The much-delayed exposition

I realised that although I’ve cluttered up this blog with posts related to my line of work, I never actually came out and explained what precisely it is that I do, apart from parenthetical asides every now and then. So this one’s to put things across clearly to everyone.

I did my undergraduate degree in a field related to medicine, but not quite medicine, i.e. in allied health sciences. As a result, I am not a medical doctor. I’ve learned some things relating to medicine, and I did study at a medical college where patients called me doctor more often than not simply because doctors were the majority, and I did (and still do) wear a white coat during clinical postings. The difference lies in the fact that while our professionals often are consultants in a patient’s line of management, they don’t prescribe medicines.

Specifically, my major was actually a double-major in audiology and speech-language pathology.

Audiologists diagnose and treat problems related to hearing. This can include hearing loss and other problems. The difference between an ENT doctor and an audiologist is that while an ENT doctor can detect an ear infection and give medicines the audiologist can’t, and similarly while an ENT doctor can maybe suspect a hearing loss, they can’t tell which part of the ear is affected, which kinds of sounds the patient can’t hear, and how severe the loss is. An audiologist can do all these things and also prescribe hearing aids—they can’t just be bought from a store and used, but have to be programmed specifically for the patient’s problem.

Coming back to me for a moment, I decided that after my undergraduate degree I wanted to narrow my focus into the other major: speech-language pathology, which I’ll describe presently. So now I’m doing my master’s degree in speech language pathology in a central institute in India. I could still practise audiology in India if I wanted to with just a bachelor’s degree, but I would be better qualified for speech language pathology.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) diagnose and treat problems in speech, language, and swallowing. Speech problems may include stuff people have heard of like stammering (remember ‘The King’s Speech?’) or a lisp, and also can include defects because of a cleft lip or palate (remember ‘Smile Pinki?’), or something neurological like Parkinson’s disease, or voice problems. Language delays can occur in young children, and may or may not occur along with other issues like autism or ADHD. Some aspects of learning disability (remember ‘Taare Zameen Par?’) also come under our domain. Also, people can develop a language problem after a stroke or because of neurological diseases like dementia. SLPs also work with identifying and managing swallowing problems that can happen because of cerebral palsy or because of surgery, injury, or something neurological.

This field is simultaneously exhausting (you would not believe the sheer volumes of paperwork involved, and dealing with people in general rather than machines also presents its own unique set of challenges), heartwarming (plenty of sentimental happy moments to look forward to, especially among the paediatric population), and, dare I say it, possibly even fun at times.

So, yeah. Hope this helps. I really should be studying right now.


The Speech Therapist

This is an old piece of fiction that I’m quite proud of, and so am sharing with the world at large.

It’s fiction, definitely, but every single one of my colleagues or classmates can attest to the fact that we have all had at least one experience similar to this. It’s what keeps us going.  Continue reading

Post-a-day for 15 days: #15

Today is the final post of my fortnight-deal with myself. I’ve been surprisingly productive. I’ve also not written ridiculous rambling litanies just for the sake of a post as often as I thought I would. That’s pretty good. I’m done with my summer hols now and go back to college on Monday. I hope to carry forward this semi-diligence with me in this final year of my formal education. I’ll definitely need it because the next year is going to be chock full of demands on my time and attention from dissertations to exams to research publications. I hope to do justice to all of these and also do justice to my own sense of principles this year and thus set the tone for…pretty much the rest of my life.

I’ve also set myself a challenge similar to yesterday’s post in this final hurrah. That’s why I’m really not able to go on and on and so I’m going to end this here.

…the challenge? Not a comma in sight today!

Post-a-day for 15 days: #14

I’m trying something outside my comfort zone for today’s post. It’s something that I tend to go to excesses with usually, and which isn’t really good writing. I choose to rant about TV serials for today because I feel like I haven’t ranted in entirely too long. Bear with me, please. Or don’t, I guess.

Tamil TV serials sometimes seem like satire. I haven’t yet decided whether they actually are satire or whether they’re just that ridiculous. Some of them valiantly attempt to portray modern-day ideas like women’s empowerment but fail so epically that the ideas sort of end up backwards.

For example, one particular soap has a heroine who’s fighting the patriarchy by rebelling against her orthodox in-laws and studying medicine rather than sitting at home in the mansion her husband happens to own and cooking three-course meals with the other womenfolk. Yet…she for some reason insists on wearing a saree to college, which seems strange to me because even though what I studied is only on the fringes of medicine, the course was strenuous enough that even the odd dupatta or hanging earrings were a hindrance. To study and practice medicine in full make-up and in a saree is exceedingly difficult, I’d say. Moreover, she appears to be the only student in her class in a saree. The logical conclusion is: she’s in saree because she’s married, which implies that she’s bending to the whims of the patriarchy. Also, while she is certainly argumentative enough for her rights, etcetera etcetera, she seems to have made no effort to liberate the other women sympathetic to her in the household, who are portrayed…slaving away in the kitchen. Also in full make-up. And finally, the basic tenet around which the plot revolves is itself is so against what the heroine spouts minute per minute, complete with dramatic background music, is laughable. Basically, the heroine’s dear old dad was a police officer in a tiny village who tragically died in duty while on a mission with a younger, closer-to-her-own-age, conveniently unmarried, superior officer. As the girl is left orphaned with an incomplete medical education, Mr Hero cooks up the idea of a ‘contract wedding’ in which she marries him for show so that he can ‘support her’ and ‘give her a life’—which makes more sense when translated into Tamil—and use his mysterious oodles and oodles of old family money to fund her medical degree, upon the completion of which they will supposedly part on amicable terms and he will marry his old childhood sweetheart and she will go swaggering off into the world as the best doctor ever.

The fact that this so-called feminist entertained the thought that she needed to be married in order to survive till the completion of her degree is so fundamentally wrong that it wrenches some corner of my soul. A young friend of mine is for some reason captivated by this soap, and I really hate to think about what ideas this is planting in her pliable, impressionable mind. There’s just so much power vested in these harbingers of ‘entertainment’—they can warp people’s thinking so frighteningly efficiently that they’re the equivalent of weapons. Just thinking about it in hypotheticals gives me the heebie-jeebies.

…On a different note to end with—the thing ‘outside my comfort zone’ that I’ve persevered with while writing this post? Not a single parenthesis to be found. Accomplishment.


Post-a-day for 15 days: #13

I was a strange, strange creature as a child. Reading my old, old diary entries (it ought not to surprise anyone that I keep a diary–although I wouldn’t really call it a diary in the traditional sense–my frequency of writing in it is sporadic at best, and I very often miss writing about the truly significant events until they’re already a foregone conclusion–like for example on May 22nd, 2008, I’ve written, “Oh, and by the way, we’re moving to India”. The flight was that night), not even the one I started back in 2004 that is more or less being continued, but even earlier attempts to keep one–back in 2002 and 2003–I see my childhood self as a hugely egocentric entity that considered itself amazingly brilliant and the future saviour of the world. And possibly god in human form.

The thing is, by most external accounts, I was a pretty nice child. Quite mature for my age, already a bit of a chatterbox, but sweet and polite. This persona apparently concealed an unabashedly proud teacher’s pet as well as the aforementioned god complex, all of which thankfully disappeared (or at least went dormant) when I entered middle school.

Specifically, I consider the age of eleven, starting from my eleventh birthday in fact, as something of a paradigm shift. I don’t think anything truly significant happened life-event wise–I remember being laid up sick after one of the guests at my sister’s birthday party a few weeks earlier had given us both a severe case of the flu. Rather, it was like a random switch being flipped in my brain. ‘Let there be self-awareness!’ And from then on I really thought about myself, not in the narcissistic sense, but more in the who-am-I-really-and-what-good-am-I-in-this-universe sense. My diary entries from then onwards ring with the unmistakable voice of myself as it is now, even if I was still using ridiculous antiquated terms like ’tis’ and ‘on the morrow’ in my writing (I still cringe at that particular skeleton in my closet).

I don’t really know whether this sort of experience is just me, or if everyone else has a part of them watching detachedly over their shoulder (including a voice in their head. Metaphorically) and analysing them as a person as they evolve as human beings in life.

I still say I’m strange.


Post-a-day for 15 days: #12

My mother recently joined the “Ladies’ Association” in our apartment complex. Now, I may seem horribly clichéd, but the term “Ladies’ Association” honestly just makes me think of a bunch of old ladies (strangely British and wearing hats with feathers in them in my head) sitting around drinking tea and gossiping up a wildfire.

Apparently this particular “Ladies’ Association” wanted to fashion itself into something of a social work enterprise. Starting with generous monetary contribution from one woman (who owns like, two-thirds of the houses in the complex–not even exaggerating) they planned to provide refreshing beverages to the security and multi-purpose staff, for which they still required contributions from the members of this “Ladies’ Association” because it was a group effort, after all.

Then they wanted to set up compost bins on the terraces of the buildings. Also admirable, although my cynical young mind would think that that would be a development better put forth by the general residents’ association which has not only more people but also more money at its disposal.

The next order of business in the few short months after its conception was to start having social gatherings, specifically, celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries of its members. Not all of them, of course, but perhaps setting a particular day each month and cutting one cake for all of those who had happened to be born or get married during that month. This month my mum was one of the ‘celebrities’–her wedding anniversary was in the beginning of June. Today was their little ‘get-together.’ My mum was not particularly enthused. Much to her chagrin, she was also required to pay an amount for the festivities despite being touted as one of the VIP’s. Moreover, the menu decisions were apparently not very democratic–one woman was more or less steamrolling the others into agreeing with her ideas.

I couldn’t help but ponder the microcosm of politics in this tiny little universe–an association of twenty-five people–and how it reflects the mass politics of city, state, country, and beyond. There’s something oddly beautiful about it, in a twisted, trippy, sense. Like fractals, every unit in this cosmos seems to be made up of infinite units identical to the whole, each of which in turn is made up of infinite units identical to…you get the idea.

The units? Conflict. One teeming mass of conflict made up of infinite identical teeming masses of conflict each of which is also made up of infinite teeming masses of…

Trippy stuff, these “Ladies’ Associations.”

Post-a-day for 15 days: #11

I’m feeling rather nostalgic about the NCERT ninth grade history book of all things. I was tutoring a young friend of mine–the French Revolution chapter–and I found that it’s quite fun to read when I don’t have exams on it looming above my head (on a related note, I’ve finished two and a half books from my music store binge). There’s a general storybook-like quality to the writing that I’m sure I didn’t appreciate as a hapless ninth-grader all those years ago. Back then, I questioned the relevance of studying stuff like this to my (then hypothetical) future career. Now that my future career is significantly less hypothetical (and barely ‘future’ as things stand), I can say that it was not really relevant at all, but there’s some je ne sais quoi we got from the process of studying history, not so much from the material per se. A vague sense of completeness of secondary school education. It was a part and parcel if what made school school, and was perhaps crucial in the development of students’ metacognitive skills to strategize their learning in the future.

… Also, there’s actually some quite fascinating political dynamics in the ‘French Revolution’ chapter which strangely mirrors the politics of our immediate world–my protégé today was altogether not very impressed by my waxing eloquent about all of these, however. She just wanted me to finish the chapter. I can’t really relate. I feel old.