Thursday, May 17, 2012

Make yourself at home.

At Pulak's home, May 2012

This is Pulak. Or rather Dr. Pulak.

Pulak was among our graduates who received medical diplomas from the School of Medicine earlier this week. And as you can see just from looking at her sweet face, she is something special.

She so very is.

I had the great fortune of being Pulak's attending on the wards at Grady last year. Pulak took exceptional care of our patients and really blossomed into a confident young clinician right before my eyes. That was the real start of our relationship and I am so glad that it was. Pulak is my kind of people.

Team OM-expletive-G, the late night rounders

Since then, Pulak has been excellent about staying in touch and thoughtful about maintaining our relationship. She sends me texts to let me know she's reading my blog and can always be counted upon to greet me with the same big, warm smile every single time I see her.

On match day, she was so elated when she got her first choice program in Family Medicine. That came as no surprise to any of us who know her and have worked with her. But being as humble as she is, she never took that for granted. And okay, I will go on the record and admit that both Dr. del Rio and myself tried to put on the full court press to veer her toward Internal Medicine. But since Pulak has such a strong sense of self, we failed. That same sense of self is what drew us to her in the first place, so that came as no surprise either.

So, yes, Family Medicine it shall be. Now Pulak will be bringing her brains and her heart and her trilingual-ness to the care of many lucky men, women, and children. At her first choice of programs.

Match Day, 2012
That was a proud day. And a special day, too. Her family was so proud -- and the love was evident. You can tell she grew up surrounded by it.

With Pulak's permission, I want to share a little piece of her family's love today. This was one of the most heartwarming demonstrations of love that I've seen in a very long time. Love as a verb. . . .yes. . . .in the form of a simple gesture--eating cake.

Last Saturday Pulak and her family invited me to join in her family's celebration of her graduation. I was honored to be included. Plus I love being around acutely proud -- wait . . .acute-on-chronically-- proud parents and families. And that is exactly what this was.

Yes, that's what it was. But it was also something more.

The minute I walked up to her home, the love was palpable. This party was for Pulak and only her, yet on her front porch there were over fifty pairs of shoes of all different sizes. I really wanted to snap a photo of it, but I feared one of the uncles standing outside would think I was a nutty stalker lady!

Anyways. Those shoes represented only a small part of the family, extended family and friends who had come there to rejoice at the accomplishments of this amazing young woman.

The door was unlocked, so after slipping out of my flip flops, I walked right in with bare feet. And that was cool because that is how they roll. Perhaps a part of being welcomed into her house with bare feet was cultural, but there was also this part that just said, "Make yourself at home." Which is exactly what every single person I encountered in that house insisted that I do.

Whether they lived there or not.

It was amazing. I felt immediately enveloped in the love that was infiltrating that home. The laughs were hearty, the languages spoken were mostly foreign to my ears yet somehow it was fully understandable. Because happiness comes across as happiness no matter what dialect the person is speaking. So yes, most people were speaking Gujarati or some mixture of Gujarati and English or some mixture of maybe Gujarati and Hindi even -- but still, I didn't feel like an outsider. Never once.

Not one bit.

Because me? My shoes were off and I was seated at a table laughing right along with the aunties and cousins and Pulak's mom, too. I hugged her grandmother and shook her dad's hand and proceeded to eat every single thing that her mom and those aunties enthusiastically put in front of me.

Without protest.

Next came my favorite part. The cake!

Pulak's parents ushered everyone into the dining room to cut the cake. And it was interesting because there weren't candles and this wasn't her birthday. Yet everyone instinctively gathered around and gave their full attention.

No. There weren't any cheesy toasts or slurring words. One person did sing a few bars of "For she's a jolly good fellow" but then decided that it was weird to refer to Pulak as a "jolly good fellow" so stopped. But not before giving us all a good chuckle.

So, no, there weren't glasses filled with bubbly being held in the air, but instead something much sweeter. The cake was cut and the first piece was placed on a plate. The entire family drew in close. I did, too.

And then this:

Pulak and her parents (Dad on left, Mom feeding cake)

Pulak's mother fed her the first bite of cake. Followed by her father. Then other family members who love her very much. And everyone looked and cheered and smiled and took pictures. And the love was so thick in that room that it was almost suffocating. But in a good way.

Pulak and her grandmother

I almost cried after watching her grandmother feed her this bite. The family helped her from her wheelchair and she participated in this dear, dear act of celebration. Just look at that sweet smile on her face! I was very close to tears and if it hadn't been for all the joy and laughter in that room I'm sure I would have been more than just close.

And you know? I am certain that I was the only African-American -- better yet non-South Asian -- in that room but I felt fully comfortable and a part of it all. Because like I said, love and happiness doesn't require a whole lot of explanations.

So on this day? I just took off my shoes, made myself at home and felt the love.

And so this week I am still reflecting on the aspects of my life and my career that I love the most. This moment with Pulak's family underscored once again what I know for sure: Building relationships is the best part. With patients. With students. With readers on this blog. With my family. With myself.

Yes, it is.

So, please. Take off your shoes. It's okay -- come in barefoot. Have a bit of cake. . . .

. . . and eat it, too.

Happy Thursday.

Congratulations Dr. PDP!


  1. Love it. This is exactly how I hope people will one day describe my home... a place where everyone just knows they can make themselves at home, and do. A place where no one is an outsider.

    1. From what I have already seen of the family you grew up with, that won't be hard for you to do, Cathy. Yes, it was really a beautiful thing to feel so welcomed.

  2. Thank you. I do. I will. I am.

    1. You know I always get myself comfortable on your porch! Ha!

  3. This is another joyful occasion that I've loved reading about. I have found that many non-American cultures display this type of open/welcoming feel in their homes. It's beautiful. Congratulations to Dr. Pulak and for you in continually seeing and describing here about the details that can make life so lovely.

    1. I knew that you would appreciate this, Jo. I actually thought of you and really wished even more that I'd photographed those shoes all over the porch. It was a sight.

  4. I'm a new reader to your blog, but I felt I had to comment on this post. First I got misty-eyed at your description of "suffocating" love, but then, to see the picture of Pulak's grandmother feeding her the cake brought about full-on tears. (And I'm a high school teacher sitting in a room full of ninth graders taking a test-- they think I'm crazy now!) I lost my grandmother on September 25th of last year. I am her only grandchild, born to her only child, and she and I were VERY close. It was so hard to lose her. Looking at the picture of Pulak's grandmother made me cry not because I missed my Nana, but because I know what it's like to look into the eyes of a grandmother and see her love, her pride, for her granddaughter, and to know without her saying a word how very proud she was of me and my accomplishments. I cried because I had an opportunity to know her, to love her, and to know that she died loving me more than anything. And then I smiled, because this same suffocating love my grandmother had for me, my mother has for my son. There is nothing more important than being surrounded by family and the people who love you most. I know this is a tangent, but I appreciated every word in this post, not just because I'm happy for Pulak, but because I'm blessed to be loved in the same way. Thank you so much for this post and congrats, Dr. Pulak!

    Have a great weekend.

    1. Welcome Alisa Renee! Make yourself at home. And tangents are absolutely welcomed here.


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