feel you are losing to your lazy side. Cheerio.




Eyelid repair and a Car – Tyre Repair!

Jan, the 13th, 2014: I suppose it would be what you would call a slightly different day at work. I had just performed 5 cataract surgeries and gotten back to the out patient department, when an anxious mother entered my room with her one year old girl child. She gave a gruesome history of the child falling down and hitting her eye over a sharp stone by the roadside. Examination revealed a full – thickness eyelid tear, with the tissue dangling by a narrow saving margin. The kid needed general anesthesia and I asked the mother if they wanted to be referred to another center of ours, which was two and a half hours away. Since she was anxious, we called our own anesthetist


and I got started right away. (photo shows a similar picture and does not belong to this patient)

On table, under anesthesia, I examined her well (she wouldn’t let me touch her at the outpatient department). Other than the eyelid – tear, the rest of her eye was normal (thank God). What followed was a ‘grey – line’ approximation, and mattress sutures, followed by progressively superficial layers of suturing up to the skin. Total procedure took an hour. Finally, content with the job, I admitted the patient for observation after prescribing systemic antibiotics and painkillers in the form of a tonic.

The next thing on my mind was to finish a few more important cases at the OPD before a good lunch at home. Unfortunately, fate decided to play a different hand. When I was about to leave for home, I noticed my car had a flat (rear right tyre). Following this I had no other choice but to have lunch at the hospital, after arranging for one of the staff at workplace (Mohan, who had run the marathon with me) to change the punctured tyre. By the time I had finished my meal, the punctured tyre was off the ‘Ritz’. Then came the screwing in of the spare tyre. After this, I went along with Mohan to bring the spare tyre to normal pressure and to get the punctured one patched up. Phew! Long day, but successful.

(And oh, the cause of the flat was a screw by the way – seriously?)

Just a regular trip to Madurai and back.

It was a sunny evening when we left Salem, Tamilnadu, India, with the added privilege of leaving work at 5pm because we had to travel to Madurai that evening on hospital work (which was 270 km away). I picked up Seran our administrator and Jegadeesh, our camp manager, then proceeded home where I waited for my better – half to get ready. In two minutes, the luggage was in the car and ready for the trip.

2 kilometers down the road we stopped for fuel and after that it was pretty much just us and the lone highway. Well not really lone – there were so many trucks and buses that wreaked havoc and hampered a steady speed.

Gunning down the gas pedal, we reached Karur in just 75 minutes from Salem after passing through a toll. I saw a few heads nodding and decided it was time for coffee – Seran agreed to locate a café to which he’d been to previously. As luck would have it,we zipped by the café before he noticed, then had to go back in reverse gear till we had access to the service road.

Due to a tummy prone to ulcer, I preferred to stick to tea while the others had their share of freshly brewed coffee. Then we were back on the road, music on the run, driving at speeds of 100 to 120 kmph.

Two more tolls came by and by the time we reached Madurai, 3 hours had gone by. Dinner at Dominos was awesome. Cheese n Pepperoni had never tasted better!

One day after, the evening saw me and Sanju at Puppy’s Bakery gulping down a German Blackforest cake


and then dinner consisting of scrumptious chicken lollipops and steak at the infamous ‘Rooftop’ at Star Residency washed down with cold drink.

Two days crossed and the Annual Camp Meeting thankfully went uneventfully. It was time to head back to Salem.

Picking up all three, I proceeded to the gas station as usual, and then after that it was just 3 hours of blissful driving. You can cross out he blissful part actually – the traffic made for a lot of lane – switching and overtaking. The only parts of the drive that was awesome were when the ‘Ritz’ took on a Ford SUV and a Toyota Innova and won.

We stopped for dinner at a dubious ‘Punjabi Dhaba’ 2 kilometers away from Karur. The food was in stark contrast to the place and all of us had a wonderful time except for poor Mr. Jegadeesh who fell ill.

In a total time of three and a half hours, we were back in Salem. A long journey was over and I wondered if I was ready to get back to operating and treating patients the next day. Well my friends, one step at a time – one step at a time. Good day to you.

Mutthu Marathon – Vaigundu or Konganapuram?

A dilemma – that’s what it was. One day before the marathon on the 4th of January, the wee hours of 5 AM saw us driving at 60 miles per hour through lonely highways and narrow lanes, in search of ‘Konganapuram’ for scouting the area and to collect the bibs before the big event. On reaching Konganapuram, we noticed the start point was nowhere near the place! So off we went, our next target being ‘Seeliamman Kovil’, which was supposedly the starting point of this ten year old marathon experience. It took us an extra half hour just to get ourselves oriented to the area of the temple, without actually finding it. We ended up returning because we had to get back to work. Feeling incomplete, I went through work – hassle and got it done, trying to be patient with all the patients who came with their eye problems in sincere need of treatment.

After 5:30PM, it was all about the marathon again, as Mohan, I and Sanju rushed back to the place to collect our bibs at JPR Kalyana Mandapam. The staff were responsible and very patient, considering the heavy inflow of participants. We handed over the tickets we had registered online, and were promptly rewarded with our bibs and t -shirts (cute light blue and pink for men and women by the way). We wanted to register our other friend Mani, who decided she would get a last – minute registration done at 5 AM on race – day.

Then off we went to bed. 4 AM saw me up and at the fridge, searching for bread and hershey’s chocolate cream (yum by the way). Went to bed again, got up at 4:30, woke up my better – half, following which we picked up Mani, Mohan and our friend Patric (the one who actually convinced me to get back into running) and raced to the starting point. We followed the crowds and found the Seeliamman temple, and got Mani’s registration done. It was exciting to perform warm ups at 6 AM, with many other like – minded people who had come in their own vehicles. The races started soon, the only disadvantage being a huge gap of half an hour between the start of each race.


Sanju and Mani started their 6 km women’s race at 6:30 AM. After seeing them off, we had to wait in sheer boredom for the men’s 11k run at 7AM (the full – marathon and the half – marathon – events started earlier).


When the grand moment arrived and the green flag was waved, an incredible 700 participants filled the road, hardly making it possible to run faster than 4 km/hour. This was frustrating for the first ten minutes, following which we managed to find gaps and squeezed ahead of the rest of the slower crowd. When the narrow lane fanned out to a bigger road, the crowds grew thinner. Mohan and I sticked to a speed of 10 – 12 km/hour for the first five km. Following this, I took the lead and kept the speed steady at 12 kmph for 2km. 

When a total of seven km had been reached, we both slowed down to a speed of 10 kmph. Following this, Mohan slowed to a 8 kmph speed. All this while, I didn’t bother with using water or refreshments, while Mohan had stopped at one of the aid stations for 5 seconds. By this time, it was becoming a little difficult to keep the pace at 10 kmph, as I continued to run ahead of many other runners.When a total of 9 km had been covered, I grabbed a water – packet from the last aid – station and sprinkled a few drops into my mouth and over my face. Then came the most difficult decision. I made a desperate all – out effort and tried to raise my pace back to 12 kmph. After what seemed another kilometer, the finishing point (AGN School) was in sight! I turned, expecting to see a ground which would have required a full circle to complete the race. Surprisingly, there was just a short 100 meter stretch to the finish line. Making a huge effort, I put in all I had into my quads, hams and calves, sprinting at what could have been 16kmph for the last 100 meters, passing two other people and finishing the 11 km event in 51st place in a total time of 55 minutes. Mohan finished just 2 minutes after me.

Just when I was thinking the most tiring part was over, came the waiting time for certificates. To make matters worse, the huge participating crowd made it impossible to reach our food parcels in any time less than one hour.


Complicating issues arose when we realized the end point was at a completely different place compared to the starting point, which was 11 km behind us! After gaining some strength and waiting for Patric (who finished 20 minutes later) and the girls to arrive ( the women came by bus from their 6 km race – end – point). We requested the organizing committee to use one of their bikes to drop me by my car. Driving back was such a relaxation! Soon in another hour, we managed to get our certificates signed, and were ready to head back to Salem, in an air conditioned ‘Ritz’ after all the sweaty hours under the sun.


We couldn’t get medals as they awarded these only for the first 50 finishers, but we were more than content to be a part of those who finished in this famous event.


I don’t know if I’d return for this marathon, but it definitely did beat sitting in the couch and staring like a moron at the idiot – box in the living room. Thank God. 😉

Seated in the shadow of a hulking machine – a true story (an old blog from facebook NOTES app 2011)

‘Tis another stark, sunny day, as I step into utter chaos. No other word could have better described the pandemonium that awaited me as I entered the ‘Free section’ of Aravind Eye Hospital, Theni. I stare down at my badge, that read in bold letters “Aravind Eye Hospital, DR. VINOD NATHANIEL, COMPREHENSIVE OPHTHAL FELLOW”.

There was nothing great about it – just a reassurance that if I couldn’t handle what was coming, the rest of the doctors would come running to my aid. My mind, still on the cases I had operated less than an hour ago, I barely hear the cries of numerous old ladies and gents (affectionately hailed as ‘paatis’ and ‘thathas’ respectively) most of which had to do with why they had to wait for two hours to see a doctor. I pass by, fortunately unnoticed because of the convenient advantage of a huge milling crowd.

As soon as I make my way to the doctor’s enclosure, I see two sturdy machines making a bold stance, clothed in black and white, seemingly waiting for someone to take over their reins. The mighty Haag Streit stood tall and proud, sporting its bulky but old frame on the left. A slightly smaller model quietly stated its presence on the right. I pause for a second to choose which one I’m going to use- almost immediately my glance shifts to the lighter slit – lamp: though demeaning to my strength to use a lighter machine, I find it bearable to do so, due to the added convenience of being directly under the fan, that emits a long – awaited – cool – breeze.

I call out to the staff at the registration desk, “Sister, how many cases today?”. The reply is an unwavering “85 sir”. My mind then dives into what its worst at doing – math. I know I have six hours left, of which one hour would be required for a much deserved lunch break. Five hours – 100 cases (I would definitely be bombarded by at least 15 extra cases before the out patient department closed for the day). That meant an approximately hilarious time of three minutes for each case.

The army of ‘paatis’ and ‘thathas’ then commence their attack- one by one, though occasionally two of them end up fighting for the stool at the other end of the slit – lamp, while I continue to stare with a look of consternation. Headaches meant either sinusitis, refractive errors or muscle imbalance. Any other causes would fortunately be ruled out by a referral to a nearby physician. But the battery of cataracts, uveits, corneal ulcers, diabetic retinopathy, vascular occlusions and glaucomatous discs requiring detailed investigation needed a steady, determined, but cool mind, which I was now losing fast. I’m reminded of a movie where the hero manages to get himself and his friends into a fix in a town with raging zombies. It seems that I’m right in the middle of such a scenario – a lone man with a shotgun, against an entire population of attackers.

It’s been two hours now – I was doing good, holding a record time of 2.8 minutes for each case, when I notice a figure calling for attention in my peripheral vision (wasn’t that a paati who I had sent home earlier with glasses? What on earth was she doing back here?) I close my eyes, turn to her and ask her with forced subtlety, “What seems to be the problem?””The problem is, you’ve prescribed me glasses, but I don’t want your glasses! I want eye drops- give me some, and I’ll go home!”

I raise my eyebrows, thinking of the possibility of making this old lady understand that using eyedrops for her refractive error was like outdoing an anaconda with a hair-pin. I weigh my options in two seconds, then decide it would be a tedious waste of time and energy. I ask, “Don’t you have money?” “No I don’t”, comes the frank and tart reply. I request the sister to give her a free sample of eyedrops that would provide a coating for her eye. She then flashes a toothless smile, blesses me with a few good words then fortunately decides its time to leave.

I shake my head once in tiredness and despair trying to focus a blurry mind, then another time for good measure. I continue with my pleasant ordeal of handling the machine. I ask a rather uncooperative thatha to place his chin on the chin – rest, and look straight inside the machine. I now see a rather interesting finding – those look like the punctate form of congenital lens opacities, but is that an associated posterior subcapsular component I see alongside? Now wait, the image seems to be becoming blurry – I franctically adjust the joystick to get a good focus but in vain. Finally, the image has gone. I peep outside wondering what on earth is going on at the other end, and I see the thatha offering a charming smile, his head miles away from the chin – rest. He apparently had an in-built push-back mechanism that rocketed his head backward, as soon as I placed it in. With the aid of a now- tired sister, I now manage to hold his head at the right place, and write down all his findings.

An half hour still remained, and it came with the not – so – delightful – burden of three patients who required suture removal after three months of cataract surgery. Apart from the bleeding and the eyestrain, this calls for an added task of cooperation from the side of the patient. The last patient seems to be having a minor problem there.

“Thatha look down!”

In immediate response, his eyes do a merry jig, exhibiting a rotatory nystagmus to the right, then bounce upward. I grit my teeth and sing pleasantly, “I said, look DOWN thatha..”

“Yes young lad, I AM looking down..” After a few more minutes of futile trying, I request the sister to instill what I feel was a cascade of local anesthetic, then proceed to remove the rest of the sutures, with the ‘dancing thatha’ continuing his jig every time I remove a suture.

I finally finish, then ask the sister at the reception how many cases had assaulted us today. The answer amazes me – One twenty cases! I then slowly eject myself from my seat behind the slit -lamp, and make my way to the world outside, a tired but content man. Tired with the attitude of some of those cute paatis and thathas, but definitely content with my hectic life, seated in the shadow of a hulking machine.

– Vinod Nathaniel © 2011