Friday, April 17, 2015

Bulbul - Concluding Part

Exactly thirty six hours after I mentioned that the baby Bulbul may fly  in another two days, I found lot of excitement near the nest. The baby had climbed out and the parents were flying in and out. One of them might have given the final pep talk and the baby stood ready on the edge of the nest poised for take off. But it stood there for a long time. Since we humans are not as lucky as the birds and have to do things according to the clock, I went in for breakfast. When I came out, neither the parents nor the baby was seen. I waited till evening and climbed up to check. The nest was empty. I presume that the baby is flying somewhere around my house and that it is a happy end. 

Flying lessons?
Should I jump?
Jump. Don't worry. I am here

Empty nest - but a happy end? I presume so. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Update On the Bulbul Family

With me hovering  in the vicinity of their nest, the parents were a bit anxious and kept fluttering around. After they realised that I was only a nuisance, flashing some irritating light mow then and do not mean any harm, they went away on their errand. 
One of them return carrying a juicy worm in the throat
"Don't jump you stupid. Get back.Don't you know what happened to your brothers" 

"That's better. Now say aaaaaaa. Don't hurry. Eat slowly"
"Done? Now come out and sit with me. Uncle wants to take a picture"

After the parent went away I went closer for a picture of the baby resting  inside the nest. 
My wife saw me climbing gingerly onto the wobbly stool with the camera in hand - "If your idea is just to have some of your bones broken, why not simply climb onto the roof and jump down? You will have better results and also save the camera." 

One of the parents return for the night shift. With the baby growing there is not much space in the nest now. 

And it made itself as comfortable as possible for the night. 
The gap between the two closeups is just forty eight hours and look at the baby's back. The bald back is covered with feathers! It may attempt to fly in a day or two. Hope to witness and record it. Will get back if I do. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

'Biscuit Rotti' Sentiments

Latha (my wife) attempted ‘Biscuit Rotti’ after a long long time. She made a few which very much looked like, and tasted almost like, BRs that Amma (my mother) used to make. Though they were not as light and crisp, it was a pleasure to bite into one and recollect the memories of our childhood. Latha said that she used wheat flour (atta), butter, dry coconut and sugar. Amma said that she was using maida (refined wheat flour), rava (semolina), fresh coconut, ghee and sugar, all of them mixed and pounded to make a smooth dough. I very well remember that she used to give us some dough to be pounded in the ‘oraLu’ (grinding stone with a depression in the center) using a ‘haare’ (a heavy metal pestle) and it used to take a very long time to pound it to her satisfaction. In between we could just take out small lumps of the dough and stuff them into our mouth. Even the raw dough was tasty! After the dough was ready, amma would light the kerosene stove, and sit in front of that with the rolling pin in hand, rolling the dough into small ‘rottis’ and roasting them, on low flame. It was painstaking job and it would be hours before one big and one small ‘SWAY’ (soap powder) boxes were full of crisp, light, golden brown BRs, literally  ‘Melting in the mouth’.

Amma says that she usually started after packing us off to school, around 10 am and would finish by the time our father came home for lunch - usually 3 pm. Five hours in front of the stove! Sometimes there would be a post lunch session too. Our school was a full day affair, 10 AM to 5 PM, and by the time we returned from school there would not be any signs of amma’s toil. But the lingering fragrance of roasting BRs informed us about the goodies and lead us to the ‘Sway’ box. We got an idea of the work involved in preparing BRs when we witnessed the process during holidays. But even then, after pounding the dough, we just left amma for herself in the kitchen and were occupied with our ‘Golis’ (marbles), ‘Buguris’ (tops) or ‘chinni -danaaDu’ (a game played using two wooden sticks, the smaller one with tapered ends to be lifted and stuck with the longer one) or simply chatting with Datta (a gift of a friend - two years elder to me but equally friendly with me, my brother and sister who were younger to me by three and six years respectively. No childhood memory is complete without Datta) in the shade of our guava tree. Now, when I think of her toiling in front of the stove the whole day, alone, and we enjoying ourselves with games and friends, I feel guilty. But that’s childhood, taking our parents for granted. Still, I wonder what made her take up such tasks and spend half her life feeding us? Was the sight of her children greedily stuffing things into their mouths so rewarding?

Now at eighty six, shrunk and frail, she sits on her arm chair all day, reading something or the other and says that she has to put the book down every now and then and rest, as her hands ache holding the book. You mention rolling and roasting hundreds of BRs and she says “I sometime wonder if I really did all that”?

‘Biscuit Rotti’ tasted wonderful on its own but smeared with a thick layer of butter, it was heaven. The trouble was that butter was not always available. It was expensive and was brought home only once a month or so for preparing ghee (clarified butter). Amma would usually keep aside a small bowlful of butter before heating it and incidentally if BR was also there, we got to enjoy the combination. By god’s grace we have plenty of butter at home now, but the same god has also graced us with plenty of cholesterol and we are only allowed just a look at the big bowlful of butter twice a day! But if Latha succeeds in gathering enough will and patience, attempts and gets the BRs perfect the next time, butter sandwich it is going to be! Cholesterol be damned.

PS: For the benefits of JKs: There were two schools of thought about preparation of BRs. Indrakka’s and Buchchakka’s. Amma followed Buchchakka’s recipe. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Corporate Hospitals - A Boon?

By god’s grace, I do not have much experience of the corporate hospitals which are supposed to be the shining (literally) symbols of India’s advancement in health care. I have visited them a few times for consultations, the outcome of which, have been very satisfactory. The fact is that the hospitals had nothing to do with the outcome. What mattered was the doctors whom we consulted. Had we consulted the same doctors in places other than these hospitals, I would have saved a hundred or two on consultation fees but I will not grudge that. The hospital provided comfortable parking space, waiting space and most importantly, clean toilets, and I consider these facilities worth the extra money spent.

Quite a number of my friends and relatives have visited these hospitals for surgeries and other procedures and have expressed satisfaction. At the same time almost all of them have mentioned the fact that they have found the hospitals very expensive. Some of them have complained about unnecessary investigations and procedures but that is part of the ‘health care business’. I have no idea about the economics of these establishments but even as a layman I can see that maintenance of these establishments must be quite expensive. Obviously, to recover their cost plus profit, the hospitals must charge the patients a lot. And since they have to maximize profits they find different ways of charging the patient. Recently I heard about the changes in functioning of the dental clinic in one of the corporate hospitals in Goa and if that is how the other departments are also run, one need not wonder why they are so expensive.

This hospital had a dental clinic and had appointed a dentist on a monthly salary. But for the fact that the clinic is located in a swanky building with a big name, the dental set up is the same as any of the hundreds of dental clinics run by individual dentists in any city. For some of the procedures beyond the capabilities of the ‘in house’ dentist, the hospital called a specialist, who was paid on 'per case' basis.

Let us consider a surgical extraction for which the specialist is called. The procedure done in an ordinary dental clinic, by a visiting specialist, would cost the patient about Rs 1500 - 2000. The same procedure performed by the same specialist in this hospital was being charged Rs 3500. The specialist would get Rs 1500 and the rest went to the hospital.

Now, the hospital decided to outsource dental services. A company which is in the business of running dental clinics in corporate hospitals all over the country has taken the contract. The company sets up its own equipment, maintains it and also appoints a dentist. The hospital gets a fabulous rent - 3 lakh if what I hear is right - for the space provided for the dental clinic. The company has retained the same specialist who used to attend the hospital earlier, but, it now charges Rs 7000 for the procedure which was being charged Rs 3500. The specialist gets the same Rs1500, the company keeps Rs 2500 and the hospital gets its share of Rs 3000! This is apart from the rent.   

The company running the clinic banks on the name of the hospital and the volumes generated by running such clinics all over the country. The hospital provides its name to the clinic but has nothing to do with the quality of service. It just collects a tidy rent as well as a share of the fee. The hospital exploits the company and the company exploits both the dentist and the patient.  

If you ask me what is that I am trying to convey here, I have no answer. I am just placing here a fact that came to my notice. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pleasing The Planets

Tulsi - Holy Basil

I got up earlier than usual and since it felt very pleasant outside, decided to go out and water the plants. I stood there watering the plants and enjoying the fragrance of jasmine when my neighbour’s gate opened with a clatter and his wife came out.

“May I take some ‘Tulsi’ (holy basil) from your yard?”

I have plenty of Tulsi around my house and I asked her to help herself. She came in. Usually I see her in the compound around six in the morning but now it was not even five. I was wondering why she is up so early when she spoke “We are doing a pooja today and it has to be done at the right time to be effective. The ‘muhurt’ is very early.” She paused and answered the question that was forming in my mind. “You see, our daughter is in twelfth standard and she is not getting good percentage. Maths was bringing the percentage down. So she stopped maths and opted for psychology. Still there is no improvement. So we have had her ‘patrika’ (horoscope) examined and ‘Bhatji’ said that some of the planets are not favouring her studies. He suggested this pooja and we hope that she will do well after this. Let us see. Twelfth standard is the turning point no? We have to do all we can.” She collected enough Tulsi to satisfy all the gods and planets and left.

Now, some of you may say that it is all nonsense. Don’t say that. The planets are really helpful if only you know what to do with them. They have helped ‘Bhatji’ and others like him a lot. If you have any doubt just switch on ETV Kannada or Udaya TV  between eight and nine in the morning and count the number of diamond rings on ‘Guruji’s fingers!   

Disclaimer: I have only stated facts and do not intend hurting anybody’s sentiments. Religious, planetary, monetary or otherwise!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fooled By the Fruit Bat

Whenever I find the half eaten guava fruits lying on the ground under the guava tree, I look up hoping to find more fruits up there. I usually find some small fruits yet to ripen and make it a point to keep watching them and get at them as soon as they ripen. Before the fruit bat. But the bat almost always beats me.  

I was watering the plants under the tree last evening and casually looked up. I found two fruits just right on one of the upper branches. 

I tried to reach them with the hook like contraption that I have made for the purpose (using a stick, discarded copper pipes, electric wire tags and ‘duck’ tape) but they were beyond my reach.

If I can’t reach them from the ground, I usually can reach them from above, from the balcony. I eagerly ran upstairs, happy to have beaten the fruit bat this time. I bent down from the balcony, much beyond the limit,  risking losing my balance and falling down, and parted the leaves. This is what I found.

The other fruit was still green, not ripe. I heard someone laughing. But the bat was not to be seen.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Not A Medicine At All !!

Mr Venkateshan came to the clinic to get his tooth removed. He is around eighty. Whenever he comes, he invariably mentions his son, whom he says is the best ‘Heart Transplant Surgeon’ in Melbourne. And he also mentions the fact that his son has kept an old pair of his (Mr Venkareshan’s) footwear with him and that he goes to work only after paying respects to them every morning. Mr Venkateshan is obviously very proud of his son and justifiably so. “I told my son that I am getting my tooth removed today. He wanted to know whom I am going to. I told him that I have one of the best dentists right here in Ponda and not to worry”. Needless to say my ego leaped up three steps. I examined the tooth, thought that it might not be very difficult to pull it out and prepared for the extraction. Then I asked him the usual set of questions.

“How is your general health sir?”
“I am fine doctor. See I am eighty but I don’t have any trouble. I drive the  car myself”
“So, you do not have any of the common ailments? Diabetes, blood pressure, heart conditions?”
“Nothing doctor. I am fine. My son arranged for a detailed check up when I went to Australia six months back. They certified me perfect.”
“Oh, that’s very good to hear. Did they suggest any preventive medications?”
“No doctor”
“So, you don’t take any medicines on a daily basis?”
“Nothing doctor. I told you. Why do you want me to take medicines? God has kept me in good health and please let me remain like that”
“I hope you remain so for ever sir, I just wanted to make sure. That’s all”

I did the extraction. It was a bit difficult. The tooth was very long and very firm. But it was OK. I made him sit in the clinic for nearly half an hour, checked for bleeding, confirmed that he was fine and sent him off with few painkillers.

Around five in the evening I received a call from him.

“Doctor I am sorry to disturb you but you see there was some trouble”
“What happened?”
“There was no bleeding when I left your clinic but it started bleeding afterwards. I had a very difficult time”

My heart missed a beat. It always does. Whenever a patient complaints of bleeding after extraction. I have removed may be seventy or eighty thousand teeth and have handled hundreds of bleeding cases but this complaint always makes me anxious and nervous. And if a close relative is a doctor, I am likely to face a court martial for even minor complications.

Once it so happened that a lady who had a heart condition fainted after injection of the local anaesthetic. It was a case of ‘Vaso vagal syncope’, meaning a short spell of fainting triggered by fear (of injection or extraction), or a stimulus like an injection pain or such other ‘trigger’. It had nothing to do with the heart condition and I had taken all the precautions. She recovered and the tooth was removed. But the next day I had to face an inquiry from her brother who called from US.

“Doctor did you check her blood pressure before injecting?”
“What Local anaesthetic was used? Did it contain adrenaline?”
“Had you prescribed antibiotics before extraction?”
“Do you use disposable syringes?”
So on and so forth. So, I was concerned on hearing about the bleeding. About Mr Venkateshan and also about myself. I enquired anxiously,

“How are you now sir?”
“Now it is better” He drawled “I called you just to inform about it.” My heart slowed down a bit. “You see it was my fault. I should have told you that I am taking Warfarin tablets every day” (‘blood thinners’ - medicines which prevent clotting of blood)
“But sir, I did ask you if you take any medicines on a daily basis”
“Of course you did doctor. I told you it was my fault. You see I am taking this tablet for more than twenty years and it has become natural for me like my morning cup of tea. I don’t consider that to be a medicine at all” !!!

This time I was lucky. There was no complication and no court martial. I have come across this tendency a few times in the past. One tablet for cholesterol or half a tablet for blood pressure taken daily is not considered ‘Medicine’. I will have to learn to rephrase my questions in future.