Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Second Lady

The sad young woman disappeared from our lives after taking her first salary. (This particular Centre presents you with a bill every ten days). When she left last Thursday evening, I actually had a very strong feeling that she would not come in the next day. The next morning I received a call from her sister saying that she was ill and couldn't come. My mother and I struggled through Friday with some difficulty, after telling the Centre manager of this second absence in twelve days. It may sound very unkind, but home nurses, like housewives, do not have a weekly day off. Since they deal with patients with conditions of varying complexity, they are supposed to arrange for a substitute whenever they take time off. I think that she found it very difficult to deal with an almost completely bed ridden patient who can no longer walk to the toilet. She had also reported for work on Thursday morning along with a cousin of hers whom she had received at our local station, and wanted her to stay in my house the whole day till she finished work in the evening. I asked her to finish off with my father's morning routine, go and leave the cousin at her mother's house, and then come back. It all seemed very strange to me. On Saturday I called the manager again, and said that I'd prefer to have someone else, since I would not like someone with a recent illness taking care of such a frail patient. He promised to send a highly experienced, older person the next morning.

Home Nurse Number Two is tall and well built. She was widowed when her son was one and a half years old. She lives alone. Her son and his wife and child live separately. She is forty-five years old. She speaks some Hindi, though not as fluently as the first one. She is very punctual, and walks here from her home. In the four days that she has been here, she has come across as very sincere and dedicated. My father was getting sick of having his meals in the bedroom. Some years ago I had had a high cane chair made for him, as he found it easier to sit at chair higher than our dining chairs. He used to walk till the chair, sit on it and I'd push him close to the table.
Now that he can hardly walk, the chair goes to the room, and the nurse pushes him to the table, and back. He enjoyed his lunch, with my mother and me for company, and enjoyed some good music with his dinner- Ustad Bismillah Khan and Vilayat Khan playing Raga Nand Kalyan, on good old Worldspace. (This is an amazing piece, by the way. I love Raga Nand)

My parents are trying to get used to having a 'stranger' tend to them. She is slowly becoming less of a stranger. I'm trying to explain to them that this is a symbiotic relationship which benefits everyone concerned. I think they are getting the point.
Now I just hope that our symbiosis with this home nurse continues successfully.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gold Coast views

We were fascinated by the shells on the tree guard, intrigued by the Condom Kingdom, and I was totally in love with the beach. I love the sea, and would love to spend hours watching its various moods.

There were a couple of wide awake koalas, and kangaroos which don't stay still enough for a non-blurred picture, at the farm we'd visited!

More Oz!

Apart from Sea World, we were touristy enough to also visit Movie World. I went up on something called the Batwing which accelerates at such speed that you are actually lifted off your seat. Hence the harness. A photograph with Shrek. A Wild West kind of ghost town. A trip to an Australian farm, where we also managed to see koalas, (which are notoriously shy, and sleep twenty hours a day), kangaroos, Ozzie cowboys and sheep dogs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some more Oz

The lazy blogger resorts to photographs! We haven't finished with Oz yet- there is still lots to share. While we were at the Gold Coast we had visited a theme park called Sea World, which had beautiful dolphins and a dolphin show, a great aquarium, dugongs, polar bears, little blue penguins, pelicans, ibis and water skiers!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The more things change

the more they remain the same.

The last ten days have been busy. My parents are back in Kolkata after five months or so in Delhi.
My sister took care of them there, while I recovered from typhoid and then galumphed off to Australia.

But at eighty plus, changes are difficult to adapt to. I find both parents frailer than before. My father is now practically bedridden. My sister came with us to Kolkata to help settle them in, as it was no longer practical for me to manage both of them alone on the journey. (Indigo Airlines has excellent ramps for boarding and disembarking from their planes- a great help to the wheelchair-bound.)
We had great teamwork and coordination in both cities, thanks to my kids using their initiative and resources. The SRE, poor man, had been stuck in Durgapur, came home a little before we'd landed in Kolkata, and discovered that the Aquaguard RO system had broken down and the entire kitchen was flooded. ( He'd got very annoyed when he learned that the annual maintenance contract cost a whopping 25% of the cost of the machine, which fact the sales person had not acquainted us with, so he didn't renew the contract. I was in Delhi for my mother's birthday, at the time.) Wet floors annoy me and frighten me- there have been enough fractures in our family. He cleaned it up so well, and also stopped the leak- I wouldn't known about the disaster if he hadn't told me. So my usually domestically challenged husband proved his worth!

Getting my exhausted parents into their room felt like a great achievement- it took around seven hours, door to door. My new computer chair served as a wheelchair for my father, who had walked the long distance to the lift when they had left.

The home nurse came in the next morning. I had told my mother that this time she and my father would have to adapt to having a caregiver, at least from morning to evening.

The home nurse looks and is very young, though she is married and has a young child. She takes excellent care of my father, though he's still getting used to having an 'outsider' look after him. She also massages my mother's aching knees. She cleans methi leaves and coriander leaves and cuts vegetables for me in her spare time. She speaks Hindi, which was a basic requirement for us.

Her husband beats her.

She may or may not have have provoked him. He's about twenty years older than she is.
I'm sure he has problems of his own.
Last night she stayed at her parents' home. Her father works outside the state. She has a younger brother and sister.
What options does she have?
She works hard all day at a difficult job, leaves our house after 8 p.m., gets home and cooks and does various chores, and sleeps after midnight. Deals with various chores before coming to work.

On my morning walk yesterday, I saw a cat up a tree. There were three bristling street dogs below the peepul tree, waiting for her to come down. I tried to chase the dogs away, threw some clods of earth at them, but they refused to budge. I felt quite helpless, and moved on.
I feel the same way about this girl- helpless.

What can one do?

This is my hundredth post. I had hoped to write something light and celebratory, but reality impinged, and my incomplete fluff posts may or may not see the light of day. Despite the futility of many things, I'm so glad that I blog. I hope you are also glad that I do, gentle readers!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Now how did this happen?

I've been too busy to write, so I thought I'd post one of my favourite photographs instead!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The SRE's Response to India is my country, but......


Ma gayee, Baba gaye,
Mein aaj jaoon ya kal,
Kya pharak padta hai?
Ma Baba ne Partition ka taandav dekha tha.
Mera ghar sab insaanon ke liye khula hai.
Har taraf nafrat kee aandhi hai
Par ek ummeed ka diya hai
jo jalta hi ja raha hai.

meri beti ka dharm-bhai doosrey dharm ka hai
beta na jaaney kis mazhab ki bahu laayega

yeh pahli diwali thi
jab bacchon ne mujhe
ek bhi pataaka nahin jalaaaney diya
naye yug ki soch alag hai.

woh subah zaroor aayegi
jab nafrat kee aag se door
bomb ke dhamaakey sunayee nahin dengey.

us subah ke intezaar mein,
mein chalta ja raha hoon.

India is my country, but......

I'm not liking a lot of what is happening in my motherland. The bomb blasts in Assam were very kindly scheduled post-Diwali. No one knows when and where the next lot of bomb explosions will happen- but it seems certain that they will. People are drawing further and further away from one another. Religious and communal identities affect where you live, where you study, your employability, what you earn, how you are perceived.

We seem to be deliberately negating Rabindranath Tagore's immortal lines:

Where The Mind is Without Fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

My beloved country, what is happening to you? Respect for others, courtesy to all, tolerance, acceptance of different ways of life and religious beliefs, where have they all gone?

The minorities have always enriched our lives. India has assimilated many many cultural and social mores from them, and, despite the homogeneity projected by the media today, Hinduism itself is far more nuanced than they'd have us believe. There are so many sects and sub-sects of Hinduism, all following their own particular practices.
There are also amazing syncretic sites of worship, like Firoze Shah Kotla, where people from all walks of life and religious backgrounds leave missives of appeal to the resident djinns, and there are Ramayanas staged wherein the lead players are all Muslims. We suffer many cliched representations of minorities as well, unfortunately, especially in Hindi films. But even though there are cliches, the right of the 'other' to be part of the nation was never questioned. The Christian padre, the Muslim tailor, the Sikh taxi driver- they have been part of the landscape of our country . And it is not important how many centuries their ancestors have been here either- being a citizen of a secular nation grants all its citizens their fundamental rights.

When a loved one is ill, it doesn't matter whether he is treated in a Christian missionary hospital or in Mata Amritanandamayi's hospital or a government hospital. You are looking for the best available treatment that you can afford. You do not ask for the religious or caste antecedents of the blood donor, the doctors, or the nurses. It simply doesn't matter. Why, then, in our daily lives, does something as personal as religion become a reason for conflict?

In our daily lives, so many of us shun 'the other'.
The 'other' is as human as we are.
If he or she worships differently, eats differently, speaks differently from us, why is it a problem?
Why should the 'other' be evicted or killed?
Is this person not a citizen of India?
With the inalienable rights of an Indian citizen?
Why does he or she need to constantly 'prove' his Indianness?

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel threatened because of your religious beliefs, or your name, or the presence or absence of a foreskin, or the presence or absence of a turban, beard and long hair?
When neighbourhood watches ensure that you aren't garlanded with burning tyres?
Where renting an apartment is difficult if your name is either Christian or Muslim?
Where you live in an industrial township, and are expected to participate in unfamiliar rituals of temple worship just because it is assumed that all Hindus do observe these rituals?
Where any form of noise pollution is tolerated because it is being done in the name of religion?

Many women would be able to understand the following concept with ease: that of having to prove your commitment and loyalty to your husband and his family even after years and years of marriage. It hurts, doesn't it? Our fellow citizens, who happen to have their own particular religious or community identity, why must they prove their loyalty to India again and again?
Why should anyone feel insecure in his/her own country?

Terrorism and fundamentalism both need to be eradicated. Both flourish only in a climate of suspicion and intolerance. Neither seem to have anything to do with any kind of religious tenets.
Let us, once again, learn to care for our countrymen and women as human beings belonging to a single great country. Else we may end up with several disparate states and no country.

Together, we can make India a country to be proud of.
She belongs to all of us. There can be no 'buts.'