Renu's Week

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Report of 5 March 2017

Good evening from our balcony!

The laundry is dry, the sea has turned from a vivid blue to grey-ish with the setting sun, there are people splooshing about in the pool and my shorts-sporting husband has just joined me.

We are well.  The Banyan is great.  We celebrated "Family Day" at both our branches.  Several friends donated cash and we had biryani, fried chicken this time (as we got generous gifts) and ice cream.  Families of the staff joined us and I got lots of gifts, too; fresh radish grown on a colleague's land, pens, chocolate and home-made goodies.  There was no need for the gifts, but I appreciated all of them.  There was also entertainment and - as always - my non-dancing husband joined me on stage for a typical Tamilian dance.  My colleague, Leela, saved Scott by replacing him at a step of the dance and all of it was grand fun.  Scott was a bit under the weather for iteration no. 2, but danced nonetheless.  The visiting children were dressed in their Sunday best and looked stunning; they were well-behaved and lovely.  It was mighty nice to socialise with the staff and meet their families.

Private practice is also nice.  Yesterday, I saw a young man who had passed blood while urinating and also had scrotal swelling; neither of these is common in young men and I had to ask the wife to step out while I asked the patient some personal questions.  I have since sent him to a urologist at the Government hospital and requested him to bring back the report; I had to spell out "Human Immunodeficiency Virus" in my referral letter as I had to guard against it falling into the wrong hands.

Naren and Navin are well.  We Skyped/Google-hung-out with them today.  Regretfully, the conversation had to revolve around the hate crimes against Indians in the U.S., and we had to urge the boys to be careful.  They are as opinionated as their mother, but markedly more discreet in their expression and we hope for all the forces to keep them safe.  I am used to - rarely - being targeted for dark skin; to be targeted for being Indian is new.

We hope all of you are well.

Unw -

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Report of 14 Feb 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'd forgotten this was a thing.  It's not as frenzied here - though it is becoming more so.  [All my teen life, I looked forward to getting a heart-shaped box of chocolate: I'd seen it in comics and it looked so, so novel and attractive.  I did get one after we got married; Scott bought it on 15 Feb, the sensible thing to do - when everything was discounted.]  It was only when we Skyped with Navin on Sunday and he mentioned Valentine's Day (his professor's girlfriend had recently died, they were told during an exam and Navin spent the rest of the exam apparently thinking "Dang, a week before Valentine's Day") that I realised it.

Family Day is almost here!  It is a day when staff bring their families to the B.  There are games, and mehendi (henna), and rides; there is also biryani and fried chicken and ice cream, and the staff wait for it all year.  This year, Scott's former professor at Purdue donated a chunk of money and that made the fundraising easy.  We also dance like ones possessed; as the cast of "Slumdog Millionaire" said, "Everyone dances."  It is a fun day.  I bought saris for some of the staff, and one young woman got teary; these precious folks often come to us as teenagers, charged with earning enough to support their families at home.  They are at the age when clothing and fashion and romantic interests must rule, and instead they must earn to sustain families.  I feel for these folks and we do whatever we can to make them feel appreciated.

Private practice is also nice.  A new breed of patient: the sexually active, young, unmarried Indian.  Many young women end up pregnant, come in for a procedure and then have to be counselled extensively on birth control.  "It was an accident" and "He can control it" are common refrains.  It helps to have a huge swathe of grey hair, thus I can speak of birth control without getting "koocham" (awkward.)

The weekend before last, we were in Coorg for a 2nd cousin's wedding.  It is nice to go to these things and see relatives.  A tradition in Coorg is for close family members and friends to make short eats, or hors-d'oeuvres, to be served on entry to the marriage hall; these are sinfully good and I usually binge on them instead of the wedding meal.  That happened this wedding, too.  We visited other relatives, also, and all was fun.  The train journey back was eventful, with several wait-listed individuals clambering on and Scott and I squeezing up on one berth; we got home, which was the important thing.  And then, we had a neighbor's son's wedding to go to here, which was also fun.

I'd better wind up and get ready for bed.

Unw -


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Report of 29 Jan 2017

Wow, lookit, January is almost over.

I am on our balcony, the jewel-like lights of buildings nearby are on, traffic is heading home on East Coast Road and we have just finished watching Federer win the Australian Open.  It was a nice match, shame there was only one winner.  We do not have a TV, and watched the game online.  When sporting events are on is the only time I miss having a TV; it is always a juicy treat to watch a good sporting contest.

The week has been good.  The Banyan is wonderful, as always.  We have had older patients reel under arthritis, and feel better after having done some basic exercises - halleluia.  I do not like watching patients in pain, at all.  Private practice is also good.  I have had some young patients and this is a treat; I did not have many young patients as a hospitalist in the U.S.  These folks come in with fever or stomach upsets and it is nice to interact with them; I also get quite aware of my age (53) during these times, as the young patients address me as "Ma'am."  It is particularly nice when they heal well, as is their bodies' wont.

Scott and I were in Madurai last week.  It was the anniversary of the demise of my brother Manu, and the visit to the cemetery was much more difficult this year.  It is, annually, and I could not figure out why it was more so this year; my Dad, Scott and I went nonetheless and paid our respects.  The cook at my Dad's house made Manu's favorite food, and we remembered him.  He was big and handsome and loving.

Friends from Purdue days, Radhika and Tushar, were in town and they spent the afternoon with us yesterday.  That was lovely.  We watched Serena beat Venus - again, shame there could only be 1 winner - and I rejoiced yet again at watching 2 young African American women who have set a good example, not just for African American women, but for all women.

We Skyped with the boys today, and they are well, thank Heavens.  I will never stop appreciating the boys' communicating with us; there is a lot of laughter in the chatter and unvarnished truth, which I am grateful for.  There are so many families where there is no communication and more rancor than rapport - shame.

Unw -


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Good evening!

My husband has drunk his cup of tea, an easy adaptation to life in India.  Tea-time at 4-ish PM, when I eat dinner at this hour, an easy adaptation to life in the U.S., continued here.  The laundry is dry, the sea is under a haze and there are plenty of chilluns frolicking at the pool.  Loudly.  At least the pool is being used - hooray.  Earlier last week, there were a couple of women there (rare for our apartment complex) and I was delighted.

The cyclone last month ravaged the green cover here and we can see more of the East Coast Road, running along the Bay of Bengal, than we previously could.  I like the mix of colors from our balcony: the blue sea, green trees, white and yellow and pink buildings.  Plenty of volunteers are mobilising forces to replant trees - hardy species that would withstand cyclones - and we are grateful.

The Banyan is wonderful.  Regretfully, the health care workers have been understaffed and reeling.  Some have been away on leave and leave has been granted in turn.  Poor things: having to deal with a volatile, mentally ill populace and be short-staffed.  But they work uncomplainingly.  Last Monday was the last day of Pongal, our harvest festival, and we did not think there would be many patients at Kovalam, but they came.  One of the patients had sent her teenage daughter with lab results of her diabetes, I had continued the same meds including the insulin, the patient had not continued the insulin and the blood sugar was very high; as she blamed her daughter for not getting the instructions right, I stated that the illness was hers, not her daughter's, and prohibited this proxy sending from then on.  We have challenges galore; they can be surmounted, a little bit at a time.

Private practice is also good.  We had a patient who had attempted suicide and thankfully recovered nicely; she proceeded to tell me in vivid detail her marital woes and I just did not want to hear it as I am not a mental health professional.  Subsequently, her husband came in and fairly well personified the apathetic individual she had claimed he was: with a head full of hair dye (very popular in our society), a blithe dismissal of the current state of affairs with his wife and his mistress, and a proclamation of his near-bankrupt status.  I told him I had nothing to do with the billing, and referred them to the Banyan for counselling.  I am relieved to have this resource (the amazing Banyan) and have sent several patients there.

We saw "The Founder" yesterday and I was saddened at the complete lack of American goodness and fairness shown in Ray Kroc's take-over of McDonald's.  We Skyped with both boys this morning and it was the usual candid, affectionate, fun event it mostly is.

Unw -


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Report of 14 Jan 2017

Good evening from our sea-view balcony -

I love Chrome; it auto-fills.

Scott and I are sitting here on our respective computers.  The evening light is fading and some buildings have their outer lights on.

Like a blur, our sons' visit has ended.  It was great while they were here and I had waited for it.  Navin had to return to school, Naren hung around for just a little longer.  The newly-wed couple (my nephew and his charming wife) took extended family out for dinner at a very upscale restaurant and the good times continued, with our meeting the in-laws and having a very merry time.

The Banyan is grand.  We lost a dear patient a couple of weeks ago; she was older, had been with us for a while and even through her dementia, her sense of mischief and fun stayed intact.  As my colleague, Leela, and I said, we are a family, greying together, acquiring glasses together and mourning the passing of loved ones.

I love working at the B because I can order the tests I want within reasonable limits; in private practice, the patients refuse sometimes.

Private practice is also fun.  Being able to practice medicine in India is a blast and I like Swaram Hospital a bunch.  I even go in on Saturday mornings as it is not onerous; I did not go for a few days when the boys were here.

Scott and I saw a couple of movies (La La Land was fun) and have taken to eating a lot at "Writer's Cafe," a cafe run by burns victims trained to provide excellent pastries and other good food.

We hope you have merry times!

Unw -


Friday, November 25, 2016

Report of 25 Nov 2016

Good afternoon from the medical world!

Happy Thanksgiving to all in the U.S. and all who celebrate it.

I am now employed as a doctor in a hospital apart from the Banyan.  It is nice, and the folks who run it are good, ethical and fun colleagues.  Swaram Hospital is near our house - a big plus - and has outstanding staff.  The Banyan will always be a part of my life and its focus is mental health; Swaram's is physical health, also done very well.

The Banyan is grand, as always.  I was alone this week at Kovalam, the resident from SMF having other commitments.  We had lots of patients that day, including young college students who had come to the beach; one had fallen and cut his chin, and we tended to it.  It was nice to have young people in our midst and when they asked for the bill, I said there was no charge, that we were an ngo (non-governmental organisation) and that the young 'uns could bring fruit or sweets for our patients the next time they visited.

Our other facility, Adaikalam, was also grand with lots of teaching.  One of the health care workers (hcw) had asked me to speak on food groups, which ingredients were in certain foods, their benefits, etc., and class was grand fun.  When I went down the list of what not to eat, the hcw who had asked for the lecture stated she was getting more despondent as all her favorite foods (cake, biscuits, chips, pickle) were on the list.  It was hilarious.

Scott is well, and envious of my student populace who are markedly more interested, apparently, than his are.  Our sons are fine, and with good people for the gorge-day: my cousin, Prita, and her family are hosting Naren, and my sister-in-law, Diane, and her family are hosting Navin.  I am glad the boys will be with warm, loving people.

We saw "Fantastic Beasts ..." with excellent service from the theater staff at Sathyam; regretfully, Eddie Redmayne appears to have only one expression across movies.  I was impressed with Dan Fogler and hope to see more of him.  I do wish some good Tamil movies would come out; I greatly enjoy those.

Hope you folks have a great week!

Unw -


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Report of 13 Nov 2016

Good evening!

The sea is a spectacular blue, there is no haze on the horizon, the son is shining sharply from the west and I am on the balcony where the clothes have dried.  It is a beautiful evening.

The election in the U.S. is over.  I do not vote there, and am not as despondent as many, as I feel good sense will prevail.  Trump's speech after winning was quite conciliatory and inclusive.  Being a woman in an organisation of strong women, I thought it would be bloody cool if a woman won; perhaps the U.S. is not ready for that yet.

Work has been wonderful.  The clinic in Kovalam is very busy and fun.  A young family came in last week, referred to me by the social worker as the man was alcoholic and had stopped his TB (tuberculosis) treatment on his own.  His wife was wonderfully articulate and expressed clearly all their fears.  I explained to the man that his 5 year old was likely to contract TB from him, that children usually got it from adults, that as parents we strive to protect our kids not infect them.  Let us see how far that got.  We will see the family again next week.  Nothing surprises me in this profession any more; when the man's wife said the man was treating himself as though he were a doctor, I told him I would get up, he could sit in my chair and dispense medical advice and treatment to all who walked through our doors.

We went to Madurai on Friday to see my Dad.  That was grand fun.  He was, as usual, chairing a clinical meeting; the speaker was his colleague, an excellent internist.  I enjoyed the talk and then we came home, to eat a nice lunch and get caught up on life as we knew it.  We left the next day, returned to Chennai and saw a very good movie, "Billy Lynn's long halftime walk."  It was excellent and sad.  Ang Lee knows how to extract fine performances from his cast: I was impressed by Vin Diesel and Steve Martin, not to mention the horde of youngsters and Garrett Hedlund.

This "nearing menopause stage" or "perimenopause" is weird.  Strange things happen to the body.  Anyone else?

Unw -