PART OF THE PROBLEM
Phrases and Vocabulary Words of the Day:
Litter (of pigs) = three or more baby pigs
Double road = four-lane highway
Pass and come = Urinate and return
Bun-EE = Kannada for “come” or “follow me”
Chennai G’day = Kannada for “very good”
Aitoo = Kannada for “I have finished”
Nimdoo = Kannada for “And you?”
Fact of the day:
Many animals roam the streets of Mysore: cows, horses, pigs, burros, and dogs. It’s not clear to whom these animals belong, if anyone; it seems they’ve been left on their own to forage for food and return home, wherever that is, at the end of the day. Many wind up feasting on the garbage and plastic bags they find in the cement garbage pits; others keep the grassy roadside nicely mowed while still others go begging. Many of the cows wear halters made of rope and a few of the dogs have collars (no nametag), but ownership is something of a mystery – to me anyway.
This morning at the 5AM led primary series class I did not see any cameras. All of that primping for nothing….
Actually I forgot my yoga shorts again, and wound up practicing in what Doug-from-Brighton calls my kung-fu pants. They're red and feature a big embroidered dragon on the right leg and are so hot (in the literal sense) they were dripping by the time class ended. Even poor Guruji recoiled from my enbrace.
Sharath led the class, which meant that the pace was slow and at least my breathing was good. I arrived late with a Mysore veteran ("15 years coming") from Greece, who’s staying next to me, on the back of my scooter; the only reason I found a spot was because I parted two mats that already had a wide gap between them and made space for myself – further alienating my yogic brethren.
My accelerator-side shoulder and wrist hurt throughout practice, as did my lower right back, and to top it off I was weak and fell to the floor after Sharath hit “9” in utpluthith (the pose where we sit in lotus and balance on our hands for 10 breaths or an eternity, whichever comes first).
Overtired and crabby, I talked to no one afterwards at the coconut stand…. Although when Beck’s packet of bright yellow straws took a death-leap onto a particularly cesspool-ish bit of asphalt and he put the filthy things back into their bag, I said to no one in particular, “Something to look forward to tomorrow.”
Then I realized that the Second Series Students (hereafter referred to as “The SS”) were still in class, being filmed, and would have to suffer through the dirty straws when they came out. And I did not stick around to warn them.
Nope, I did something far, far worse.
Something that makes me cringe and will keep me feeling guilty and driving like an old lady for a very long time indeed.
At about 7AM, on the drive back to the hotel, I saw a litter and sow step off the curb and into the four-lane road. I honked (surprisingly, most animals respond to vigorous honking and get out of the way) but they ran very quickly into the middle of the road -- right in front of my scooter. I slammed on the brakes. I swerved. I held my breath. But it was too late.
I looked back and saw an adolescent piglet on its side, squealing and moving its legs like it was running. I thought, “Oh no, I’ve seriously injured it. Now I’m going to have to kill it to put it out of its misery. But how? With what?”** I turned the scooter around and got a closer look. The pig was still on its side, but was thrashing its way towards the side of the road. I made a gesture as if to help it to the easement, and one of the men who was watching shook his head and made a gesture that said, “If you help it you’ll be bitten (and get rabies and die, since we all know there’s a shortage of rabies vaccine here in Mysore.)” So I stood there dumbly, watching out for oncoming traffic and willing the pig to the side of the road and wondering if I could catch it and take it to some vet-- and beating myself up for causing unnecessary suffering and praying that it wasn’t in too much pain and would somehow be OK.
In the meantime a bigger crowd had gathered. All men. But no one did a thing except look back and forth between the pig and me and back at me again. Their expression said it all: Bad lady. Bad guest in our India. Yankee going home now.
But somehow the pig made it to the curb and onto the grassy area beside the road. It stood up, wobbled, fell over onto its side, and thrashed a bit more. Then it got up again – and ran off. It ran fast, with hardly a limp.
The crowd dispersed. After watching it go I stood there for some time, thinking about all of my negative thoughts and lust for speed and “progress” in yoga and felt quite awful indeed.
I’m not sure how this is related but after another laconic breakfast I went to Apollo Hospital to inquire about an exam, Pap smear and mammogram. (For those of you not keeping score I have catastrophe-only insurance back in America and cannot afford regular checkups AND trips to India; hence the many visits to the dentist here to clean my teeth, deal with new cavities and replace old fillings).
I’d left my registration card at home – Apollo is my hospital of choice when ill in India – but my name was in the computer and they issued me a new one and sent me to their head OB-GYN. I waited 45 minutes to have my BP and weight recorded, then was told to come back after 12:15. I showed up at 12:30 and the waiting room was packed with women in saris with jasmine in their black braids. All of the chairs faced the same direction – the doctor’s office – and it looked like some weird audience. I took my place and hunkered down with Lucy Edge’s exasperating “Yoga School Dropout” (about her Indian yoga quest) and tried not to fall asleep. After a half hour or so I heard “Miss Caca” and looked up and was waved towards the door we’d all been staring at.
”Pass and come,” said the pretty woman in the green sari (the administrative staff was all wearing green saris today. Tomorrow they’ll be wearing oxblood or some other color).
”What?” I said.
“Pass and come,” she said, pointing to the door.
“WHAT?” I said, following her gaze. “What should I pass? Should I pass through the door? Why?”
“Come,” she said, and brought me inside.
The doctor sat behind a desk and greeted me warmly and offered me a chair. I sat next to a young woman who was discussing the results of her exam. After learning that I just needed a simple checkup, she asked where I was from and told me all of the places in the Midwest where she had family members (Michigan, Ohio, Chicago). Then she said that I needed to “Pass and come back.”
“When did you last urinate?”
Uh, an hour ago.
“Then you must pass urine and come back, so that the bladder is empty and we can do the exam.”
So I passed and came back and had a seat. The first patient was still there. Then a young Muslim woman came in from the examining room, and the doctor started asking her questions. Apparently she was feverish and quite sick. Apparently this had something to do with the fact that she had just gotten married.
I’ve heard time and again that there’s no word for “privacy” in India. But I’ve always suspected that it’s an old traveler’s tale….
In any case I was moved into the miniscule exam room behind the curtain and told to “remove panties and pants.” Part of the brilliance of the salwaar kameeze outfit – apart from the fact that it’s cool and comfortable and hides bulges and dries quickly and comes in great colors – is that the top also serves as a hospital gown. I got on the table and was told to scoot down. And down. And down – just like back at home.
But in India there are no stirrups with hand-knitted covers. Instead there are cold thin metal bars that you wedge against your shins as you keep lowering your ass towards the assistant. It seems there’s an assumption here that everyone uses a squat toilet and has open Achilles tendons and calves and can do Pasasana (a deep squatting twist that I find impossible). It took us some time to get me into place. There were no cute butterfly mobiles or affirming posters affixed to the ceiling. The exam was quick and to the point and took about five minutes.
During it I learnt that the doctor’s husband is also a journalist, for the excellent south Indian newspaper, where he was a Bangalore Metro reporter. But he’d had to retire because she was “too busy” and someone (he) had to take care of the family.
After dressing I sat back down in front of the doctor. The other two women were still in the office. The Muslim woman, in a black hijab, put her head on the desk and closed her eyes.
I looked around. There was a poster of a cherubic, light-skinned boy using a cell phone and the words, “Please Keep Your Mobile Off. We Wish You all the Best in Fulfilling Your Dream.” It was signed by the doctor. On the other wall there was a poster of a beautiful beaming light-skinned woman: “Diane 35. The Contraceptive Choice for Clearer and More Beautiful Skin.”
“That is for the woman who has an irregular cycle,” the doctor explained to me. “Also for the unmarrieds.”
“And for good skin!” I chimed in.
She said that I should take the specimen in the dirty plastic case to the billing department and then to the lab, where I could pick it up after 5:30 and then bring it back to her for the results – which she thought would be normal. Then I asked about a mammogram; she gave me a scrip to get one at the lab near the Piles & Fistula Clinic. Maybe I could make a day of it.
The exam was Rs 100 and the pap Rs 330. The mammogram will cost Rs 600. The grand total: less than $25.
Take that, Northwestern University Physicians Group!
After lunch I got a much-needed nap and dreamed of suffering pigs and specimens of swine blood. Bad men were breaking into the Kaveri Lodge when I got home, and I had a mouth full of pig’s blood and all of my right-side molars were falling out and I was trying to spit the lot of it into the pig blood specimen case so I could get it to the lab on time.
But I suspect that even that could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again….
At the appointed time I returned to Apollo Hospital for the pap smear results; the lab doctor who handed them to me told me they were negative and not to worry. Then I went to the doctor’s office, where a nearly full house sat in the chairs and stared at her door. After some time my name was called and I stood by the assistant’s office with some other women – all but one wearing saris. The assistant, by the way, wore a white lab coat over a white salwaar kameez.
She grabbed a pile of medical records and told us to “Bun-EE” or follow her. She led us down the hall and up the stairs, where she was stopped with inquiries at regular intervals. She led us to a large room that was filled with people in chairs and sitting on the floor with bags of food and thermoses of milky chai and coffee. I looked up: “Labour Room.” After awhile the doctor emerged and talked to the white-clad assistant, who told me to remove my flip-flops and come in. The doctor was wearing a green surgical cap above her red bindi. She apologized for the delay and told me she was about to perform a C-section. I apologized for bothering her with such a small thing, especially since the results were negative. When she confirmed this I said “Chennai g’day,” which made her smile and shake hands. After inviting me to come back for another exam if I was in Mysore in one year’s time, we said goodbye and I passed the expectant families and went down the stairs and out the door and through the cool evening air to the scooter, where a wee lad hit me up for the Rs 2 parking fee.
“Two rupees for 12 hours,” I said. “I paid.”
“Yes but it is after 6PM.”
“Oh. OK,” I said, and handed him Rs. 2.
“Coffee, madam?” he asked, after tearing a newsprint chit and handing it to me.
“Coffee aitoo,” I replied. “Nimdoo?”
“Aitoo,” he said, smiling and doing the South Indian head bob that looks like “no” but means “yes,” and walked off.
And with that I put on the helmet, started the scooter and drove very slowly the whole way here.
*When I was young we (ie; my father) raised Hampshire pigs and showed them at the county fair – where mine won Reserve Champion Litter and Grand Champion Gilt (guilt).
**I had to put an animal out of its misery when I was 12. Long story. Suffice to say it's why when I get back I’m going to donate to Spay and Stay.
In the meantime today I gave some biscuits to the stray dogs behind the Kaveri Lodge and some bananas to a woman asking for food and dropped a measly Rs 100 into a box designated for “blind and poor patients” and stopped many negative thoughts; I also plan to donate something significant somewhere before I leave.
Still the guilt does not ebb.