Renu's Week

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Report of 27 Mar '05

Could life be better? My handsome spouse is sitting by me reading the paper and drinking tea, clothes are drying on the line outside and the boys are trying to study for their exams. School exams here are very rigorous and the boys have spent a fair amount of time studying, to be fair to them.

We just saw the last of our brunch guests off. My widowed sister-in-law, Susan, and her kids are here; my brother, Vinu, and his family joined us; my sister, Anu, and b-i-l are passing through Chennai today en route back from Singapore (a conference) and my aunt and uncle joined us as well. It was lovely to have everyone here, and to get the cooking done ahead of time. (Our cook has elected not to return yet - I think she's a mite ticked w/ me b'cos I did not give her the hefty loan she asked for; so be it, I do have to juggle finances now.) Anyway, ostensibly, several factions of the fam are not totally at ease w/ each other and sometimes I get requests not to invite certain relatives, blah blah; I invite whom I want to invite, and enjoy everyone's company. Anu is expecting a professional contact today, whom she's going to work with; this man discovered that the mortality rate from suicides in Sri Lanka was reduced after he diluted the pesticides, which both Anu and I decided was brilliant. It is nice to meet others professionally, esp when they have such good ideas; I totally look forward to the conference of the American College of Physicians where not only will I stay w/ a great friend, we'll also hear some good talks.

Yesterday, as we were sitting down to a burger lunch w/ our just-arrived guests, the phone rang. It was Leela, the nurse from the Banyan. One of the patients there had just had her cataract operation done a couple of weeks ago and had developed a fever this week. I wanted her evaluated in the hospital, esp as she's a post-op case, and that was not done. When I returned 2 days later, she still had fever and was not better. This lady's uterus was almost completely outside her body (called "prolapse") and both the other doc and I wanted the uterus removed. The hospital had told us to bring her next week for the uterus removal ("hysterectomy"), and in the meantime she developed this fever. She was taken to the hospital this week and transferred to the ICU where she died. Leela was devastated and wracked with guilt; she felt the outcome would have been different had we sent the pt to the hosp earlier. I spent many minutes on the phone, leaving Scott to deal w/ rambunctious guests and the burgers, assuring Leela the outcome was not her fault; that this might have happened even if the pt had been sent to the hosp earlier; that I was calmed by the thought that the pt's last days were spent in warm and welcoming surroundings, that she was cared for by people who truly wanted her comfort, that she did not die alone and abandoned on the streets, which is the lot of many mentally ill people. I then asked Leela how old she thought the pt was (i think she was over 60) and Leela, in her mid-20's, said the oldest number she apparently could think of: "I think she was over 40, doctor." All my 41 yo bones creaked audibly just then.

Udavum Karangal is fine. They asked me if I could go for a Hepatitis B vaccination camp today. One of the greatest things about working gratis is that I don't have to go in on the weekends, and can enjoy the fam, esp my decidedly witty husband. So I declined. I did not feel one whit bad about it. Sailakshmi continues to come to UK and that is fun for me.

The tutoring is good. The students learn in Tamil, the local language, and none of us can read it well enough to comprehend the textbooks, so we had to enlist the help of a retired neighbor w/ a math lesson. Thank goodness she came through. The little girl who wanted math help said, "The teacher did teach us this, but I did not understand it." I was touched by her earnestness and her desire to learn; please, Lord, let us have this kid for a while, that we may educate her and tell her of her worth, that she may not tolerate a man beating her or her parents selling her into the sex trade, that she may earn as an adult and provide for her family as best as she can, that she never lose this desire to succeed.

We were at the beach yesterday w/ our boys and their cousins, and apparently some teenage girls placed themselves next to our boys, which Susan and Scott saw immediately but I did not as I was minding my 6 yo niece, Sanjana. These fellows had no clue and did not appear to care, but Anu's son said later that he was flattered. I loved the candor. As my niece and I waded, a little girl selling balloons came up; I said I did not want any, and she said, "Please, akka (a term of respect meaning older sister)." So I bought one. As I headed to Scott to get the cash, he told me that I was causing the child to be at the beach and not at home studying. I told the child what Scott had said and that he was angry w/ me, asked if she went to school and she said yes, she was in 4th grade, that she had not done her homework yet and then she started crying. It ripped me apart. When I was 8, I came home from school, had a snack (a mini-meal called "tea"), played cricket w/ the neighborhood boys and then did homework, ate dinner w/ my parents and sibs, and went to bed. This child was 2 years older than my niece; she could not romp in the waves w/ her aunt, she had to defer homework, she was cared for by adults who made her work and take money home.

I am aware that I have made various requests (help w/ locums, funding, booking tickets there when the Internet does not come through) of people and must apologise to you if you feel my messages are politically incorrect and that I am asking for too much. There is no excuse for offence and my sincerest apologies if you feel I am inconveniencing you. As I lay in bed one day and thought of the state of affairs here - no funding, no registration, no locums - I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and headed to the Banyan. That always helps restore perspective. My registration may be getting considered - finally the Medical Council of India has replied, but there is much to be done yet sans bribing. This saga is just beginning, fully a year after I applied for registration.

Well, let me wind up w/ apologies again. Sometimes, this work is very isolating; it is, however, very rewarding and when the Banyan asked if I could come more often, I was phenomenally honored. As weird as this year has been w/ the lack of funding, regn, blah blah, it has also been one of the most fortunate for me as Scott got a job w/ Infosys (, the premier IT company in India which has just been named India's Best Managed Company, among other accolades. As a spouse who put his career on hold for 8 years so that I could go to med school and finish training and then move to India to care for the abysmally poor, he is truly a pillar of support and someone I wish the best for, always.

"I feel a very unusual sensation - if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude." - Benjamin Disraeli

Best to you,


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