Quiet Sunday

September 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve been in love with Mary Oliver’s poetry for a while now. Even the banner up top features a word cloud from her poem – Wild Geese. Last year, my friend A wrote it out for me in beautiful cursive as a birthday gift, and I framed it and put it on my bookshelf.

Here’s another that I’ve been thinking about for a while, from the same collection.

I Worried

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.


3 Medscape essays

September 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

that I can only link you to!

1. Called “Melding Medicine and Art”

Last August, when reading an article about how to be a faster writer in Slate, I was referred to the example of another Slate writer, Christopher Hitchens, who after a chemo session and a dinner party, returned home late on a Sunday night to compose a Slate column in twenty minutes.

Read more here.

2. Called “Up in the Air”

To help me celebrate the end of my first year of medical school, my mother bought me a couple flight lessons at an aviation center not far from our home in southern California. It was an incredibly thoughtful gift, stemming as it did from her memories of our family trip to Lake Tahoe for July 4th last year, where my sister and I got to go parasailing for the first time ever. We LOVED it. I told my mum, sans exaggeration, that I had over three epiphanies during my ten minutes in the sky. It was true! Floating at 1200 feet, weightless, on a sunlit lake… that’s the sort of thing that can’t help but bring you perspective and peace.

Read more here.

3. Called “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

I was a health management intern at the Mass General Hospital this summer via an opportunity provided through the joint auspices of Harvard’s Medical and Business Schools, and the experience was simply tremendous. I was able to shadow health executives a few times a week, including sitting in on board meetings with Peter Slavin, President of MGH, and also work on a small project at the Center for Connected Health that aimed to evaluate the impact of a Telemed program. The internship was interesting and informative, and allowed me enough time and flexibility to pursue projects of my own before the start of second year.

Read more here.

I post at Medscape now

September 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

also. That’s the keyword. When I post on Medscape’s The Differential, I’ll be sure to link back here so interested folk can check those short essays out, but the tone of the two blogs could not be more different. This blog is not as medical-student-life oriented as it is Samyukta Mullangi-oriented and all the chatter that goes on in my mind about medicine, science, irony, literature, art, and various amusing anecdotes, so LONG STORY SHORT – I will continue to post here as well.

(Yes I haven’t done a good job at that this month. Okay okay.)


It’s been a whole month

August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

since I last wrote, and it doesn’t feel to me like I’ve been away that long at all. And yet, in the past month, I’ve wrapped up my summer internship, went down to Atlanta to celebrate a wedding, visited family for a week, settled back in to Boston and finished a week of second year. What the…?

I might need to delve into the preterit tense for the next few weeks to make sense of this all. My metaphors are running ahead of me, and I’ll have to set Pharmacology aside every now and then to catch up.

Everyday Majesty

July 22, 2011 § 3 Comments

I ducked out of the office early yesterday, having finished my quota of data analysis for the day early and feeling the onset of a migraine, and took the 3 pm shuttle home. Of course, by the time I arrived home, I had been rocked in and out of sleep by the rickety inter-hospital shuttle, and my migraine dissipated. So instead of going back to ensconce myself in my cave of a room, I chose a little table by the side of TMEC, our med ed building, and resumed working on a piece of fiction on my laptop.

Every single time that I took a break and looked up to people-watch, I saw lab coats, and talk of publishing woes and resistant cell cultures, and harried students flitting between god-knows-where, and then I would look back down at my laptop and intermittently build paragraphs between reading poems about birdwatching and listening to the soundtrack of Wake Up Sid.

This place hasn’t been easy to reach. It hasn’t always been comfortable to remove myself from the race to Cell, Nature and Science, that consumes many of my classmates, and take pride and comfort in my own, rather unobtrusive passions. To put faith in my writing as a masterful instrument worth nurturing, to find that room with wide windows and streaming sunlight and sweet warmth worth inhabiting. That takes a kind of confidence that even established writers fight to retain.

I wrote for over two hours, and was thinking that I would go until 6:30, then break for dinner, when it happened. There was a whistling, and my skirt rose up, and as I straightened it out, the table umbrella sucked a large breath and began to spin. I stared, slackjawed, as it then began to rise, an inch at a time, but with the gravity and surety of Atlantis or something, and soon simply lifted clean off the table and into the air. I was sitting at the one table that hadn’t been securely fastened to its umbrella.

It rose for about thirty feet, and then majestically, and just as slowly, spun back to the ground. Everyone on the pavement and everyone on the quad was frozen, mesmerized. Even the reticent TMEC security guard came out, eyes bulging. And just like that, it fell to the ground, and there were cheers and gasps and concern, and time resumed, and I finally found my legs and stood up, and paced haphazardly around the table.

Would you like to know what I had just been reading?

it was a dream

in which my greater self
rose up before me
accusing me of my life
with her extra finger
whirling in a gyre of rage
at what my days had come to.
i pleaded with her, could i do,
oh what could i have done?
and she twisted her wild hair
and sparked her wild eyes
and screamed as long as
i could hear her.
This. This. This.

– Lucille Clifton


No to Howard Roark

July 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

Yesterday, I ran into a bit of hospital promotion that left me amused, but also confused. This anecdote is set against the backdrop of the release of the US News & World Report Hospital Rankings, which has joyously ranked MGH at #2 of the honor roll hospitals and Brigham at #8 (two Partners hospitals in the top 10! new record! two top 10 hospitals in the same city! oh my! and so on), and Children’s Hospital of Boston at #1 for peditaric centers, which naturally paved the way for this kind of subtlety:


I’m a health management intern at MGH this summer, and so I take the Brigham-MGH shuttle to and from work every day. It’s about a half hour commute, and I spend it reading the House of God, which has been doing a great job of keeping it real. Which brings us to yesterday.

I came home from MGH, and cut through the Brigham as I always do, to exit through its back door and on to the HMS quad. It was then that I noticed that written on a large plasma screen was BRIGHAM IS A GOOD CITIZEN IN THE COMMUNITY.

At first I thought, Peter Bent Brigham? Like from the 1800s? Random. Then I grew sensible, and a bit conflicted.

Linguistics friends, does this sentence work? Can a hospital be a good citizen? I’m doubtful. Yet the reverse is true at times. I could say my mom is a pillar of strength, even though she’s not really supporting our roof (actually she might not object to that either…), or that she’s a foundation of support (but that’s stretching it, yeah?). But could I call my mother a good edifice in the community, or a famous tertiary care hospital serving millions? Not unless I was Vladimir Nabokov and being generally ridiculous, but brilliant. But even then.

I want to have a word with Brigham’s PR guy and question the merit of that bit of promotion. And yet I kind of prefer Brigham’s quiet restating of its mission over Children’s’ flashiness, just next door.

Ah! I just realized that my anthropomorphism of these hospitals lends credence to their PR campaign and undermines my whole argument. Dammit.

On origins #2

July 8, 2011 § 3 Comments

During the Friday Jazz Night at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, my friends and I happened upon the glass-blown chandelier room of the Dale Chihuly exhibit. These were magnificent pieces, all glass and light and scale, and reminded me a bit of Thomas Wilfred’s lumia compositions that the Tree of Life’s Terence Malick employed to mysterious effect at the beginning of the film. (ok I think that was enough name-dropping for the day)

Chandelier Installation, Chihuly

When I went closer to examine the underside of one of the chandeliers and tried to think about whether I would want that hanging in my own house, I realized that it reflected perfectly off of the black marble tablet stone underneath it, and suddenly another layer of complexity revealed itself. The set up reminded me of the Swayamvara scene in the Mahabharat, where Arjuna wins the hand of Draupadi through a feat of physics. He, in competition with countless other suitors, must shoot the eye of a fish that is tethered to a revolving pole by looking only at its reflection in a pool on the ground. He succeeds, of course, and gets to take the princess home. Where he must then share her in a polyamorous marriage with his four other brothers, but that’s a story for a different day.

There probably is no further point to this vignette than that I love it when things remind me of India, and of folklore, and the complexity and layers and nostalgia and the feeling of home. And also that I wish people still held Swayamvaras. (They sound pretty hot).

On a mildly related note, to celebrate the end of an era, my friend J, who is admittedly very Caucasian but who has been, to her credit, determinedly working on her summer tan, and I will be attending the Harry Potter premiere this week dressed as the Patil twins. I just can’t wait.