In the first year, maintaining a balance between studies and family life has been both the mantra and a challenge for me. I remember my parents reminding me when I was young - to enjoy the simple things in life. Perhaps, because of that and love for nature, every morning when I drove to DPAP often groggy with lack of sleep from studying late at night, I enjoyed the twenty minute drive in spite of the traffic, just at the sight of trees along the highway and along some beautiful homes in Durham. If it had rained the previous day, often there was a beautiful mist the next morning with a fresh hue over the vegetation. Each day, as I would turn my car toward DPAP, I would take a moment to admire the elegant and imposing architecture of the building housing the nation’s best program.
When I joined the program, I was amazed at the fact that some of my colleagues had little children, some welcomed new additions to their family in the very first semester, some planned and got married during the semester break, while I was the only one in my class with two grown up children and a husband who worked in another city and tried to visit us every few weeks. The faculty and staff was extremely positive, supportive and concerned about my wellbeing and I will always remember and feel grateful for that. Also, I am fortunate to have received incredible support from my husband and children as they have been instrumental in my success during the first year.
One of the best things about the first year was the series of great lectures we received from presenters who are experts in their field. Our daily schedule was interspersed with thoughtful ten minute breaks almost every hour and it helped some of us to unwind. During that time, I made myself some hot masala chai (Indian tea) or coffee while sharing a few words or jokes with my colleagues in the hallway, the lobby or the kitchen. Some of my classmates stepped outside to take a stroll and stretch their legs or just to catch some sun. During the lunch hour, I reserved the first few minutes to eat and the remaining time to go through a lecture, prepare for an exam or work on an assignment. At the end of the day, while several of my classmates would stay back and study in break rooms, I would drive back while my mind pondered over the anatomy and clinical medicine unit we had covered, looking forward to share the day with my children. It was always heartening to see their smiling faces when I got back home, asking me how my day had been. At that time no matter how tired I felt or how much I had to study, I knew my children needed me and tried to spend some precious moments with them on a daily basis.
In the evening, in order to feel calm, relaxed and stay up late to study, I would light up an oil lamp and incense sticks in the temple where we offered our prayers and opened the balcony door for a few minutes to let in the soothing nature sounds from the canopy of pine trees overlooking our backyard. After studying at our individual study desks, the kids and I would get back together for dinner which was our family time. At the dinner table, I often found myself pondering over what I had studied that day in anatomy, physiology, clinical medicine or pharmacology, while I listened to my kids and sitting together, enjoying an occasional, home-cooked meal reminded me how fortunate I was to be at Duke and that I was indeed living my dream.