Renu's Week

Monday, April 26, 2010

Report of 26 April 2010

Hello from the affluent United States -

I am sitting in climate-controlled surroundings, I drove my car on good roads this morning, I worked out at the very nice Fishers YMCA at a spinning class taught by my good friend Sid and saw fun friends Natalie, Chris, Mark and Lisa (it was great to start the day with such a workout), and got gas pumped for me by a handsome and very polite young man - nice to live in wealth.

Last week was spent at the most therapeutic home of school friend, Derrick Poppen. We were classmates when we were 10 years old, and parted ways about 5 years later. Derrick lives in Toronto with his wife, Jacquline, and children Aaron and Alisha. We stayed with them, along with one of Derrick's college friends, while I attended the conference of the American College of Physicians, and that was lovely - like staying with family. When one's male friend invites you to stay, you always want to be certain it's okay with the spouse, and Jacquline was hospitality incarnate, with delicious meals daily, and a warm, loving persona. The kids were, in particular, delightful, and were mature and gracious beyond their ages, even corraling their Rottweiler, Robin, while all of us were in the house. Jacquline and Derrick invited another school friend, Sam, and his family for dinner on our last day there, which was very kind; it's been about 20 years since I've seen Sam, and all of us caught up (sometimes in Tamil) with nice reminiscences, and memories of a time when all of us were in school, innocent, close, bonding daily and seeing each other through good times and bad. All in all, a nice break.

At the conference, I was fortunate to meet up with residency classmate Olivia Fondoble, and she considerately put me up for 1 night at her hotel, after a late evening event. Olivia's gentle manner and quiet and powerful sense of humor made for a memorable time. We also got to see med school classmate, Rob Hansen, whom my mother called Rob Handsome. Rob was also a non-traditional student in San Antonio, a wonderful, engaging, loving friend, and our entire families hung out together then. We also saw the fine folks at the American College of Physicians, who are, to a person, kind and good, and that was a treat. Faith Fitzgerald, an internist of formidable repute, has stayed in touch with me for some time, and has never acted like the grand poobah that she is. I was fortunate to meet some other folks, whom I jelled with almost instantly, and look forward to staying in touch with.

We drove back from Toronto, and got grilled at Immigration again. As we waited in the car, in line, I wanted to eat the lunch that the Poppens had packed for us and Scott vetoed it; just as well, because the tandoori chicken on my breath might have freaked out the Immigration chappie. We got to Indianapolis safely, and I went to work this morning for St. V, seeing all my former colleagues again, which was magnificent - lots of squealing, plenty of hugging.

I have never been stressed about travel, but I will breathe easier when Naren walks through the doors at Chicago airport. We have been in touch almost daily, and I think he knows how much I value safe travel. What did my parents go through as we left their doors for places far away, to study or work?

There have been many occasions recently when I have been grateful for my mother's ways. She did not overtly teach, covering her abundant love with a business-like approach, and taught more by example than prattle. I do know now, though, that we were her life: she cooked, sewed, mediated, doctored, taught, entertained, disciplined, loved, sang (very well), danced, drew, painted. We ate her delicious cooking without saying anything; when my gentle husband married into the family, he complimented her cooking routinely and she loved it, often asking him especially if her meatball curry was good, or her stew was tasty, and then urging him to voice it if they were. We never found favor with whining about our friends, and especially not our in-laws or our spouses; she would certainly listen, but the message was clear that in-laws were our husbands' families and that it behove us to get along. Amen. I never heard my mother and paternal grandmother argue; instead, both appeared to be very comfortable in each other's company. So much easier to get along, and to appreciate differences, and to love and laugh; I think it is especially nice when the children know their relatives and can see their strengths for themselves. Her sense of humor, which the boys mention, I miss also. Most of all, though, I am thankful for the fact that she treated everyone with grace and exhibited a lot of class in all her interactions.

Unw -


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Report of 18 April 2010

Hello from West Memphis, Arkansas -

I like travelling here. We spent the last few days with beloved friends in San Antonio, and I spoke at my old school. That talk took a little warming up, on my part; there were new pics of our impoverished, destitute Banyan patients and I thought I rambled a bit. There is a lot of interest at school in free clinics, etc., and I suggested that the enthusiastic young folks charge at least a nominal fee for services, as there is absolutely no appreciation for said services otherwise.

We were fortunate to see former neighbors, Gaby and Lamont, the day we left, and met them and Aurora for b'fast. Aurora cooked, and we filled our stomachs before heading out for Indy. I also feel lucky to have seen former professor Greg Freeman; some of our patients at the Banyan have died in the recent past and as I don't have access to post-mortem, I have to take a best guess at the causes. Greg, a cardiologist of considerable skill, and I discussed the issue in detail, and I have some more clues for prevention and management. I tell you, I completely enjoy being in touch with former profs. Both Linda Johnson and Greg Freeman gave hefty checks for our work in India and that was oh-so touching.

My sister, Anu, is in the U.K. for a meeting, the meeting is over, and she is stuck due to the volcanic ash grounding flights. I feel fortunate that we got here before the groundings. My family at home and I are in regular contact, and I appreciate that tremendously, especially after hearing of other friends whose family relationships border on the acrimonious.

We will be in Toronto next week for the conference of the American College of Physicians, annually a grand show. So much learning packed into 4 days - I like it. We are hoping Naren's flight into the U.S. is as scheduled; Navin mentioned that today. This is the first time that our trip has been staggered thus, and we are hopeful that Naren will join us safely.

Nice to be here. I pigged out on sausage biscuits and gravy this morning - vintage Southern fare - and am sitting here in a sated haze.

Unw -


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Report of 15 April 2010

Hello from the United States -

Tax day today. I look at all the benefits of this taxation - good roads, potable water, affordable food - and I think any country that takes such good care of its citizens is quite worthy.

We flew on the early morning of the 12th. Sitting together is not guaranteed any more, and we had 2 aisle seats, plus one seat across the aisle, which actually worked out very well. Navin was grilled in Frankfurt - "Where were you born? What will you be doing in the U.S.? What is your mother's maiden name?" - and that was a little unnerving for him. The grilling was not unexpected at all, because both boys look Middle Eastern and are in an age group of much interest, and I knew they would be questioned. I was relieved we were alongside, and now I won't rest easy until Naren makes it safely in. The usual tough questioning at U.S. Immigration in Chicago also ensued - "What are you doing in India? What's a medical missionary? How can you afford to do that?" - and this is completely par for the course, but bugs many people when I narrate it, because I am legally entitled to be in this country.

I was dreading flying United, connecting from Lufthansa, but they were great. The flight attendant got us some extra snacks because we were starving. Navin's vegetarian meal came quickly, and he ate well. We were picked up in Chicago by our wonderful friend, Colleen Taber, and we got to the Taber residence comfortably. Dinner that night with the very friendly Mark, Christopher and Colleen Taber - pizza. Navin ate his with an expression of sheer rapture: pizza is an unaffordable treat in India.

Jan, my mother-in-law, came up to Indy the following day and helped us rent a car. That was extremely considerate. We hit the road for Texas, and are here now. I speak at my alma mater tomorrow, and look forward to it. Navin helped me finish the talk, and I am grateful for all with tech savvy. We are staying with former professor Richard Luduena and his wife Linda, and their home and hospitality are fabulous. All feel tremendously welcome, and are relaxing. Navin has gone to see his beloved friend, Arwen Freeman; her mother Aurora picked him up, and we will see all the Freemans tomorrow. We see Linda Johnson, another former professor, for ice cream later tonight, and look forward to her geniality and sense of humor.

At my pre-employment physical 2 days ago, I filled out the medical questionnaire asking for family history, etc. That got a bit difficult, as the change now is that my mother is deceased. I think my mother's passing will continue to manifest in many ways. I now wear a chain that used to belong to her, and I do a double take every time I look in the mirror.

Hope all of you are well.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Report of 5 April 2010

Hello from Chennai -

Butler is in the finals of the NCAA basketball tournament, and I am very excited about the sporting contest. I love watching sports and it is at this time that I miss TV. We hope to find the game at a friend's house. In reading up on the game, on the Internet, I found ads for "Hooters basketball," and buxom scantily-clad women advertising something. It's good that I came upon this; my mindset has to alter pretty quickly to accommodate U.S. mores. When our beloved and talented A. R. Rahman won a Grammy, the photo of him at the awards ceremony showed him in plenty of clothes and the presenter in not-plenty-of-clothes.

The Banyan is doing well, and our patient who had a massive stroke, Ms. SA, is now tracking with her eyes. This is her 2nd stroke, and I'd thought it was insurmountable, but after this eyes business, I have requested the physical and occupational therapist to do intense exercise. I hope for some recovery. Ms. SA's family does not see her, and we are happy to fill in. We paid for the Banyan residents to have a meal, in my mother's memory, and I'd requested "non-vegetarian food," a special treat in our organisation. All had an egg with their meals; I'd hoped for chicken or fish, but I guess that could not be arranged, either for financial or other reasons. I know the residents had been praying for my mother, too, and my mother would have wanted them to eat well.

We spent the weekend in Madurai with my father - yesterday was his b'day. My sister, Anu, had gone the previous weekend, and my sister-in-law Susan, niece Sanjana, brother Vinu, Scott and I met in Madurai this weekend. It was fun. It was Susan's first trip back after my mother's demise, and she was overcome by emotion at various times. The will was read; it is handwritten and brings back nice memories of my mother. Apparently, handwritten wills are the most valid of all, and my father said they hold more water if they are not contested. All of us gaped at each other, wondering who'd contest. It is nice to be in a family where we value each other more than we value bank accounts.

Susan and I tried to clean out various closets that my mother had stored things in. Some of that we got through; her nighties and duster coats were divided, and many boxed up to be given to charity. My mother's sari cupboard was more difficult: so many beautiful saris, each evoking powerful memories of my mother. We took what we wanted, and locked the cupboard again. I figure we'll try again in a couple of months. I brought home a robe my mother used often, and now looking at it brings back strong memories, along with the stark realisation that my mother is not here. I put the robe at the back of my closet.

It was nice to hang out with the family. We overate, and talked and laughed. Especially laughed. It was good, and therapeutic. I feel like there are a lot of people leaning heavily on me, and feel sometimes that I don't have enough strength for all; thus, laughing up a storm on the weekend helped immensely.

Unw -