Renu's Week

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Report of 31 Dec 2015

Happy old year!

I am in our living room, 1 son is hanging up his laundry on our balcony, 1 son is on a plane to the U.S.  It has been good having both boys around, and the fact that 1 son is still here is also good.

We are well and hope the same with all of you.  The boys and we went to Mysore to see some relatives, including the boys' differently-abled cousin.  It was a fun trip.  We had lunch with my aunt and it was a great meal, full of good food and unbridled pampering.  We took the day train back and it is a comfortable way to travel; food comes to your seat, the entire train is airconditioned, etc.

I worked from home last week and will do so this week, also.  Family started to come into the city in fits and starts and that was fun.  The boys went out with their cousin, Sudhir, to do what young men do - drink and carouse.  One stayed as the designated driver, hooray.  The next day, my father and sister came into town and we had a giant meal on Xmas Eve.  The day after, my sister-in-law and niece joined us, and Xmas lunch was a rollicking fun affair.  There was endless cooking, and that was okay.  Fun to cook for mobs of people.

We also ordered pastries from our favorite bakery - Winners - which trains underprivileged young folks in the baking trade.  It ain't a pity party there, the fare is actually delicious.  We also ordered some cake and savories from the Banyan's vocational therapy unity, and they were tasty.  Navin has taken some back with him.

We went to Viet Nam for a short holiday with our sons.  I'd had a good experience with many VN folks in the U.S. and wanted to see their country.  Ho Chi Minh City's tourism is built on guilt - the "War Crimes" museum, the Revolutionary Museum, etc.  The people were lovely and we ate a lot of street food, I being tremendously impressed that none of us fell sick.  We toodled back to Chennai and now the holiday weeks are ending.

We hope you had some fun times of your own.  We wish you a happy and healthy 2016!

Unw -


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Report of 20 Dec 2015

Two young men are asleep, the Bay of Bengal is blue and beautiful again, the sun is shining.

This is bliss.  We are grateful Naren and Navin made it safely; there are random security checks and Scott, the Caucasian among us, has been tempted to mouth off to TSA so I can only imagine the annoyance these checks are to those that look Middle Eastern, like our sons.  And to Middle Easterners themselves.  I used to think these checks were for our safety, and sometimes still do; then, one year, I heard Naren get it in Singapore when the authorities thought he was travelling alone.  It was relentless and repetitive - "So you study in Chennai?  You're not going to the U.S."  'That's right.' "You are going to Australia and then the U.S.?" 'No (very patiently), Chennai-Singapore-Australia, then Australia-Singapore-Chennai.  With my family on holiday.' "Oh, your family's here?" 'Yes."  The authorities turned around and spotted the mother vulture (me) who asked, "Is there a problem?," and they quickly answered, "No, no problem!"

So the boys are here, hooray!

We are well.  This past week was spent working at the B and at a couple of medical camps for the flood-affected.  These camps are massive efforts at examining a large number of people and they went well.  I worked with 3 young doctors from Bangalore, here for the purpose, and it was fine.  We had a ton of attendees, many for "The old lady with the grey hair, who must be experienced" (me).  It was hilarious, but honestly, I do have a ton of white hair now and must look old.  If that helps win me patients, as it has done my father, so be it.  We saw a lot of arthritis - not necessarily flood-related - and other ailments.  It helped to be in the community and check everyone.  On the first day, we were in the Banyan's own neighborhood; the second day, in a community about 10 miles away, where the place still unfortunately smelt of sewage.  On the 3rd day, everyone was harking to a village about 2.5 hours away and I chose not to go: the Banyan staff, who had been through the flood themselves, had to be examined and I stayed for that.

Scott and I saw a play that is a Chennai tradition: the pantomime is staged to raise funds to send underprivileged children to college, and Naren has acted in it some prior years.  It is grand fun, with heckling and irreverence, singing and dancing.  We enjoyed this year's show.  We have also done a massive amount of shopping in preparation for Xmas.  I like to ensure a ton of food in the house - better too much than too little - and we did the shopping on a weekday, for traffic reasons.  We have also ordered chocolate tarts from a bakery that trains underprivileged youngsters in the trade, long a favorite locale.  Bring on the gluttony!

I spoke to my father and that was fun.  We will get together later this week.

May the peace and joy of Christmas be with you now, and through a happy and healthy 2016!

Unw -


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Report of 12 Dec 2015

Good evening!

The Bay of Bengal is blue and beautiful.  The church down the road is broadcasting its evening music to all: reminds me of the churches in Kenya on Sunday mornings, when people would be dressed to the gills and would flock to churches that would broadcast beautiful choral music on loudspeakers.  The whole atmosphere was one of piety and happiness.  I was in walking clothes - sneakers and jeans - and stepped into one of the churches well before services started just to see what it was like, and several members of the congregations glared disapprovingly at my outfit.  :)

The flood has ended, we hope.  The city is rebounding nicely, thanks in large part to private efforts.  Social networks were used to wild advantage in getting aid to the needy and in continually connecting those in need with those supplying relief.  Unregulated building and very bad roads are to blame for this flood; I doubt very much that the Government will learn.  One of our favorite places, a school for the blind which has tailored a few of my clothes (a sighted person cuts the material, a blind person sews), has spoken of how much damage they have incurred.  I hope they will rebound quickly: they truly are fine folks.

I got to Kovalam on Monday and saw lots of patients.  We normally have a cut-off time and I punted it; we ploughed on and on.  Our cooking area has been damaged and we have given money to the village chief to cook for the whole village; vegetable biryani came for lunch and Scott and I have promptly got sick from eating it.  I have urged white rice, dhal and veges for subsequent menus; though the temptation is to send something festive, it is not a good idea now to eat it.

Scott came with me, both to Kovalam and to Adaikalam later in the week.  The roads were mostly navigable.  After seeing the patients in Adaikalam, one of the nurses, the senior health care worker and I did physical exams on all the staff.  Many of them had had flooded houses, had waded in questionable water either to reach residences or work, some had upset stomachs, and all were seen.  It was the least I could do for a populace that had held the fort when their colleagues could not get to work, and who executed many, many additional responsibilities without complaining.

We have been home yesterday and today, Scott working from home as usual and I keeping up with emails and other responsibilities.  We Skyped with both boys and that was nice.

We have plenty of occasion to be grateful for our good fortune.  We hope you have your own fair share of blessings.

Unw -


Sunday, December 06, 2015

Report of 6 Dec 2015

Good evening -

Water on the roads, in the pond in the apartment complex, roads damaged - the floods in Chennai have wrought havoc.  Much of this is due to the fact that there has been rampant and unregulated construction, so water bodies which would historically sop up surplus rain water no longer exist.  Thus, the water was everywhere - on roads, in people's homes, in schools and colleges, on low-lying ground.  Everywhere.

We had no electricity for 3 days and the apartment complex's generator worked overtime.  There were also no phone lines functional and the internet was completely off.

Access to a path to get to those in need was difficult.  I felt restless sitting here and tried to get to Kovalam when the rains abated.  The connecting road (over backwaters) is 3 miles away and that journey, over badly damaged roads, took 20 minutes.  After getting there, we found that the connecting road had been washed away and no vehicles were allowed that way.  So we came back and Scott vetoed the longer, more circuitous route.  We stayed home, and donated some cash to the effort that younger, more energetic neighbors were in, to cook food for 2000 stranded folks.  I am getting more antisocial as I age, thus could not partake of the cutting, preparing and cooking as I would have done 30 years ago.

The logistics were the challenge.  Roads are so badly damaged that we could not get anywhere and were happy to see plenty of volunteers in rescue and relief efforts.  I did plough into standing water last week, but was uncertain of whether there was a road underneath or large potholes.  We simply could not risk it this time, after more rains - prudence had to take a front seat.

We got kind enquiries from relatives and friends asking how we were.  My aunt from Mysore invited us to go there and that was heart-warming.  Isn't it funny how the spoken word and sincere concern can make any situation bearable.  Perhaps this is why many patients at the B choose to stay with us, instead of going home to their families: they find their relatives sometimes unspeakably cruel.  Our biggest weapons are indeed our mouths.

Well, I have been told that the circuitous route to Kovalam might be functional tomorrow.  I will hope for the best as we plough there.  Scott was smart enough to stock drinking water and fill our vehicle with petrol, so that is one less concern.  Or two.

Unw -