Renu's Week

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Report of 20 Sept 2020

 Good evening!

It is dusk and I was sitting outside, but the mosquitoes decided to feast.  So I am inside and looking at the pretty lights outside.  The Muttukadu bridge is full of traffic again; that part I don't necessarily enjoy as I liked the peace and quiet of the lockdown.  As an Internet meme pointed out, the lockdown was not a joy for everyone and we felt bad for those who financially struggled.  We donated some money and supplies where we could, but I don't feel I did enough.    

I have resigned from the Banyan.  It had long been urged by Naren, who felt that 16 years in 1 place could lead to some taking-for-granted.  I mulled it over and quit, last date 15-11-2020.  It feels liberating and my spirit is happy.  As all know, I don't think it will be a complete severing of ties as the B has been my life for 16 years; however, the connection will be of a different flavor and I will do other things.  

Tuesday found me at the Banyan and one of my favorite patients looked listless.  We sent off a blood test to check the electrolytes in her blood and found that the sodium was an alarming 116 or 119 (I can't remember the exact number, but less than 120) - normal is 135.  The lab called with an oral report as it was that alarming.  So we have started to give her salted beverages; correcting sodium has to be a very slow process.  Medications can cause decreased sodium, as can reduced oral intake.  She appears to be better, and we will recheck her electrolytes this week to see their levels.  

We spoke to the children after a 2-week hiatus and that was nice.  Lots of laughter.  Nat is safely back in NJ.  Naren sent us a funny link featuring Chadwick Boseman in "Black Jeopardy" and I enjoyed it, simultaneously rueing the young man's untimely death.  

Scott and I went out to run errands yesterday, and had lunch at a restaurant that stated it was LGBTQ friendly.  The manager was gay, he said, and his family had accepted his decision, which we found pretty darn heartwarming.  We had a good meal and dessert was a 24-layer chocolate cake called "Death by chocolate."  We've seen this name at other restaurants, but not accompanied by this wonder.  It was tasty and Scott had to use a tablespoon to tackle it.  

I talked to my Dad this evening and that was nice.  

We hope all of you stay well and safe! 

Unw -


Monday, September 14, 2020

Report of 14 Sept 2020

 Good evening!

Hope all are well.  I could not blog yesterday - it was a busy Sunday.  

The Banyan is great.  Today was my portion of a training session for Sri Lankan personnel involved in their mental health project.  I had to speak on vital signs and first aid, and the audience was receptive and attentive.  After my droning, several of my colleagues - nurses and health care workers - presented case studies, based on actual patients and they did so masterfully.  I was impressed at how much they had learnt and how much they wanted to convey; the Internet connection from our Tiruchi site was not great, but all spoke well and I was proud.  Bit by bit, the Banyan model is likely to spread to many countries - Sri Lanka is only the tip of the iceberg.  

We did not speak to our children last week as one was travelling and the last thing a young adult wants when catching up with old and dear friends is a forced conversation with one's parents.  So we will wait for this week.  I hope both had a good week.  

I spoke to my Father yesterday and that was the laugh-fest it usually is.  My sister had phoned him on the smartphone.  Ordinarily, he does not know how to answer it and this time was no different; when I said, "Oh, a call on the smartphone, I thought you did not know how to answer it," he said, "I don't!  When I see it ring, I yell for someone and they answer it."  It was hilarious.  The mission was accomplished, any which way it could be, and my sister and Father conversed.  My younger brother's birthday was last week and he and my Father had spoken, also, all of which made my Father quite happy.  

On Tuesday, I was at the Banyan and saw many patients and staff.  When staff work hard, they sometimes need medical attention, too, and I was happy to provide it.  

On Saturday, Scott and I went to a restaurant recommended by a friend.  Soy Soi has Pan-Asian food and it was excellent.  We ate, chatted, lingered and even had dessert.  It was slightly upmarket, but well worth the price: I have 2 meals' worth of leftovers in our fridge.  

Netflix keeps me occupied when I am not working and I am loving the plethora of movies to choose from.  2 weeks ago saw the resumption of public transport in Chennai and the lady who helps clean our apartment has resumed coming.  While Scott and I cleaned during the lockdown, this lady has the special knack of getting the apartment to sparkle and I am grateful.  

One of the patients at the Banyan has tested positive for COVID and is in isolation.  We will continue to hope and work for the best.  

Unw -


Sunday, September 06, 2020

Report of 6 September 2020

 Good evening!

Guess what I did today.  Cleaned monkey p**p.  Not at the zoo, from our balcony.  I am actually full of admiration for Simian; when folks say the wildlife is in our territory, that is so not true - we are in their territory.  Simian has been in our complex and when we were speaking with the children on Friday, we heard a noise in the back area.  It sounded like our washing machine was speaking up, or there were pigeons in the area, or something.  Scott went to see, and there was Simian sitting on the back wall, eating the eggs that I had set out to get to room temperature before frying them.  Apparently, Sim snarled at Scott, who went in and got a stick, which he subsequently rattled at Sim and Sim left.  Sim then came on to our front balcony - we think - at some point this weekend and did the deed.  I think he wanted to make a statement, and he did.  

Nat suggested we leave some spicy chillies/food outside to deter Sim, based on our experience a few years ago.  We were walking in a famous garden in Bangalore, carrying lunch leftovers with us when a monkey came down and nonchalantly grabbed 1 of the 2 bags from Nat.  Nat tugged, the monkey pulled and the monkey won.  The packet contained my lunch leftovers - spicy noodles, which the monkey tasted and absolutely did not care for.  

We are otherwise well.  It was nice to see the children.  They were relaxed and happy.  I read a letter in "The Open Page" of our newspaper today from a reader who stated that the pandemic was helping folks find a work-life balance.  Scott has always been appreciative of our children finding that balance early in their careers.  They don't make pots of $, but they are as happy as clams, and are making a difference in the world.  "What God intended," said my father today.  

The Banyan is great.  I was at Adaikalam last week - barring being on the phone every day - and it was nice.  Our Medical Care Unit (MCU) is clean and airy, and the patients are happy.  One of the patients particularly likes having jewellery - it is costume jewellery and she likes it.  She asks me when I enter if I like all that she has on, and I unfailingly say yes.  She has a necklace and 2 armloads of bangles + anklets, and sometimes earrings.  The health care worker (hcw) says she has so many bangles on that there is no place on her arm for the hcw to place her own hand when escorting the patient to the restroom.  I saw evidence of that a little later when the patient had to go to the restroom - she went fully decked up and the lack of bare arm space was truly funny + lovely.  We are women, wanting a little accessorization and pretty, dangly things.  When the women get lice, I instantly ask for tonsuring and Vandana has demurred, wanting us to preserve the women's identity, which the average Indian woman can get from long hair.  We try, but I am often regretfully merciless.  

Our model is being replicated in Sri Lanka and online teaching of the personnel has begun.  My first class is on 14 September and is on First Aid plus vital signs.  I will likely start preparing tomorrow.  I have a bedraggled notebook somewhere with some of this info, but it is wise to prepare a fresh class.  

Our state's lockdown restrictions have been eased and I expect the case numbers to increase.  Scott and I ran some quick errands yesterday, and had a nice meal at a near-empty restaurant.  Service was excellent and we got some takeaway, too, which is tasty.   

I spoke to my Father today and he was cheerful.  He wanted to know about our jobs, and was very concerned about Scott's pay cut.  I don't imagine a parent ever stops worrying about her/his children.  I assured my Father we were okay, and he was content.  

I have been watching movies on OTT platforms and enjoying them.  Today, both Scott and I watched "C U soon," featuring Naren's friend, Darshana.  It was good.  It was filmed on a mobile phone - in keeping with social distancing and other precautions - and was very well-done.  

It has been a good life.  I am - actually - enjoying all that I am learning of the pandemic, too.  

Unw -


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Report of 30 Aug 2020

 Good evening!

I have been in a bad mood much of the day.  Little under the weather, which does not help.  Yesterday, we were at a hitherto-untried-by-me branch of our favorite restaurant and the service was slow + the food sub-par and that did not help.  This restaurant, Writer's Cafe, employs burn victims and the food is ordinarily first-rate.  Not yesterday.  The service was not, either, though we knew the manager who had come from a different branch.

Then I spoke to my father this evening and had some giggles, so that helped the mood.  I also used up leftover overripe bananas in a microwaveable banana bread recipe conjured up by me, and that also helped the mood: I abhor waste.  I could not understand weight loss strategies in the U.S. that suggested we leave some food behind on our plates - chee chee, just take less in the first place.  

We are otherwise okay.  Scott is talking to his mother and we like these once-weekly family conversations.  

The Banyan is great, of course.  A bit of a scare a couple of weeks ago when an employee who had attended a social gathering outside the B tested positive.  14 close contacts were tested and all have tested negative.  Thank you, God.  Scott guessed the negative result: he said we do a very good job with hygiene, handwashing and mask use.  I have to agree: our staff are superlative in following orders.

The Banyan model has been replicated in Sri Lanka, in the Northern Province, and training the personnel has started.  Ostensibly, it has gone well and the Government of SL is mulling over expanding this facility.  My portion of the training - on vital signs - comes in 2 weeks.  

We talked to the children and they are well.  Both are taking the pandemic very seriously and any talk of our getting there as soon as international flights fly is met with caution.  Probably just as well.

Netflix is quite a boon to humanity.  Last weekend, we watched some concerts online and quite enjoyed it.  I hope that even when live concerts resume, a streaming option is offered.  

My goal for the pandemic is a push-up - a full blown one and not the on-the-knees version.  I hope to get there - slowly but steadily.

We hope all of you stay well and safe.

Unw -


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Report of 16 Aug 2020

 Good evening!

The sun has set and it is dark outside.  I was sitting on the balcony until the mosquitoes attacked.  The rains are nice and welcome, except that they bring mozzes with them.  No matter - lizards and geckos need to be fed, too, and mozzes help the food chain.  

We are well and hope the same with you.  The Banyan is wonderful.  I was there on Tuesday and saw lots of patients.  Last week, one of the patients - who has seizures and might have some amount of developmental delay - called me over, rooted in her stash and handed over a very handsomely-wrapped toffee.  Clearly, it was given as a treat and she had saved it.  I was overwhelmed and thanked her profusely; she said, "I don't like sweet foods, so you can have it."  It was nice, anyway, whether she liked sweets or not.  The toffee is taped to a piece of paper and is on our fridge.  Patients would bring things for my parents ad infinitum - fruit, or sweets, or something from their farm, flowers - and I am now a similar recipient of grace.  

I do not fully think the patient mentioned has developmental delay.  Seizures are stigmatised here and some parents of children with seizure disorder do not send the kids to school.  Thus, I believe our patient is an unfortunate victim of lack of learning.  

There was a fair procession of staff also asking to be seen.  The B has a system of weekly or fortnightly rotation of staff, i.e., a section of staff enters on 1 Aug, is residential and does not leave until 16 Aug.  This minimises to and fro movement of staff, and we hope curtails the chances of COVID entry into the premises.  So, the reduced staff strength translates to increased duties and people have been lifting and dragging and heaving, thus musculoskeletal aches and pains happen.  We have an outstanding volunteer physiotherapist but she has not come since the lockdown and we are managing the best we can.  

Scott and I were at the doctor last week, too.  He had to see ENT; then he had to see derm for rashes on his hands due to chemicals.  I have a couple of derm issues to be attended to, also, and the outstanding docs did their mighty healing.  It is quite spectacular to have good docs.  

After the doctor visit, we toodled over to Egmore since Writer's Cafe had started dine-in.  It is our favorite restaurant - everyone knows our names there - and we were happy to go.  It is non-Indian food, a great love; so I had soup - delicious - and Scott had skillet chicken, and I had meatballs.  Though I try to stay clear of dessert, we had some ice cream to keep their cash register ringing a little louder, and the dark chocolate ice cream hit the spot.  We headed home, disinfected all that we had with us, dove into the shower and then washed our clothes.  This has become a routine after out-of-home trips.  

We spoke to the children and they are well.  NBA has started and we are following from afar, while the chilluns watch live games.  We do not have a TV and this is when I miss it - sports time.  Our beloved Spurs are out, but the action continues to be thrilling.  Naren shared his preferences, which were considered and good.  Nat had a nice top on, and I am in awe of this child's purchasing skills.  

I spoke to my father today and that was lovely.  My aunt (mother's sister) had called with a health concern and I discussed that with my father.  My maternal aunts are fiery and feisty ladies, and my father was keen to hear what had happened.  Fortunately, Coorg - where this aunt currently is - has some decent medical facilities and my aunt is better.   

It is a good life.  And a privilege to be in this profession as well as be a mother to Naren and Nat.

Unw -


Monday, August 10, 2020

Report of 10 Aug 2020

 Good evening!

We were out on the balcony, and it was a tad hot, thus we are inside under the fans.  We have no airconditioning - too expensive, one usually has a/c in 1 or 2 rooms of the house and so, one tends to live in those rooms.  When exiting the a/c'd room(s), then, the blast of hot air makes adjustment uncomfortable, so we choose to live without the coolth.  I was telling Scott today that the radiating heat in June was stupefying, but living near the sea has its perks: we have not felt the heat too horribly, plus we have not really been gadding about outside to get hotter.  Work from home also has its perks.

We are well, as is the Banyan.  I was there last week.  The B now makes hummus; a friend shared the recipe and since all the ingredients are available here, I had most delicious hummus last week.  We asked if a local restaurant would sell it for us, and they are understandably apprehensive: it was not made in their kitchen, they have no idea of practices in ours, there is a pandemic about.  They declined, and so the B will make it for internal consumption.  Incidentally, "hummus" is apparently the most mispronounced food.  

We have an older patient who is diabetic and she now has dementia.  It is sad to see - dementia is a very cruel illness.  This is a patient who is always well-dressed and used to read avidly.  Her family has been traced, they are in Chennai and - by mutual agreement - the patient continues to be with us.  Many patients elect not to return to their families: sometimes, our harshest weapons are our mouths.  This patient has started the inexorable slide into forgetfulness; she cannot remember what she ate for breakfast, and has to think of answers to questions.  She is also eating less, which goes along with dementia.  The team has planned an activity or 2 - puzzles, walking - to arrest the decline, and we hope for the best.  

There was an apparently mentally ill lady on the street near our house last week.  I phoned Kovalam and they tried to locate her ("rescue") and take her to the B, but she could not be found.  I hope the lady has a family, that she has a roof over her head, food, some affection.  

There is so much unevenness in the world, isn't there - some people have a lot of wealth, many have very little.  We are grateful for those who have a lot, and who would choose to share, to make life better for all - the Gateses, Mr. Buffett, Hans Foundation in India.  We can do our job because of such folks.  

We spoke to the children and they are well, thank goodness.  Naren had some questions on sleep, and Nat was wearing a nice, strappy top which I greatly admired.  There was a lot of chuckling during the call, which completely and happily rejuvenated Scott and me; in a sense, "We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."  Both children cook more now and I love to hear what they have made/eaten.  As I told them, I learnt to appreciate flavors most during our Turkey trip - the food was delicious and could be savored. 

I spoke to my Dad and that was fun.  Last week, he shared details of his first and only beating from a patient - it was cool.  He said he had received other whacks as a child from his parents, but that was de rigueur.  This week, he wanted to know of the mental health program in Sri Lanka: someone from Sri Lanka had come to one of our conferences and was so impressed, there is now a replication in SL.  We are to train the personnel, including the community workers.  These are folks who could not study mainly due to poverty and now are so enthused about learning, they make excellent students.  It is a joy to teach interested parties. 

We hope that you have joy in your life and manage to stay safe.  

Unw -


Sunday, August 02, 2020

Report of 2 Aug 2020

Good evening!

The balcony is too hot this evening, so I am sitting under the fan and having a good time of it.

We are well and hope the same with you.  The extended family is discussing the merits of yoga.  Scott is living testimony.  I started doing 1 or 2 exercises after getting a backache and the ache is better - voila.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating. 

The Banyan was great.  I showed up and promptly got a dosai.  My stomach was upset, so I was going to stop with 1, but the cook showed up at my spot with the hot dosai on the dosai spoon, so I could not refuse.  After breakfast, I went up for rounds.  The patients with diabetes are wearing footwear on my recommendation and the person who struck me last week, Ms. X, has been transferred to Kovalam so that she can at least be near the beach.  There is still no public access on the beach, though fishermen are allowed to venture to sea.  This is not a permanent solution, but works for now. 

After being beaten last week, I stopped to think about the whole incident.  I would definitely not have hit the patient, but had to say something to stop the lady and I was alone in the Medical Care Unit at the time.  It helps to go through training for such situations and that is given on the job - not to the doctors, which is going to have to change.  Ms. X apparently told staff members as she beat them, "Well, I cannot beat the patients Ms. Y and Ms. Z, but I can beat you as you will not hit back."  Such taking advantage of the situation is also not conducive to general well-being. 

All in all, though, the Banyan is a great place to work and all are united in the goal of caring for the patients.  Various foundations have come forward to support us for a modicum of our expenses.  When 2 young women - aged 21 and 22 - accomplished all this on a shoestring budget, it makes me wonder how much more we could do if we had the money. 

We have been watching a lot of movies on Netflix, including a lovely one called "Umrika."  Tony Ravolori decided to come and act in a Hindi film.  This often leads to discussions of the appropriate ethnic actor to be cast in the role - I don't know the phrase for it.  TR is an American actor of Guatemalan descent cast as an Indian; there are plenty of qualified Indian actors.  All that said, Jonathan Pryce apparently generated great debate as the Oriental man in "Miss Saigon," finally winning awards for his performance. 

We spoke to both children and they are well, thank goodness.  We spoke in their evening hours, so they were awake, eyes were open, they had day clothes on and were a treat to see.  There was also lots of fun chatter and comparison of clothes/taste/dress sense.  By this time most years, we have seen the children in person but the computer makes up for the distance.  That, and having to heed safety warnings in this time of the pandemic. 

I spoke to my Dad last week and will do so again shortly.  Always plenty of chuckles. 

Unw -