Thursday, September 29, 2022

Book Review: Hyderabad: The Second Book of the Partition Trilogy

 Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is an author whose books speak about the human condition in immensely informative and enriching ways, and one whose works I value greatly.

I was greatly affected by her first book in this Trilogy, Lahore. Her interweaving of the lives of ordinary people, with the lives of the leaders and politicians of the time, was masterful. The character of Sardar Patel stood out for me, as I realised I knew so little about this stalwart, as well as the support he received from his daughter, Manibehn. Even the Mountbattens' dog found a mention, as did their daughter, Pamela. Somehow, though, the horrors of that painful time in our country's history converged, in my mind, with our present state of  simmering communal tension, inducing intense despair, which kept me from writing about that brilliant book.

Hyderabad deals with a history that I knew very little about. It is an immensely readable account of the difficulties in getting the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII, to join the newly independent Indian nation. It is a fascinating, and yet again, painful time in our history, with communal riots breaking out, 'death trains' crossing the borders between India and Pakistan, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, and Jinnah's attempts to woo the Nizam, who was an extremely strange character in his own right. Dirty, smelly, a heavy smoker, yet astute enough to run rings around his legal adviser, Walter Monckton, the Indian government as well as the Governor General, Louis Mountbatten, the Nizam comes across as an extremely intriguing character, totally convinced of his own, and his kingdom's, invincibility. And yet, his daughter-in-law, the Princess Niloufer, speaks highly of his kindness to her. Her lady in waiting, Uzma, gets caught up in the political intrigues of the time, as do Jaabili, and Daniyal Khan, who runs a printing press.The narrative is richly textured, and one learns about many of the social systems prevalent in Hyderabad at the time, many of which were patently unfair, if not actually cruel. There are many characters and many adventures, all interwoven skillfully, to create a richly woven masterpiece.                                                                                                                      

Friday, September 2, 2022

Tech travails

 The universe seems to be truly conspiring to get me to blog! This morning's adventure is a case in point.

Not wanting to bore you, gentle readers, with medical details, let me tell you that for several years now, the spouse has been on blood thinners, and also has to keep the thinness of his blood within certain parameters. This has involved regular visits to the local pathology lab, scoldings and much nagging when there is too huge an interval between tests. In India, though, testing itself has never been a problem: you give the blood sample in the morning, and by late afternoon or early evening you get the report online, well in time for the next dose of blood thinner, which we have learned to tweak as required. (During the lockdown, the technician would come home in protective gear and take the sample).

The problem arises when we travel abroad, and especially in the USA, where our visits are of a longer duration. Most places you can't get a blood test without a prescription, and if you do manage to get a doctor to phone in a requisition for you, you don't get the results in time for you to know how much of the thinner to take that evening. It becomes especially stressful if the patient has symptoms of extra thin blood like bleeding from the ear or nose.

And so, before we visited the son and his family in the USA this summer, I was determined not to travel without a Coaguchek, a device very similar to the home blood sugar monitors, but vastly more expensive, and rather more complicated. Nonetheless, your testing remains in your domain. The spouse had tried my cousin's machine when we visited him last October. It seemed sensible to acquire one. And so, a few weeks before we were due to travel, I bought the device from the dealer, and he came over in the evening to give the spouse a live demonstration of the same. This included setting the date and time, and the code chip for the box of strips. Although there was a fairly exhaustive booklet accompanying the device, I made simple procedural notes on a sheet of paper, which I kept in the machine's pouch. The young man was incredibly helpful, and said that we could call him any time we had a problem.

We had adventures with the device. The next time we tried to use it, it showed an error. We phoned. The dealer told us that it was a delicate darling, would not function in severe summer heat. And so tests were conducted in our bedroom, with the air conditioning on. The blood drop had to be of the right size, the device demanded a fat drop of blood. You had to remove your finger at the precise moment that it beeped. There were various error codes. Each time the spouse tests, it is a joint venture: I stand by with my instruction sheet, issuing instructions. We seemed to be getting reasonably competent, or so we thought.

This morning, after much prodding over the past few days, we proceeded to test. But, the device showed Error No. 3, which meant that the strip had expired. I checked the box: the strips were expiring next August. We tried another strip,and another one from a new box, which bore the same expiry date. (The second box is a monument to my stupidity, will spare you that story). We urgently phoned the dealer. He said that it was possible that the device's date settings had changed, hence the error. We looked. The time, day, month, all were correct. The year had mysteriously changed itself to 2023. The dealer had said that he could help us correct it on a video call. The spouse pottered off to his study. Charged by my new gung-ho spirit, I took out the instruction manual, and successfully changed the date. Summoned the spouse. The test was conducted successfully. I messaged the kind dealer, and we went about our day. Our life and its strange challenges!

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Come September : A new beginning

 The last few weeks were marked by exhaustion/laziness. I walked, cooked, did the laundry, put things into wardrobe i.e out of the way. Nothing done particularly well. (All cupboards just have stuff dumped in, not placed/hung neatly and elegantly). Ennui ruled, big time. It was not lack of things to do. It was too many things to do, and a complete lack of interest in doing them. Not doing them added to the guilt, of course, compounding the burdened feeling.

We had a new cupboard made for our storeroom in the apartment. The old, smaller, almost cardboard/hardboard cupboard that I had ordered online last year, was falling to pieces. Our carpenter fixed that beautifully, too, after some persistent persuasion by the spouse. (The spouse is a force of nature, easier to go along with than to resist). The raison d'etre for the new cupboard were the bags and cartons of assorted objet d'art and candles and what not lying in our basement since we moved last year. (Unforgettably, on Independence Day. The cupboards were installed the next day). Somehow, I wasn't able to take myself down to the basement. The lift goes right there, our storage room isn't far from the lift either. The mental block was real. I knew I had to go, but I couldn't. Ironed laundry was piling up in the guest room, ironed sarees and blouses parked themselves on top of the laundry drier, right next to the steel almirahs in which they belong. There's a shelf full of sad pickles in the kitchen that urgently needs sorting. Books double-line the shelves, and are hence "unfindable".

My younger grandchild turned five yesterday. I think I was energized by talking to her. As of yesterday, all the kids in her Kindergarten class are five years old! There was tremendous magic in her being four years old one day, and five years old the next! I think that magic affected me too! August with its ennui is over, September is a brand new month. This morning I went for my walk with the basement key in my pocket, and came home with a large bag which I have yet to unpack and sort. The laundry has been put away. A new blogpost has been written. September augurs well.