Chennai Rain Disaster 2015

First hand experience of one of my friends in Chennai rain disaster 2015.

My friend Latha had last heard from her mother the previous day that the ground floor of her house was submerged in water and that she had moved to the first floor. Latha tossed and turned in her bed the entire night waiting for daybreak to jump into action.

Her husband Satish and herself set out with purpose and determination to rescue her mother: they drove in their car for as long as they could and when they couldn’t proceed any further they abandoned the car and started wading through the flood water. The progress was slow and it seemed like they weren’t  getting anywhere. Slowly desperation and helplessness started to take over. It was then that her eyes fell on a beacon of hope – a policeman!

Her first request for help in saving her stranded mother was nonchalantly dismissed. Further pleading him, trying hard to make him understand the helpless situation her mother was in got a sterner “No”. He let her know in no uncertain terms that saving her mother was not his priority. With tears of rage filling her eyes she frantically marched on. After a while she chanced to meet a guy with a bigger vehicle who too was trying to rescue a relative. He was lost as he wasn’t familiar with that area. Latha jumped at the opportunity to help him as she knew the place well and he in turn agreed to help her rescue her mother.  

But to her utter dismay she found herself stranded again as even the bigger vehicle failed to get through after some point. Satish asked her to stay put, while he tried his best to slowly wade through the water but was soon alarmed to find himself, a fairly tall guy, chest deep in water. He felt it would be dangerous and foolish to continue on. So they retreated back to their car.

She rested her head on the dashboard feeling defeated and desolate. Her phone dead for long springs to life! She picked up the phone and as soon as she heard the sound of her best friend Sangeetha from the other end she broke down. She continued to cry as she explained the nightmare she was going through: her father was out of town , her mother was stuck in the flooded house all by herself for two days then! Her rescue mission failed, she couldn’t seem to get in touch with her mother, she absolutely doesn’t know what her mother is going through and that was filling her with dread!

Nothing else could be done that day.

Next day Satish’s friend tried his luck at saving Latha’s mother. He was relieved to find that the water had receded to three feet which let him guide her mother through those murky waters into the safety of an auto rickshaw. The auto rickshaw took her mother to Latha’s house. As soon as Latha sets her eyes on her mother she rushed towards her, hugged her tightly and started sobbing uncontrollably.             

Well-Informed Patient

  • Marginal Osteophytes at multiple levels 
  • Dorso-lumbar vertebrae 
  • Dextroscoliosis Lumbar Spine 
  • Degenerative endplate, irregular margins L-2  I 3-4 with reduced disk spaces
  • Bilateral Facet arthropathic changes at multiple levels

 

My father- in- law (FIL) was told by the doctor that he was suffering from all the above conditions and that surgery would be required to alleviate his pain. The fact that he needed surgery rattled him and he immediately called my husband. My husband noted down the details, researched it and let his dad know that it simply meant arthritis of the spine and most probably he won’t require surgery.

FIL went for second opinion and was relieved to know that he didn’t require surgery. But my husband raised a doubt as to why he was prescribed Rantac, an acid reducer without being prescribed a steroid. He wanted FIL to call up his doctor and clarify the issue but FIL outrightly refused to do so because he thought doing so would insult his doctor.

Why is it that in India we believe being subservient means being respectful? In fact, won’t a well informed and participatory patient be more helpful to the doctor in making an accurate diagnosis and a suitable treatment plan? Wouldn’t it be relieving for the doctor to go from playing God to being a partner in solving the problem? In this age of commercialization one would think that, acting in self interest, people would be very interested in equipping themselves with all the basic facts of life, knowledge of health issues being one of them. But I find that’s not the case.

Most people I know would rather spend their time binge-watching cricket matches or junk movies than getting to know their own body and mind. Is it because they are too lazy to learn and think it is too boring and beyond their comprehension? Is it so bothersome that they want the luxury of someone else completely taking charge of all their health issues?

Ultimately, our health is our responsibility and being a well-informed patient has become a necessity in today’s world. 

 

Pleasant Trip

Millions of minutes before this moment had started my mantra No motion-sickness please!!

It was 11.45 pm. What an ungodly hour to be waiting in line to drop off my checked luggage and collect my boarding pass! No motion-sickness please!! Fifteen minutes passed and I hadn’t moved an inch forward. Why are all international flights from India scheduled at such ridiculous hours? Our convenience is not their priority, I guess. No motion-sickness please!! Half an hour went by and I was still standing at the same spot. Thank god! My one year old daughter was fast asleep in her stroller. No motion-sickness please!! An hour passed and I was still stuck at the same place but knew why. The computers were down! No motion-sickness please!!

Passengers were getting impatient and restless. Just before it could have turned into a ruckus, they rushed us through check in No motion-sickness please!!, emigration No motion-sickness please!!, security No motion-sickness please!! boarding No motion-sickness please!!   procedures and we were seated in the plane successfully.

One hour passed by and the plane hadn’t budged. I started feeling stuffy. No motion-sickness please!! Another half an hour passed and now I was sweating but knew why. No motion-sickness please!!  There was a mechanical failure and the air conditioners weren’t working. We sat in there for another half an hour practically melting before the engine was up and running. No motion-sickness please!! They let us know apologetically that we were couple of hours behind schedule and hoped to make it up as much as possible in flying time. What?!

It’s OK, I will still be able to catch my connecting flight. No motion-sickness please!!  

We were midway and so far,  we weren’t making up any of the lost time. No motion-sickness and let me make the connecting flight please!! As time passed let me make the connecting flight please!!

The plane reached late! let me make the connecting flight please!! Did I mention that my daughter’s stroller was checked in because it was considered too bulky? None of the flight attendants would be available to  help me out in transferring to the connecting terminal till the last passenger left! So I had no option but to carry my daughter, the diaper bag and a carry on and sprint from one terminal to the other which were quite far apart. To make the situation worse, we had to go through the security check as well!

Man! There was a huge crowd at the security checkpoint. I panicked! I hesitated for a while but then decided to put on a brave front while pushing my way through the crowd. I hate breaking rules and felt horrible jumping the line. I was yelled at by few people, ”hey lady! where do you think you are going?” “we are waiting too!” I ignored them, reached the security personnel and explained to them my crisis. They took pity on me, checked me and let me through.

Hooray! We reached the gate on time! I sat down on a chair huffing and puffing and setting my daughter free to move around. She was very happy to be the center of attention of a group of  young people sitting beside me. They were cooing and babbling over her in their native tongue and  before I could comprehend the situation and react, the deed was done: one of the them shared his white chocolate with my daughter and in no time it was in her mouth! Gesturing wildly I went “Sorry! no chocolate! she eat no chocolate!” She has never had a chocolate or any sugar based sweet up until then in her life, moreover it was given by a total stranger! I can’t believe even today that instead of immediately prying the chocolate out of her mouth I let her eat that piece so as not to offend the stranger!!

I paid the price for my stupidity. My daughter started shitting once every hour for the first half of our journey; we would dash to the toilet and while I would be changing the diaper she would  get excited seeing herself in the mirror and would break into a jig on the foldable diaper table. I don’t know whether it was the diaper table or the mirror or the overall novelty of a confined toilet space in the plane that held my daughter’s fascination, but we ended up spending most of our travel time there.

We arrived at our destination on time and everything went on smoothly until one of my suitcases was not to be found on the baggage belt. The helper that I had arranged to help me with the luggage grew impatient and I reluctantly let him go to find another customer. I had no choice but to leave the trolley carrying my luggage right next to the baggage area in order to unfold the stroller, place my daughter in it and push her along to the lost baggage claim area. There I was asked to check through few large suitcases that were separately placed near the counter. Thank god!! My suitcase was there!!

As I was standing there wondering helplessly as to what to do next, I spotted the helper who was to help me before and asked him if he could help me now. He agreed.

I was so relieved to see my husband waiting in the visitor’s area! The first thing he asked me was if I was OK or did I get motion sick? It took me a moment to realize that I didn’t get motion sick at all! In a way it was a pleasant trip!     

             

Sign

We were going to Ooty with a stopover at Masinagudi for a night. We were travelling by bus from Bangalore. As soon as the bus started moving so did my stomach. At first my stomach was making me feel a bit uneasy then queasy and half way through our ride I was battling  full blown nausea. Whenever the bus stopped for a break I would leap out of the bus  and walk in circles gulping in air trying desperately  to overcome my nausea. I was practically climbing the walls by the time we reached our destination and was so relieved to get out of the bus and feel the  ground beneath me that I had to literally stop myself from kneeling down and kissing it.

We soon found out that we were stranded: the local transportation operators had gone on strike that day and we couldn’t contact our resort because our cell phone had no signal in that region. We made ourselves comfortable in a canteen while plotting our next move. There didn’t seem to be a phone booth that we could use so we asked the lady in the canteen if she could lend us her cell phone to contact our resort. She readily passed her phone to us. We could successfully contact the resort manager and arrange for a pick up. When we offered  to pay for the call the lady refused to accept any money.

As we were waiting to be picked up I noticed an unkempt young chap looking at me surreptitiously. I didn’t know what to make of it. So I kept an eye on him discreetly all through the wait up until we were comfortably seated in our jeep all ready to leave. As we were about to leave, the lady approached us with a request. She wanted to know if we could drop a fellow villager in his village on our way to our resort. We agreed to give that man a lift. As I was profusely thanking her again for helping us out, I was surprised to find the young chap whom I was dubious about  gesturing animatedly to me. It was fascinating to watch him! It took me a while to realize that he was deaf and dumb but could comprehend what he was trying to convey.

I was blown away by how and what he was saying to me! I was so caught up in this incredible moment that I found myself enthusiastically gesturing to let that young man know that I understood what he meant.

Even now I find that encounter surreal! Such profound thought explained to me by someone I least expected it from and in a manner that was beyond words. His message in sign was Hey, you are so caught up in your act of thanking that you are missing the bigger picture here:  the lady helped you and you are helping the man and the man will in turn help someone else and that someone else is going to help another someone and that someone will help another one and that one will ………       

Rubbish

Throughout our drive in Meghalaya; from towns to countryside, bungalows to shacks; all were very tidy and clean so I knew that the above message was for us, the tourist. I instantly liked it because I felt that it hit the right spot! A bit of shaming, boosting or bombing one’s own complex regarding their education and giving opportunity to everyone to flaunt themselves as an educated elite by simply disposing their garbage the right way!

For once instead of avoiding all crowded tourist spots and routes, I eagerly visited each one of them, one after the other, to see if it was garbage free. OMG! I was witnessing the biggest magic of all: I hardly saw any litter anywhere! I was so happy and convinced of this rare reality that I chose to skip the rest of the crowded spots. To my astonishment we found a totally deserted, beautiful waterfall along the way! We enthusiastically jumped out of the car to spend some time there. We were walking towards the falls, admiring the awesome view, when my eyes fell on about half a dozen discarded disposable plates, cups and spoons carelessly strewn around the place……..gosh! What a disappointment!!

Why do you think this message failed to have the desired effect on people in this place?Was I wrong in assuming that all the litter free places were the result of this message?Leave your opinions in the comments.  

 

 

Two Wheeler?

Photo : Deccan Chronicle

A friend called to inform me that one of our high school classmates had passed away in a road accident. My first thought was, was he driving a two wheeler? She went to explain with great sympathy that his motorbike collided with a water tanker and in spite of wearing a helmet he died instantly. He was 42 years old, survived by his wife and two children. As she was saying how tragic this was and how unlucky he was all I could think was how irresponsible he was.  

The following month I was sitting across another friend of mine listening to another tragic road accident. As she was describing how devastated his family members were I couldn’t stop myself from asking out loud as to whether the person was driving a two wheeler. She said ‘yes’ and continued to narrate how in order to avoid a puddle of water he swerved and collided with an oncoming bus. Apparently his horoscope had predicted that water would be the cause of his death and he and his family had taken all precautions to keep him away from all water bodies like swimming pool, beach but puddle of water didn’t even cross their mind. She was amazed at the incomprehensible and unconquerable fate. While my mind shrieked “What?”, I ,in a very matter of fact tone, let her know that I had my own take on it. The current reality is that Indian roads are one of the most dangerous places to be in and being on a two wheeler is like signing your own death warrant.

Somehow many of us are blind to this reality. In the past few months four people whom I know have lost their lives driving a two wheeler on Indian roads. Only one person while discussing one of the above deaths was pissed off at the person for driving a two wheeler when he could have easily driven his car or taken public transport. Two of the above mentioned deaths could have been avoided by getting their job done online.

Everyone knows that today road accident is the leading cause of unnatural death. Or don’t they? Are there people like my mom whose perception of reality is screwed up? She gets carried away by sensational news about a plane crash or a sinking boat or natural disaster or terrorist bombing, sympathizes with the victims and sends a quick prayer up for being spared from such a fate without realizing that she literally hands over her life to fate each time she is on the road.

I get the impression that many are obstinate about driving two wheelers. If one asks why, affordability is the reason usually thrown at you. This applies to few. For many it is just a matter of PRIORITY! I guess I can conclude safely that for many in India staying alive or remaining functional is not their priority.

 

Water Project

A year ago……...

Our aim: To make our fourteen year daughter drink at least a bottle of water a day…

Our latest strategy: We had set the first alarm at a particular time of the day to remind us to fill her bottle with water. The second alarm was set halfway through the 24 hours window to check progress and accordingly remind-or rather push-our daughter towards finishing the bottle of water before the deadline. I had suggested to my husband that we let our daughter take the responsibility of filling the bottle herself. However he felt it would be better to concentrate on one task at a time; first, we focus on getting one bottle of water inside her every day. After we nail that, we  move on to the part of taking personal responsibility.

Second day into the strategy the alarm rang and I went to check her bottle. I was disappointed to see that she had hardly drank any water, maybe just half a cup! “Will you ever grow out of it?!” I snapped and continued with my rant, ” Do you remember that I was cooing over your baby photos and videos some time back? You then asked me if I would have preferred  to have you as a baby lifelong. I immediately replied “NO!” and explained to you that it was amazing to have you as a little one for some time but the demand of taking care of you as a baby for a lifetime would have killed me! I enjoy watching you grow and become more and more capable. You are an amazing kid! But you know what? I am totally exhausted!! I feel like I am stuck forever with the same old problem of convincing you to drink enough water!” My daughter stormed out of the room.

I was left standing there alone wondering about my bizarre outburst. It was my hopelessness speaking up after yet another failure in what I called our “water project” which we had been working on from time immemorial. I even started thinking that maybe I should stop pestering my daughter about her water intake. I had read somewhere that the necessity of drinking a particular amount of water every day was a myth. Each body requires a different amount of water and your body will let you know when and how much it requires. In other words, don’t fret over your water consumption. I even heard an actor say in an interview that she hardly drank any water and she seemed pretty healthy to me… I knew that the demotivated part of me was just trying to take the easy way out. However, the nagging mother in me refused to give up.

I thought some more and this time all fingers were pointing at me and my husband; our inconsistency to follow a plan through to its conclusion. We would fret over her not drinking enough water, would come up with a plan, follow it till we got distracted by some other issue, and conveniently forget about the water issue till we are reminded of it again by chance or some happening. Again we would come up with another plan and… you can guess the rest. That time around we hoped to break the loop and see the plan through to its end.

P.S : Hurrah! Today our daughter drinks a bottle of water a day!!!