Painting cruelty with softness


I have been at a loss of verbs (pun, yes!) looking for, as my client asked, a ‘softer’ replacement. I have been wondering what words can be soft for acts that are outright cruel. So if the villainous king kills babies by throwing them against the prison wall, how can you tone the sentence down without losing the essence of the story?

I was recently given a writing assignment where I had to rewrite Lord Krishna’s life story for the reading of children starting as young as five. And in times such as ours when even calling someone fat (who is naturally so) is formally incorrect, imagine writing on Krishna’s life without having to use all those forbidden words is next to impossible. Just like writing on any mythology from around the world. They are full of acts committed by good and bad people alike such as deceit, murder, rape and all that is agreeably heinous.

So how far should you really go to tone down a mythological story for an extremely young audience? Yes, Lord Krishna as a child loved to ‘steal’ buttermilk from his neighbours’ houses. As he grew up, he loved to ‘flirt’ with village girls and the other characters in his story line, like his uncle ‘killed’ babies upon babies by ‘bashing’ them against the prison walls searching for the correct baby. His adopted sister was ‘dragged’ to the royal court when her ‘5’ husbands lost her, along with their kingdom in ‘gambling’. They tried to ‘disrobe’ her. So in short, what you have here is stealing, flirting, killing, bashing, gambling, selling your spouse and a near-rape. Now all this makes an interesting read for story-lovers but toning it down for little children! Yes, you want them to read mythologies as early as possible and without telling them that the good characters too indulge in acts that are absolutely unacceptable. How do you do it?

I couldn’t. Yes stealing was replaced by ‘took’. But the softer verb ‘took’ changed the real meaning, right? I changed the word bashing to flinging though that was also not happily accepted by my client. I left it on him to find a softer word. My mum suggested an adverb to bring down the impact, ‘casually throw’.  I think it is as horrendous as merely flinging. The uncle was anyway throwing the babies in a fit of rage! And disrobing the dress was replaced by pulling. They all sound equally bad! Why would you want to pull someone’s dress!

Never having read on child psychology I find it difficult to apprehend on how a child gets affected while reading or watching something he or she really shouldn’t.  All of us, including children, are different. We react differently to a particular situation. My daughter, who is ten, read an article in the newspaper nearly a year ago on how two babies died in a car due to heat as their negligent parent locked them inside the car while he/she shopped for hours. Every time when she feels hot, she is STILL reminded of that incident and talks about it. Yester night, she remembered about it when she felt warm after she had taken the quilt! She just has that episode stuck in her head and no matter how hard I try,  I fail to explain things to her.  And this is factual news that she read in the newspaper, so I can’t even tell her that it is just a fabrication or she shouldn’t be reading such news.  This is how she is and not all other kids of her age are like her. Some will glance through the news, some will go deep and some won’t even bother reading! But who is learning what and when is a very subjective matter.

So my two bits, be truthful (ok, you don’t have to give vivid details) and have a disclaimer in the beginning. After all, a very young child is not expected to read/watch without his parent around! A parent is the best judge to tell if a specific story containing all these unacceptable episodes is fit for his or her child or not. But, leave the story alone. Especially mythology.

(image courtesy:

ignorance is bliss


(pic courtesy:

So what do you do when you have to undergo a medical treatment, and that too the mother of all treatments and you have good two weeks to prep yourself? Yes, you prepare your body as you know it won’t be the same, at least for sometime. You also prepare yourself mentally, which is the most difficult of all. Yup, diet, exercise, visits to the doctor and try to do all those things that you would do in your daily routine. But what you should never never do is Google. Google, the synonym of all the search engines on the Internet, is best kept away in such situations.

Google and all the search engines are a blessing but in other times. They are indeed very handy and save you the trouble of physically going to someplace else to get the information. But medical information on any subject should have restricted rights. Alternative therapies are okay. They are more like home remedies!

Like in the good old days, you should be happy with your doctor’s advise (even if the doctors now are not like the ones in the good old days! It is a commercial world now!) and do as he says. The research should get over after you have researched upon the doctor! Leave the rest on him.

There is no end to googling. One search page leads to another and then another. And before you even know you are nowhere near the main subject you began at. And if you happen to come across a big word you know you are next looking for it! So, my relative, who is otherwise a tough-nut-to-crack kind of person, is now getting jitters, which he explains as preparing himself for the ultimate! His research has told him exactly how many doses of radiation he should be getting every time! In fact he calculated it himself! For someone who had no idea about any medicine until a few weeks ago now tried negotiating (much to doctor’s invisible ire) the amount of radiation dose he should be getting every time. Not just the doses, he also knows about the upcoming monstrous and inevitable side effects. Those side effects that we knew were monstrous enough from the doctor’s mouth but now know, courtesy Google, exactly what the monster looks like in detail.

Ignorance is indeed bliss but now that we have gone past the ignorance stage it is best to get our weapons ready to face the monster with all our might!


Audacious Audits


                                               (image courtesy:

Auditing of a company is a big deal and after having worked for many years and in a variety of companies all I know that it is not merely to do with the inspection of accounts (at least that’s what I understood!). I have been asked to read and memorise the company’s fact sheets just in case the supposedly God-like auditor stopped by at my desk and asked me a random question! The whole organisation is shook up then for a few weeks that lead up to those crucial 3-5 days of auditing. At my level I never took it seriously. I was doing my job and that was it. Of course I did go through the fact sheets and did all those things that I was never told to do in the first place. Well, nobody ever showed up at my desk and neither did I even remotely realise when the auditors were in the building. I however did get to know when they were gone as the bigwigs of the company followed by their minions heaved a sigh and everything was back to its original form!

My whole perspective of looking at the auditing process changed when I become an observer of it recently. It happened in a premium hospital. The hospitals have their audits too I realised!

So as I fell into an unwanted yet unavoidable slumber one night on the bed next to the recovering family member in the hospital room, little did we realise that my family member’s cannula ( a thin tube inserted into a vein through which fluids and medicines are administered) had come off – his only source of being fed! I could faintly hear the movement of the night-duty nurse around his bed and trusted that all was being taken care of. Only the next morning, after he started to get splitting headache (due to empty stomach/post-surgery effect) we realised that all was not correct. The nurse came strolling in the room and still didn’t seem in any hurry to get the cannula fixed. How difficult would it have been for her to fix it? Considering that most patients have a cannula inserted prior and post their surgeries it shouldn’t really have been a big task for her. She instead just checked his ‘vitals’ (bp, sugar, etc) for her daily record before she said that she would be back after attending another patient.

And when our young nurse did return, she was again in no mood to re-insert the cannula! Was the patient supposed to be left hungry all this while? Instead she started to open the drawers of the little cupboard that was assigned for my father. She began to arrange all the things properly. I really thought she was looking for something but all she did was clean up the drawers (took good 10 minutes) and then started to fumble in her coat’s pocket for something. And then she took out a key and locked the cupboard!

Hello, what about the cannula? Oh, I have to attend to the other patients too. Maybe she meant attending to the little cupboards of the other patients but she said she would be back soon! Finally she came back along with a senior nurse who helped in getting the cannula reinserted.  So, she didn’t know as a professional nurse working in a premium hospital as to how to insert a cannula! She could have called her colleague many hours ago too!  And cleverly, this was all done just in time before the doctors’ morning round began! She could sense the disappointment on my face and quietly came up to me and said, ‘we have our audits going on.’ No wonder she was taking care of the other mess like the drawers first!  And then she sheepishly said, ‘please don’t complain to the doctors!’ I could see her nit-infested hair strands and really wished she didn’t come any closer!

My relative was much better in the hours that followed and I didn’t complain about the nurse. Hospitals, as I realised looking at the plush services offered to the patients, are of course like any other profit-making organisation and so is its auditing system! But should a patient become a victim of the organisation’s auditing process?  Organisations,  hospitals in particular, needs to re-look at the whole process of auditing. Perhaps they should make it a daily affair so that everyday each and every detail as per the auditor is taken care of ..the cupboards can be kept clean everyday! Or the auditors need to make a surprise visit so that it keeps the whole organisation on its toes daily- just like the taxman who can knock on your door anytime.

Humanitarian auditing, at least in private hospitals is not difficult to achieve, is it? The patients are anyway not getting any discount on their fees so why should they tolerate the nuisance surrounding the audits!