Renu's Week

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Report of 9 Jan '05

Hello from Chennai!

The air is comfortable, we had pomagranates w/ our b'fast and soon we will have some inadvertently overspiced noodles for lunch. Our cook is still on maternity leave and the boys have to contend w/ my cooking (which I like to do). Come April and May, tho', when sitting on the balcony is like sitting by a furnace, cooking by a hot stove will take a back seat to simply eating cold mangoes for b'fast, lunch and dinner.

The Banyan is also involved in Tsunami efforts and has had a bunch of donations. We were there this past week and Doug handed over a generous check from his family, friends and himself, for the Banyan's work. Shortly thereafter, he was greeted by a bouquet of roses and as I turned from admiring them, I found I was being given my own (all volunteers were). They were lovely and graced my table for a while. The patients are also healing nicely - a gaping bed sore is now acquiring new skin and healing ("granulating") and we have attempted to help the process along by improving the pt's nutritional intake and having her stay off the bed as much as possible. This is where our outstanding nurse comes in: Leela suggested an appetite stimulant and I concurred. Not having used it at all in the U.S. (the problem is the other extreme there - obesity), I appreciated the suggestion hugely and the pt's intake did improve. It is absolutely wonderful to have good medical assistance. We have to use non-pricey means here - and several work.

By the way, if you want to give to relief efforts here and want to guard against fake orgns (which are springing up everywhere), consider Udavum Karangal at They do great work and are now involved in long-term rehab: rebuilding houses, etc. I contacted them to see if they needed medical help (outlining the lack of registration clearly) and they said they did not, but would keep me in mind for later. Scott's best friend, a wonderfully irreverent sort, told me of the need to include tourists in Tsunami news reports: it sustains Western interests more. I guess so; playing the media is an art form in itself.

We had some children come to be tutored and there were far more tutors than tutees: the ratio being 3:1. When I asked some tutors to please leave, they begged to stay and teach. So we had to triple up, and I suppose that was ok for 1 day, b'cos some teaching WAS indeed going on. At times when the poor students looked intimidated at the sheer numbers of teachers, I had to step in and ask the teachers to be less enthusiastic. There is a very poor family that comes regularly; their regularity merited their being given an umbrella each, which Doug had also brought. Now when it rains, the children have a way of getting to tutoring.

My registration saga is slowly getting on my nerves. Today, my English friend from school days, Clare, phoned; she lives in Bangalore and we were commiserating about bureaucracy. We have even started emailing and phoning the Ministry for some results. One of the senior employees there asked why I had moved from the U.S. and I said it was to take care of the poor. It sounded absolutely lunatic. The powers that be obviously think a totally deranged individual has landed in Chennai to care for the unfortunate poor.

N and N did not pass the entrance test to one of Bangalore's schools (apparently some kind of Gifted program) and Scott is investigating other options. It looks like we will be in Chennai for the time being. The boys attend a school (Abacus) similar to one I attended - small, not academically intense, but definitely catering to all-around devt. Several of us who graduated 27 years ago still keep in touch and it was here and in undergrad college that lasting friendships were made. The boys should have the benefit of such a school, but I told them that academic responsibilities were definitely to be kept in mind. Incidentally, I will start teaching Sex Ed at Abacus this month - I consider this as big a community responsibility as caring for the poor.

Have a good week!

"When the question: 'How old Cary Grant?' was wired to the star's agent, Grant had him reply: 'Old Cary Grant fine. How you?'" - From TELEGRAM! by Linda Ronsenkrantz


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