Renu's Week

Friday, December 06, 2019

Report of 6 Dec 2019

Blogging after so long!

I have missed it.

We were at a wedding our last week after I blogged, returned on Sunday and then got ready for a busy clinic on Monday.  The wedding - of my cousin Ben's son, Gautam - was fun and we danced, ate, talked, revelled.  Especially danced.

Scott and I left later that week for Istanbul. 

Our friends, Aydan and Nusret, arranged for us to travel to Eskesehir, and we spent the weekend there.  Turkish hospitality is geared specifically to the guest: gracious serving, delicious food and solicitous attention.  We had a spectacular time.  We met Nusret's nephew, Ugur, and he was a hoot.  He ferried us from airport to station for the train to Eskesehir and - even in our jet-lagged state - we fully appreciated his joie de vivre.  Back in Istanbul, on Monday, we saw the standard tourist attractions and sampled some Turkish Delight: the standard fare and the staggeringly delectable gourmet version. 

From Turkey, we went to Philadelphia, where Navin picked us up from the airport.  That was nice - same jet-lag, and all.  We stayed at our favorite hotel, now a tad worse-run, and Navin joined us for dinner every night.  We caught some movies and shopped, getting Christmas presents and the works, and that was nice.  On the bucket list was catching some sporting activity, and we saw our beloved Spurs play the Sixers; that was enjoyable, though the Spurs lost.  We drove to Ohio and saw Scott's family, which was also fun.  We spent Thanksgiving with Scott's cousins, Anne and Jeff and family, and that was lovely - so much fabulous food, and laughter, and joie.  Navin was with us for T-g.

We returned via Istanbul and saw Ugur again.  This was the usual fun-fest.  We came home to Chennai on Tuesday and I returned to the Banyan on Wednesday.  This set my cosmos right again.  As it always does.

There was a medical emergency in Delhi, with a poorer patient feeling unwell.  She did not get the attention a wealthier and more vocal patient might have, but her coterie of friends rallied around, even fetching a wheelchair, though they were not savvy air-travellers.  It was impressive and I rejoiced in the triumph of the human spirit.  I treated her cough and reassured her and friends, but she looked very ill and I reiterated - with the assistance of a helpful interpreter - the need for her to go to the doctor that very day on arrival at home.  The friends voiced understanding. 

Are poor lives less valuable and less worthy of attention?  To an airport security man's great credit, he procured a cup of hot water for the patient from somewhere on my request.  Hot water is quite a panacea in India, and the patient's relief was palpable.  I am hopeful she went to a doctor and is better now.

We saw a few movies and enjoyed them.  We are now sitting at our favorite Writer's Cafe, having eaten, and are mooching off the Wifi as ours at home is makkarfying (malfunctioning).  I spoke to my Dad from Frankfurt and after return, and that was the fun-fest it always is.

Unw -


Sunday, November 03, 2019

Report of 3 Nov 2019

Good evening -

The view is hazy today - that is not common.  Thus, there is also a grey outlook on life, which will change by the end of this blog.  That's what writing does - that, and communicating with all of you.

We are well.  As is the Banyan.  No Kovalam last week, and definitely Adaikalam on 1 day.  There were plenty of patients to be followed up on.  One of our 2 patients with the bed sore yanked out her urinary catheter herself and I asked that it not be replaced: she is walking more now and to have a catheter whapping about her legs as she walks would be inhibitory and counter-productive.  The bed sore is healing and her cheery "Madam!" is back, which is a tremendous treat to hear. 

The other patient with bed sores is older and her sores may or may not heal, but it is not for lack of effort.  That is the joy of the B, the effort. 

After work, one of the B's patients gave me a paid massage.  It is a way for her to earn some extra money and it feels fine to get some kinks out; knead, knead, need, need.  Finding a place gets challenging, so we use the nurses' office room and there is a movable screen placed so that even if the room is occupied, there is some privacy.  This patient is an extraordinarily good sort - fiery, opinionated, candid, and quite interested in maintaining her physical appearance, too, with makeup on daily.  Rather nice.

Vandana was at Adaikalam and I had to interrupt one of her meetings to say Hello; such is her draw.  There are exciting things happening in the world of mental health: new collaborations and such, and I will hear more tomorrow.

Scott and I went to Bangalore for 2 days for the wedding of the daughter of a school classmate, also the granddaughter of our former school principal.  It was a lovely reunion and the principal's wife also remarked on how happy he was to see his former students.  The occasion was nice, as was the food.  Scott smartly found a hotel fairly near the venue, so we could walk to it - silk sari and all - and it helped to not be in a vehicle negotiating Bangalore's notorious traffic.  We also used the Metro (a train) to get around town and I am a fan.

Naren is shooting a movie somewhere in Karnataka and we get messages from him when he has an Internet connection.  We hung out with Navin this morning and that was lovely.  He now has roommates, for the first time in many years, and likes them; they collectively plan to get a cat.  There are pet-lovers on both sides of the family and I will be keen to hear how the cat and Navin get along.  That statement is distinctly odd, but the Weisses - many of whom are cat fans - will understand it; as will some of you.   

Unw -


Monday, October 28, 2019

Report of 28 Oct 2019

Good afternoon from rain-washed Chennai!

I tried sitting on our balcony and found it a bit too hot - though it has just rained - thus hastened back under our fan.  Scott is right opposite doing some genealogy stuffola.  He knows more about my family tree than I do.

There is something about Americans and genealogy, isn't there.  Some fascination with their roots, etc. 

We are well and celebrated Diwali yesterday.  I was sick with some sort of virus that caused leg weakness and fatigue.  I did manage to wash my hair and do the pooja and then gratefully dove onto the sofa and spent the rest of the day there.  By our choice, we know very few people in our apartment complex, thus no one came to visit, bearing sweets.  At our prior complex, our sons went in the morning, distributing sweets and neighbors came bearing them in reciprocation. 

The Banyan is fine.  I told you the merriment with Kovalam and we are to meet to discuss it.  Today, I had a phone call about a sick colleague there, a health care worker.  These young women come from villages around to work with us and I am grateful to them for taking on the arduous task of living with mentally ill folks; thus, to help them on the road to recovery is a privilege.  The young lady had a cold and fever, and I have prescribed some meds; we will follow up, if necessary, tomorrow.

The B is full of dedicated individuals: if they are not taking care of the patients, they are taking care of each other.  It is quite a nice state of being, to work there.

Adaikalam is also fine.   We have 2 patients with bed sores and the younger lady's sore is healing well.  Nutrition status counts for a lot.  The older lady has limited reserves and is not eating food reliably, thus her healing is slower.  Today, the staff posted a video of the younger lady walking.  It was nice.  The bed sores have come about after hospitalisation, and we are to do everything we can to ensure they do not enlarge.  This younger patient is also getting back to her original self; she used to yell "Madam," when I walked in and salute, this behavior is slowly returning as she starts to feel better.  I am delighted. 

We are privileged that we can give the patients the food they need to heal.  When we order a protein-rich diet or diabetic diet, it gets to the patients.  Thank goodness.  The dietitian at SMF Hospital also comes by periodically - at our request - and reviews our diets; her grace and help are most appreciated.  So much can be controlled or healed by diet alone. 

It rained much of this week.  One day, I thought I could not get to Adaikalam but the sky stayed grey and it did not rain, so Scott and I headed there.  After work, we went to see "Downton Abbey" and enjoyed it.  The previous day, I saw a Tamil movie called "Asuran" and was riveted by Dhanush's acting.  We ate at our favorite "Writer's Cafe," run by victims of burns, and enjoyed it.  We got some pastries to go from there, for Diwali.   

We bought some Diwali sweets and savouries made by the Banyan and enjoyed them.  We also managed to talk to both boys on the occasion, and that was lovely.  We asked that they wear something new on the day and eat something sweet, both characterising Diwali, and they obliged.  I spoke to my father on Diwali and that was also nice; he had worn the cotton shirt we had given him to his teaching session and the post-graduates had apparently admired it.  My father is a dapper man, and it is quite a treat to see him dressed up. 

Our wishes to all of you for Diwali.  May the festival of lights bring you good health, happiness and prosperity - however you define that last term.

Unw -

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Report of 22 Oct 2019

Good evening!

It is the end of a work day.  It is nightfall and the traffic on the Muttukadu bridge has lights.  The buses are particularly brightly lit and make a nice sight.

We are well.  I was finally back at Kovalam yesterday after 3 weeks away - the clinic schedule.  It is a half-day's clinic and there were about 60 patients for me yesterday.  There were already several waiting when I got there; these folks know each other and spend the time catching up until they are seen.  There is a very nice bench that runs the length of the clinic and that has place for everyone, so they sit and talk and get caught up on each other's lives until it is time for them to go into the doctor's room. 

I was in a sari yesterday - shock value.  One of our occasionally-unappreciative patients pronounced that it was the best outfit for me.  I think the surprise and novelty of seeing me in it, when I wear the salwar-kameez or pants at other times, produced this sentiment.  It is our traditional attire, and takes a while to get on - drape, pleat, pin, adjust.  I rather like wearing it and can do so when it is not hot outside. 

So the patients kept a-coming.  We got everyone seen and then there was a straggler at 2.45 PM, after I had finally broken for lunch.  This woman, I think, can afford meds but it is easier to get them for free, I suppose.  She mentions that her husband has lost his job, they have lost a son, she battles depression and her daughter is now estranged from her husband.  I gave up the buy-your-own-meds request - as she had not - last clinic day and we gave her the meds.  Yesterday, she showed up at the tail end of my 60-patient clinic and wanted to be seen; she'd had an allergic reaction to a few of the meds and so I told her to stop the lot and return in 2 weeks. 

It is a tough call to figure out who can and who cannot afford the meds.  The latter category is sometimes easy; however, with everyone having been offered free care since the B's inception, suddenly expecting them to go to the Government clinic is not easy.  That there is a Government clinic, with all the meds that the patients need, is a very fine state of affairs.  Trying to get the patients to go there is another matter. 

Last week, the monsoon set in and getting to Adaikalam was fraught with suspense.  Scott drove for 2 hours, we were nowhere near Adaikalam at the end of negotiating very slow traffic and we turned back.  We did get some Diwali shopping done.  I managed to get to Adaikalam today - a 50-minute trip took 2 hours and 15 minutes, and I had a disco CD playing in my car the entire way.  It was good to be there.  The patients are okay.  Our floridly diabetic older patient, Ms. X, tends to run around grabbing everyone else's food - especially the sugared stuff - and quickly downing it before any of us can confiscate it.  I have mentioned it to Leela, our head nurse, and she will handle it.  One of the joys of the B, this teamwork.  Ms. X had critically high blood sugar last year and was hospitalised; I'd rather not have a repeat.   We have to find a way to satisfy Ms. X's hunger with less sugary foods.   

We toodled down to Madurai over the weekend.  Naren is in the country and was to pay a visit to his grandfather, so off we went.  Flight schedules are uncertain, usually, but Naren did make it down and all of us had a splendid time.  The food was good - Naren ate about 6 dosais at breakfast time and did not have room for lunch.  My father and Naren sat talking for a long time, and exchanged gifts: a veshti that used to belong to my grandfather was handed over to Naren.  Really.  Where were these gifts during all our umpteen visits :) ?  Only kidding - I am glad grandfather and grandson had a lot to talk about. 

Diwali, our festival of lights, is on Sunday.  May the festival of lights bring joy, peace and prosperity to you - happy Diwali!

Unw -


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Report of 13 Oct 2019

Good afternoon!

There is a nice breeze blowing, the sea is a crisp blue, there is a giant cottony cloud in the sky and a husband is asleep on the sofa opposite. 

We had a short week this week.  Navarathri was celebrated over 9 days and Monday and Tuesday were holidays.  A bucket list item was seeing the Dasara parade in Mysore - this year on Tuesday - so off we went.  My cousin, Dilip, said he had a house on the parade route and his sister, Latha, took us there.  The celebrations were great - such a festive air in the entire place, noisemakers and well-dressed revellers aplenty, reasonably-priced food with no one gouging, roadside vendors of tea which Scott drank with glee, a fellow customer approving our purchase of butter biscuits.  All of it was nice.  Then the parade - elephants, children, floats, dancers and finally the elephant with the statue of the goddess, Chamundeshwari.  After the parade, we walked through the city and caught the "Fly Bus" to Bangalore airport from where we flew home. 

No Kovalam this week due to the festival.  Scott and I went to Adaikalam on Thursday, and then to the "Mad Pride" parade on the beach.  10 October was World Mental Health Day, and the Banyan and other organisations wished to celebrate removal of the stigma around mental illness and urge inclusivity.  It was nice.  I saw some beloved patients in the parade and though it was very hot, the drummers did get us to dance.  No day is wasted where one dances. 

China's president, Xi Jinping, was in town on Friday and Saturday, to meet informally with our prime minister, Narendra Modi.  They met at a tourist town - Mahabalipuram - south of us and then at Kovalam; all roads were blocked during the times of the motorcade's travel.  Scott's college was closed on Friday due to this excitement and we stayed put inside the house.  It was quite relaxing.  Yesterday, after we noticed traffic on the Muttukadu bridge - signalling that the VIP's had left - and saw helicopters taking off likely with Modi on board (Xi used cars), we felt it okay to head out and so, we did.  We ate dinner at a nearby restaurant, caught the market at Kalakshetra, and bought groceries. 

We got to talk with both boys this weekend and that was nice.  Lots of chatter.  I can't always decipher their accents or their topics of conversation and at first thought it was my hearing; it is not completely.  I did mention it to them, that I sometimes sit at a conversation with no comprehension of it and we are adjusting. 

We saw "Joker."  Yeesh, I was unimpressed.  My nephew, Sudhir, was mortified to hear this and provided extensive analyses of why he liked it.  That is fine.  To each their own. 

I talked to my father last week and he was well.  We will, Insha Allah, have our chat today, too.

Unw -


Monday, October 07, 2019

Report of 7 Oct 2019

Happy Ayudha Pooja and Saraswathi Pooja!

This is the day we have worship services for the tools of our trade (Ayudham) and for the goddess of knowledge (Saraswathi).  Kids wait for this day, as they are told not to study; their books are placed in front of the goddess and the pooja is done.

2 October was the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.  The newspaper had some nice articles on him and his relevance today. 

We are okay, Scott is unwell.  He has hacked and coughed all week and been weak.  I started him on an antibiotic after 5 days of this merriment, and he is marginally better.  Mother Theresa I ain't - after 6 days of making many cups of hot tea, doing dishes, ensuring soup and hot fluids, I had had it.  So yesterday, we went for breakfast to an upscale hotel here.  I love the breakfast buffets as there is a plethora of choices.  We even got a hefty discount, though the front office manager had mentioned a small discount.  It was nice.

Kovalam is fine.  I had clinic last week and the patients were there: all the old-timers, now knowing the schedule and coming.  It was great to see them.  Some of the newer patients have been told to get their meds at the Government primary health center, and that has not happened: they have returned with uncontrolled blood pressure and blood sugar.  I told one of them that I would give her medicines for a month, and then we have to figure out Plan B.

Adaikalam is okay.  I had to treat staff this week, too, as they were ill.  There is some flu-like syndrome going around, and there is plenty of dengue.  One of the patients in the Medical Care Unit (MCU) has some special needs and has been taunted by another patient, also with special needs.  The former was not in a good mood and we knew something was up, as she is unfailingly of good cheer.  We have had to divert the attention of the latter, with activities such as clay modelling.  Thank goodness for those who can think of activities.

The boys and we conversed mid-week and that was a treat.  One was travelling on the weekend, so we had to squeeze in a week-day session.  We also spoke to our respective parents and that was fun.  My father was alone in the house as his caretaking family had gone shopping for Diwali clothes.  As he said, a quick errand had lengthened; the whole family apparently loves wandering around.  That is fine, really; they have small children and even small expeditions can become adventurous with little ones in tow.

I swam yesterday after a rough night - swam, and swam, and then was floating on my back looking at the sky and clouds when I heard company.  2 boys had come at 7 AM on Sunday to use the pool.  Why not.  I got out and came home, and then it was time for that sumptuous breakfast I mentioned.  Today, too, I got a workout in and was happy for it.

We had lunch on Saturday with my friend, Joan, and her sisters, all of whom we know.  This is how friends are in India: we are in each others' houses and lives, and know sibs and parents.  It was a nice meal.  Truly, food makes the mood.  As does good company. 

May you have much good this week and onward.

Unw -


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Report of 29 Sept 2019

Good evening!

The sky is pink, the sea is blue and there is traffic on the Muttukadu bridge.  Some of the newer buses have lights on their undercarriage, too, and look like a "boat bus;" I love the sight of them.

We are well and hope the same with you.  Kovalam's clinic has been cut to every other week, so I did not go this week.  The Banyan is trying to get the populace to go to the Government facility, so that the care can be transitioned in a sustainable fashion.  The management of the Banyan is visionary, so this is likely a good move; I do not know how the patients are responding.  Some of the older patients have not been told to go to the PHC (the Primary Health Center); they like coming to us and I like treating them.

Adaikalam was fine.  A plastic surgeon and head nurse from SMF Hospital came to give us a talk on pressure sores; it was excellent.  We have to focus on prevention.  Both the visitors were delighted to be with us: our staff and patients have that effect on people.  They want to come back, and we welcome them. 

One of my favorite patients was lying down when I entered Adaikalam last week; lunch was over and it was time for the post-meal siesta.  She asked if I had eaten.  She is mentally ill, mentally challenged, her speech is not very clear, her family and she are not in contact, and yet she had the wherewithal and the consideration to ask after me.  I am unfailingly touched by such words.  We are fortunate to work where we do. 

Scott and I went to Madurai on Friday and returned on Saturday.  We took some salami for my father, which he enjoys.  We spent time talking and laughing and eating, as families are wont to do when together.  The next morning, the young lady who helps run the house had crisp and tasty dosais for us for breakfast, made hot and delivered to our plates as we finished the previous one, and we enjoyed breakfast.  My father had salami again :).  Scott and I drove back yesterday and were lucky to get to our balcony before sun-down. 

We saw 2 movies this week: "Otha seruppu size 7" and "Kaappaan."  The former, a 1-person flick, was excellent.  Resul Pookutty, who won an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing for "Slumdog Millionaire," did the sound design for this film.  As the reviewer said, with a cast of 1, all other elements have to be first-rate and they were.  "Kaappaan" was dreadful; it is a "masala movie," intended as an entertainer and sans plot or intelligence.  It had Suriya in it, and I have a big crush on the man; or "had," after this flick.  There were some dance numbers and pretty people, and it lasted 165 minutes. 

We got to talk to 1 boy as the other was travelling.  I do like catching them when we can.

Unw -