india trip, post 3

Thursday, September 3, 2009; Day 11-12, India; 7:56 AM

Day 12 is today.  It just started.  But I haven’t had time to write at night, so I figured I’ll cover 12 today too.

I’m not going to mention much more about my nani.  I haven’t told anyone (in the family) that I’m posting stuff about what’s happened with her on my blog, but I’m getting a feeling that it’s not something that she would want shared with the world.  So from today, although I’ll still keep you updated, I’ll leave out all the gory details.

I’ve been visiting her at the nursing home at night after iftar (the meal that we break our fast with) and taraweeh (the super long night prayers during Ramadan).  It’s actually a mini hospital.  It’s run by the same physician I told you about a few days earlier who has a father-in-law who’s an oncologist in Chicago.  It’s 3 floors.  I’m not sure how many beds.  They can deal with acute medical emergencies, have a general ward, do deliveries, minor surgeries like hernia repair, and even c-sections.  In general, nursing homes in India mean a place where women deliver babies.  So I believe the whole name is Chanchalguda Nursing Home and Hospital.  He also has his outpatient clinic there.

So like I was saying, I visited her last night.  She was sleeping when I got there, still on oxygen, and still has the feeding tube and central venous catheter.  They have the CVP manometer attached to a pole, but my mom said that no one knew how to check it, so they had another physician come from outside to read it and paid him 200 rupees.  It was 7 (although I don’t think CVP’s matter now).  There’s some talk about trying to set up nursing care at home in a few days with oxygen, nebulizers and possibly suction.

Today is a Hindu festival.  They’ve been preparing one of their gods, Ganesh, for the past 10 days, doing daily prayers and offerings.  Then today they take all their Ganesh statues and put them in the lake.  I don’t know much more about it, but my uncle said that after they drop them in, people jump in afterwards to get the metal frame and latticework that the statue is built upon.  Whoever is able to get it then sells it to a local metals dealer.

We’re not supposed to go outside today while they celebrate, because groups of Hindus get drunk after the celebration and become hostile mobs.  Not the normal, everyday hardworking Hindu, but rather the Pat Robertson, psycho-nationalist Hindus who want Muslims in India exterminated.  My brother once saw a guy’s head get chopped off while the guy was driving a motorcycle in front of him.  But then again, this is the same brother that told all his friends that he got a 1600 on his SATs until I blew his cover by accident.  There used to be curfew in the past, i.e., after a certain time no one is allowed out without a genuine reason or risk imprisonment.  They’ve stopped it a couple of years ago, and simply beefed up the police presence.  I’ve heard though that you never want to end up in a prison in India.  Bad idea.  If you’ve seen how bad the bathrooms at the airport and movie theaters are, I can only imagine the horrors of a prisons toilet.

I’m not going to make this a post about what I don’t get about Hinduism, but there is a lot about it that I don’t understand.  There’s a book I read that I recommend to everyone: The Dummies Guide to World Religions.  There’s also a Dummies Guide to Islam written by an American-born white convert to Islam.  It’s pretty thorough.

My brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) came to see nani from New York.  Today after fajr prayer, he came out to wear his slippers and they were gone.  He bought them when he landed – nice leather ones, with strong straps.  They looked really comfortable.  I’ve been told by my cousins never to wear nice slippers to the mosque or people will steal them.  I usually end up wearing bathroom sponge slippers.  My brother-in-law says that whoever steals stuff from him probably needs it more than he does.

Ramadan is going well.  I’ve been sleeping so much later and later at night that I’m now actually sleeping in the morning at 8 or 9 AM.  The problem is that I wake up so late that sometimes I miss zuhr, the noon prayer.  That kind of defeats the purpose of Ramadan.  Food is delicious as always.  Still haven’t tried the haleem.  After the Ganesh celebrations are over, my brother-in-law (wife’s brother) said he’d take me out every night for a few days to taste all the haleem in Hyderabad.

Friday, September 4, 2009; Day 13: India; 7:53 AM

I’m very tired.  I was going to write last night, but didn’t get a chance to, and I’m about ready to knock out.  My brother-in-law looked after each prayer yesterday, but didn’t find his slippers.  Everyone is asleep.

The Chief Minister of A.P. (the state which Hyderabad is located) died this week.  His helicopter went missing 2 days ago, and they found the wreckage yesterday.  All of AP is shut down today.  Just like we weren’t supposed to go outside yesterday, common sense rules dictate that we cannot go out today.  I went out last night for 20 minutes, and nothing really happened.  My mom also went back and forth from the nursing home, and alhamdulillah, nothing happened.  So we will, however, go out for Friday prayers.  The problem is that people find dumb things to riot about here and cause violence.  So the smart people stay at home.  I was planning to go to Makkah Masjid (a really huge masjid here that has 500k capacity), but that will have to wait till next time.

We went out for Chicken 65 last night and there were pictures of the CM (Chief Minister) everywhere with a black flag attached to a pole.  Apparently, whenever a good politician dies, everyone puts up a black flag.  It’s kind of similar to our half-staff flag when there’s a national mourning.  This CM was a really good guy it seems.  He had held the seat for 5 years and was re-elected for 6 more years.  He didn’t cater to religious nationalistic groups, but rather worked for the general public and made changes to help AP and especially Hyderabad grow.  He created free higher education for minorities and the poor.  My brother-in-law who’s applying for an MBA is actually trying to get a free seat in one of the business colleges here.  The previous CM only catered to agricultural folk and didn’t care much about professionals nor city dwellers.  This recent CM has a son that I believe will continue the party.  The funeral is today, so no stores will be open today.

While we were waiting for the chicken, I was watching the haleem guy give bowls of haleem to customers.  I don’t think I described the haleem joints around here.  Every few blocks or so, all over the city, there is a haleem stall.  For those of you who don’t know what haleem is, it is a meat and wheat dish.  It’s consistency reminds me of gruel from prison with much more meat, and hella delicious.  It’s usually garnished with all types of seasonings.  So these haleem stalls are stages built around a huge oven with coal/wood fire, with the pot flush with the stage and the cook sitting cross-legged behind the pot.  The whole thing is enclosed within the stage, so you don’t actually see the fire.  The fire is never put out, but left to smolder during the day, and fed to high heat during the night.

When you go to a haleem stall, the guy doesn’t just grab a spoon and put it in a bowl.  One thing you need to know about Hyderabadi’s is that things are done in style.  Whether you have a $2000 auto-rickshaw or being driven in the back of a BMW, you do it in style.  The guy behind the counter of the bakery takes and hands back money with the confidence of a millionaire.  The guy who makes flowers for weddings and ceremonies does it with full effects, hands fluttering and dancing.  Even the children who jump on and off buses from school do it like they own the bus and the road it’s traveling on.

So back to the haleem guy.  He first fills a bowl he uses for taking the haleem out of the pot.  Then after filling it just a bit more than he knows he should, he takes a little off the top and lets it fall back in the pot.  He then holds the bowl about 3 feet in the air (yes, three feet – and the haleem is hot!) and lets it plop into one of several clean/washed bowls arranged in front of him.  Bowl arrangements differ from pyramids to oval-shapes.  Then the next guy grabs it, does a similar ballet with his spoon and the gravy from another large boiling pot.  He passes it to the next guy at a table who rains garnish of finely minced mirchi (green pepper), kothmere (coriander), and onion.  Then it’s handed to the customer with a clean spoon.  It’s like building a Model T.

I didn’t mention another really gross thing they made us do in the hospital.  They don’t have chairs in the ICU for patient families to sit on.  So people bring blankets and sheets and sit, lie, eat and sleep on the floor.  Yes, I spent 3 days on the floor of an ICU.  And you thought the barefoot thing was bad.  The blankets only come off the floor when the RMO (regional medical officer – a very high post in the hospital) makes his rounds.  When the RMO is around, the nurses, ward boys/girls, and security all run around like crazy trying to make everything right before he gets there.  It’s like the prime minister is coming to visit.

Well, until next time.  I’m gonna try and get some sleep before Jumah.  My nani is about the same.  They might take her central line out today because they’re not really checking CVPs and they can use peripheral lines or her feeding tube to give her medications.  Keep making dua.

Oh, I failed week 5.  So i’m gonna repeat it.  It’s more difficult during ramadan, but i want to be prepared for krav when i get back.

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