Renu's Week

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Report of 26 June 2011

Hello from our living room -

My very intelligent husband is here reading the paper, one son is at the gym, the other is at a puja (Hindu worship ceremony); we have many sweet and luscious mangoes in our fridge, and life is good.

We think of our Australian holiday with great nostalgia, and Naren has admired the public transport system in Sydney. Scott, with his usual meticulous attention to detail, figured out which bus and train we needed to get to our destination and we boarded accordingly. I am not a big one for reading things; our neighbor in San Antonio, Aurora Freeman, used to quote her teacher saying, "When all else fails, read the directions," and Scott does that splendidly.

I went back to work this week and it has been magnificent. My friend, Emily McNellis, has darling twins who contributed to sending the B a giant bag of candy and it has been extremely well-received. My friend, Tiffany Anthony, whom I was fortunate to catch online just now, sent along some clothes for the B and a couple of bottles of perfume for me; I gave the perfume to the 2 senior health care workers (hcw's) at the B, who work their hearts out for the B and for me, and they were delighted. "Foreign" gifts are always giant treats. All the hcw's and I met and talked, and I have an idea how things are going with them. This is extremely important to me. At the 2nd meeting, I took some laddus (somewhat expensive Indian sweets) and at the end of the meeting, I reached into my bag; on hearing the rustle of plastic paper, there were murmurs of "Chocolate!," and Anjali, one of the two senior hcw's, quickly changed her position and came charging to take a seat near the front. It was very funny. I adore these young ladies, and we share many occasions together. When my mother was ill, there were organised prayers from the B - coordinated by the then-senior coordinator, Vanitha. I greatly appreciated this.

The B's patients are well. A couple of long-standing patients have died in my absence and I miss them. We also no longer have a physical therapist, so gait training for our weak and frail patients is languishing. If they fall, they sustain a fracture as nearly all have brittle bones; so, it is to everyone's benefit if these folks can maintain a steady gait. One of the younger patients is a pharmacy student and she came by to say Hi to me; I like the fact that this young woman is studying and I asked how things were going. She's got 3 papers left to finish in August, and then she's a pharmacist. Her family life is not ideal, with her father and stepmother not wanting her home; no worries, she can be with us! I am waiting for the day when she passes and gets her degree.

The cosmos righted itself when I got to the B. It is a magnificent place to work. Our very capable nurse, Leela, had a gift for me - some fabric to make a salwar kameez (the loose pants and tunic that many of us wear) - and that was lovely. We had attended Leela's son's baptism and had a grand time.

We also had a giant surprise party for Navin's 18th b'day (he almost had to pick his jaw off the ground when he saw his 30+ friends) and attended the wedding of the brother of one of Naren's close friends, KK. I love the fact that we (Scott and I) are considered friends as well, and the boys and I danced my heart out (the boys were not really in a dance-y mood but obliged me); my salsa lessons failed me when KK and I danced, but he was gracious. Anu, my sister, stopped by on Sunday morning, en route back to Vellore from Delhi; Anu is a hot-shot researcher and is in trials with a lot of people, some supported by the Gates Foundation. It was good to see her and we (Weisses) were up to our elbows making pasta salad, but stopped enough to chat. I spoke to my father, and he was frightfully busy, which is good. Today, our whole family caught a movie (made by Vandana's husband Senthil's business partner) and then we came home to clear out a fridge full of leftovers. I had made the usual dreadful chocolate pudding, which the men ate with gusto. I do wonder at their palates. We discussed the movie at length; I love listening to the men's opinions. I do believe it is because we don't have a TV that we have raised thinking, discerning children. Having said that, I so miss watching sports.

Today's Scott's Mom's b'day and Scott has phoned and wished her. My mother-in-law is a good and fun person, with a solid sense of perspective and giant sense of humor, and I feel very privileged to be a part of that family. Unfailingly, my mother-in-law puts her own wants behind those of her children, and I am continually impressed by that.

It's a good life. Good work, nice family, loving extended family, fabulous friends.

Unw -


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Report of 19 June 2011

Happy Father's Day!

It's not a holiday celebrated in India, so Scott had to settle for verbal wishes and no gifts. In a prior life, the boys would have scrounged something up from our pantry (cookies or candy), wrapped it and handed it over, but the young men are now grown.

We are back from Sydney and had a spectacular time there. It was winter, and all of Sydney was apologetic for it, but I love the cold and we had left 100 degree heat here, so to loaf (roam) about in cold weather was great. We normally wander frenetically from 1 place to another (we did 8-9 countries in Europe in 14 days), but this time chose to stay put in Sydney and are glad we did. Andrew Penman booked our lovely accommodation and we cooked Indian food at his house, choosing this option over taking him out to eat. His wife, Rosemary, was in New Zealand, had to stay longer due to the volcanic ash and we were sorry to have missed her; his daughter, Meredith, joined us and that was grand fun. Meredith is a stage actress and she and Naren had a lot to talk about. All of us laughed a lot through dinner - everyone at the table being wonderfully opinionated - and that evening was memorable. Andrew speaks fluent Hindi and I do not.

The Centre, the bed and breakfast we stayed at, was well-connected to public transportation. The staff were, to a person, lovely and helpful. This added to our fine time there. The beaches of Sydney were not novel to us, as we live on the coast, but there were some fine sights to see. And scenic walks. And plenty of good food and chocolate to gorge on.

It was also great to see Kalpana (nicknamed Bugs), my friend from college days (over 30 years!), and her husband, Suresh. We spent a day with them, and cooked and talked and laughed. There is something singularly therapeutic about being with friends from long ago - a certain familiarity that has one saying things like, "Okay, we are taking the rest of this food back to the B and B," and "Can I raid your sambar powder as we are cooking a meal for some friends?" We went to a lovely park near their house where we got to pet koalas and kangaroos, and the boys will remember that for life. Bugs handed the boys a generous amount of cash - as close relatives will - and the boys bought some special treats with that. I think that, too, will be remembered :).

We are back, safe and sound. The service on Qantas was dreadful and even simple requests - a snack, a soft drink - appeared to be insurmountable obstacles. When Naren, in his newly-found adult role, and I complained to the in-flight supervisor, the man got irate, blaming Qantas management for the flight being understaffed. There are various ways of handling feedback, are there not. There are also repercussions to being understaffed.

We talked to my Dad yesterday - checking in - and he is well. He was in Kanyakumari, inaugurating a conference on Maxillofacial surgery and having a great time. I am glad he is active and gets about. He is inaugurating something else today, in Madurai.

I will be back at the Banyan on Tuesday and look forward to it.

Unw -


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Report of 13 June 2011

Hello from Sydney, Australia -

We are on holiday here and Dr. Andrew Penman, a member of the American College of Physicians and the CEO of the New South Wales Cancer Centre has found us a wonderful bed and breakfast here. We have seen old friends, Kalpana and Suresh Rao, spending a spectacular day with them; seen the Sydney Opera House and the Talonga Zoo; and met Andrew and his daughter, Meredith, for a very lovely dinner last night. Both Andrew and Meredith are firm fans of reaching out to the marginalised, Meredith as a stage actress and Andrew in his role.

Medicine has taken a bit of a backseat, except for treating the men off and on. Australia is nice, it is winter here and everyone is apologetic about the cold and wet weather. However, we left 100 degree heat and 80% humidity and no airconditioning, and I have run the last 3 mornings here, marvelling at the fact that I am not sucking wind 45 seconds into the run. It has been lovely and cold.

More after we return to Chennai -


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Report of 6 June 2011

Hello from exhaustion -

A couple of late nights in a row - would not have fazed me 20 years ago - and I am distinctly fatigued and feeling unwell this morning. Yeesh.

Our fun patient, Ms. M, has died. She was the one who always used to ask about my husband and if he was still with me. Her own husband had left her and the Banyan had gone after him to pay her a monthly allowance. He did, and Ms. M was one of the wealthiest at the B, many getting no money at all from families that abandon them. Ms. M was diabetic, and I have to guess at her cause of death, as a post-mortem is not a viable option for our patients. Not for the expense, but because the request for a post-mortem has to cast blame on someone (either at the hospital or at the Banyan) - which entails the police landing, demanding a bribe, etc.

As always, I am grateful that Ms. M died surrounded by people that loved her and cared for her, instead of on the streets. Hema, our intrepid person in charge of Friends of the Banyan, U.S.A., had sent Ms. M a big sheet of stickers and Ms. M was thrilled! She told me the sheet was the size of a big photograph and was very pleased; the stickers are now stuck on the walls of the sick room, including the wall near Ms. M's bed, and sure do brighten up the place. Thank you, Hema, for making our day and that of one of our patients.

We were in Madurai last week to see my Dad and that was lovely. My Dad and I have long, philosophical talks about all matters, and also chats about the profession. The cook at my parents' house, Ms. A, is expecting a baby in August and the bangle ceremony had taken place some days prior at her in-laws' place. This is a ceremony where many glasa bangles are placed on the expectant mother's arms - for many purposes, such as that the other occupants of the house are alerted by the jingle of the bangles that the expectant mother is approaching (so no one barges into her) and so that the baby hears music. After this ceremony, the young wife is taken to her parents' house so that she gets to rest a bit (away from the chores of the in-laws' house) and nourishes herself prior to delivery. My father had brought Ms. A back, and she was pleased; I told her our house was indeed her house as well, and that I was glad her ceremonies had gone well. She brought me her ultrasound report, and I assured her and her husband that all was well; it is nice to have the knowledge to read and interpret such reports. Ms. A asked if the ultrasound showed the gender of her baby; it cannot, by law, and those tell-tale pictures are removed to attempt to thwart the practice of female foeticide.

We were at a friend's brother's wedding yesterday and that was fun. KK is actually Naren's friend, but he is now a friend of the whole family. My salsa knowledge has faded almost totally and I could not get my rhythm when KK kindly obliged me to dance. So embarrassing. The Weiss men did not want to dance, but Naren also kindly danced with me when I wanted to dance to "La Bamba," and such.

We will take a short holiday starting tomorrow and then I will return to work on 20 June.

Unw -


Friday, June 03, 2011

Report of 3 June 2011

Hello from our breezy living room!

It has been a busy couple of weeks - watching Navin row in the regatta and win a couple of prizes; attending a wonderful family wedding in Bangalore; hearing Navin sing at a concert organised by his voice teachers; celebrating a couple of family b'days; seeing Naren in a play. Medicine has been interspersed with these occasions.

The wedding in Bangalore was of my mother's cousin's daughter. My mother was of the "Pattada" family, and so is this cousin. So the Pattadas were out in force and it was great to see everyone. We stayed with my sister-in-law, Susan, and that was merry: sleeping bags and a late morning, plenty of fruit and being taken out to eat by Susan. She has received a big promotion at work and is in charge of a prestigious project for Johnson and Johnson, so the meal was a grand celebration. My father was with us, also, and that was fun; it was nice for all the cousins (our kids and their ilk) to meet at the wedding and subsequently one faction to continue the fun at lunch the next day. I tremendously appreciate the chance to be in touch with family.

Navin's regatta was fun and he rowed well; I love the chance to see our sons perform - on the sports field or on stage. His concert was also nice. Yesterday, we saw Naren in a play called "The word of God," and he was good, as was the whole cast. We will see it again 2 more times. Birthday celebrations with family were at local restaurants and those were grand fun, with available sibs and nephews and spouse and kids.

On return to Chennai, my cousin Sheila phoned. I had to treat her for a small medical issue, and then we discussed what they were doing for their maid's child. The little one has a hole in her heart, and Sheila and her husband, Sunil, have run around getting all the paperwork necessary for the child to have free surgery under a Government scheme. We will know the outcome (about the funds being sanctioned) next week and hope for the best. I commended Sheila for the wonderful interest she was taking in the child's case. Truly, there is something so rewarding about doing for the poor. Sheila is a dear, and though our parents (my mother and her father) did not talk to each other, I appreciate the fact that the cousins have kept in touch.

Where would be without family, and close friends.

Unw -