Thursday, February 28, 2013

WakeUp 102 - An artist's view might differ

Sometimes you find people being severely critical about movies; they bash it up as if the whole thing were created in a matter of minutes. I guess to an extent it is fine - because the viewer does spend some money to watch the movie and also spends their time. But still, considering the time and money we spend on watching the movie, I don't know if it is fair to be so critical to trash a movie - maybe it wasn't to our taste or liking; that's fine; but we can't generalize saying "it's crap; no one will like it."

They say literature and movies are about specific individuals while psychology tries to explain generic traits as to why humans in general behave in a particular way. So the way someone acts in a movie or book need not match with what majority people would do; so do give the director and writer some liberty for that. And it really does take quite an effort to create a movie or a book or any piece of art - why, even this WakeUp takes a lot of time and effort and sweat and what not! :-)

The problem with art is that the creator might have developed the whole thing having something in mind - but the viewers/readers might not interpret it the way the creator meant it to be. I thought of this after reading the book Life of Pi; lot of people question which story is the real one; the one with the animals or the one with humans. 

On a related note is the movie Inception. The last scene goes like this:
Leonardo DiCaprio spins a small top; the camera shows the object spinning and wobbling while DiCaprio walks off towards his children. If the spinning continues then it means he is still in the dream world; if the spinning stops it means he is in the real world. At this point the screen goes blank and the movie ends!

Voila - Hollywood style; and most people in the end wonder, "was he in the real world or was he in a dream world?"

I happened to stumble upon an interview with the director Christopher Nolan. The director didn't cut the scene for the sake of creating suspense. He cut the scene because he felt that it was the apt ending; in the start of the movie, DiCaprio was worried about whether he was in a dream or in reality and he'd keep watching the object till it stopped spinning; in fact he’d even have a gun in his hand to shoot himself in case he discovered that he was in a dream. But at the end of the movie, DiCaprio didn't care if he was in the real world or dream world; all he cared was being with his children. That's why he didn't bother looking at the spinning top; it didn't matter and so the director stopped there to get that message across.

I'm not sure how many people would have seen it that way; but Inception was a movie that people still liked even though they might not have understood the ending. But I wonder how many other movies or books or pieces of art we might have trashed because we didn’t understand the point of view.

So if you didn’t get any meaning out of this WakeUp edition, it’s not the writer’s fault :-)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

WakeUp 101 - The young kid

Picture this… There's a young boy, around 12 years old, who is heavily tanned with his black hair slightly ruffled but exudes brightness. You can literally see the glow on his face. He is wearing a clean white shirt and brown pants - like a school uniform. He is lying relaxed on a bed, supported by a thick pillow, with his back at an inclined position as if resting on a beach chair. There's a television on the wall in front of the bed on which some movie songs are playing. His left knee is bent while his right leg is crossed with the ankle resting on the left thigh. He keeps shaking his right foot to match the beats of the song on television. Once in a while he changes the position of his legs. After about a couple of hours, he leaves the bed.

Once outside the room, he is met by his mother who takes a close look at her son's face to see if everything is fine; mothers have a penetrating way of looking through the eyes. Once she is satisfied that all is well, she hands the boy a plastic bag from which he pulls out a comb. He slowly combs his hair neatly with a boyish grin while looking at his reflection on a window. Few minutes later, mom and son leave the premise to catch a bus back home.

Everything seems to be normal till you realize what was being done to him when he was on the bed. His left arm was pierced in two places with thick needles to draw blood out of his body for purification. The boy’s kidneys failed a couple of years ago and he has to come once in three days to the hospital for dialysis which takes 4 hours each time. A school going kid having to put up with so much and yet having such optimism in his outlook… some might say that he didn't know the gravity of the situation he was in but I think he did. And he was trying hard to take it as part of his stride. It was the same hospital where I saw the mediocre attitude of the nurses (described in the previous WakeUp).

You get goose bumps at odd times and weird places; and I got it there in that hospital on seeing the resilient young school boy battling every day for survival.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

WakeUp 100 - How much impact do you make?

I happened to spend a few hours at a hospital in a town. The hospital is a fairly well-known brand. There were a few nurses working in this specialized unit that deals with dialysis - people who have kidney failure undergo dialysis; a process that tries to compensate for the loss of kidney function. The patient's blood is purified by passing it through a machine (it removes excess water and waste). The machine itself is a sophisticated one with tubes and displays.

The patients in the unit were from the lower income group; they had some form of government cover that enabled them to avail subsidized dialysis twice a week. The process is no simple task - it takes about four hours for the machine to purify the blood; it's like having all the blood from the body flow through a machine for four hours. Add to it the waiting time, travel time and all and it would be like a six hour ordeal every three days. The risks are plenty – people can lose consciousness, contract diseases and even die; and you can see from the patients that the process is very tiresome – all the blood being drained out and injected back in.

The nurses were fairly young in their career. They went about their regular job of putting the needles in the patient and hooking up the machine. I noticed that during the course of the dialysis there were a couple of machines that kept raising an alarm. The nurses would just snooze the alarm and carry on with their work - which included a lot of gossiping. After a few minutes the alarm would start again and the nurse would do the same thing. When asked what the alarm was about, the nurse would brush it off by saying that she didn't know and it was the procedure they always followed – if it rings, just snooze it!

It was only later that I learnt that the alarms actually have a lot of significance. They could signal a multitude of things - an incorrect setting in the machine, the needles not being right, the purification not happening and so on. You can be pretty certain that most of the patients who came to that unit, barely knew how the machine worked or the significance of the alarms – they just knew that their blood was being cleaned for their survival to live another day.

But what about the nurses? They operate the machines daily; they've been working in the unit for more than a year; isn't it fair to expect them to know about it? The machines quite literally play with a life and it was so disappointing to see the way the nurses were so casual about the whole thing - the life of a person in their hands. How would the patient feel if he knew about it? They go through so much and at the end of it realize that the so-called experts dealing with them hardly know the work they do!

It made me wonder if I do justice on the job; you might say that we don't deal with the life of a person in our work; but think about it - it is very likely that whatever you do does affect them; maybe their bank balance, some booking they did, some utility bill, their transportation, their safety etc. Even something like data reconciliation which some consider as boring has a huge impact.

Do we take that extra interest to know more about the work we do? Do we know how it affects a person? Do we look at enhancing our knowledge in the area we work on? Do you?