Renu's Week

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Report of 31 May '09

Hello from our living room -

"Walk like an Egyptian" is playing, a cold mango has been eaten, Scott is at Tamil class, each son is hanging out with his respective friends until 9.30 PM and it is time for me to write.

The past weeks have been filled with Naren applying to colleges. The top tier of colleges is thunderously difficult to get into in India, due to the overpopulation and the wealth of abundantly qualified students. Plus the quota system. Naren's top choice is a Catholic college, and they will not immediately consider him, in spite of his excellent grades, as he is not Catholic. He has qualified to get into journalism at an excellent college here - Madras Christian College, long considered a bastion of good academics and gentleman-molding - and we are happy. He is waiting to see if he will get into Visual Communication, or Vis Com, his top choice.

Navin starts next week at The School - KFI (Krishnamurthy Foundation of India). He will study science and math, and is mulling over studying Law in college. The kids must do what they want to do. This viewpoint is not very popular in traditional Chennai, where many kids are pushed into engineering, or medicine (this last especially by doctor parents). The last thing we want to do to our kids is to push them into a course of study where they'd be unhappy, and so we will let them choose what they want - as long as they study. Heading to films - Naren's top choice a year or 2 ago - is an okay option after he finishes a post-graduate course; we certainly don't want to tell him not to enter films, but not now.

Last week had some fun, fun times. Both boys' classes were here for a huge party. Our cook was a no-show that day, and so Navin and I made French toast (called Bombay toast here) and kesari (sweet made with cream of wheat), and Naren made sandwiches. It was nice to get the food done together, and all the kids appeared to have a good time; when leaving time came around, we still had a living room full of kids. Oh well. My sister, Anu, came into town to shop (en route to Paris and the U.K.), she bought me lunch, we hung out for some time, shopping and laughing, and the bonhomie and camaraderie were magnficently rejuvenating. That night, we went to Madurai by a train that was supposed to have been in Chennai at 8.30 PM (arriving from Kolkata, near where a cyclone had hit); it got here at 2.30 AM, left at 3 AM, we were in Madurai at 3 PM, and had to return by the 9 PM train. A hectic day, but it was wonderful to see my folks and my older brother's kids who were in Madurai for a holiday. It was nice to veg out with my warm, funny, loving parents and discuss the family; a relative had had a melt-down at my parents' 80th b'day celebrations, which many of you wrote lovely wishes for, and that confounded everyone. I tell you, there are just lots of benefits to keeping the mouth shut, aren't there; Scott knows this well, I am just learning it. I attempted to pacify the parents, explain said relative's motives and sort of tide over the situation. Then it was time to see our beloved friend, Leila Kurien, bask in her luminous personality, and leave.

There has not been much patient contact, as time has been consumed by kids' issues. I did get to the vegetable market and try to treat some people. The tomato man's wife has been without a period (amenorrheic) for 3 months and he wants "tablets" for her. I asked if she'd been sterilised, which usually happens in India after the birth of the second child (this couple has 2 kids) and he said No; I will direct him to the local Government clinic for management. Our country is so desperately overpopulated and some folks are so abysmally poor that I advocate birth control - and post-2-child sterilisation - avidly. We are not going to be able to share our resources if we do not plan our future generations wisely.

We spent the weekend at a resort by the beach and it was lovely. The boys sat in our airconditioned room after swimming and watched TV (unavailable at home) and ate junk food; Scott and I hung out on the beach, talked, watched the waves and revelled in the sea breeze.

Unw -


Friday, May 22, 2009

Report of 22 May 2009

Hello from our living room in Chennai, in a very mango-sated environment -

It is nice to be back. Yes, it's hot - about 95 degrees, but the best mangoes are out. The flight back was uneventful, and that's the best thing that can be said about a flight. I ate British chocolate (I flew British Airways) until it came out my ears, and was screened for swine flu at the airport. This made me very happy, because for years, Third World travellers with suspected health conditions were singled out for attention at Western airports. Time to return the favor. I did have a slight cough, but no fever and did not note troublesome symptoms on my health history form.

I had some magnificent interactions before I left: John and Mandy Sparzo hosted a very lovely, relaxed dinner where I saw my irreverent friend, Jeremy Kirk; Mother's Day was spent with my fun, rambunctious in-laws and I managed to visit grandparents as well; I saw Carolyn Scanlan in a most entertaining production of "Fiddler on the Roof" and had a companionable, delicious dinner with Shilpa and Ravi Mallur after; Boni Hypes, Tammie Horkay, Ruth Ranalletta and I got together for spaghetti at Boni's house and their company was magnificently therapeutic, as always (my wardrobe is richer for it, too, due to hand-me-downs); Carolyn Scanlan's parents, LuBea and Earl, hosted a speaking engagement for me en route to O'Hare airport and I enjoyed speaking about the Banyan, the Scanlans' warm, loving, all-encompassing presence, and some great food. I have brought back some nice memories with me.

The boys' exam results are out. 79% for Navin, with a sundry 80 and 90 (computers) here and there; 86% for Naren with a 95 in math. These are exceedingly difficult exams, especially Naren's, and he was very happy with his performance. Nice to see the confidence level increase. We bought a big box of sweets and went to thank Naren's math tuition teacher; apparently the man had singled out Naren to be tough on, but it paid off richly. Navin heads to Naren's alma mater for 11th and 12th grades, and Naren is hopeful of college admission (very, very difficult to get into the top tier in India).

I have not done a whole lot of patient contact in India, hanging out the whole time with the men. (Our cook wanted her nephew treated for a cold (antibiotics and plenty of warm fluids, said I), and I was honored that she trusted me enough to bring the next generation to me.) We saw "Milk," and enjoyed it. The best part of a movie is the post-movie discussion: our sons often have extremely insightful opinions and delightful comments, and I enjoy them. For instance, I was a bit horrified and fearful at the public displays of affection between Milk and his partner, because it can truly invite the wrath of many, but the boys stated that such wrath is solely geographically-dependent. We also saw a Tamil movie and loved it; it was wholesome and funny, and I like the boys to improve their Tamil.

Time's flying, and before I know it, I will be on the plane headed to the U.S. for a locum. I welcome the chance to soak up some learning, enjoy some rapport with my patients, eat salad and watch movies, and make a little money.

Unw -


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Report of 7 May '09

Hello from the Carmel public library -

Every time I am here, newly from India, I affirm that every country ought to treat its citizens thusly - with public libraries, good roads, drinking water from the faucet.

This morning, I ran at the gym for 30 minutes and the machine said I'd burnt 180 calories. One little square of chocolate can undo all of that. 30 minutes and 180 calories??? I'd hoped for a good 600 calories at least. But alas, not to be, not at the speed I run.

I have been rounding at St. Vincent, my residency alma mater, with Dr. Robert Love. It is good fun and I ask all the questions I want. It is a treat for me to soak up medical info from those more brilliant than I, so this week has been great.

Last week's interactions included my med school biochem professor, Richard Luduena, and his wife and daughter, Linda and Sara. I spent one night in their lovely, book-filled house, and Sara joined us for dinner that night, which was a treat. Linda dropped me at the airport the next day, and I flew to Albuquerque to see our friend, Greg Brown. Greg's been to India multiple times and is quite enamored of the place, and is great company. I spoke at his residency program and met his very cool program director, Ann Gateley, also an alumnus of our med school. On arrival in Indiana, Olivia Fondoble and her parents, Rhonda and Glenn, picked me up and took me out for dinner - that was a big treat, as the company was so great. I got to the Tabers' that night - my home away from home - and it was nice to see Christopher, Colleen and Mark. On Sunday, Colleen and I went shopping so that I could get that dreaded task out of the way, with some fun company. We also caught up with Carolyn Scanlan and her mother, LuBea, which was rejuvenating.

We saw the movie "Wolverine" so that I could salivate every time Mr. Jackman came on screen.

This week, I was very privileged to see Kris Rea and Gabe Soukup, and their daughters. We had a delicious meal, punctuated by loud laughter every few minutes, and that was memorable. I have long held Kris and Gabe in high esteem, for overcoming trying circumstances in prior lives, and for being remarkable individuals.

Patient care is fun, for the most part. This week, I had to tell a lady who had recovered from a near-fatal pneumonia, that it was in her best interest to stop smoking. As I told her that she seemed very nice, and the world could benefit a little longer from her presence, all of a sudden her relative was hugging me. And thanking me for telling the lady that. Hugs are nice. I imagine it makes a difference when someone in a white coat and with a stethoscope around the neck says something with regard to a person's health. All in a day's work for us, but apparently very important to patients and their friends and family.

Unw -