Renu's Week

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Report of 15 Nov '10

Hello from the B -

Our car is in the workshop and I took the train today. 7.15 AM is reasonably the last train that won't be packed, though the 7.35 one is bearable too; I like heading off early, so these timings work for me. I took a 9 AM train once, after dropping off my visiting father at the airport, I think, and part of my bod was hanging outside the compartment; a fellow passenger looked at me with great concern and tried to squeeze me in, however, there are just so many sardines you can pack in a can. Overpopulation is alive and well in India.

The city is well-connected, though; sans car, all of us have managed to get where we needed to go, sometimes with a little getting up earlier, or walking some more, or adjusting responsibilities a bit.

I walked through the open-air slum to get here. It had rained earlier, and I imagine all the occupants scrambled to get into the station and shelter. The rain stopped by the time I reached Chetpet, and the slum folks were back in the slum. These are not Tamil-speaking people, and I think they are part of the vast migration of folks coming to Tamil Nadu to seek work: we are a safe state, thank goodness and knock on wood, with plenty of religious tolerance and a fairly robust economy. I did notice a non-Tamilian person begging at the station, and it is a shame that that is considered an option for livelihood. But let's not discriminate, shall we; there are plenty of Tamilian beggars, too. There was an article by Harsh Mander, a prominent social worker, in yesterday's paper and he talked about how wretched impoverished parents felt when they could not feed their kids. I understand this very well: when I watch the family eat, I am always eternally grateful that we can afford to. Even the dreadful mac and cheese, and the pudding that must be made from scratch (dissolve gelatin, boil milk, dissolve cocoa and sugar, mix the 2 liquids - milk and gelatin-water) give joy, and it's nice that we can afford the food we like to eat. I remember my mother and I sharing this sentiment.

When I crusade for women to limit breeding to 2, I use the example of breaking an idli (a steamed rice patty) into 6 pieces versus 4, and speak of how increased numbers of people translates to less food for each person. It's variably successful. Why don't I target men? It does not elicit the same response that targeting women does, as the Grameen Bank found out long ago: lend to women, they take care of the families; lend to men, not quite the same result.

The B is doing well. Our patient, Ms. Ma, was doing very well at work and has now had a relapse. She is belligerent, picks fights, is unhappy and not the same person she had evolved to be. She's the one who followed me into the sick room last week, and I asked for special permission for her to stay. An attempt had been made to rehabilitate her last year, and the team managed to reach her village and locate her family (no mean feat, I assure you - especially the long train journey, where the staff take turns staying alert even at night so that a resident does not get down at a station en route and wander off), and then the mother said she would not take her back. It was pretty heart-rending, and Ms. Ma came back thoroughly torn; the psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other staff worked overtime to reinstate Ms. Ma's self-esteem and I think it might be working. She must recover from this relapse of her psychiatric illness, and we can get her to be productive and happy again.

Productive and happy - the name of the Banyan's game. When we treat a woman's illness and give her earning power, all manner of happiness happens: improved self-esteem, self-confidence, a notion that she can solve her problems herself, take care of the family, etc., etc. Nice.

Navin's school trip to the hills (Kodaikanal) was cancelled due to landslides and so, he and Naren were coaxed to dance at our complex's Children's Day celebrations. I appreciated the accommodation the boys made, dancing to a pulse-pounding, joyously exuberant Tamil film song, and then Naren fled to act in his play. We had seen it earlier, and had enjoyed it. The boys continue to get into arguments with us with regularity, but I'd rather they do that and communicate and share, than do other things with their anger. We saw a Tamil film ("Mynaa") and had lunch together, and enjoyed that; as we sat talking over lunch, we asked our favorite water if we could dawdle a bit over the meal, and he said, "Of course, we close at 11 PM." And all laughed.

Unw -



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