Renu's Week

Monday, February 25, 2013

Report of 26 Feb 2013

Good morning!

Life has been good.  Work is fabulous, if penniless.  But that's okay.

Kovalam has been good.  One of our funders and friends referred a relative of his employee to us.  The lady is impoverished (as is the case with many of our patients), has lost her husband, and appears to have gone into deep depression.  She speaks somewhat relevantly, but has not eaten well: I can circle her upper arm with my thumb and middle finger.  We can certainly get her better, and that is the joy of the work.  It will be a team effort - which is also nice - and we can do it.  I am privileged in my colleagues, all are focused on the patient and not themselves.  We are also fortunate in that we have some extra food daily, and this lady can eat and drink.  I was happy to hear that she and her husband had shared a loving relationship, that is not the case in many marriages - whichever country one is in.  The void that the demise of her husband has left cannot be filled by any of us, but we can certainly get her physically and somewhat mentally better.  It is a tremendous honor that the funder and friend entrusted us with this work.

Menopause should bring mood swings, I guess.  I am snippy much of the time, but am surprisingly happy at work.  I had a sore throat last week and all - at work and home - had some blissful peace from my relentless talk.

Adaikalam has also been good.  One of our patients, Ms. S, had been hospitalised with pneumonia and, as always, the doctors at SMF had taken very good care of her.  We are very fortunate in our association with this hospital: the doctors are always very respectful of our patients and all of us.  The care is also on par with international standards.  Ms. S has recovered well and is up to her usual boisterous, attention-grabbing antics.  This is how we know that our patients are better - they get back to baseline, regardless of what the baseline is.

22 February was the 3rd anniversary of my mother's demise.  We observed it by cooking her favorite foods and elected to follow a Tamilian custom of gifting sarees to some poor women.  We called the ladies who clean our apartment complex and they paid respects at my mother's photo, then Naren, Scott and I took turns giving the sarees.  I ended up bawling and the ladies sweetly stopped and said, "Don't cry, Amma (Madam), your Mother is surely in a better place."  I was very touched.  One of the ladies, one of our favorite people, had even worn the saree we had given 2 years ago on the same day, and I was even more touched - what a very sweet thought.  I missed my mother - her poweful sense of humor, her tremendous sense of hospitality, her careful raising of all of us in spite of the limited budget that 2 doctors who treat the poor have; her delicious food; the beautiful decor of our house and the careful way she made the cushion covers and curtains; her love of her children, children-in-law and grandchildren.

The weekend was fabulous.  My father flew in from Madurai to be with us.  He actually had an important meeting of my alma mater, Lady Doak College, on Saturday, but chose to forego it, to our great good fortune.  We attended a Bharatanatyam (classical Indian dance) recital at our city's magnificent instituion, Kalakshetra, in memory of its founder, Rukmini Devi Arundale; my Dad enjoyed this very much.  The next day, we saw "Zero Dark Thirty," which all enjoyed, and my aunt joined us for "Vishwaroopam," in which Naren has a small role.  My sister-in-law, Susan, and her kids, Sudhir and Sanjana, came in that night and my nephews, Aditya and Vikram, joined us for dinner, which was a merry time.  All of us Skyped with Navin, and that was fun; the cousins had unique banter, incomprehensible to the rest of us (it involved showing feet to Navin, etc. - see what I mean? :) ).  The young men then went clubbing and the rest of us slept.  The next day, my sister, Anu, joined us (which was nice of her, as she had to make the trip from Vellore), and we had a lovely breakfast at the restaurant of a local hotel.  We were also joined by some very close friends, which made for a memorable and wonderful time; we ate delicious food, chattered, laughed, loved.  We are truly blessed in our family and friends.

On Sunday evening, on the way back from the beach (a favorite haunt of Sanjana's), we stopped to tend to a medical emergency.  A young woman was sitting on the pavement (sidewalk), and a young man was hovering over her; it turns out the lady was 3 months pregnant and nauseated.  I gave some rudimentary advice and, on finding out that even the first medical check-up had not been done, started to get irate; I quickly advised the check-up and left, before my menopausal rage reigned.

It's a good life - near menopause or not near menopause.  I hope yours is, also.

Unw -


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Report of 17 Feb 2013

Good afternoon!

This is the stuff of which memories are made.  Scott and I spent about a week in Kenya.  It was the first vacation that we have taken by ourselves, sans children.  I expected to have my usual vacation time - "This is great, it's time to go back."  But no - it was spectacular.  The safari, the people, the warmth, the treatment of all people as people - magnificent.

We flew into Nairobi on Emirates (a long-awaited first experience) and stayed with schoolmate Latha, her husband Srini and their daughter Nanditha.  They are loving and hospitable folks, and we spent a fine evening.  The next morning, we flew to Kisumu to visit our friend, William.  William was a med student visiting St. V when I was there.  We had invited him and his classmate, Samson, to spend some weekends with us, took them to the farm where the good relatives engaged them in conversation and then thanked me for sharing our guests, took them out for inexpensive meals (a resident's salary is not lordly) and to the $1 cinema (see the last part about the salary? :) ) for flicks.  It was business as usual for us, but William recollects it vividly and continues to appreciate it.  That was confounding: I had no idea that our welcome and inclusion of the students as parts of the family were anything extraordinary, but lo these many years later, William remembers it.  And reciprocates it staggeringly well. 

We spent a memorable 2 days in Kisii, seeing Lake Victoria and an impala sanctuary en route, and then being with William's family.  He has since married, and he and his beautiful wife, Naomi, have 2 children - Gavin and Gladys (named for William's parents).  His friend, Josh, and their Masai helper, Lillian, were also fine additions to our experience.  We heard of William's work - magnificently heading a CDC-funded project on HIV - and walked around Kisii.  The following morning, I took a walk by myself and listened to some beautiful gospel music in Keswahili playing over many loudspeakers at churches.  The people of Kisii were dressed in their lovely Sunday best (I was in walking clothes) and I enjoyed the sight and soul-stirring feeling of intense faith.  We visited a Kisii stone outlet where we bought some souvenirs, ate a nice, traditional lunch prepared by the multi-talented Naomi, and then the family was kind enough to drive us to the Equator, a cherished dream of Scott's.  Pictures later, we headed to the airport and back to Nairobi.

Latha's warm house again, and discussions of Kenya, India, people, places.  Latha is extremely well-read, Srini is genial and welcoming, and both (as well as Nanditha) are great conversationalists, thus our intellectual and anthropological curiosity were also well-fed.  Srini and Latha were also a wealth of information on how best to utilise our time in Kenya.  We left the following morning for Masai Mara and a safari.  We drove there, stayed in a spectacular tented camp, ate till our bellies nearly burst, and drove out to see animals 4 times.  The roof of the van lifted out, our guide Benson showed us the wildlife, and we got some lovely pictures.  Even when not seeing animals, it was wonderful to see the verdant and vast surroundings, and feel insignificant.  We saw elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, lions, hippos, rhinos, many varieties of deer and gazelle, birds.  The folks at the lodge/camp had hospitality down to a science - tourism is a big industry in Kenya - and we felt relaxed and welcomed.  Scott came down with some food poisoning, unfortunately, and has recovered nicely.  One evening, the singer at the bar sang very well, and as I felt the rhythm course through my blood vessels, the old bod must have responded appropriately; a young employee came over and said I ought to dance to appreciate the singer's music.  Needed I a second invitation?  I got up and danced with her, and we talked, and I loved all of it.  The Masai dancers came next, complete with jumps and striking costumes and jewellery.  We left after 2 days of this singular merriment - replete with spectacular scenery, awesome animals, delicious food, warm people.

Back to Nairobi, Latha's warm home again, and then to shop a little.  We saw some of the sights of Nairobi the next day, including a giraffe breeding facility (we were educated on their defense system - them bones are very heavy, as we found when we lifted a forearm bone) and an elephant orphanage, where they work to nurture orphaned little elephants (extremely cute, as with the young of many species) and release them into the wild.  All of it was grand fun.  We also saw Karen Blixen's home - very lovely; she was the subject in "Out of Africa," and there were beautiful pics of the 2 good-looking stars of the pic - Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.  Apparently, Klaus Maria Brandauer did not make the cut to the pics as KB's husband.

We left that night, spent some time in Dubai airport, and headed home.  Naren picked us up, and when he asked, "How was Africa?," I had to pause, vivid memories of the expanse of the Mara flooding my thoughts.  I attempted to answer.  "Beautiful," I said, " a once in a lifetime experience."  Scott said, "It would have been grand if you and Navin had been there, too."  I had thought I was not an adventurous tourist, preferring to stay in English-speaking countries, etc.  It was great that Kenyans spoke English, of course, and they spoke other languages, too; I loved seeing Kenya through Kenyans and Indians, and experiencing the tremendous love that Kenyans apparently have for everyone.  My brother has steadfastly said the white person (my husband, in this case) is often courted in several countries; I have discounted that, feeling very welcome myself in these countries.  It was in Kenya that I distinctly felt just as welcome and noticed the significant lack of kissing up to white people, no offence to anyone.  "Jambo" ("Hello") produced an instant and warm "Jambo" back, I felt the connecting of hearts and spirits and eyes, and asked questions and smiled back and stopped to talk.  It was all good.

Why do people visit the man-made attractions of the U.S. and Europe?  Everyone has their favorite vacations, of course.  Having seen both - the U.S. and Europe, and Kenya - I do know that the love and happiness of the Kenyan people (even little children, who smiled and waved at me) and the spectacular natural beauty of the land are staying with me for quite a while, bringing a far-away look to my eyes and a tremendous sense of warmth to my whole being.  All starting with "Jambo," and eating ugali, and seeing a cheetah up close.  Asante sana, Kenya.

Unw -

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Report of 5 Feb '13

Good evening!

Man, I am tired.  I slept well enough last night, but the night before was Moz (mosquito) - fest here. 

There was a session at Kovalam today on resilience, conducted by a noted psychiatrist from the U.S.  I went, because one can always learn something from such sessions.  In an actual patient interaction, where the alcoholic patient professed inability to hold a job as his hands shook and he felt faint, all my sympathies were with his wife; the psychiatrist helped us see that there was some worth in the patient as well, and that was immense. 

Vandana had not been well, and I checked on her.  It was a nice visit, with 2 visionary folks - Vandana and her entrepreneur husband.  Scott and I had a good time.  I got profuse thanks from Vandana after that, and told her I was simply doing my job. 

Adaikalam has been good.  Our patient, Ms. E, has left and I hope she is okay.  She ostensibly had a crush on one of the married drivers, and that was posing all manner of problems.  Our dedicated volunteer, Fanny, has tried to search for Ms. E, unsuccessfully.  Ms. E spent formative years in the sex trade and had recently taken to dressing in low-necked outfits after her romantic attachment began.  I felt bad for her, that she had to resort to seductive dressing to attract a man; many of us tried to correct Ms. E's style of dress and some actually succeeded.  I do hope Ms. E is well.

Last week at Kovalam, a mentally challenged young woman came with her mother.  I tended to the physical complaints of both and then spoke with the mother.  She said she had married young and that her other daughter (the younger) was not mentally challenged; I then asked if she (the mother) had married a relative.  When she said yes, I asked that she please, please not get her child married to a relative.  I crusade against consanguineous marriage.  The older daughter was delightful, and interacted well; I told the mother to get her evaluated by an organisation here that deals with special needs folks, to see if she could be trained for a trade.  She agreed, and we looked at each other in perfect understanding - mother to mother, concerned caregiver to concerned caregiver.  It was nice.

Naren went to Coorg for an outdoor music festival (a la Woodstock) and practised his Coorgi with me before that, doing quite nicely.  Scott and I ate at one of our favorite restaurants, using a very generous gift certificate that the med students gave me last year.  That was very nice of the young ladies, and we had a good meal.  We then saw a Tamil movie called "David."  It was excellent.  Sunday was spent lazing, and Skyping with Navin; that was fun, his engineer humor came to the fore often. 

Unw -