Friday, October 28, 2011

The R1 Mumbai Grand Prix...(edited to add dog)

The papers are full of the Buddh F1 circuit in Gurgaon (Delhi region) , where all those single seater, low-slung, excessively powerful, gas guzzling fancy F1 cars are expected to make a massive noise and drive (people and ) themselves round various dangerous bends,  while tons of folks with nothing else to do , crowd the stands and scream away , all the while knowing that nobody can hear them anyway.

The name is a bit intriguing, as if someone had to deal with Mayawati while deciding the name. I mean it might have been , either the statues or the name of her choice, or even both. Maybe the statues come later. The only F1 circuit in the world with statues, clutching handbags, with fancy champion car racers buzzing around in full racing  regalia  at their feet.

The company who owns the thing says "the name is derived from the word Buddha, and represents peace and calm.The Buddh International circuit logo consists of a ‘B’ which also resembles a heart".  A fine example of bad naming choices , bad sporting choices (peace and calm ?), and even erroneous anatomy .  If I were a heart, I would be mortified.  

The television channels keep hyping inaugural events where guys , who should be actually wearing mechanic overalls and lying beneath cars, walk the fashion ramp, helmets in hand (like captains of industry carrying briefcases) , accompanied by two dimensional models  wearing something akin  to shorts and saree blouses , holding aloft a flag with the name of the driver.  All this while folks sit around sipping outrageously priced drinks at tables, and applaud, in even fancier clothes. And I hear, that another apparition called the Gaga lady is coming to dance/sing/ or both to celebrate .

That driving cars mindlessly round and round an obstacle course, occasionally careening into others, and suddenly changing lanes to block someone coming in from behind, occasionally colliding in a ball of fire and metal,  can be classified as a sport is totally incomprehensible to my  middle class mind.

I can see why someone who excels at producing liquor, running airlines, having so called world class ostentatious parties, and creating Kingfisher Calendars of the ogling type, and is even an MP, would be a patron of such capital-intensive activity.  The Indian Olympic Association, which still cannot organize pre Olympic training camps with decent infrastructure for slogging athletes,  has meetings with Bernie Ecclestone, who for some reason thinks India needs F1 Grand Prix. They sign agreements, acquire land from farmers in the Indo Gangetic fertile plains, for the F1 Circuit, and construct the set up.  Just like that. No farmers' agitation, no Rahul Gandhi visits, no pointing fingers and saying F1  is being supported by communal forces , and so on ?

I have a dumb question.

I mean the government increases the price of gas , five times in one year, citing International oil prices.  The airline owned by the aforementioned high profile partying industrial baron, is refused fuelling at New Delhi , because they have unpaid balances running into millions and flights are cancelled.

How is it a profitable activity, and just who makes a profit in this entire exercise in F1 racing, other than , say, the 5 star hotels, and TV channels (from their sponsors)?  Isn't gas for these so called racing cars paid for by someone ?  What are the car companies trying to prove to the ordinary man on the street (whose dream to buy a car now goes further and further away ) ?  Are the so called 10,000 ordinary non-specialized infrastructure jobs that F1 us  supposed create enough of an incentive ?

With powerful invisible backers , land is acquired , just like that,  for F1, while just outside our gate , the entire major Mumbai  east-west arterial road has a permanent bottleneck because the government is unable to re-situate a Hanuman temple, partially for religious, and mostly for vote-bank reasons.  The road authority and the railways  keep disagreeing about a rail overbridge, which should have been built years ago, but now functions to create extreme traffic jams, trying to compress 6 lanes into 1. Every single day.

I wish the liquor baron would donate  some money and expertise to our Mumbai roads. And repairs. We can even name the road after someone he admires. Or him.  I wish another industry biggie, worlds 4th richest, etc,  who recently built a 27 floor building for his family of 5,  (and still hasnt moved in, leaving it empty),  would use his clout and available state of the art expertise  in creating towns, to help construct some much needed bridges across the eastern Bay , and yes , we would be delighted to name it after his ancestor, to whom this city  gifted so much success .

It's all very easy for fancy folks with European names, to sink deeper into their racing contraptions and do numerous noisy rounds on super smooth roads with super accurate banking on the various turns.

  I'd love it if Michael Shumacher came to Mumbai and drove.  Say, from the airport to his great friend - Sachin Tendulkar's house in Bandra(West). I'd love to see him handle the potholes, the invisible speed breakers uniquely augmented by the locals, and occasional wandering set of cows.  Though the entire idea of Schumacher looking up from his contraption into the heavy lidded eyes of a cow chewing the cud nonchalantly  is quite enchanting....

Yes, and the rickshaws.  With drivers who think of turning left from the rightmost lane, or vice versa. Who think nothing of sidling up to another rickshaw driving on the road, and kind of talking with the driver, simply because you know the guy from your native village, and to hell with all the folks honking behind. Which actually begs a question . Do these F1 contraptions have horns ? Or do they have sirens ?  And would anyone actually hear anything ?

I hear the F1 types once considered Mumbai . Till 2004.  Maybe the F1 people have abandoned Mumbai for a reason.  And it isn't the political parties, or traffic woes, or permanently happening metro construction.

You see, we have our own R1 Grand Prix.   The Rickshaw Grand Prix, conducted at the Hiranandani Hakone Go Kart track, in Northeast Mumbai.  They don't have stands, and people simply stand around and clap and shout and encourage the drivers, racing around on 3 wheels. They probably get cash prizes,  which they use to get some serious long standing repairs done, later.   They sport no logos, as such, but enjoy wearing certain Tees to celebrate the specific occasion. You probably wont see too many girls in the race-watchers audience, overly or skimpily dressed, and showing attitude.  And the post-race parties are all about going home to some congested area, being patted on the back by neighbor folks, and treating your friends to a great home cooked meal, prepared  with great enthusiasm by the rest of the family.....

You see , most rickshaw drivers do not own their vehicles, they drive it for an owner who partakes a certain minimum amount from their  daily income. They pay the owner. Unlike F1, where the car companies probably pay the "drivers" to race around in their contraptions, on specially made roads, and even party later for publicity.... 

Whether you like it nor not, TV news is going to be full of F1 stuff, whether anyone understands it or not.  I'm sure, some stray dog or cow will certainly find its way at some point on to the Buddh track. (If it hasn't already).

(Edited to add :  The dog prediction came true . See  this  news report in the Economic times. Stay tuned for the cow :-)........)

I'd love to see some Vettel, Massa or Schumacher dodge that in style. And I don't mean , "bang into that", while looking up through an half open eyelid , covered by a helmet, in the inner recesses of an fancy F1 contraption.

In the meanwhile, have a look at the R1 Grand Prix below :

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another Laxmi Pujan.....

We are well into the various celebrations that are done during the four days of Diwali in Maharashtra, and the second celebration is that of Laxmi Pujan , or the worship and celebration of the Godess of Wealth, Laxmi.

This is called Lakshmi Pujan,  and in many families,  there is an elaborate laying out of jewellery and valuables, in honor of the Goddess, and a worship ritual is followed, with everyone in the family dressed in their Diwali best.   Different days of Diwali are celebrated by different families in varying degrees of importance, depending on what you have traditionally followed all along.

And then I came upon, what I thought, was a very unusual Laxmi Pujan , which, my household help S., (hitherto greatly blogged about and known to readers of this blog), was checking with me about.

This morning, she suddenly took out the traditional Indian calendar where it was hung on the kitchen wall, and brought it to me .  I know she doesn't really do a religious celebration of Diwali, but it is more of a social and family holiday event for her.  

" Can you check and tell me what the actual timings for Laxmi Pujan are, today (26th) ?"  she asked me .  The Indian calendar is moon based, and the moon calendar days can change during any time of our normal sun-calendar day. I checked and confirmed for her that the timings recommended for Laxmi Pujan were between roughly 6 pm to 8:30 pm.

And I was completely intrigued because S has never followed all these rituals in all the years that I have known her.
S had recently become a grandma for the 4th time, with the arrival of a grandson. The new mother and the baby were, as per tradition, at her maternal home, and would  return to S.'s  abode some time later after the naming ceremony and so on, most likely after a month or two.

" Today completes 12 days after the baby's birth.  It is Laxmi Pujan , a good auspicious day. I thought I would have a small celebration for the new mother(her daughter-in-law) and baby, invite 5 ladies, honor them, place the little fellow in their lap for blessings. She has enriched us with the new grandchild, and I thought this was a nice thing to do for the new mother during Laxmi Pujan".

And she went on to tell me about some new saree she had bought to present to the new mother, her youngest daughter-in-law, as well as a fancy bonnet for the baby boy. She discussed the refreshments she was planning to serve, and how her own daughter, who was a trained mehndi artist was planning to do a wonderful design for her youngest sister-in-law, on her hand, in honor of the occasion.

All this on the day of Laxmi Pujan, when you celebrated and worshipped the Goddess of Wealth.  

And i thought what a lovely thought this was about wealth and riches in a life.   Which did not necessarily mean money. And jewellery. And the like.

In a state where girls were being named "Nakoshi" (unwanted), because they happened instead of a son,  and where, having discovered several such instances, the government was  having a huge public renaming of these girls, here was "S.",  living in these amazing unimaginable conditions , secretly hankering after a granddaughter, but immensely pleased yet with the birth of the youngest grandchild, a male,   and celebrating with the new young mother, because she has enriched the family !

And yet again, I marveled at S.'s  thought processes,  and her ability to figure out what Diwali, the bright lights, the Goddess Laxmi, and her worship, was all about......

And how lucky I was to know her .

Another Diwali.....

Many years ago, almost 30 to be precise (I know, these "in our time" posts are becoming more frequent; but at 60+, one frequently looks backward :-)....),  the area where I have lived , was no so well developed, and we had to go to the next suburb for specialized errands. Like getting spectacles fixed.

I was the only one with specs then.  My in-laws often came to stay , and one time, my m-in-law's reading glasses had a lens fall out and crack.

A general check on one of the suburban main roads, led us to an optician's shop. It was around Diwali time, we expected some kind of rush in the shop, or possible bare minimum staff (given the festival season).  Instead , we were greeted by a young  smart lady with short hair, and huge confidence. She greeted my m-in-law respectfully, checked out her glasses,  had her sit and  do the eye checking for ascertaining the actual prescribed power,  had us wait for a while. Then she asked us where we lived. Turned out that it was on the way-home  from work for her, she would get the lens fixed up, and drop it off in the evening.   Of course, we were all terribly impressed because we had gone in expecting some guys to shake their heads and say "Cant say when we can give this; you see its Diwali and we don't have the full staff..."  etc etc.

My mother-in-law  actually patted the lady on her shoulders in approval . (Don't know what it is with that generation. My mother once did this to my dentist, because he fixed her denture(made elsewhere), to her satisfaction . But obviously, none of the young professionals minded that.)

Two days ago, in the rush of last minute Diwali stuff, I suddenly noticed a blurring vision in the right eye. We were in the thick of the pre Diwali street crowds in the neighboring suburb at noon, and for a minute all kinds of terrible things went through my mind. (We have recently had a medical scare in the family).  I removed my specs to clean them, and found an entire lens missing on the right. It must have fallen off somewhere, and by now , crushed to smithereens under various rickshaws, buses, cars, not to mention rushing feet.

 Of course, the prescription was old, I couldn't find it on reaching home; what's more I couldn't find my duplicate set of glasses too, because I never had to use them !  I cursed the timing of this event, happening as it did on the eve of Diwali. I mean optometrists workshops would be presumably closed for Diwali, and this wasn't something that could be handled "in-store" like a minor adjustment, or tightening of screws and so on.  I had another concern too. I needed the glasses to drive, and currently , due to some family medical limitations, I was the only person who was driving , in the family. It was imperative that, I rectify the situation , so I would be available if needed in any emergency.

I rushed to the local optometrist . I've seen the shop many times, been in there for adjustments and stuff , as well as prescription glasses for other family folks.  A doctor friend who treated me after a pothole fall 6 years ago (that resulted in a rib fracture) , walked with  me,  in the evening ,  to the shop. (She said she didn't like the idea of me falling again, since the potholes were even worse now, and no glasses meant I would probably misread the depth.  ) .

I told the guy in the shop, my problem.  He actually tested my eyes again, tallied the results with the existing injured glasses,   confirmed that there was a change, and had me look for a new frame, since the old one was not reliable any more.  He then assured me that he would try and deliver the glasses the next evening.

I asked about Diwali closures, and he said, they worked on all Diwali days; only Sundays were off. Throughout the year.  Maybe their workshops would have a skeleton staff. But they were never totally shut.

I was totally pleased, and returned home, to spend 24 hours, squinting at everything and everyone.  I even avoided walking around, because I couldn't recognize folks at a distance, and  it had once happened, that folks smiled and waved and I didn't respond, because I couldn't recognize them. (That's how I found out i needed long distance glasses, in the first place).

Late yesterday evening, I landed up at the optometrist. With a book, in case I had to wait.  The traffic is always bad, more so now, and their workshop was elsewhere in another suburb, and a delivery person would be coming from there. 

There was a lady in the shop. Attending to  a young girl with her mother, advising them about some lenses. The lady appeared to be my age. Or thereabouts. There was something familiar about her. I waited till the other customers left.

"Did you have a shop in XXXX earlier ? I think I have seen you there !"  me.

She smiled. Completely delighted.

"Yes we did. But that was ages ago. We closed shop that shop many years ago.  We now have 2 shops in this area. I attend to this one and my sister attends the other one. "

"I had come to the old shop with my saas. And you had fixed her reading glasses." Me.

"You know, its been so many years. I do remember. Because I never forget those who put an encouraging hand on my shoulder ! "

This was absolutely amazing.  Both of us had changed. A lot. In many dimensions. But we both remembered. Thirty years down the line.

She would be working throughout Diwali. At her shop.  I told her about my urgent need for the glasses.  She understood.   And told me not to worry. And to come back if there was any problem.

Someone who worked through Diwali. Except for Sundays.

The delivery boy turned up. My glasses were checked, okayed and given to me to try on. The clarity of vision lifted a weight of my mid. I would be able to drive again .

The potholes on the road were much more visible now.

I thanked them all in the shop, and wished them a very happy Diwali .

And left, to walk home.

And they stayed on, working, so that folks like me could have a tension free Diwali....

One more Diwali to remember. For the innate goodness of some folks.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reading the fine lines....

During my lifetime , I have seen technology advance from punched-card data processing, to wi-fi on laptops, black and white photos to biometric data capture including your eyes, cars that were pushed, to cars that spoke,  and tomatoes that were eaten, to those that were used to hit political opponents, and even used as projectiles in Tomatino festivals.

In the big urge to sit up there with the "advanced countries", we ran rough shod across many things, without understanding them. It was a climb with an abnormally steep slope,  and it involved jumping on to several bandwagons, aided greatly by an opened up economy, becoming an outsourcing capital, the onslaughts of IT hardware, cell phones, and miniaturized wonders from China.

Suddenly, the concept of what you thought "expensive" underwent a huge change. It was OK if clothes/makeup now cost half as much as a small flat, so long as they were authored by a European fashion house/designer.  Watches no longer remained something you got for graduating, but became  one of the several you wore and threw away. We appropriated Tomatino festivals because someone in Spain did it, and never mind that middle class housewives were in distress over the rising cost of tomatoes in a double digit inflation world.  We started the showing of commercials on TV, like abroad, without worrying about something advanced countries have : a "truth in advertising"  Act, and we showed  "cassettes and CD's"  and "soda"  being substituted as words for alcohol ads of well known hard liquor companies and no one in control, bothered.  We started showing dangerous things on TV,  with a a warning running below in an ant size font, spoken in an unintelligible manner by some guy in a huge hurry, because that was the way to protect yourself.  This applied to businesses too.  In the big hurry  to become world class, we simply skipped some things. The emphasis has been on external show, and unfortunately, what got ignored was the thinking inside, or as one might say, the anatomy inside.

One recently had the opportunity to function as a caretaker for someone who had some cardiac emergency procedures done in what is touted as a world class, XXXX credited hospital. Everything was very well organized, spic and span, constantly being monitored and cleaned, moved like clockwork, the technology worked seamlessly, the medical expertise and communication was excellent. Of course, the proclivity of us Indians to arrive in droves, full family in tow, to see patients, had the security folks at their  wits end, one felt they needed some PR lessons in communication,  but one let them be.   This hospital has rules displayed all over the place, and they simply pointed out the rules.

Before we were discharged and left to go home, we had to fill in several feedback forms. One of the questions pertained to we being shown the "patients' charter of rights" . Well, we were not shown any such thing, so I was about to tick "No", when they hurried to present one sheet to me. I read through it, didn't think there was anything to crib about in that, and ticked "yes". Didn't want someone up there to chew out some dedicated nurse who was doing an excellent job of her nursing.

This morning, I returned to the hospital to ask for some detailed report ,  indicated by our office  as a  "reimbursement" requirement. Mind you the data  was all there in their system. The menu to generate that report  existed, and the front office fellow who could do that was yet to arrive . Fair enough.

The guy at the counter looks at me.

" We cannot give you a copy. We will email it to your section office." He fiddles with the mouse.

" Maybe you can email a copy to me ? " Me. Thinking it to be a routine thing.  

" No Ma'am. We cannot email it to you . We always send it directly to the office in question."  He gets a call and stops to answer it.

" Can I speak to your PRO, or even your Director ?  I insist. This is data pertaining to medical procedures we underwent, what we paid for,  our name is there, I have an ID in your system, and how can you refuse us this ? "   Things are happening in a familiar way. I foresee a battle.

"Ma'am, they wont be here till an hour from now. But our superior should be here in 15 minutes, if you care to wait. "   I park myself firmly at the counter.  In a lifetime of standing in queues, and battling queue-jumpers, leaving a place at the top of the yet unformed queue, seems a bad idea.

There are a whole bunch of framed notices on the counter. One pertains to the aforementioned "patients' charter of rights".  I read through the whole sheet, as I alternate between leaning from one foot to another.  They urge me to sit.

But I have seen  the charter of rights, item no 16, and I have seen the light.  I stop leaning from one foot to another.

The adrenaline  flows. There are wheels within wheels churning.

The guy finally arrives, a decent smiling chap. He has a look at my request. I repeat it.  I need to mention the patients charter of rights. Item no 16, says, I have a right to my own clinical data.  I straighten up, a few notches taller.....

"You see , you guys are refusing me something that is guaranteed to me by the patients charter of rights.  My clinical data. By emailing it to someone else ( even if it is the concerned  office )  without my permission, you are actually trespassing on the patient data confidentiality aspect ." ( I wasn't sure of this but said it anyway. Most of the time the other side doesn't understand anyway).

The fellow looks up. "Ma'am , let me see. "

"No.  I insist on a hard copy first. You may email it later to the office with my express permission, with a copy to me , so i can check the version.  Else , I am writing to your board, about violation of my rights as a patient. Whats more, I am approaching the consumers court about this, and will not hesitate to file a query under RTI. "   (I wasn't sure what I was going to ask under RTI, but said it anyway. I could think about that later. In this day and age, RTI was the magic word....)

The fellow went in with the paper. Another guy comes out and asks me to wait for 5-10 minutes. The stuff is being processed.

I get my report in the next 5 minutes !

What a complete waste of time and words.  The hospital has not trained its fellows at the front office in the patients' charter of rights; what is an acceptable request and what is not.  Displaying stuff in pretty fonts all over the place in transparent frames, is considered enough.  It impresses.   That is what all world class hospitals do.  It simply isn't enough to train people on the various systems.  They must be cognizant with whatever information is displayed on the counter. 

And I wondered what would have happened if it was someone not familiar with reading these framed notices.  He/she would have got overawed with all the presumed sophistication,    would have never known who the clinical data was being sent to, what was sent , despite the fact that one paid through one's nose for the entire hospital stuff.

Sometimes, folks just keep quiet, thinking that  whatever the counter types are saying is the gospel truth.  Some may think it is better to just shut up and let them do whatever they say, because they don't want to be seen having an argument, regardless of the fact that they are being wronged.    They would have made several trips between the hospital and the reimbursing authority, and been , maybe, but hopefully not, taken for a ride.

Is it too much to ask, that there be no doubt when I ask for access to data pertaining to myself /us ?  When it is an individual filing in an office for reimbursement of the hospital expenses as per rules, ,  doesn't it make sense to have all the hospital papers routed through the applying person ?  On what basis did the guys refuse at first ? 

I admit I threw in the RTI bit just to see the effect.  It did no harm. Like they say these days when they present some new thing, no trees were killed in the process, no pollution was caused, no flora and fauna was destroyed,  etc etc  

I foresee several guys rushing inside or suddenly occupying themselves otherwise when they sight me approaching the counter next.

Never mind.

I just hope I don't have to go to any hospital soon, anytime in the near future.......


Monday, October 17, 2011

A womens' weekend

Highlighted on Oct 17, 2011 by Global Voices - The world is talking, are you listening?

This has been a weekend for celebrating women.

    Contrary to my tendency of avoiding mass scale get-togethers (n > 10),  I found myself along with a blogging offspring (who had independently registered herself), at the Dove-Indiblogger Women Bloggers Meet held in mid-town Mumbai.  More than 90 women had registered, and converged there, from various corners of Mumbai, miles away; possibly some even came from other cities.

A wonderful welcome after the hassles of Mumbai travelling, cool drinks,  and a plethora of pampering offers of leg massage, hand massage and hairwashing/styling,
it was a morning of great companionship,  where we put faces to blogs, introduced ourselves , listened to the Dove folks extol the virtues of their new products, and old folks like me suppressed a smile seeing corporate looking Dove chaps  giving a speech and using the word "chipku" to define  oil slathered sticky hair. No one likes oily sticky hair, and Dove had come up with a non oily alternative. They had a lady with soft manageable wonderful hair give us a talk about how to use the stuff. And all the while it was interspersed with the Indiblogger MC person, having quick announcements and competitions which had really nice Gift certificates as prizes. A terrific lunch later, there was a team treasure hunt,  commenting on each others backs on huge white hanging paperboards, (notice how different it is from commenting behind each other's backs), and all the while various folks kept going into screened enclosures with bedraggled windswept hair, and returning with freshly washed, fragrant, blow dried and set hair, which was an event in itself.  The event ended with all the ladies being given amazing Dove hampers, and the much coveted Indiblogger tees.

Then IHM , who had invited  entries for the Tejaswee Rao Bloggers Awards, and had been flooded with entries in 39 categories , all related to Women, announced by Sunday evening,  that the first set of results would be announced the next day. All reflecting, the Woman of India, the trauma and celebrations at her birth, her growing up, her place in the family, society and the world, her ambitions,her disappointments, and thrills,  what she has to put up with as a sibling, daughter, daughter-in-law,wife,employee, and even as a boss; all this across the spectrum from have-nots to the extra-haves. And one looked forward to a huge library of articles to be enjoyed with a decent cuppa , at one's leisure....

Sometime during the Indiblogger event, I got a call on my cell phone. The number looked vague, I wasn't expecting any call, and I cut the call as we proceeded to the lunch area. The phone rang again. I picked it up.

It was my household help,"S.", a much blogged about lady. Since we were leaving for this event fairly early in the morning, she was going to come and cook a simple hot  lunch at noon, for the non-blogger at home, and she was calling to say, that she had cooked some extra stuff , as she wouldn't be coming in the evening, since she was off to hospital, having just become a grandma for the 4th time.  She, 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, 3 grandsons, and 1  daughter lived in 1.5 rooms, and she had just acquired a 4th grandson !  Much excitement and celebration, and I congratulated her and told her I would see her the next day. I was amazed that she remembered to call me in all the excitement. 

She came in this morning, with a big smile on her face. The entire family had been to the hospital the previous day, and the new mother would be coming home in a couple of days. She made some tea for both of us, brought me mine, and  I asked after her daughter-in-law, how the other little grandsons reacted to the new arrival and so on.

Her face wreathed in smiles, she  told me  everything. Then looked a bit wistful .

Finished her tea, collected both our cups, and stood up to go to the kitchen.

"You know, four grandsons; I'm happy.  But I was dearly hoping for a granddaughter !  I suppose I'll just have to wait...."

And I thought about all those super qualified moneyed folks who go do ultrasonic exams to determine the sex of the foetus in their daughter-in-law's womb,  and the radiologists who defy laws and reveal the sex of the foetus, so  some family members with mercenary minds can  arrange to end a tiny life, simply because it was to be a girl.

I hope S gets her wish in the future. She is aware of limiting the family size. Her eldest has two sons, and the parents have had the family planning  surgery done.   She has 2 other sons, and one unmarried daughter (who might shortly get married). So there may yet be a granddaughter for S !

A little girl in the family, who would enjoy and thrive being nurtured by a grandma like S.

Maybe, sometime, in the near forseable future,  the offspring blogger in my family , who has a photoblog, will take her pictures and blog about her, like I do about her grandma.

And maybe, just maybe, S and I, on a wonderful, prefestival weekend,  ( like  the one that just happened ) , sometime in the future, will look at stuff on a screen, take sips of some wonderful tea, look at each other, and smile, maybe, our toothless smiles ....:-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The heart has its reasons....

This has been a season for thinking about hearts.

No , not as in Valentine,s, or playing cards, or proclamations of "cross my heart", and so on.....

But thinking of something, that starts off, beating in a foetus, while in "bonded" labor inside some one's uterus,  only to attain freedom from the bond, roughly 280 days later, under some fairly tough labor...

And then continues to beat, year after year, moment after moment, through childhood, puberty, even childbearing, middle age, old age, and so on... through  good and bad days, regardless of all kinds of pressure put on it, externally or internally.   

It gets nothing out of all that beating, unless it is the ability to beat more.

And so one marvels, at the philosophy of work or living, that is followed by the heart, and finds, that it is the finest exponent of Nishkaam Karma,  which is enunciated in the Bhagwad Gita, one of our oldest Hindu scriptures, which is actually a treatise on living.  Your best mode of worship of God, is to perform your work, honestly, to your absolute best, and more importantly, without worrying at all about the reward or the fruit of that labor.

The heart continues to ceaselessly do its work, independently of any other organ's behaviour in your body, with the possible exception of the brain,  which is really the ON/OFF switch for the whole body.

It's job is to receive dirty blood, send it off to the lungs to be purified, receive the purified blood, and then pump it into the big Aorta pipe, on its way to the different body organs, carrying nutrition, medications, and other markers of health.

Think of how willful the other organs behave.

The liver, that lies below the ribs and to the right,  spends its entire life tolerating and handling all the fat and carbs you imbibe under the excuse of celebrations and "loving it ".  Like a car whose engine is flogged without limits, the liver too has problems, but in its own selfish way, doesn't let on till it is 80% messed up.  When your blood shows up worrisome liver function values, it is almost 80% gone.

Your stomach, the recipient of all kinds of junk you eat.  It gets used to pouring in all kinds of body acids to digest your food. Then when occasionally you reduce your food intake, it finds it difficult to change the acid habit, and you then have left over acid in your stomach.  You complain of pain and acidity. It is not as if the amount of acid is fixed, but for some reason and for some folks, the digestion process bears a grudge against your previous excesses.

Your intestines. All 22 feet of them.  The whole idea is to have a quiet absorption/assimilation /exchange process going on while the digested  food moves about on this long road, so that what remains can be summarily chucked out.  But sometimes, the entire length of the intestine can get into a tangle, and cause you pain. Sometimes,  there are blocks in the path caused by stenosis;  consequent to some healing procedure, scar tissue forms, but clogs the path, simply blocking food from passing through nicely.  The intestines don't care what happens to the connected organs. They just do what they feel...

Think about your bones. All that milk you drank, and exercises that you did, as a child, followed by fitness concerns as a young adult.  Hit yourself accidentally with a tennis racket while playing, and you end up with a wrist fracture.  Take a irresponsible jump somewhere, and get an ankle fracture. I know of folks with a desk based sedentary lifestyle, who bent down to pick up a paper,  mistakenly thrown in the  waste basket, and sustained a rib fracture.  With all the fuss over bones in childhood and later, you reach menopause, and the same bones, in a wild independent streak, go haywire and start thinning. Without any concern for anything else around them. Sometimes, as a malicious  afterthought, some bones even develop extensions in weird places, and get called sesamoid bones. One such has often  kept India's star cricketer out of the game on occasion, by causing discomfort and pain.   

Think of the huge network of blood flow; arteries and veins. Thanks to folks who think they are being terribly stylish and smoking ,  these pipes simply remain inert watchers, as the walls are latched on to, by deposits which are byproducts of bad habits. Like Mumbai's subterranean water pipes, this network too suffers from  fatty junk sticking to its sides. The walls of these arteries and veins can do nothing, but look on fearfully as obstructions develop.

And then you think of the heart.

Relentlessly pumping the blood around. Sometimes putting in continuous hard work, which makes you a blood pressure patient.  The heart is often in cahoots with the brain; like, when  old age happens, and  weakness doesn't allow blood to reach everywhere in the body. The brain then instructs it to ration the blood supply, go to all the important places like the kidneys, stomach ,lungs, liver, brain etc, and reduces the supply to the limbs, ears, eyes etc; and you become bedridden, see and hear weakly.

Sometimes, the heart tries really hard to pump, and meets a tough opponent in some junk, blocking an artery totally.   Sometimes it is an artery that supplies the blood to the heart itself, as an energizer of the heart.  That's BIG trouble.

Even then , the heart doesn't give up. It sends out the word. An alarm. Your arms radiate pain. Your chest feels tight. There is a burning sensation in the breastbone. A sudden loss of energy.  And you rush. To the hospital. Sirens blaring, oxygen pouring into your nose , a small medicine under your tongue.

You are taken to a very sophisticated lab, where you watch, as some expert doctor, a cardiologist,  inserts a very very small diameter wire into an  artery (femoral)  in the groin, and guides it all over the place so that it reaches the blocked artery.  You yourself are able to watch it all on a huge screen. I know of a teacher by profession who even asked the doctors questions ....

Like Google maps, the doctors need to have the entire body artery / vein blood flow  map in their heads.  When to go straight up, when to do a U-turn, when to take a right, a left, and when to wait a second;  it takes amazing expertise.  (Unlike our Mumbai roads where we merrily destroy other roads in the process of repairing a given road.)

The specialists  scrape, and suck out the junk from the arteries,  shoring up the walls with some stent reinforcements. There are so many people there, helping out, reassuring your heart, to keep beating as well as it can,  and the little throbbing organ that has been doing so relentlessly, understands, tries its best, and at the end of a tremendous effort by some very clever folks, suddenly finds that blood can flow through its surface easily again.  The trauma and memories are not easy to erase, it isn't easy to live with repaired parts, but it tries.

Because its Bhagwad Gita philosophy for living says, it must perform its work to the best of its ability.  Nishkaam Karma.  Always. 

Without worrying about any rewards. Either from wilful types like the lungs, or kidneys, or stomach, or limbs, or intestines, or from the brain, which had been sensing what had been happening.   Presumably the person who undergoes this experience learns from this. 

The heart doesn't relax and sit back because the person has learnt a lesson; in fact it is so busy, pumping away blood, with a newly granted life, that it is now in its own life rhythm , doing what it knows best.  

  In the real world, such people are difficult to find. If you see a person who lives the philosophy of Nishkaam Karma, we think he is putting on an act.  Everyone has an secret agenda, and no one is ready to trust anyone.

If we only paid attention to our bodies, and the messages they convey ..... 


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book review: The Secret of The Nagas - by Amish Tripathi

I received this book along with the Immortals of Meluha, as part of the Blogadda Book Review Program.

The book starts with Shiva now settled into happy matrimony with Sati. Their sailing off in a huge naval formation to Kashi, the wondrous land, which welcomes everyone. The birth of their son, Kartik. The emphasis shifts from just Shiva and Sati to his generals, and assorted kings of the small kingdoms in that area, and a community called the Brangas , the name being a nice combination of Bramhaputra and Ganga, hinting at these folks being the precursors to our modern day Bengalis.

A lot of the Nagas , who intermittently and hazily appeared in the Meluha book trying to attack Shiva, now appear with much more prominence. There are conflicts amongst the various communities in Kashi, one sees the Suryavaunshis , Parvateshwar , Nandi ,Sati and Shiva introducing solutions. Some Vasudevs, who seem to be guys with extrasensory perception, and a good network across temples in the North, occasionally get Shiva into conversations, where he is forced to think on why good and evil exist, and whether evil is really evil. There is an effort by the author  to link the ancients with recent science by hinting that temple tops were used as radio wave propagators and detectors. 

There are several  campaigns undertaken by Shiva to overpower the valiant but hot headed Parshuram, and the Nagas, in the quest for a special medicine.   Sati's own fight with the man eating lions  introduced somewhere in the middle of the book, brings her face to face with her own twin abandoned sister and her abandoned son, Ganesh.

From there on, the entire novel takes on a Hindi Movie Bollywoody form.

The Orwellian concept of the inappropriately named Maika, where all newborns (except royal types) were abandoned and brought up till they were sixteen.  Sati being told a lie about her first stillborn son, who was actually OK, but born a Naga, and she herself having a Naga sister, raising questions about Sati's' mother. 

The side romance of  Anandmayidevi with her shocking dress sense and gestures, and Parvateshwar. who actually sounds like an old fogey, keeping away from Anandmayi's blandishments, but succumbing in the end.  There are several fairly gruesome fights with lions, and a creature called a liger( lion + tiger).  Ganesh, Sati's Naga son, saving her other son Kartik from them, and getting badly injured himself.

And the final trek through the Dandakaranya, with the Naga queen and Ganesh, learning about new regions, to finally reach Panchavati (near present day Nashik), where there are normal people living with human qualities.

The book ends rather abruptly with Brahaspati, who Shiva treats as a brother , who is considered dead/killed, suddenly appearing teaching a class.

As a story it entertains in the way a harmless Hindi film does.  But you tend to forget about it when you finish the book, possibly because there are too many characters in the book. It is not a book that will keep you awake.

I might add that being of a generation that looks upon Shiva,Ganesh,Kartik, et al in a different formal light, it sometimes  bothers that Gods are seen smoking chillums, angry with each other,  and getting lectured by Vasudevs in temples.

I also find it terribly intriguing that most of the activities and personages getting into scrapes and playing politics with each other and the citizens, seem to be in the region we today refer to as UP.  :-)

I liked the Meluha book much better. It moved on a different plane.  The Secret of the Nagas feels like a contrived story to bring regions, South of the Vindhyas into the picture.

I wonder what the Vayuputras will be up to in the 3rd part .... 

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

His Mother's Son.....reloaded

One has had occasion, over the last half a century, to observe sons, at various levels.  One has also had occasion to observe the level of "education " in the mothers, and wonder about the various attitudes they displayed.

Only to come to the conclusion, that education, as we know it today,  has nothing to do with anything.

Three true stories.

T was born in the very early part of the 20th century, and married off at 13 to a widower, whose children were almost her age. She later had 2 children.  This was the time, many educated folks retired and came to settle down in Pune around the time India got her independence.  Her family and another family who they were friends with, thought it was a good idea to link to the two with a matrimonial alliance, and her son was married off to the friend's daughter, who was, unusual for those days, a graduate, and even more unusual, quite independent minded. Grandchildren happened and T lived for many years after her husband passed away, in a huge house with both her sons and their families, in separate households, respecting each others religious and other sentiments.  When her eldest grandson went abroad to do his post graduation, naturally he became a prized catch in the eyes of folks with eligible daughters, a few years later.   

Mind you, T was someone who still followed some very old customs. She was totally untouchable when she was wearing a "sowla" or her puja/worship clothes. You could do what you wanted in your own house, but in her house, you didn't participate in anything on what were considered monthly impure days.  However, she, with hardly any education, a restrictive controlled married life, and an early life where she was neither seen nor heard,  was quick to see how girls were getting a great benefit from school, sports, and participation in many activities , and never stopped her grandchildren from anything. Many years later, when someone ribbed her about whether her grandson in the US would possibly return with a "white"  (read golden hair and wearing a frock)  bride,  she told them she had complete confidence in her grandson and the values he had imbibed from his mother and father, and she would welcome , such a wife, if needed, with an aarti, and present her with a typical wedding silk sari. I blogged about it here in a post that questioned culture and moral policing.  Hardly any education, very very conservative behaviour patterns in her husband's house,  and she still learned, how to move judiciously with the times.

B,  someone closer to my age, who came from an upwardly mobile, hardworking, educated  family,  was himself encouraged to attend high school in the US for a year on an exchange program and made many lifelong friends.  He returned to help his father expand their business,  acquired a doctorate, had an arranged marriage with a very nice , well educated girl from the same community, and they had a son.  Naturally, he paid great attention to is son's education (like his father before him), and his son too went overseas , and excelled at his given field of study, with a doctorate and returned home.  He started working outside to acquire some actual expertise  and met a very nice girl, and decided to marry her.  The problem was that she was of another caste, although a Hindu.  The parents were fairly upset. This wasn't about just the bride and groom, but two families being linked. The father poured his heart out to his great friend in the US ( an American who had lived in India) , because he had to talk to someone he considered close.  Email after email.

But they never lost communication with their son. One fine day, they sat him down , told him their misgivings and feelings about his intended   bride, and asked him to think it over seriously for a few days, and  get back to them.  The son respected their wishes. All conversations and discussions happened , with no acrimony, accusations, whatever.  A few days later, he got back to them. He understood where they were coming from, he respected their thinking, but he was very very firm about who he would marry, and it was the girl he worked with.

What happened next was amazing. The parents had come to a conclusion after weeks of agonizing. They implicitly trusted their son and he respected them.  On hearing his decision, his parents looked at each other, and his mother got up to say, that , "OK. We welcome a new daughter into our house !"   .....The wedding took place with great celebration and fanfare a few years ago.

R, someone I know,  has a daughter of marriageable age.  As is the custom in a society, where systems for social interactions like dating etc are yet to become customary,  most folks become a data entry point in a portal where  eligible girls and boys with all the relevant family career et al details are mentioned.    There isn't anything that you could point fingers at, in R's daughter's case;  except that she is an adopted child, and most folks who intellectually applaud that, simply runaway when personally faced with it.

One fine day, she (R's daughter) , gets a message on a social networking site from someone who has searched her on a portal, and taken the trouble to contact her because he found her interesting.  They communicate, they exchange numbers, Skype each other. There appeared to be a lot of laughter, which R thought was an encouraging sign.

Then one day he mentioned about a horoscope. R's daughter doesn't have one , because her birth time isn't known for obvious reasons, and she tells him so. For some reason he asks her blood group. Turns out they both have the same.  He continues to call and talk about his future plans, his family and so on and   so forth. Then one day he asks to speak to R.  He says he will be showing R's daughter's profile to his folks, and they would get back to him.  R has a decent conversation with him, is impressed . 

One night, R is watching some music program on TV, when her daughter comes in, wildly gesticulating saying she is wanted on the phone.   Intrigued, R goes in to answer the phone. It's the guy.  He is very polite, very civil, calls her aunty and everything, and says he has just heard from his folks, and his mother objects because, believe it or not, these two, R's daughter and this fellow have the same blood group !  He apologizes, and asks he if and the  daughter can still be friends. R says its up to her daughter.

A travesty of education, this.  The mother rules the roost in his house. Either all of them are completely confused about blood groups , or they think R is stupid.  A family which prides itself on well educated sons, an educated father, possibly a not so educated mother.  The mother decrees what is clearly a fake reason, and the son, a science student, in an analytical well paying job,  blindly, gutlessly passes it on, without thinking.

Similar blood groups are never a problem. Rh factors being different sometimes cause problems at the time of childbearing, for which medical solutions exist.  But who cares.  The matriarch has decreed in the year 2011, that "matching blood groups is a no-no and the devoted son , stands to attention, and passes on the message.

R  counts till 10.  Idiomatically.  Takes a deep breath, and tells the guy, "Thank you for informing us. Appreciate that you took the time to call.  But you know what, we people are guided by our blood groups too. My daughter and I are both B +ve.   And we follow that tenet. We always tell each other, "Be positive"......Interesting na ?"

There is no reply.

So many sons of so many  mothers. Through the ages.  The older ones  never went to school, but imbibed and absorbed "education", as their sons went out into the world.  And then this mother is 2011. And a son, who, despite his degrees, and stuff,  makes a mockery of the word, "education", preferring to propagate untruths.

To people, who he thinks are as "uneducated" as he is.

And incidentally, to hell, with a young girl's mind.... 

And then I sit down and wonder, whether we as a society are actually improving .....

Thursday, October 06, 2011

I see you !

There are ICU's. And then there are the people...

Not so much those inside, but those outside, waiting and hoping.

And there is so much to observe.

The last time I attended someone in an ICU, was 11 years ago.  The ICCU of one of Mumbai's biggest public teaching hospitals. Typically with the finest dedicated doctors working with  limited resources, huge dedication, and a greatly supportive staff.  They don't allow anyone inside; if at all, only one person is allowed inside , per patient.  And you stay put outside, for all 24 hours, since  the doctor  can ask for you anytime.

With hardly any infrastructure created for caretakers of patients and families, there was a huge square lobby outside the main door of the ICCU. About 8-9 chairs lined up on one side, and the remaining space had nothing. When they were occupied, we sat on the floor, waiting. Evenings saw droves of visitors coming in to inquire about the ICCU patient. Carrying, food, pillows, bedsheets and all kinds of stuff for the caretakers.

I had rushed there subsequent to a cardiac emergency, and all I had was my purse. Nights were spent on the cold floor, purse pillowed under the head, and the dupatta wrapped around giving a false sense of comfort. There was an elderly Sikh gentleman admitted inside, and his entire community  would come in the evenings. Young ladies, old matrons, pillars of society, strapping lads and so on. Much greeting each other in traditional ways, and wishing each other and touching of the elder's feet by the young ones.  And when they left, the waiting area would resemble a room with mattresses, pillows, covers, packed meals and so on.

An elderly Sikh lady got talking to me. (I blogged about that in a post titled "Touches of Class"  earlier.)  Asked after me, and who was the patient inside.  Shared fruit with me . And since she didn't think a young girl should be lying down solitarily in a corner by herself under the circumstances, took it upon herself, to arrange stuff so it looked like I was part of their group. Morning saw me covered with a bed sheet.   When some other caretaker of some other patient looked apprehensive and worried, everyone would go comfort him or her. No one cribbed about material comforts. You needed to go 3 floors down and then cross over somewhere for a cup of coffee. There was one public coin operated telephone, and it was always in use.

When it was time for us to go, we were sadly, one person short. At 2 am at night, after breaking the news to us, the doctor sat with us, talking about his experience of the patient, and how heart rending some cases were.

Cut to a recent experience with another ICCU.   Once again I was alone.   
One of Mumbai's leading superior accredited hospitals.  Centrally air conditioned. Every thing computerised.  They actually had a waiting area room for relatives of people in the ICCU.  They had folding pull-out sofa-beds, and sets of chairs (like you see at airports). A water cooler supplied clean drinking water.  A decent bathroom dedicated to the room. Electrical points, a television, and several charging points for cell phones, courtesy some cell phone companies.  There was a cafeteria two floors down served by numerous elevators.

People came in carrying several bags,  carrying lunches delivered by relatives, snacks, changes of clothes. Some guys sat with laptops ,  cell phones stuck to their ears. There was a lot of talk within families,  but almost none between the various patient caretakers.  People would get calls galore, and everyone would speak fairly loudly ( as they always do anyway) , and the rest would get a complete lowdown on who is admitted, why and since when. Sometimes, even the prognosis.  On the third morning, three gents in suits came by with papers, called out names, and presented us papers outlining our bills and estimated expenses, till that morning, so we could  think about mobilizing resources. It was all very practical and businesslike.

Life was compartmentalized.  So, it seems , were emotions.

Or so I thought.

  My last night in the room (things were improving, and the patient would leave the ICU for a ordinary room the next day),  and a cheerful young lady asked if the place next to mine was occupied by someone. She organized her bedsheets and stuff there , and asked after me and our patient. Her mother-in-law was in the ICU. She and her husband were taking turns . She taught school, and so left early in the morning to teach at her school, and came here after school was let out in the afternoon. The husband had taken leave for his Mom, and came during the day. Sometimes her own mother filled in for them, whenever it looked like schedules were getting messed up. She actually lived fairly close to where I did.

Both of us lay on our sides, chitchatting and talking about our families, how good the doctor was,  what we did for a living, and so on. Long after some security person had come in to shut off the TV, and put off the lights, we whispered into the night, careful not to disturb the others.

ICU's are very impersonal spaces.  A patient need not communicate anything, his machine readings communicate everything.   Sliding curtains ensure privacy,  Sometimes though, doctors have an excellent bedside manner, and have encouraging chats with the patient.  If at all the patient is awake. 

Over the years, the individual size of machines attached to a patient has grown smaller, but the total number of machines and wires attached to you , is possibly more.  All impersonal, the soft footfalls of the nurses and attendants , the beeps and the numbers telling the whole story. 

People too , outside,  have changed.  Rules decide who and how many can visit the patient.  A busy life means everyone waiting in the caretakers room, is quietly getting on, doing some work, some on a laptop, some reading, some just lying down, blankly looking at the ceiling.

Yet, meeting the lady on my last night there, and the fellowship that developed over that short time,  gives me hope, that  at least in the patient-caretakers area,  somewhere,  the possibility exists, that the ICU will actually mean "I see you !

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Road more travelled......:-)

I've just been reading this post by GB. And recalling some things from approximately 30 years ago. Was going to comment there, but it actually bloomed into a post in the mind.  And I realized that when she spoke about her childhood/babyhood, she was talking about the time when my kids were very small. 

This was when my son was about 15-16 months old.  We had our old faithful Fiat, with proper 1 piece seats in the front and back, that lent themselves to optimum use of space. Bucket seats were not in fashion.  This facility was mostly abused by assorted people piling in, sitting on laps, squeezed into corners and so on. Seat belts and stuff had not appeared on the scene as yet.  Airconditioning was what industrialists, ministers and film stars had,  nothing could beat breezing along on the erstwhile highway with the windows down , messing up  your hair,  and  the smells changed from rural to posh as you forged south.

  And there was no concept of suddenly inflating airbags. When anyone mentioned airbags, I naturally thought of bags they provided in airplanes, in case you wanted to throw up;  though I have yet to see anyone in a plane, domestic or international, throwing up like that. Never mind.

My son loved to travel in the car, and since he was so little, naturally, he had to stand on the front seat to be able to see out of the windscreen.  His father was away on assignment, and consequent to me being the unavoidable driver of choice, I developed the habit of flinging out my left arm (we have right hand drive cars in India) in a Bharat Natyam style pose, whenever I braked, to stop my son from kind of toppling over in front of the seat, into the gap between the seat and glove compartment.  At all other times, my son stood on the seat, both hands resting on the sides, on top of the seat, leaning back, and generally observing the world as it drove, cycled, walked, and screeched all around him, sometimes dodging cows, which he thought was wildly entertaining..

We once had  to take some English friend of my husband into the city, as he had some work at a bank there as well as wished to shop for handicrafts and so on.  From where we stay, on a good day (for driving, that is) this is a one hour drive.  The friend, J, sat in the front, with me driving, and my son , in his usual position, but now with one hand on J's shoulder, and J sort of holding him,without making him feel so, and two local friends accompanied us.

  Once we passed the causeway at Mahim , the highway driving , relatively fast and smooth, was over, and it was city driving all the way. Never, at the best of times, a science, Mumbai driving, is actually an art. You kind of surge ahead, overtake folks, then some guy gets offended, and itches to overtake you. Some taxi drivers, take random turns from random lanes, and you need to anticipate them. All drivers are guilty until proven innocent.  Those cars with chauffeurs (with folks in the rear seat reading papers, and/or in chiffons), got extra  special  dirty looks.

Our friend J, grew noticeably quiet as he observed me overtaking, gesticulating and glaring at taxi drivers, overtaking buses (because I knew where they would stop for passengers), and honking (sometimes in anger, sometimes to tell someone their door was not properly closed).  The quick darting around in lanes at signals, to be the first to take off when the lights changed;  being helpful to folks who rolled down the glass to ask directions from another car on the road, and trying to avoid, pedestrians trying to cross the road on a priority basis;  I don't think J heard any of the running commentary he was getting regarding the various landmarks we were passing. Two friends, sitting in the back seat, thought this was all terribly normal and boring.   

Flora Fountain, in the heart of the downtown city was still a huge elliptic roundabout, in the centre of which was a great sculpture named as the Martyrs Memorial.  Just saying.

We were in the thick on things, with taxis, double decker lumbering buses, vans and stuff, all impatiently trying to forge ahead around the circle, so they they could get on with life, when something in front of us, suddenly stopped. I braked hard. My son, fell on J's lap, knocking his specs out, which promptly fell out of the open window on to the oncoming traffic. Before anyone could react, a revving doubledecker bus, came charging up, and drove over it.

That wasn't all.  Traffic was a bit slow in the next lane after that impatient bus, and one of our friends from the back seat, quickly darted out, dashed to pick up the specs, and dashed back inside. This whole thing, that happened in a split second, was watched admiringly and avidly by various folks in buses that were stationary, and folks in other cars.

I expected the glasses to be  crushed to smithereens. They were not. The bus tyres had not made contact with the glasses. The lenses showed a crack somewhere. You could still wear them in a useful manner,  if you didn't mind looking through cracks.

J was still stunned. The whole thing was like a slapstick movie. The son simply thought it was one of those days, and struggled to stand up again, so he could see what all the fuss was about.

"Do you have a written copy of the prescription ?" I asked J.

" I do. In my wallet. But I also have a spare set of glasses in the suitcase back at the house. "  J, still shaken up.  

There is a famous optician right there in the circle at Flora Fountain. We parked. J got out of the car, in the manner of a seafarer trying to find his land legs. The son clambered out with him, as I got off from the other side. Our friends too joined us. J came around the car, stood in front of me, and shook my hand, for a decently prolonged time.  (I've seen our PM and that of Pakistan do that for the benefit of the press, each one trying to extract his hand but not willing to be the first.)

J's gesture was more heartfelt and real. He was congratulating me for driving through all this and still appearing in one piece.  We went over to the optician, who as a special request, agreed to do his lenses by the evening, so we could pick them up on the way home.

The trip home was rather uneventful, to say the least. Those were not days of traffic jams, where you could not manoeuvre the vehicle anyway, and unlike today four lanes were still four lanes, and didn't miraculously become seven.

We drove back , the son still in his usual pose, held on to by J.  The son had become fond of J,   and some time just before we reached home, kind of leaned across him and fell asleep in his lap.

Everyone was tired, with the days excitement and the traipsing around for the shopping. Just for variety, we took a longish diversion and drove J by the Juhu beach area, to show him a different Mumbai.

He saw, he enjoyed,  and we all had some great chats; but with the window on his side firmly up.  

Today, children have car seats, cars have AC, seat belts are mandatory, most cars have bucket seats, that discourage the sort of piling on into the car that we did in our younger days, and people sit sedately behind closed windows. I hear , in the US, the kids in car seats sit facing backwards.  

The cars now have hazard lights (which , for some reason, people put on while going through tunnels).

I was just thinking, that if J had his way, he would have asked me to put the hazard lights on all the time while driving in Mumbai ..... 

P. S. Just to preempt mean commenters who might be itching to comment about lady drivers, I have been driving for the last 42 years, in places as diverse as Pune, Mumbai, Los Angeles, Wisconsin, SFO, and no cop has had any reason to seriously tangle   with me. So.