Thursday, January 22, 2015

Saving Lives

Going to the Apollo Main Hospital is like going to a railway station. Its absolutely crowded and smelly and hot.

First you walk through these main doors that have a security scan (like in an airport). Everyone just walks through. The machine is beeping like crazy, but no one cares, not even the security guard who is stationed at the scanner!

And you enter mayhem. There's no better way to describe it. There are people everywhere. Sitting on chairs, sitting on the floor, leaning on walls, walking, standing - just everywhere. And the noise level is tremendous. Are hospitals supposed to be quiet zones?

I went upstairs where there's a long room filled with row upon row of chairs and people everywhere again. Patients being wheeled around, children crying, people everywhere talking loudly. And there's signs everywhere saying Quiet Zone - Please do not disturb the Patients. What?

A nurse first saw me and her lethargy was just unbelievable. She looked most disgruntled and irritated that she had to do this. And grunted as she asked questions. While she was questioning me, a lady came in and looked like she was going to faint - she asked if there was somewhere she could lie down because she was in so much pain. The lady looked at her and said "There's no place like that, Sorry". The poor girl went away.

And then I tried to find a seat. There were about 75 people in a 200 sq ft space. And lots of people don't wear deodorant. And they were loud. And there were absolutely no seats free, so I stood for about 2 1/2 hours waiting for the doctor, who was in surgery. No one offered me a seat. Infact no one offered anyone a seat. There were pregnant ladies, ladies holding infants, old ladies and gentlemen. Even a man holding a cane, but no one offered anyone a seat at all.

I had to go to the restroom and it was just plain scary. Why are public restrooms always wet and smelly? Sorry to be so graphic! But really, in a hospital, wouldn't you expect hygienic restrooms?

I thought it was very cool that they offered translators in 37 different languages. And here I have to say, that's what gave away how popular the hospital is. There are people traveling from all over the world to visit doctors here. And that's pretty cool. Wouldn't it be nice if they came to a haven rather than a train station?

The thing is that I wouldn't go anywhere else in Chennai. Or India for that matter. I love love love my doctor. And they have some of the best doctors consulting there. They offer care and expertise that are not found in most places in the rest of India. They are the leaders in the health care industry. So I will keep going back.

But let's be clear, I go back because of my doctor and because I can rely on the best care given. I'm not so sure about cleanliness.

Its been way too long. Happy New Year.

Sorry its been way way too long. No excuses. Just fell off the planet for a bit. But will try to be back now. Not that anyone is reading this anymore.

Recently my husband and I had a chance to move away and live somewhere other than Chennai. Or at least we coulda sometime in the future, mighta-sorta had an opportunity. I've always wanted to move away and live somewhere else. Except... when the opportunity was presented to me, I hesitated and then said no. I cannot imagine living somewhere else. Atleast not right now. That reaction from me was a surprise to me as well.

I guess Chennai kinda grows on you. Very very slowly. But it does. After a while you can't really imagine living somewhere else. At least not for now.

Happy new year all of you.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


The first McDonald's restaurant opened in Chennai, in Anna Nagar. Though there has always been an outlet in the Ascendas Complex, this was the first stand-alone restaurant.

And a HUGE deal was made of the opening. I mean, newspapers, TV ads, flyers... everywhere you would possibly look! And it was in Anna Nagar, which is fast becoming a little city of its own.

Now I know the West (esp the United States) is making a huge fuss over the fat content and general unhealthiness of a McDonald's diet. The fact that absolutely nothing there is actually healthy - no, not even the salads. But give India a chance. This is the first time we have a McDonald's and people see it as a integral part of the Western world! So the place is ALWAYS packed with people. Here's a view of the line that actually went out the door!!

The menu is very very different from the typical one in the US. It has Indian-ized versions of their products, such as a spicy paneer salsa wrap, and several (actually, almost half) the menu choices are vegetarian. I was on a recent holiday in the US and we went to McDonald's a few times when we were on long drives and nothing on the menu was vegetarian except the french fries (and I'm not sure what oil they use for frying the potatoes either).

Here, everything is 100% guaranteed to be made in vegetable oil. And they do not use beef products at all. So there's fish and chicken... and vegetarian options like the McVeggie Burger or the McAloo Tikki! And the Big Mac? Its the Chicken Maharaja Mac! :)

We brought home the food and I would give it 2 stars (out of a possible 5). There was no flavour, and everything looked old and sad. But I'm also not a huge fast food fan, so maybe I'm prejudiced.

On another note, a friend who is pregnant went to a KFC outlet in Chennai and ordered fried chicken. They said their policy states they cannot serve their chicken to pregnant women because it is not safe!!! It leads you to ask, so why are you letting children eat it? Or anyone else for that matter? Is it a big leap to maybe start distrusting any food from KFC? Or from any fast food place in Chennai? Hmm. It really does make you wonder.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Surreal Conversation

"I can't believe this is happening in this day and age" - have you ever heard someone say that? I guess it means that when we have progressed in so many many areas, it's difficult to fathom how some things never change. I had one such conversation today

S: I wanted to talk to you. I might have to take some time off from work

Me: Is everything ok?

S: Well, I got my daughter married to a "nice boy" last year and had a very grand wedding, as you know (I went for the wedding. It was indeed "grand"). Everything was fine for a while. And then my daughter's mother-in-law (I'm calling her MIL from here on), started abusing my daughter.

Me: What? What kind of abuse? (I was thinking does it matter?)

S: What else? Dowry, only. I gave so much and I also spent so much on the wedding. But still MIL was very rude and shouting at my daughter and said I have to give her property and whatnot.

Me: You should report her to the police.

S: What's the use? If I do, and she and her son are put in jail for 7 years, then it's my daughter who will suffer. I spoke to the lawyer who said not to do that now.

Me: Hmm.

S: I think if they have a baby everything will be solved. But MIL will not let them. She calls her son correctly at 7.30 pm when he is just come from work and keeps him on the phone. Sometimes she asks him to come to visit her late in the night, and says she has some problem. She says she will throw my daughter out if she comes between her and her son.

(long pause)

S: MIL hit her so much that my daughter had to be taken to the hospital. Whenever the son is at work, MIL beats up my daughter and makes her do demeaning things.

Me: What about the boy's father? What does he say?

S: He's just a "dummy". He just sits there - just a namesake father.

Me: I still think you should report to the police. If more people thought about the crime, maybe it wouldn't happen. When you are scared that they will take their anger out on your daughter, its difficult to see the crime taking place.

S: Anyway. My health is suffering. I wish she will get pregnant then everything will be okay. I hope she does not send my daughter home.

The conflict. Doing the right thing vs. the well-being of your daughter. I can't believe this is an actual conversation I had this morning. S is a high-grade manager, making a decent amount of money, educated. Daughter is educated (with an MBA), and married to a successful banker.

Are you shocked? Or are you saying "Yea Yea This Happens Everywhere"?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Defending India

Warning: This is a rant. Hey, it's my blog and I'll rant if I want to.

I'm tired of people dissing India. Constantly. Oh Indian politicians suck. Indian roads suck. Indian behavior sucks. And let me tell you, hypocrisy sucks.

If you are going to sit in your nice comfortable well-furnished apartment in London or New York City or wherever and continue complaining about how "you just can't spend more than two weeks in India because the pollution and lack of cleanliness is getting to you", this is what I have to say "Don't Come!!". We didn't invite you in the first place.

I don't get it. I understand India is dirty, its even downright filthy in places. But let me tell you, Indians want it to be clean too. With 50 people on an average using a hospital restroom in ONE HOUR, vs 1.5 people in 2 hours in the US, yes, the restrooms are going to be dirtier.

And please don't even for a single moment imagine that you are "in touch" with India just because you read The Hindu online version and watch NDTV and Sun TV. You're not. If you don't live in India, you're not in touch with the country. And you're definitely not helping.

So stop with the complaining because your white shirt got a little yellow because the water in India is so bad. Or you got a little bit of Delhi Belly eating from the five star restaurant. Or that train travel "just isn't what it used to be when we were growing up". Stop the pretense. You left India because you wanted to - not to make India proud or to give back to India. You wanted a better life for yourself, which is exactly how it should be. So don't start pretending now.

As I said, it's a rant. One more thing - if you don't like it, don't come. I think those who live here are trying to do the best we can to make India better, and we don't need you to come here just to tell us how bad it is.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Wire Less

I lost Internet connectivity on Sunday night at about 10.30 pm. Well, the fixer guy came by Monday and told me that someone had cut the wires and stolen the copper wiring on the inside! This was the case the previous dozen times I lost connectivity too. And, he says, its very common. The thieves steal the copper wires, melt them all together and sell the copper!

I went to see the wire and we found a cow settled down by the pavement chewing on the plastic outer casing! It was almost completely gone! Only In India, I thought!!

I walked down the block and suddenly realized that there were tons of wires lying everywhere - on the road, sidewalk, on trees, on walls - all exposed wires that had no right being left unattended. I have been oblivious to the many wires lying exposed EVERYWHERE! Here are some really scary photos:

A cut wire:

Open wires on the pavement:

The maze of wires from various houses:

An open box:
And another:

And if the wires didn't get you, maybe the pieces of glass will:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Returning to India

Every once in a while, I'm asked whether I'm happy I returned to India. I vary my answers based on who is asking the question. If it's an old friend from the US asking me, I say "Yes, I'm happy though I miss a lot about my old life". If its someone from India, I say " Yes, I'm very happy - who wouldn't be?". The common thread I find that I say is "Yes, I'm very happy". Is that the truth? I'm not sure.

Recently someone I know who had moved here around the time we had, has decided she just can't live here anymore. She has tried to fit back in, she has tried very hard, but says she just can't do it, and doesn't want to try anymore. And they are moving back.

I find that things aren't so black and white for me. There are several things about India that I love. I love that my daughter has so much family around her - that she gets to grow up with grandparents and cousins, aunts and uncles. I love that they want to spend time with her and love to be with her - that I don't have to pay someone to spend 2 hours with my daughter while I have dinner. I love that people are genuinely willing and wanting to help at any time if you need them.

But I desperately miss personal space. I miss sidewalks. I miss parks. I miss open spaces with no one in sight. I miss being able to go to a grocery store and being confronted with a shelf of choices.

A close friend is moving back here. I've known him forever and when he genuinely asked me, "So would you recommend I move back?", I was only able to give him the pros and cons. It works for me, but I can understand when it doesn't work for someone else. Its a very personal decision. And there's no way to plan for it.

I found that everyone - and I really mean every single person I know - asked me "why did you move back?". It seemed like people moved back only for a reason - lost their job, not enough money, terribly homesick, enough money to retire - but none, like us, who had no reason at all. We still ask ourselves sometimes What prompted us to move back? And still there is no answer - we just always thought that we would.

Some people need 6 months just to adjust to the idea of moving back and another year to plan it out - career options, living options etc. For some, like us, you just book the ticket, don't think about it too much - pretty much jump into the water and learn how to swim again. And sometimes, the pool will be filled with water, and other times, it might be cleaning day, and you might hit hard concrete! :)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Some of the benefits of living in Chennai you start taking for granted. We can have veggies and fish delivered fresh to the door everyday! Doctors (some of them) make house calls. And when you call a doctor, you don't have to talk to a nurse first.

And you can get your knives sharpened professionally for Rs. 100 (about $2) for an unlimited number of knives, scissors and blender blades! And the man comes home and does it for you.