i’ll post every few days or so. here’s my first 3 days:
Day 1, India:
Since I haven’t written in some time, and there’s quite a lot to tell, I’ll break it down into several segments: 1) the actual trip here, 2) India, and finally, 3) first impressions of Ramadan in India.
The trip was surprisingly a very comfortable and, dare I say, an enjoyable experience going via Air India. In the past, you would have never caught me use the words enjoyable and Air India in the same sentence, yet I tell you – things have changed. While in the aisle of the plane waiting to get off of the plane, I spoke with one of the air host (is that what they call a male hostess?), and commended how much AI has changed within the past year. I mentioned my wife’s praise of AI to him, and he was actually not too surprised. He said over the past year there has been significant competition with multiple private airlines popping up in India, and, well, to put it mildly, AI had to step up. They employed several young people who understand customer service, and basically got rid of those aunties who wore those horribly ugly saris, who felt they were doing us a favor by getting us meals, water and responding to our call lights.
As I type this, I over-hear my mother-in-law talking to my wife. It’s 3 am in the morning, the electricity has turned off and we’re sitting by candlelight. It’s almost sehri time. She (MOI) said, “Why must those manhoosa turn off the electricity at sehri time? They never have problems with electricity during their festivals!” It’s ganpati season for the next 9 days. My brother-in-law said they (the ganesh idols) were all wearing burqas yesterday because it was raining.
Back to the trip – I took a seat next to the window, and there was only 1 other seat attached to mine. The layout of their new planes has changed. It’s now 3-3-3, with occasional 2-3-2 at the beginning of the aisles. My neighbor sat down, a well-dressed young man, and a bindi on his maate (hah!). I introduced myself, seeing as we would be buddies for the next 24 hours. We get to talking and I tell him I’m a physician, just finishing residency. He’s a graduate of Osmania University, just finishing a few observerships in Florida, but was staying with his cousin in Chicago. He’s heading back for 2 months and will return for interview season in November.
Isn’t it amazing how you can eat dinner thousands of miles up in the air without a care in the world? I missed all my prayers. Still need to make them up. I suppose I just make up 24 hours of prayers, even though I gained a day.
India is still about the same, with a few upgrades, invisible to the weary eyes of the poor and lower middle class. If you decide to take a drive out to the areas of the rich, you’ll find new glass and steel boxes housing them for lakhs and lakhs of moolah. It comes out to 300k-600k USD per condo. That’s pretty expensive. I’ve heard that Hyderabad has quickly risen to some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Yet, there are still people getting by on a few cents per day. Rather than the economy growing, the disparity between the rich and poor is growing.
Not to leave you on a bad note, I enjoyed my first Ramadan fajr of India. The masjid was packed. Not of smelly old dude with long unkempt hair, but rather, young kids, between ages 10-30. It is a sight to see. So the Muslims are waking up. Someone once said not to worry about the Muslims until you see the amount of Muslims showing up for jumah salat begin to show up for fajr.
Well the light is still off. The mosquitoes have gone off into an awful rage sipping that tasty blood of an American bred Indian physician. Now I understand why everyone in India sleeps with a fan.
Until next time.
Day 2: India
So, my grandma is sick. About 6 weeks ago she had a hypoglycemic episode and possibly a stroke. She hasn’t been the same since. My mother is quite worried about leaving for NYC – she leaves in about 5 days. So she wanted my “professional” opinion about whether to stay or not. There is one thing that a physician cannot predict – death. Sorry everyone, they don’t teach us that in medical school. It’s not in my hands. Khair, please make dua for her and my whole family. It’s a difficult time.
It’s strange that my first patient as an attending is my own family member.
Finally went to the masjid across the street for taraweeh. It was amazing. Remember I was telling you about how so many young guys are coming to the masjid? This masjid is even more amazing. The imam of taraweeh was this young kid, wasn’t even old enough to have a beard. His qirat was amazing too, mashallah.
So, I’m trying to get my wife’s brothers and her father to join me for 10 days in itikaf. I’ve never done it before, mainly because Hajera and I have always been alone, so it’s tough to leave your wife for 10 days at a time when there isn’t anyone else at home. This time around, she has her sister, mother, sisters-in-law and the rest of Hyderabad. She’ll be fine. I left her for 4 months one time in India. Inshallah, make dua, I think this year I’ll do it.
Ok, I’m in the mood for some gulab jamun. Peace.
Day 3: India
Just finished eating sehri. Last night we went out around midnight to get some sandwiches and pizza. It was raining like crazy. In Hyderabad, I think the worst thing that can happen for sanitation and health is rain. I know most people equate rain with water, life and agriculture and so on, but in a major city like Hyderabad, it equals disaster. Everywhere you look there’s garbage on the streets. Now add water. Gross. So even though I was soaked from head to toe from mainly rainwater from the sky, as soon as I got home, I took a quick shower. You never know what went in your mouth or face as you’re enjoying a midnight ride on the back of a scooter.
I met my grandma’s physician today. He’s a psychiatrist, completed his MBBS from Mumbai. Nice man. He practices in a clinic with a few inpatient beds that his father-in-law set up. The father-in-law is an oncologist from Chicago who used to commute frequently between the two cities, maintaining active practices at both sites. He taught his son-in-law about general medicine, and since then, he has been practicing that in addition to psychiatry.
He was very candid with me about managing patients in India, and the degree of information provided to them regarding their illnesses. It’s very paternalistic and primarily clinically based medicine. Work-up is limited with a focus on clinical treatment, heavily due to financial limitations. “Kya yei test zuruuri hain doctor?” So we decided to get a CXR, 2D echo and some lab work. It seems the physician in India has the same trouble as a physician in America in trying to get patients to comply with workup. A major difference, however, is the trust that patients here put into their physicians, albeit blind, sans Medscape. It may be for the better. I mentioned to him that I was working on a paper about the “History of the History and Physical” and that I may want to pursue cross-cultural differences on how a history is taken. So he asked me to join him on some Sunday when I am free. My mamu thinks this is a very unique opportunity, seeing that he is a very busy man.
My grandmother is feeling a bit better. She recognized me yesterday and asked me when I arrived in India. She’s eating well. Her naukraani is taking very good care of her. It’s weird, though. She’s a complete stranger taken in, rather, hired, by my relatives to take care of the grandparents. I believe her pay goes to her parents, who use it to take care of her brothers and sisters. It’s also good for her; since her parents cannot provide for her, i.e. afford to marry her off to someone. So that responsibility has fallen onto the shoulders of her adopted “family.” She calls my mamu “baba” and my aunt “mummy”. I wonder what she calls her own parents.
Still haven’t gotten internet access. Things move a bit slower in the Old City, they say. Hope the bandwidth isn’t as slow.
FYI, my grandma is doing a bit better, alhamdulillah.