india trip, post 7

Wednesday, September 16, 2009; Day 23-25: India; 2:14 PM

Sunday’s grocery shopping trip triggered multiple days of irregular and disparate sleep cycles, and with trying to catch up on Ramadan Quran I haven’t been able to sit and write. Even now, I was going to try to take a nap, seeing that I’ve been up since 3 AM. But, alas, you would miss all the wonderful things I’ve been up to these past 3 days. I’ll go backwards.

This morning after fajr, we played cricket, 2 on 2, pick-up style. Every time I play cricket, I have to relearn the rules. This makes me look very weak, and I get treated like a celebrity trying to make the opening pitch reach home plate. Yay for the retard who tried to play cricket! Look, he’s trying so hard. Isn’t he so cute? So, I think next time I play cricket, I will bring the confidence as if I’ve been playing for years. It’s a mental game, baby.

Ok, the rules of a pick-up game of cricket are as follows. The wicket is like home plate, and is where the batter stands. The difference between a wicket and home plate is it’s something that is standing, like a chair or a stool, so it can be hit, like a target. If you’re playing in dirt, you can use 3 sticks. If a pitcher hits the wicket, it counts as one out. Boundaries are made. Direct hits beyond the boundary count as 6 points. Hits that touch the ground and end up beyond this boundary are 4 points. It helps if you have a wall as a boundary, because the wall can serve as the target you have to hit, and anything beyond it would be an out.

One over is 6 pitches. A pitch counts if it’s to the right of a right-handed batter (and to the left for a left-handed) or if the batter swings and misses. It’s very similar to a strike, except I’ve noticed the strike zone is much larger, and don’t forget about how an out is made if the wicket is hit. We played with 3 overs per team. That comes out to 18 pitches per round. Each player gets one out. So the round can finish in 2 pitches (if each pitch successfully causes an out for each player in a 2 on 2 game) or can take 18 pitches. An out can also be made if the ball is caught before it touches the ground, again very similar to what we’re used to.

So we played 3 games, which amounts to 6 overs per game, which equals a total of 18 overs, which had a potential of 108 pitches (but it finished in one hour and we didn’t get that high). I didn’t make any points. My brother-in-law did land one ball in my son’s stomach and gave him a bruise. We had two draws and then my team lost the last game, 12-0.

Yesterday, I went to Banjara Hills to see my sister-in-law’s new condo. Her husband owns a ladies clothing store in Nampally, which is a decent moneymaker, Alhamdulillah. My other sister-in-law has also purchased a condo there as well, so my wife threw around the idea of us getting one there as well. The condo is in a large enclave of multiple buildings, maybe around 10-12. Just behind it are the slums, separated by a large concrete wall and barbed wire. I didn’t get what was behind the wall when we first got to the comples, so I kept jumping up and climbing to see what was behind it. My wife pulled me to the side and told me, so I stopped acting like a monkey. The slums supply the constant labor of workers to clean, cook, drive, and anything else the master wants. I read a good book on the plane called, “The White Tiger,” about a driver from Delhi. Read it if you get a chance.

So my sister-in-law has a family of workers who live close to her old house. But since they won’t be able to make the trek everyday, they are also moving to Banjara Hills, to a brand new slum neighborhood. I wonder if they are as excited as my sister-in-law’s family. Not being sarcastic, mind you, but I would think that the slums in Banjara Hills are better than the slums here in the Old City. The children of her servant also help around the house, and get to live in the master’s house. They get three square meals a day, and a place to sleep when the day is done. They don’t go to school, however, so I foresee a never-ending cycle of poverty. As I mentioned in a previous post, the CM of A.P. who just passed away, was huge on giving free education for impoverished people. I suppose people who have workers provide a living, food, a place to sleep, and like my nani’s worker, a paid marriage at the end of their contract.

On Monday, I spent a good portion of the day driving around the city on the back of a motorcycle with my younger brother-in-law, who’s completed his bachelors, and is pursuing an MBA. He showed my Osmania University, which has a gigantasaurus monster-sized campus. He told me that enrollment is about 500,000 students. For real? I need to check up on that. That’s ridiculous. I saw all the colleges – engineering, law, medicine, technology, biology, English, literature, etc. Some of the buildings are super-old and display their badge of age with pride, and some are large glass buildings with a sheek modern look. There’s still buildings being erected all across campus.

I think next time I come to India I will hire a driver. It’ll probably only be 2-3 weeks. Maybe someone who stays with me for 24 hours, to drive at my will. I’ll provide him with meals and give him a place to sleep. I’ll obviously pay him. The going rate is about 3000 to 5000 rupees a month.

It’s almost 3. My battery is almost dead. I should take a nap before iftar. My youngest still hasn’t slept, and is roaming the house. The only other sounds I hear are of my mother-in-law’s worker finishing the dishes. The house looks spotless.

Friday, September 18, 2009; Day 26-27: India; 11:00 AM

I just woke up after a 2-hour nap. I had a weird dream. I’ve been having real vivid and strange dreams since I’ve come to Hyderabad. All were good dreams with the exception of one really scary dream I had about a week ago. I did the la hawla wa la quwata illah billah (there is no ? and no power except Allah) thing, where you spit to the side and turn around. I also read Surah Falaq and Nas, read the entire ayatul kursi and also Surah Fathiha. I tend to over-do it when I’m scared or worried about something. Try walking out to your car at 2 AM in Chicago. Even in my yuppie/Jewish/family neighborhood it’s scary. Back to the dreams. Actually, I can’t remember a single one. If I had a really good dream when I was younger, I used to write it down or tell someone as soon as I woke up, or else I would forget it. Dreams are in the details. My wife had some really weird dreams when we first got married.

The reason I’ve been going a few days before writing is that Ramadan is ending and I’m trying to grab all the blessings before it disappears. So far in this house my mother-in-law, both of my brother-in-laws wives, and my sister-in-law have finished their reading of the Quran. The women in this household are deeply religious, mashallah. My wife just completed it a few minutes ago. We were competing a bit, but then she pulled ahead and never looked back. I still have several parts left to read, and there’s only days left, which will soon become hours. Eid could be Monday or Tuesday here, so I have the rest of today, Saturday and Sunday. Please make dua for me that I finish. I’ve never finished the Quran in Ramadan before. Last year was the closest when I got to part 22. Then I spent the rest of the year slowly completing it. I’ve only read the Quran twice in my lifetime. Yes, it’s embarrassing, especially when you know that I’ve read several thousand-page textbooks from cover to cover, and have spent several thousand hours mulling over medical review books and programs. Inshallah, now that I’ve completed that period, I really need to put my priorities in order.

I haven’t really introduced the people who are in this house. This house has seen a wide array of people and has changed throughout the years. It was built about 20 years ago. So today, here are the folks living here. Relax, nothing will be said about their character or personality – the last thing I want to do is backbite during Ramadan, especially when I’ve still got my work cut out for me. There’s my father-in-law (mamu), who used to be a big businessman, set up shops for all his brothers, and even had a clothing factory at one point. Since his middle son passed away about 10 years ago, he hasn’t had the heart to get back into it. He’s since put his stores for rent, and re-focused his life on his family and deen. My mother-in-law is next, who was pregnant for 20 years – really, she had 9 children, mashallah. One of my friends aunts had 19 children. That must be a crazy family reunion. My mother-in-law got married when she was 15, and has been a dedicated housewife since then (and also played the role of dedicated daughter-in-law for the first 30 years or so of her marriage, which I’ll get into later). There’s my two brother-in-laws. The older one just got married a week before I arrived, and still has the new husband worries and joys on his face. The younger one got married a year ago (can’t tell you his wife’s age, but rest assured it was done in classic family tradition – seriously) and is now pursuing his MBA. Their wives also live here in two apartments made on the 2nd floor for them. The older one’s wife completed all her education in Urdu, and the younger one is still finishing high school.

The daugher-in-law role (also known as bahu) in India and in Indian families around the world is the most ridiculous role ever created. People live together in joint families for the most part in India, and it’s almost always the son who lives with his parents, bringing his wife as the addition to the family. The mother-in-law (known as sahnce – it also means breath in Hindi, which I always thought was a horrible coincidence) essentially picks up two little servants. I’m sure there are many positives in living in joint families. My brother-in-law’s don’t have to pay rent/utilities, pay for food, have to find baby-sitting, and are really settled before they start their first job. All they had to do was get married, bring the large dowry and hand it to their mother. I’ll continue this discussion at a later date. I have told my wife that if my boys can’t afford it, we’ll buy them a condo or get them a studio apartment a few blocks away from our house when they get married.

I played cricket again yesterday, succumbing to peer-pressure. I got hit with the ball right in the mouth and cut my upper lip on the inside. I didn’t bleed much, so my fast was still intact. So we decided to stop playing. But, yet again, we played for about half-hour this morning. It was cut a bit short because my aunt called me to see my grandma because the BP was reading low. It was a false alarm because subsequent pressures were fine. We’ve got her a hospital bed and an eggshell-type air mattress yesterday. She was beginning to develop more bed-sores a few days ago, but since we’ve been vigilant with turning her, and with lots of dua from lots of concerned people, the ulcers have improved.

Last night was the 27th night of Ramadan. The last 10 nights of Ramadan are always special, but here the 27th night is played up a bit. The reading of the Quran during taraweeh was completed last night. Afterwards, dates were handed out to everyone, and in true Hyderabadi style, the Imam, the hafiz who led taraweeh, and the boy who calls azan all had garlands of flowers put on them in front of everyone at the end of the ceremony.

One last thing I was to say. I posted a link about the PM of Bangladesh putting a ban on suit-coats and ties to save energy. In that article there was mention about adopting the style of the British. What about getting rid of the horrible sherewani suit? It’s just as horrible, especially in the hot and humid weather of the Indian subcontinent. This argument started when one of my friends told me that the necktie is against Islam, and that a true sign of iman is wearing kurta-pajama’s to work. I disagree wholeheartedly. There are uniforms for everything in life. When you go to the masjid, you can rock a kurta or thowb. At home, it all about scrub pants and T-shirts. At work, maybe a suit and tie. And at an Indian wedding, a sherwani suit, no matter how uncomfortable. It’s the culture you live in that dictates dress. The religion simply guides that dress.

Ok, I’ve wasted enough of yours as well as my time. What a terrible sentence. My grammar seems to deteriorate while I’m fasting.

Saturday, September 19, 2009; Day 28: India; 7:42 PM

I finished! Alhamdulillah, I finally finished the Quran in Ramadan. I know it’s pathetic that I’m 27 years old and never did this before. But, hey you have to start somewhere. I bought some mithee boondi (it’s fried sweet daal) and a bunch of jasmine garlands. We had a mini celebration for all the people who completed the Quran. Then my youngest took everyone’s flowers and wore them together.

Yesterday I went to a masjid called Teen Posh with a friend of mine here in Hyderabad. The teen is for “tin,” because the original masjid had a tin roof. I’m not sure where posh came from. It’s a TJ masjid and the imam is good friends (or maybe brother?) to our own Mufti Naval ur Rahman. His khutbah was off the chain. His name is Obaid ur Rahman. I’ll relay one of his points to you here. He said the litmus test to see if your nawafil prayers are for show versus out of true sincerity is to see if you are compliant with the compulsory prayers. If you don’t pray your regular prayers, then the nawafil prayers are for pleasing yourself and your own nafs. It’s similar to someone who give sadaqa but doesn’t pay zakat.

Say what you will about the TJs, but their ulema rock. Every mufti I’ve met from db has had this amazing, peaceful ambiance about them. Danish told me that Mufti Saab (Nawal ur Rahman) told him that the most difficult part of his education was learning to control the nafs. He said part of learning this was to be in khidmat (assistance) to his teacher for over 17 years. After prayers, everyone went to meet and say salam to Mufti Obaid ur Rahman. I told him that I was from Chicago and a regular member of Mufti Naval ur Rahman’s masjid. His eyes lit up and he smiled. I had other questions for him, but I became speechless, and my heart started pounding. It’s weird, these scholars are so beyond me that I have to really muster up courage to even say salam to them. As soon as they start talking, I lose my speech and start acting like a little schoolgirl meeting Tom Cruise or something. It doesn’t happen with anyone, like it doesn’t happen with Mufti Kamani or Maulana Lakhi Saab. And it’s not limited to the db school. I get schoolgirlish with Imam Siraj, Suhaib Webb, Imam Zaid Shakir, and let’s not forget the ultimate superstar, Sheikh Hamza. I don’t think I could even say salam to him. It’s like being a medical student and talking to the MICU director.

We then went shopping for a few things I wanted for the kids (really, for the kids). We got fireworks for Eid night and some kites to bring back home to Chicago. I even bought the manja. See, kite flying here is not simply holding the string and watching your kite sway in the wind. It’s a serious sport. It’s all because of the manja. It’s a string that’s covered in fiberglass that’s attached to the end of the regular string and then to the kite. The manja is used to cut other kites in the air. The cut kite now floats to the ground, and everyone races to claim it. It can get pretty intense, with verbal assaults shouted from rooftop to rooftop. There’s a day in January where all of India flies kites, and the sky is blotted out. Maybe I’ll coincide my next trip with this festival.

Tomorrow we look for the moon to see if Ramadan ends and whether Eid is on Monday. I might try to venture out to see the bhidr – apparently it’s crazier than Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

My nani is about the same. Her BP was a bit low this morning, and her output wasn’t as much as usual. I think she’s dehydrated, so we added free water flushes. Her servant and my mamu’s wife have gotten her care down. They’ve been doing everything for at least a week or so. At first there was some resistance that I wasn’t doing much, but I think it was for the best, seeing that I’ll be gone in a week or so.

Monday, September 21, 2009; Day 29-30; 7:19 PM

My nani passed away on Saturday night. The funeral was yesterday. Inal ilaha wa inal ilahi raajioon – from Allah we come and to Allah we return. About an hour or so after I finished writing the last post, they called me to see her because she had developed a significant amount of mucus and her output was still low. We sat her up, which helped somewhat. Then I went out with my middle mamu to get an inhaled mucolytic to help her bring up the secretions. We came back, gave an extra nebulizer treatment, and after about an hour or so, she improved, so I went to bed.

Around 1 AM, her servant came running, telling me to come quick. I thought it was another one of those minor issues, but decided to head there a bit quicker than usual. When I got there, her breathing was labored and her pulse was very weak. Her blood pressure read error on the machine, probably because her pressure was so low. Within a few seconds she became pulseless. Part of me didn’t want to do it, knowing that any resuscitation after what now was her 4th cardiac arrest would not result in any meaningful recovery. But, my wife and my mom told me that I was not the one making that decision and with the exception of intubation, she was still full code. So I began CPR, using a cloth to cover her mouth to give breaths. She responded, and about 5 minutes later she recovered a pulse, although her BP was still in the 50s. We started IV fluids, increased her oxygen to max, and I gave her a shot of Decadron (her primary physician asked me to give it to her in the case of another arrest – I believe he meant it to be as a stress dose of steroids; he had also asked to give epinephrine, but we couldn’t find it anywhere). After a few more minutes, she lost her pulse again. So I restarted CPR, doing a round robin – 5 cycles of 2 breathes, 30 compressions and pulse check, repeat. I went on for about another 20 minutes, and started getting tired.

In the hospital, there are teams for code blues, which is when there is a cardiopulmonary arrest. The members of the team take turns with compressions, never doing more than 2 minutes at a time. Even then, after the code, everyone’s back aches, and your muscles feel sore for the next day or two. I checked her eyes, which were fixed and dilated, suggestive of a significant brain injury.

Why am I writing all this detail? For those who weren’t there, it might help with closure, knowing that all that could be done from a doctor’s perspective in the middle of the night, in a third world country, and in the Old City sector of Hyderabad was done that night. Don’t read it if it’s too much for you, but for me it’s cathartic. Some people cry, some people beat their heads, some even faint. I talk to people in great detail, or now, more recently, I write. It helps me realize how trivial life and its problems are in the grand scheme of things, especially when I go back and read my previous posts.

Pronouncing was a little difficult. Some people understood immediately, others took some time. My grandfather was in the bed next to her, and although he looked like he was sleeping, I think he was awake the whole time. Immediately after we stopped CPR, he was reading Quran and making dua quietly to himself. Everyone made a big deal about telling or not telling him. When we finally told him, he said to me (in English), “Do you think I’m a little child? My son, I’m a very strong man, with a strong mind.” He later said that he deserved to be told first, especially since he was married to this woman for 66 years. She was 21, and he was 24. He’s now 90.

He was correct. One of my aunts yelled out really loud. He yelled at her and said, “Whoever wants to scream and cry go outside; not in here!” Then he asked to be taken to the bathroom, as if it was part of life.

The remainder of the family was notified, and over a thousand people came. The women did her ghusl and prepared her body. Then the men took her to the masjid on a bier. We did the janaza prayer, and then went to the graveyard. There’s a small graveyard next to Osmania General Hospital that has about 25 or so people from our family. Initially my grandfather wanted to have her buried in one of the graveyards that surround the house, but after some discussion with my mamu’s, he decided to go with the one at OGH. The burial was simple. They put her in 3 white sheets, directly on the ground, like we’re supposed to. In Chicago, we had to put my grandfather in a coffin, because that’s the law. We went with a simple plywood coffin, which I believe costs about $100, as opposed to the $4000 wood coffins that you can buy. We then put slanted slabs of stone to cover her, and then we all took turns shoveling in dirt. For those who were still in denial, this is when reality really hits you. Every one of us will be in the dirt at some point. The only thing that is 100 percent certain is death.

Today was Eid. We didn’t really celebrate it, other than going to prayer in the morning. All of our neighbors sent food. When my wife’s brother died at the age of 21, people sent food for 1 month. The allotted grieving period is 3 days. A few things happen differently here: 1) you’re not supposed to cook during this time, 2) not supposed to wear new clothes (which worked out, because we completely forgot to make Eid clothes for the children), and 3) when the 3 days are up, you’re supposed to make an active effort to return to normalcy. There is one exception (this is true Islamically, not just culturally) – when the husband dies, the woman has a 4-month and some days grieving period, when she cannot marry anyone else. This also helps to see if she’s carrying the deceased person’s child.

A few more days left in India. I think I’ve had my monsoon dose of India that should last a few years. I don’t think it’s India, rather, more that I’m not in my own home. Even going to the bathroom is a chore if you’re not in your own house.

The children are finally sleeping at night and awake during the day. Great timing guys. Hah. I met a TJ brother at the local masjid. You could tell by his beard, clothes and his aura. I think I know one of the reasons why they dress that way – it’s an identity. Like the clothes of a Orthodox Jew or a Jehovah Witness.

Ok, I’m tired as heck. My mom flew in this morning and I spent the whole day with her next to my grandpa. She’ll be here for a few week to make sure her dad is handling my nani’s death ok. I don’t think we have to worry about him.


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