Renu's Week

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Report of 13 Feb '05

Hello folks -

I very nearly did not start this report as I got my 151st (or so) No to requests for funding and the mood took a bit of a beating. Then I thought, well I need to snap out of this, so I started writing.

It has been an exhausting weekend. We had to run around getting train tix and plane tix (for our U.S. trip, which all 3 of us are quite excited about); we had used our credit card for the train tix, and the U.S. credit card company always thinks there's fraudulent activity when it sees the card being used in India and cancels it. We have enlightened them ad infinitum that we now live and work here, but no matter. I guess better safe than sorry. Reinstating it is a huge song and dance, and unsuccessful this time. Then Scott and I saw "Alexander." What a dreadful movie. Scott thought it was one of the worst he'd ever seen, which is saying something.

Work at the Banyan is good. The powers there had asked if I could come more often if they sent transport, and I waited to settle the boys in the setting of their father's away job, etc., and then said yes. So this week, a nice, comfy SUV was sent and I went; it was pretty heavenly not having to drive that distance. That day was frenetically busy, and very nice for me as time passed quickly and productively. A couple of staff members also added to the sick list. A young patient there is HIV+ and her child was taken away from her (I think by family) when she was admitted to the Banyan for her mental illness; the Banyan had then arranged for the child to visit and he was expected 2 days later. The young mother's excitement was palpable; she speaks Telugu and only a little Tamil, but she did not need any words to convey to me, a fellow mother, her joy at the prospect of seeing her son. It was a wonderful sight, to watch her beam, and I am supremely glad to be involved w/ such a compassionate organisation. Being a mother also adds a nice dimension to my work.

The tutoring is resurrected! We had 5 poverty-stricken kids last week and it was fabulous. I don't know yet what good we do, but one of the mothers who had been unable to bring her child the last couple of weeks stated that her child had wept, asking to attend our sessions. This child stated during our practicing-spoken-English part that she wanted to be a teacher. The parent also brought a neighbor's kids w/ her and technically, we are not to accept non-complex-servants' kids, but by golly, we cannot turn the little things away. So we are prepared to fight for them, if someone questions us. The teachers, the complex kids, totally love teaching and 'tis a fine, fine sight to watch all the peer learning and teaching. One child to stay out of premature, grinding employment or prostitution - that's all I ask.

So we are putting together this "Speak of this work in the U.S." endeavor, but I am quite realistic about my chances of finding funding, i.e., GRIM. So far, there have been No's to all requests, be they for funding, locums or mini-teaching assignments. I continue to be impressed at the ease w/ which my requests are denied - truly. There is also no glamor, I feel, in an Indian doctor taking care of Indian poor; a foreign doc would probably attract a fair amount of bux for precisely this work but ignorance of resources is also an obstacle for us. However, all it takes is 1 person to believe in this cause. I participated in the Banyan's rural outreach program inauguration, where a film on the founding of the Banyan was screened. The founders spoke of the staggering odds they overcame and their pennilessness: one day, they had Rs. 3.50 (about 8 cents) with them. Does the 8 cents go farther here than there? Absolutely not. They then spoke of all the abuse, revulsion and ostracism their patients had undergone, and that these ladies still not only lived life, but loved it. I thought to myself: who am I to complain? I am not mentally ill, have the 3 Weiss men solidly behind me, I have skills, an education that the lack of registration will never take away from me and I live in my home country. Working gratis is not too bad.

When my brother, Manu, died, I was in counselling w/ a woman who is on this mailing list and I spoke of how isolating grief was and how none of my friends appeared to understand what I was going through. She mentioned that I appeared strong and that my friends probably thought I was just fine. It's the same issue w/ the funding: everyone probably sees my work continuing in spite of zero bucks and thinks I am fine. You know, it would be nice to be paid for my work, so that I could do much more, could take the men out to eat every so often, make concrete plans to honorably start repaying my student loan, take the boys to a movie and not balk at their wanting popcorn and a soft drink, go to American conferences without worrying that a candy bar (50 cents to you, 23 bucks to me) would break my budget. Enough said - therein lies my wish list.

We had lunch w/ some friends from Switzerland who had brought a Swiss tour group along. The group members were, to a person, delightful to talk to, the food was awesome and seeing our friends again was wonderful - what a lovely afternoon. The Swiss folks asked about my work and noticed that people here, even the very poor, seemed very happy. Mais oui - we are a happy people, in poverty or out of. And I am starting to realise more about the former situation than I thought possible; God does work in mysterious ways, doesn't He? No clearer way for me to fully understand my poverty-stricken pts than for me to have a mild dose of it myself.

Ok, time to wind up. Keep those msgs coming!

"Having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain." - Martin Mull


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