Renu's Week

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Report of 28 Oct 2018

Hello from dusk!

There are streaks of pink in the sky, which is still blue.  Darkness is descending.

One of Scott's colleagues said one Monday that she was "okay for a Monday."  Mondays are clinic days at Kovalam, our seaside village, and grand fun - social hour, melee, mela (Indian festival), etc.  There was more to the child rescue than met the eye.  Apparently, the couple's employer phoned the Banyan after it was noticed that the mother was despondent, not eating, etc.  The father, suffering from alcoholism, had not come home in a couple of days and the mother was upset.  So they called us and we went and rescued the mother and child.  The father came to visit last Sunday and was so drunk, the staff made him spend the night at the B; he left the next morning.  The mother wept on not being able to go with him.  The child, though, is as happy as a clam: she came scampering by my exam room, I said hello and gave her a glossy (unfortunately expired) calendar, asking her to draw me a pic from it.  She came by later with a different pic, and a drawing of a heart with an arrow through it, with her name and that of the Banyan.  I am glad she is happy, I hope the family resolves their issues and goes about family life. 

Alcohol is quite the great destroyer, isn't it.  When I have an alcoholic beverage on occasion, I don't always pause to think of the tremendous turbulence it has caused in many people's lives. 

Adaikalam is fine.  The staff has come up with a music system to play old Tamil songs for our patient, X, who was declining.  Declining she ain't now - she was up and bopping to the music on Thursday and I was exceedingly happy.  We underestimate the power of the arts in healing, says the mother of the actor.  Where would we be without music, or the movie "To kill a mockingbird," or the picture of the heart and the arrow with the 2 names.  We have another patient who refuses to eat; one of our young interns is on the case. 

We hung out with both boys this morning.  Neither will be home for Christmas.  I asked our second son about the possibility of taking the 4 days off on Christmas week, loss of pay or not, and coming home, and he said they have been told not to ask for time off in December.  Since he cannot come, son #1 will also stay back and hang out with him.  Corporate America/India needs a swift kick in the pants: I am sure if one of us parents dropped dead, time off would be granted.  The world needs to take time off for happiness just as diligently as it does for sadness. 

I am going to phone my father, so will say bye.  I was coming down with some malaise after every Kovalam clinic day, he suggested I wear a mask during patient contact and it was quite effective.  Veteran surgeons know what they speak of.

Unw -


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Report of 21 October 2018

Good afternoon from our living room!

The haze is hazy, cannot see the Bay of Bengal well.  I love water; to be able to see the sea and greenery and the backwaters closer to our apartment has always been soothing. 

I swam this morning and it was fabulous.  The big pool is being cleaned, so it was yellowish-green.  Hardly swimmable, but the baby pool was clean and good; usually, after I swim in it, I am not sneezing all day as I do after plooshing around in the big pool.  The baby pool has to be used strategically; it is a 5-stroke size, but going diagonally yields another stroke or 2.  I was up early this am, after going to bed at 8 PM last night - a daily sought-after time, and accomplished last night, Saturday night!  Thus, I was up early and went out before it was bright outside, heading over to the nearby clubhouse, discovering no electricity and the security man asleep on the sofa inside; up 8 flights of stairs and ducking under bats (who are very good at keeping the mosquito menace under control), to the pool.  The water was a wee bit cool, but hey, fabulous.  My "Tyr" swim goggles are some fancy tinted numbers; while good at keeping the water out, they tend to change the view under water - things aren't clear and pretty, they're blue and pretty.  No matter, on I went, and on and on, then came home and announced to my husband that I was home; I got a "Hello, beautiful," in return.  Nice, no?

The Banyan is good.  We have rescued a mother and child at Kovalam.  The child is about 10 or 11 and as I walked in on Monday for our joyously frenetic clinic, I asked whom the child had come with; I saw not many patients about.  I was then informed of the rescue, i.e., this mother and child were homeless and starving, and we took them to Kovalam.  This child is pretty and full of beans; she likes being at Kovalam - in shelter, warm and dry, fed until her belly is full, with many people who show genuine affection and caring.  Every child's birthright, truly, but sometimes life gets in the way.  I asked her how much she had studied and she said, "Fifth standard (grade)," then said "English medium."  In English, I asked her her name, how she was and whether she had eaten, and we had a splendid conversation; I patted her head and told her to go eat, a hitherto-unguaranteed activity.  There, but for the grace of God go I.  My mother valued nutrition, we ate well, and to succeed in academics was an unwritten rule from both my parents.  My mother was also an excellent seamstress, so we were well-dressed, and sufficiently-fed and excellently-educated; I appreciate my mother's efforts much more now, especially the fed and educated parts.  With regard to the little girl at Kovalam, the B will undoubtedly find a school for her, and see that she is fed and clothed and read, and treat her mother for whatever's ailing her.  The ailment that most of our patients have is poverty. 

There was another memorable interaction at Kovalam: an older patient came in and we started talking about her home situation.  She lives in a little hut and said God would provide for her needs other than medicines (we got those).  As our flabbergasted community worker, used to tangibles like all of us, voiced our thoughts and said, "How will God provide?," the patient - with immense conviction - said, "Kattaayam kuduppaar," or "He will definitely provide."  Then she stated her story, that on living in a dargah once, she had cared for a boy with all sorts of needs; the boy grew up to be a young man who went overseas to work and now sends money for her upkeep.  It was riveting; the lady was poor and somewhat frail, but when she spoke of God's mercy, her voice was strong and confident.  I have little faith, and all 3 of the Banyan employees in the room - the community worker, our medical assistant and I - were enthralled, and subsequently counted our blessings.

My robust, handsome, loving older brother died in a motor vehicle accident several years ago, way before his time.  That's why the faith is little.  My other siblings - his widow, my sister and my younger brother - still pray and such, I do sort of. 

Adaikalam is also nice.  One of our patients, who had been hospitalised with a serious bacterial illness, is back with us.  That is good to see.  She is not quite herself yet, but occasionally is.  All of us are keeping a close eye on her, and that is the joy of the Banyan.  Young colleagues - women who have had to give up their dreams of an education due to poverty - work with us and avidly soak up what we teach them: to recognise an emergency and to respond, to know when someone is better and someone is not, to call for help when necessary.  It is a joyous place, the Banyan.

It was a 4-day weekend.  Ayudha Pooja, when we set our instruments (my stethoscope, Scott's laptop and pens) before God and worship, and Saraswathi Pooja, when we pray to the goddess of learning, were this week.  The kids like Saraswathi Pooja: it is the one day of the year when they are told not to study, as the books are placed in front of the goddess.  Yes, every other day except for summer vacation and sometimes even then, they are expected to hit the books.  Scott and I went to see 3 movies on Friday and eat at one of our favorite restaurants - Writers' Cafe, which is run by women who are victims of burns.  The food is a little pricey and excellent, and we go joyously, overeating merrily for a great cause.  We saw "Venom," "A star is born," and "First man."  Scott and I don't always agree on movies and plays, but both of us thought "Venom" was the best.  Tom Hardy did full justice to the role, I could honestly believe he was infected by something, and the humor and dialogue and supporting players were oh-so fine. 

We talked to Naren and Navin today, and that was - as always - fabulous.  Navin feels he is getting to be like me, mouthing off at will; he said there was an adult customer throwing a tantrum at the grocery store and he nearly went up and asked which one of two anatomical parts the man was.  I don't quite do that, but totally appreciate that Navin thought we were similar!  Naren enjoyed the shoot; he insists it is a small part (Episode 2 of "The code," Dr. Patel), his father asked if he got paid, he said "Yes" and Scott said it was a big part. 

The #MeToo movement is taking off in a big way here in India.  Good. 

I am stricken at the Jamal Khashoggi episode.  Scott and I have often gone to consulates, one has waited outside.  That this should happen, my word, how horrific; all because Mr. Khashoggi wrote something that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia apparently did not like. 

The pen is always mightier than the sword.  It is nice to live in countries where there is freedom to write.  India is trying to curb said freedom, and there are numerous people fighting back.  Go, freedom!

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Report of 14 Oct 2018

Good evening!

The traffic on Muttukadu bridge is moving, the lights are on and it is night-time.  A certain husband is correcting (grading) papers in front of me. 

We are well, and are grateful.  The Banyan is also fabulous.  At our Kovalam Monday clinic, we see many, many patients and I feel grateful to have the help of a community worker there; I had requested this help for some time, as we have no way of convincing the patients to see a specialist or get the lab tests done (these cost money).  Many of the patients live at the local dargah (a Muslim place of worship) where they are dependent on charity; some of them do have some money and can get the tests done.  One of them came with the results and I was very happy; otherwise, we have to have conversations like "Whom am I ordering these tests for?  Whose well-being are we interested in?," and those can get lengthy.

Adaikalam is also nice.  The other day, I watched a patient eat her meal.  She has developmental delay and does not speak.  As she tucked into her tasty breakfast - a wheat dosai (crepe-ish) and chutney (relish) - I was mesmerised: had she been at home, she might have been viewed as a burden and even if she had been fed, it might not have been with love or affection or civility or dignity.  At the Banyan, she is a part of our family and the health care workers and nurses and all the staff do a magnificent job of ensuring that she is loved and cared for.  A truly fine place, the Banyan.

We went to Madurai over the weekend.  Lady Doak College, my alma mater, celebrated 70 years since founding.  It was nice; some classmates and I got together the day before the actual alumnae reunion, and that was fun.  We could at least hear each other, which we could not at the meet.  Lady Doak College is a women's college and was a wonderful place to study in.  It was nice to catch up, and get glasses on to see each other's pictures, and talk to former, revered professors.  A couple of the professors asked me why I looked so old :) and that is also one of the joys of being at such events, especially in India - the candor.  A good time was had by all.

Scott and I also got to talk to my Dad for a bit.  That was fun.  We had taken some foods that he enjoys - salami and such - so we ate and talked and laughed.  A great, long-time, fine friend of my parents, Dr. X, also a surgeon, stopped by and my father insisted on sharing the salami with him; the friend did not like it at all, and his expression was very funny ("Spasm," said my father).  Dr. X told my father I now resembled my mother and made several observations - often quietly and as an aside to my father, when I put on my glasses, or said something - to that effect.  I suppose I might also get nostalgic, if a beloved friend passed away and an offspring looked just like the friend.   

I had a visitor at work this week.  The son of a Banyan colleague, formerly impoverished, he has finished a 2-year technical degree and got a job with enough of a salary to help his mother quit her job.  She has wanted to, as she is tired of the violence from the patients; she is a nurse and gets hit fairly often.  The young man has studied, and done an internship, and is off to work for a good company offering a decent salary.  It is pure joy to get such news.

We got to talk to our own joy-bringers this morning.  Naren and Navin are well.  Naren has a guest role in a show called "The code," I don't know when the episode will air.  We do not own a TV, thus have to see it after my mother-in-law records it.  Navin is well and enjoying the benefits of employment. 

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Monday, October 08, 2018

Report of 8 Oct 2018

Hello from dusk!

The sea is visible, but dusk-visible.  We were away for part of the weekend and then madly catching up on Sunday, thus I did not blog as customary on Sunday.

Scott and I went to Mysore and Coorg to see relatives.  We did manage to see most of the aunts and cousins who live in India, and that was nice.  We stayed with my aunt, Chitra; she is fun and a very warm hostess.  She had a big bottle of honey for Scott to take home and made him a special rum drink which was delicious.  We had been to Coorg earlier, and the relatives there produced some home-grown pepper and coffee for us to take back; Scott was delighted - he is a huge fan of Coorg coffee.  Seeing everyone was very nice.

On our return, my sister-in-law, Susan, met us at Bangalore station and we exchanged packages: we handed over U.S. merchandise and she had a bag of tasty fruit for us.  It was nice to see her in the 10-minute stop and we got all our chatter in hurriedly before the train took off again, with us in it.

The Banyan is great, as usual.  The more I work elsewhere, and age (i.e., get older), the more I think the Banyan - with its horde of ethical, moral, diligent and fun employees and bosses - is a fine place to be.  Today's clinic was not as busy as usual, as it was a pooja (worship) holiday.  We saw several patients, though.  One of them had the usual arthritis and I had suggested to her to go to the nearby National Institute for Empowerment of People with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMD), a fine place with lots of physiotherapy treatment options.  She declined, saying we had cured her of her shoulder pain.  Sometimes divine powers are wrongly attributed to us.  She did, indeed, appear to have better movement of her shoulder.  Often, I start patients on multivitamins and iron, and their aches and pains are ameliorated, thank goodness.  The benefits of vitamins and iron continue to manifest in mysterious ways.  My sister is a brilliant pediatrician, and works extensively with the Gates Foundation; she found that supplementing micronutrients in children causes them to whinge less and engage with the caregiver more.  Perhaps these benefits are displayed in adults, too.

We did not get to hang out with the boys as one of them was travelling, as were we.  We'll chat next week, hopefully.  I spoke to my father yesterday and that was nice. 

I saw an excellent Tamil movie called "Pariyerum Perumal."  It dealt with the caste system and was very well-done.  Sad, but good, and a wonderful debut for its director.  Usually, women do not go alone to movies here, but that is slowly changing.  This theater's management is good about accommodating me away from the crowds when necessary; seating here is numbered, and I am often fortunate to sit away from everyone else.  This time, the movie was surprisingly (for a weekday matinee) almost sold out and my seat was right in the thick of the crowd, but I sat on the steps at the back and enjoyed the show.  The theme appeared to resonate with the audience; it is very nice when off-beat movies enjoy box office success.

Have a good week!

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