Renu's Week

Saturday, December 31, 2011

And this is why I became a physician.

We are back at the Banyan and it has been grand. 4 med students from my alma mater, the University of Texas Health Science Cent er at San Antonio, are working with us and they are a fun, idealistic bunch. Today, there is a cyclone (typhoon) afoot, with heavy rains and gusting winds, and all of us are staying put indoors.

Naren's computer won't let me access my blog site, and there is erratic Internet access from work, so let me email for now and I'll get my trusty husband to post this on the blog site.

Work has resumed in earnest. Every day, at the time we reach the B, there is a scheduled powercut. So, all 5 of us sit in the lobby from 8 to 9 AM, talking about various things and having patients come and sit with us and simply share the time. The other day, Ms. E, a new resident, joined us. She spoke of having been sold into the sex trade by her brothers when she was in the 8th grade, and having had 2 children, subsequently marrying; her husband committed suicide a year ago and she came to the Banyan. She gestured with her finger to the side of her forehead when asked why she came; we do not encourage labelling or derogatory gestures, and I asked that she simply address her ailment as a mental illness. She talked, and it appeared to benefit her to talk. She smiles widely daily, and greets us with great gusto, and I am impressed, again, that the human spirit can heal so well. I am grateful, again, to work in a place like the B, which would so enable torn spirits to mend.

You know, my brothers and I had wild spats growing up, but selling into the sex trade - aiya, no. As I mentioned at my most recent locum assignment, I do this work (with the destitute) for myself - that I return home and look at the four walls and roof of my apartment and feel grateful; that I hug my husband and sons and think that being able to see them is a big bonus; that I eat rice and egg curry and veges, topping it off with some yogurt, and tear into some sugarcane later, and think how fortunate I am that we can afford the food we like to eat.

The weeks in the U.S. were fine and the journey back was more aggravating than most times. Normally, I relax on the plane and watch movies and eat junk and sleep and gab away with the flight attendants; this time, I was irritated by every possible thing.

Christmas was spent in Chennai with available family gathering at my house. The med students joined us and that was fun. We went around the table, expressing appreciation for various things, and Naren waited for me to get teary. We read out a commendation to my father - he was awarded "Plastic Surgeon of the Year" by the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India - and since awards so float his boat, we re-celebrated. I missed my mother quite a bit, she would have loved the gathering and the food. The students had lovely gifts for me: a giant tin of cookies, which we opened in the evening, and a stocking full of very cool stuffers - tea, mints, candy, etc. I cooked much of the Christmas meal, making it a brunch and predominantly non-Indian food; that was fun. I would pay a lot of money for a salad right about now. We went out to eat a couple of days after Christmas, and that was nice; the owner of the restaurant stopped to chat and that was lovely. She is a good person, and we hugged in greeting; I rather like hugs, and find some physical contact therapeutic. Our head health care worker (hcw), Anjali, stated that her father was ill, and I held her arm and let her talk; he sounded terminally ill, and indeed, passed away the next day. Anjali is one of my favorite people, and I felt for her, that she was distressed at the prospect of losing her father. She will be back next week, and I will condole then.

Our cook and cleaning lady are well, and diversifying into various businesses. The cook has assured us that even when she becomes a millionaire (a very distinct possibility), she will not lose touch with us. This is our grand good fortune.

The students got to meet Vandana, and I am hopeful that they will meet Vaishnavi as well. That way, they can then see for themselves the phenomenal personae that set up this magnificent organisation, the Banyan, that helps all of us do our part to help those to whom life has dealt a rough hand. They also met some fine physicians at Sundaram Medical Foundation, the hospital that sees our patients for free; Drs. Arjun and Suresh gabbed with the students for a bit, and invited them to visit again.

Scott and Navin are well, and are in the U.S., celebrating Christmas and New Year. Naren and I are here. My sister, Anu, and her family are in the U.K. We were fortunate to see my father and sister-in-law and family in Chennai, and Christmas was a giant binge-fest. It continues to some extent, even now.

Unw (Until next week) -