Renu's Week

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Report of 2 Jan '05 - long

Hello all!

Happy New Year! Hope this year brings you health (#1 in my book) and happiness.

Let me take a deep breath and launch into this report. First of all, thank you very much for all the kind messages that flew here after the tsunami. Yes, Chennai was directly in its path and hard-hit. We had no idea at first how hard, because we were in Madurai celebrating Xmas w/ my parents and all the initial reports mentioned the earthquake. We left for Bangalore on the 26th and then learned of the devastation and massive loss of life. We returned to Chennai on the 31st and found our apartment complex standing and unharmed, which we had not been worried about, but felt the need to assure you of.

When we first house-hunted, the real estate agent showed us some beautiful apartments near the beach. I am a big beach/sea fan and was mildly lured by said flats, but good sense prevailed and we did not rent one of these. Thank goodness.

A cousin's beach house in Kanyakumari (the southern-most point in India) was washed off - my sister and family reached there for a short holiday 3 hours after the tsunami and found this event, along w/ the fact that my cousin's hospital was overrun w/ pts, whom my sister and brother-in-law helped treat. Another cousin's relatives (in-laws) had gone on a pilgrimage to a seaside Christian shrine which has since become secular, and several were killed, leaving one survivor. She mentioned that the bodies (3 of 8) were unrecognizable; the unrecovered family members are missing and presumed dead.

Several of you thought I would have plunged into relief efforts and I was flattered by that thought. Many relief agencies are generating various drives w/ varying results. As we just returned to town, I will investigate some of the more reliable agencies and find out if they need help. I imagine the need for medical help will be ongoing and will renew the push for my registration. Medical school also taught us disaster management, and I will be ticked if these skills languish. Actually, I was once part of a scenario in Emergency Medicine where a simulation of large crowd injuries happened and I remember helping the paramedics dive in while they yelled instructions. Some of that has stuck, and I think will be put to good use. Let's see.

So we are grateful for survival. Regretfully, the reality is that if we are too stupid to control our population, nature tends to even things out. You live in an evenly populated place where the resources are adequate, even abundant, and such disasters can be averted as there are pricey early warning systems in place. I live in an overpopulated country where the resources are so scarce and poverty so prevalent that several families must live on the beach and then be subject to such tragedies. This is why I push for small families and birth control, wanting to ensure that every child can be fed before its parents even think of conceiving it. Harsh it must sound to you, eh? The newspaper had an excellent article by a non-Indian, talking of imperialism still existing in light of the media focusing on the foreign tourists affected in Thailand, etc., and slight mention being made of the hordes of brown people dying. There is a non-Asian child whose mother is missing and pictures of said child make the paper almost daily; certainly, there is pathos in this story, but there is also a vat of pathos in the Asian fisherman holding his dead daughter and crying. Tragedy is tragedy; the fact that there are white victims makes it no more devastating than if there were brown victims alone.

The week before Xmas, I could not send my report out as we were very busy packing and ensuring that everyone's travel schedules and Xmas presents were remembered. We have a young English med student friend, Doug, staying w/ us and he has weathered the chaos well. We also had several local activities to coordinate before we left and a fair amount of necessary socialization to pack in, thus some prioritization needed to be done. With my working gratis, I take off when the kids are off; I still feel fairly guilty that my work schedule is thus, but then think that if my pay schedule is thus (i.e., non-existent), I can call the shots w/ my time to some degree.

Doug and I visited the Banyan and then he went onto some other hospitals. The patients at the Banyan were thrilled to see a white guy loping through and we were happy to provide the entertainment. Of note at the Banyan was my patient w/ a broken hip wanting to go home. The staff is plentifully aware that the pt's family does not want her at home, but compassion prevents all from divulging this. So we say that she must stay w/ us and come across as the villainesses of this piece, but it's better this way.

We also had some children show up for tutoring in spite of recovering from illness. Everyone was happy they came and went out of their way to tutor. As I sat w/ one little child to work on math, she let out a cough that wracked her already frail and thin body. I am not a pediatrician, but the grandmother said she was better and we finished the tutoring, passed out sweets and as a Xmas present to all, gave the boxes of crayons that several of you donated. Thank you for making Xmas meaningful to little kids far away! I daresay that this would have been the only present some of these children got.

Doug, Naren, Navin and I went to Madurai and onto Nagercoil (where my Dad is from) and Kerala. We were happy to see relatives we scarcely see, and these folks are so neat we rediscovered them all over again. We returned to Madurai for Xmas and then Scott and the hordes landed. My parents have 4 children and all are married, w/ my younger brother yet to breed. Thusly, you can imagine 16 of us (Doug bravely in the thick of it) crammed around the table, yelling for the biryani to be passed and picking on my younger brother's eating habits and his mysterious (only to him) weight gain. We opened presents on Xmas morning - as I have said, Xmas is very low key and non-commercial here, which I love. We took a family photograph w/ a professional photographer amid much moaning and complaining, but are happy to have this photo as a record of Xmas 2004.

The Weisses then went onto Bangalore, Doug onto Mysore and Coorg (where my Mom is from) from there. We visited Scott's workplace and it is lovely! Truly a harbor of high intellect and great achievements. Scott's boss and boss's boss (a vice president) joined us for tea, which I consider a mark of their regard for him, and we had a nice visit. We also saw Bangalore's sights, including a marvellous botanical garden where Navin was mugged by a monkey (which grabbed his doggie bag and took one of the 2 packages of food in it - mine, the spicy noodle dish which it did not appear to care for), and checked out some schools. This move vs. non-move will be a big decision for us, considering Chennai's educational system is vastly superior to Bangalore's. I told Scott I'd move to B'lore in a flash if the kids were in college.

We are back, life will resume and the kids have been told about independently taking care of their studies. Naren's grades came up and he acted in a school play, doing pretty darn well. He also privately admitted a romantic attraction for a classmate, and I was honored at the confidence. Navin has also brought home decent grades and appears to be turning his organizational skills around. Both boys are sitting w/ Scott and attempting to rework difficult issues from last term, w/ the need to know the basics reinforced to Naren and school habits reinforced to Navin.

This was longer than usual. There was much to unload about. Have yourself a very happy New Year!

"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." (Author unknown to me)


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