Renu's Week

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Report of 20 Jan '11

Hello from my living room -

We have closed the balcony door to keep away the mosquitoes, but a gentle breeze is blowing and it is about 70 degrees outside. Many friends from the U.S. have written of their cold state.

I keep up with the Banyan by phone, and field results of blood tests, etc. 5 patients have died since I left, and I know the cause for 3. It is at times like this that I wish access to a post-mortem was within our grasp: if I knew why the others died, I could do a bit more in the prevention arena. But, as I have said before, we can't order a post-mortem here without insinuating blame, and then the police will try to extract a bribe from the institution where the death occurred, etc. Needless hassle.

That the Banyan exists is a source of great joy for me. Especially when I watch the women eat, I bless Vandana and Vaishnavi for ensuring safe sanctuary and food for those whom their families have cast aside, or whom mental illness has wrecked, or whom poverty has rendered ostracised. I often feel a tremendous sense of blessing when I treat these folks as it is a privilege to do for them. Also, there is very little competition and hurry and bluster - I can take my time, do the prevention bit, teach the health care workers about the patients and themselves, gab with the senior coordinators, check in on our older patients. It was even better when a Canadian volunteer trained some of our residents in massage, in preparation for sending them out for employment; I used to willingly pay for experimental massages by these ladies and it was fabulous.

Some fun times last week. Vandana's 40th b'day was 17 Jan, and she had a party on 16 Jan. Scott was out of town, and the boys and I went. Vandana, her husband, Senthil, and Vaishnavi made us feel welcome and important. The boys were in sherwanis - traditional Indian clothes (bought in Bhopal), consisting of pants gathered at the ankles and long tunics, along with a stole worn around the neck - and looked nice. We saw several people at the party that we know and like (that's one of the pleasures of working at the B, too, and Vaishnavi's parents are singular joys in this regard), and as we went to dinner, saw that the dance floor was empty and a hopeful DJ spinning some tunes. Navin, often painfully shy but kindly willing to join me, and I danced, and then others joined in, freeing Navin up to hold up the wall with a friend. Naren then danced, also, with his girlfriend and her mother and all of it was fun. I like this pair of ladies a lot, and we spent a very nice evening, mostly dancing and yelling to be heard.

The boys and I went to breakfast on Sunday, and it was nice to sit and talk and laugh. As the boys morph into adulthood, I continue to enjoy their opinions and chatter. At one point during a meal, one son said, "Can you imagine someone being scared to tell their parents they're gay?," and the other said, "Yeah, really." And that was nice, that they know us enough to know that such disclosures would not cause our world to split apart.

Chennai Sangamam, the street festival of folk arts, was on last week and Navin and I caught a show or 2. Naren was busy with college stuff, but did manage to join us for the aforementioned breakfast.

The annual conference of the American College of Physicians is coming up, and it is always a great show, full of learning. However, the fare to get there is hefty and I am on the prowl for speaking opps, etc. Someday, work with the destitute will get the attention it deserves; none of us is under any illusion that it will get the finances it so desperately needs. But the work, undoubtedly, will go on - enriching us, more often, than the patients.

Unw -



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