Renu's Week

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Report of 12 Feb 2012

Hello from sunny Chennai!

There is a bright yellow with-green-writing Ronaldo jersey drying on the balcony. It was gifted to Naren by some delightful boys from Brazil, who spent some time in India with their parents and lived in our apartment complex. When I first saw them - with piercings, etc. - my first thought was, "Hmmm, got to keep N and N away from these guys." Then one day, Naren invited them to play soccer. Pedro and Felipe were around our boys' ages, did not speak a ton of English, my sons spoke no Portugese, but all communicated. And P and F were just delightful: taking off footwear to enter our house (Indian custom), being very solicitous of their mother at our parties (she spoke little English), and being very appreciative of their time in another land. They were also good-looking young men, and attracted the attention of quite a few of the young ladies here.

Happy times.

The Banyan, as always, has been fun. I read a quote one day that I shared with Naren: something to the effect of, "Power and money don't matter; what you do must have you flying out the door each morning." That, indeed, happens; mostly to beat the traffic, but I do work at a happy place. Our young ex-sex worker patient, Ms. E, has been unusually out of sorts. She came by my room one morning dressed in blue pants with white dots and a black and white striped t-shirt; instantly, our nurse said, "Didn't the senior coordinator tell you to change your clothes?" Ms. E vanished. A little while later, she trotted by in the same outfit to wait to be interviewed by visiting social work or psychology students and when I mentioned the need for change of clothes, she turned and replied frostily: "One wears what one wants, this does not have to be dictated by someone else." Which is very uncharacteristic of her. I asked some of the senior staff if she was ill, and they said they'd look into it. I do know that the social workers have tried very hard to find both Ms. E's sons, last seen at a local orphanage, and they have not had much luck. Not being able to see my family would certainly put me in a very bad mood. I'll find out this week if there is something else up with Ms. E.

One day, she came by with make-up. It was obvious that her training had been to use make-up to attract, and not necessarily to look pretty for herself. I was sorry. I looked at this young woman sold into the sex trade by her *brother* - and felt for her, and felt much relief that she was now with us. She is usually a cheerful, hard-working sort. One day, she had to tote some heavy things and used a turban to cushion the weight on her head; she looked great - tiny, happy, turbaned! That's the person I want to see again.

Ms. K, our employee who had a urinary tract infection and is now better, had a relative die of cancer. She came up to me last week, gestured to the medicine I had prescribed for her, and said, "This worked, do you know. I thought I had cancer and would die." So I told her some of the signs of cancer, and said she needed to come to me right away if she had vaginal bleeding. We chatted for a little while, which seemed to reassure her, and then she toodled on. One of the Banyan cooks promptly came by with 2 idlis (steamed rice cakes) and some chutney on a plate and urged me to eat: when I lose weight, it goes first from my face and the upper half, and I think I must look decrepit. Prompting every hospitable Indian (and there are a billion of us, literally) to try to feed me.

Kovalam is splendid, and the older man with the injured toe did not return for daily dressings. It is common for patients to misunderstand directions, he said he had come and was told not to come daily, but to return a week later, and I have no earthly clue who communicated what; at any rate, we dressed the toes again, and I asked that the nurse give instructions in writing. He does read, as do his family members and I am hopeful that improved understanding means increased compliance. Another patient, waiting to see the psychiatrist, came in complaining of back pain and I urged physical therapy; this is to be done at a local hospital and she asked how she was going to get there. This is one of the problems with free service: the patients then assume that we will take care of everything, including transport for other therapy options. So I said very carefully that we could not pay for that transport and she may have understood that. Or not.

Training at both sites goes along swimmingly. The ladies sit there and soak up every word, and do manage to answer questions. The session is supposed to last half an hour and often goes over, as everyone has tons of questions. I love this! These poor (literally, poor) women have had to give up education due to poverty, and their innate curiosity and love of learning have not been dampened. So our sessions are lengthy, and interactive, and full of laughter and sometimes, treats. My friend, Olivia, had sent me 3 boxes of Red-hots and they did the rounds last week - a nice candy.

(I will assure you that if trail mix or favorite candy shows up here, I will definitely dip mightily into it also before I share :). But the sharing is grand fun.)

We also got a wonderful present this week. Lisa, one of the med students visiting from Texas, sent copies of pics they had taken. There was enough for each of the subjects in the pics and the photos generated much joy! They are rare commodities for our patients, and everyone exclaimed over how lovely they were, appreciated Lisa's kindness, and told me to be sure I passed on their individual thanks to her. A nice, happy buzz hovered over the Banyan that day. It is a joyous place, I tell you.

Naren and I got to see a concert featuring a reunion of a former student band that used to do covers of Simon and Garfunkel; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, etc. The event was sold out, but Navin's friend sang in the accompanying choir and she got me tix. I tell you, do you see where the connections are coming from: our kids! The evening was magnificent - I *love* covers, especially of songs I know - and I had to try very hard to keep from dancing. As the Y poster said, "Don't give me people who want to dance, give me people who have to dance." Naren said he did not want to dance, and really, upping and jigging right then might have been more of a spectacle than we wanted. So we danced at home, which we do fairly regularly. Poor Scott obliges me nobly, though he hates to dance.

Naren and I also got to eat at a Greek restaurant here and the salads were fabulous. The meal was slightly pricey, but I can pay any amount for a good salad. I don't think we can afford to do this more than once a year, and we enjoyed the meal. As a friend sweetly said to me of Solomon's blessing, "Happy is the one who wants what he has." Too true, Naren and I thought, as we revelled with gratitude that we could afford the foods we like to eat. Naren then drove me to do our weekly grocery shopping and at the produce shop, where all of it is very fresh (as I have mentioned before, our refrigeration techniques are poor - thank goodness), we bought 9 types of fruit: 2 types of oranges, sapotas, saathukudis, apples, bananas, guavas, pomagranate and watermelon. We had some of it today and loved it. One of the employees at the shop had helped us choose the fruit and it was all good. There is a variety of banana that he advocated, as my favorite kind was unripe, and I can't say I care for it; I'll have to tell him, "The home didn't like it," or some such thing. Usually, if the female says the family did not like it, that excuse is accepted. Because, after all, we are supposed to go with what the family wants. Or something.

Navin is well and happy at Rose. That's a very good thing, affirmed a friend.

Scott, Naren, Navin and I got to skype today and that was fabulous. So much laughter and sharing. I don't think there is too much that each of us keeps from the other, and for this, I must be grateful. Even when the boys were getting into trouble at school, we knew what was going on - not that it warmed the cockles of our hearts. And now, we know of the older one's romantic interest, causing a friend of his to say in some surprise, "Oh, your parents are cool with it?" Yes, we are cool with it; Aishvarrya is a sweet young woman and Naren is lucky. Let us see whom the quiet and shy Navin will end up with. That said, about 80% of Navin's school friends were female, and to a person, wonderfully nice people. The boys had questions for Scott (on this and that) and I greatly appreciate the fact that they think their Dad is worthy; I think young men must always think that of their fathers.

I got to talk to my own father and that was nice. He stays busy, which is good. Makes missing my Mom bearable. And eases our concern.

"A blank page is God's way of showing you how hard it is to be God." - Unknown

Until next week (Unw) -



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