Outpatient Clinic and TB Lab

June 19, 2008

This morning there weren’t very many people in the physiotherapy place, so we decided to shadow two of the doctors that work in the outpatient clinic, who see more than a hundred patients some days. Both doctors are fresh out of med school and have been here for about a year, and were really nice and explained all of the conditions that the patients came in with and about the way these conditions are treated in India. Over lunch we had a nice chat and talked about the various medical systems here in India, in the States and in Canada. It’s kinda weird too because out of 12th grade  at age 17 they started at St. John’s Medical School and finished in 2007, so they’re about my age, but they’re full doctors while I just finished my undergrad am applying to med school now.

Since the hospital is mainly focused on leprosy and tuberculosis, a lot of patients came in with conditions arising from this, but most of the patients I saw had various skin ailments and allergies (a fair bit of psoriasis) – very different from the patients I saw while shadowing my family doctor in Toronto, who had a lot of people with high blood pressure and some with depression.

The next day, we walked around and went to the lab run by the TB team. It’s interesting that there, like in surgery, you have to change into flip flops that do not leave that area. We got a tour from the head of the lab, George. They have a pretty nice setup there with some very good equipment, lots of centrifuges and freezers for their samples. I was actually very impressed, it looked very similar to the labs I was working in last summer in Guelph. We also looked through the window of the mycobacterium lab which contains some nasty bacteria and requires additional precautions and protection to enter. That afternoon we were planning on taking a bus back to Bangalore instead of waiting for the shuttle van the next afternoon, but it turned out there was already a car going with packages and people to St. John’s, so we hitched a ride with them. The Bangalore traffic though was pretty gross and probably added at least a half hour to our transit time. That night I had a nice dinner with Miki, Mario and Niharika and relaxed. The rest of the weekend was pretty chill, I went over to Nandi’s for dinner the next day and got to see Indran again, who is now finally walking, and doing a lot of that, though he’s still learning that he can’t walk through some obstacles and is liable to wipe out on stuff. It was also funny because Nandi tried sticking childproof protectors onto the sharp corners of her table, but of course the protectors are not baby proof so Indran just rips them off and gives them to Nandi. He is also learning to speak better and is getting smarter every day. I also just found out that after I left on Sunday, Indran had a bit of a spill and cracked his collarbone and is now in a sling. Here’s hoping he has a speedy recovery. Tara’s husband Jay has also had a spill and is requiring surgery, and I hope he recovers well.

Palamaner: Surgery (May 11)

June 18, 2008

Today we got to observe Dr. Jacob perform surgery to repair the claw-like hands and the foot drop that people with leprosy get. For the non-squeamish, I randomly found a photo album of another doctor performing a similar surgery that you might like to look at. The following is my understanding of the surgeries we saw today, and is as correct as my limited understanding of anatomy and leprosy allows. The nerves that innervate the muscle that straightens the fingers of the hand is attacked by the leprosy bacilli, and so the muscle dies, and the person cannot straighten out their fingers. The surgery to repair this is quite interesting, though it also seems to have its drawbacks. The patient is put under local anesthesia on the entire arm and hand for the side that is being operated on. Then, incisions are made on the first segment (closest to the palm) of each finger (not the thumb though), and on the middle segment of the middle finger. The muscles and tendon that operate the middle segment of the middle finger still work, so this tendon is cut. Then an incision is made in the palm of the hand, and the tendon from the middle segment of the middle finger (that was just cut) is then pulled all the way through the finger and out of the palm. Dr. Jacob then splits this tendon into four equal pieces (still attached to the arm muscle). He then inserts a tool through the incisions he made in each finger and out the hole int he hand, grabs one of the newly cut tendons, and pulls it back through to each finger. This looks pretty cool/weird. Then he stitches this tendon to the intact tendon of the first segment of the finger. In this way, the tendon that was used to straighten the middle segment of the middle finger is now split into four and is used to straighten the lowest segment of each of the four fingers, and as such the patient can now straighten their four fingers.

After watching two claw surgeries, Ajay and I skipped the beginning of the third one to set up the wireless for our laptops before we returned for the foot drop surgery. When we returned, Dr. Jacob was just finishing up the claw surgery on a young girl I had remembered from the previous day. Her surgery was more complex, as she was also getting her thumb repaired. For the thumb, they cut out a tendon that goes to your ring finger middle section. To get the opposable movement, they first pull this tendon out near the wrist, then they feed it around the lower corner of the palm (the pinky side), split the ligament, and attach one piece to a tendon at the front of the thumb and one to the back of the thumb. When we arrived I was surprised because the first two surgeries were relatively bloodless due to their arm being tied off, while there was a fair bit more blood in this one. This was because of the increased complexity due to the thumb surgery. Dr. Jacob said they had to untie the arm after 20 minutes otherwise there is unbearable pain in the arm. I was also surprised because this girl who seemed pretty happy the day before was in some pain, due to the length and complexity of the surgery. It’s weird, seeing her in pain was the only thing that made me feel sick in the OR that day. Finally though Dr. Jacob finished the stitches and bandaging and that surgery was over.

Finally, the foot drop surgery. In this condition, the nerves innervating the muscle that allows you to lift your foot towards your shin is dead, and so for these people their foot is permanently pointed and slightly turned outwards. If this is not corrected, they get used to walking on the outside/top of the foot, and their bone structure changes. To correct this, Dr. Jacob first makes a large incision on the inside side of the foot (for the football/soccer fans are, the place where you are supposed to receive the ball). The tendon here is cut (the person will no longer be able to swivel their feet as well anymore because of this I think). An incision is made above the ankle, and the tendon from the inside of the foot is pulled out to here and split in two. Then two incisions are made on the top of the foot, one more to the inside and one more to the outside. Similar to the hand surgery, Dr. Jacob pulls the tendon from the ankle through to these new incisions, and stitches them to tendons at this site. In this way, the person is now able to use their functional muscle to pull their feet up, and have a more natural stride. For both the claw and the hand surgery, there is extensive pre-operative and post-operative therapy required. Now that I have seen the surgery I am even more interested to see the differences in mobility and function between pre-op and post-op patients.

It got a bit surreal when they put on the music, and the first song was Livin’ La Vida Loca, followed by some Backstreet Boys, Venga Boys, Barbie Girl, and got even weirder when the Can-con started: Avril Lavigne’s Complicated and Summer of ’69 (which I think is probably one of the more popular Canadian songs worldwide).

Another thing that re-struck me during the surgery was the toughness and resiliency of the human body. During surgery what I thought were some pretty harsh things were done to human tissue. Though I have very little experience with taking apart a chicken or raw meat, so that might be why I am so surprised at the toughness of flesh. Still, I remember when I saw my first surgery, a quintuple bypass 7 years ago, I was amazed that you could just punch holes in an artery on the heart around a blockage, and then attach a bypass vessel with a sharp needle and thread, and yet the heart could be restarted and would keep on pumping, and not even care about the apparent torture it had been through. Similarly, I was impressed with the integrity of human tendons and skin. Dr. Jacob would just pull out the finger tendons through the palm, they would be clamped and then he would cut that one tendon into four and then sew it onto another tendon, and the tendon’s integrity remained. Similarly, when he was using his tools to go in and pull tendons where he wanted them, the body was surprisingly yielding and it all worked out. The human body is quite remarkable.

Palamaner: Physiotherapy and Rehab

June 18, 2008

On the second day we met Dr. Auburn and got to talk to him and his wife about the hospital and the school who his wife runs there. We also got a more in-depth tour and explanation of the physiotherapy and rehab centre. Joanna and Marsha, you would have really appreciated some of the stuff they do there. Most of what they do is pre and post-operative physical therapy. Leprosy can affect many different parts of the body, so there are different treatments to try to combat its effects. For example, it can damage the nerve that is responsible for innervating the muscle that causes your eyes to close. These patients cannot close their eyes, but do blinking and winking exercises to try to ameliorate this. There is also electrotherapy which can help stimulate the nerves and muscles. Leprosy patients also often have a claw-like appearance in their hands where they cannot straighten their hands because of damage to nerves and tissues. There is surgery to correct this, but before they do that, they have to stretch out their muscles and tendons in their hands so that they will be able to straighten out their hands. One treatment is to dip their hands into a paraffin wax mixture, which helps soften their hands. They also coat their hands in vaseline, then lay them on a table and stroke and press down across their fingers to straighten out their hands. After surgery they do various hand and finger strengthening exercises. I also noticed a poster on the wall recommending that leprosy patients not handle hard objects without a soft cloth. Since they lose the sensation in their hands, they will not know if they are holding objects too hard or too long, and will develop blisters which develop into ulcers. If these ulcers reach the bone, the bone can become infected and then it may need to be removed. If you’ve ever had sore fingers after writing too long or handling some bad scissors, just imagine if you couldn’t tell your hands were sore and continued without a break or massaging your fingers – that’s when you develop the bad blisters. As such, leprosy patients are always recommended to hold a soft cloth to cushion their hands when handling hard objects.

June 9: Palamaner

June 18, 2008

In the days preceding the start of my volunteering in Palamaner, I had some chats with my cousin’s husband Mario, (Dr. Mario!) who is chairman of the governing board for both the Emmaus Swiss Hospital and School. He told me how being a doctor in India, especially in rural India, is very different from being a doctor in Canada.  For one thing, you wear many hats: not only doctor, but builder, engineer, electrician, plumber, planner, shoe-maker, etc. You have to make do with the technology and resources you have. Often, you see more than a hundred patients a day, which means you almost have to make the diagnosis as they walk in the door, using your intuition and experience. When you are out in a mobile clinic this is especially a problem since sometimes the patients travel many hours by bus to get there, and if there is only one bus to get them back home, you have to finish treating them before that bus leaves. You also have to deal with what course of treatment is most likely to be carried out properly, and prescribe the treatment accordingly. For example, you may have to take a more drastic but shorter course treatment rather than a less aggressive but longer treatment if you don’t think the patient will be able to complete the full course of a longer treatment. There is also the problem of India’s caste system, which can sometimes interfere with treatment. One thing I found interesting is that he said confidentiality is not a huge issue. He also said that often in the villages, people die and are buried/cremated before an autopsy, so you have to conduct “verbal autopsies” by talking to the friends, family and neighbour of the person who has died to determine the cause of death. I also at some point learned that its called Emmaus because that refers to the bible story of when Jesus talked to some disciples that were on th road to Emmaus after his resurrection, and this is supposed to symbolize that the Swiss Emmaus project is the path towards hope, or something like that. I really should have figured that one out from my extensive childhood reading of the picture bible. If only all my courses at unviersity were in comic book form, I’m pretty sure I’d have a 4.0 GPA.

Mario also told me about Dr. Auburn Jacob, the director of the Emmaus Swiss project, who is quite the remarkable man. This project was at one point the largest leprosy treatment facility in the world, and is a model for other leprosy treatment sites. Since Dr. Jacob is a bit of a pioneer, he has had to develop and modify a lot of treatments for use on leprosy patients. When he recieved a donation of an oven, an appliance that isn’t really used that often in India, he instead used it to melt plastic to make prostheses for his patients.

On the first day, I walked with Mario to the St. John’s Research Institute, where he works and where the van would pick us up. There I met Ajay, the other guy who would be volunteering with me for the first few weeks. He is 20, going into his 3rd year at Emory and his dad was in the same class as Mario at St. John’s. Ajay and I traveled in the van to Palamaner with Ajay’s family following us in a cab. After a quick breakfast stop halfway there, we arrived at the Emmaus Swiss Hospital. We got a tour of the various facilities including the rehab and physiotherapy clinic, the outpatient clinic, one of the labs where they can diagnose TB or leprosy, and the inpatient wards. We moved in our stuff into our very nice rooms, which are in the staff quarters on the same compound as the hospital and school. We each have our own bedroom and bathroom, with a common kitchen and living room. Dr. Auburn spoiled us and provided a lot of bread, bottled water, jam, fruit, and cereal and canned goods in our room which really isn’t necessary because we are already very well fed 3 meals a day at the hospital canteen. The food here is pretty good and since they make it for a lot of people, the food is always fresh. In the mornings we usually get some sort of dosa, idli or other carb with sambar or dahl. Looks something like this:

Lunch and dinners usually consist of rice, chapattis, dahl, and then some sort of meat and vegetable. The hospital runs from around 9 to 4ish, so after 4 we pretty much have free time, which we spend relaxing, watching TVor movies, playing games/sports, or checking email/internet and blogging.

May 30 – June 8: Many Partings

June 17, 2008

10 nerd points for anyone who gets the reference in the title of this post. The day after Tara’s wedding we went to A. Beatrice’s for lunch and to say goodbye to some of the family that was leaving. After that we headed to Tara’s to help her unwrap some of her gifts, and then there was a small birthday party for Alia’s birthday later that night.

The next day the girls went for a self-defence class while I relaxed at home. That night was another Sessions party at Shiva’s other restaurant, The Ugly Duckling. It was fittingly titled (for Joanna and Justine) “The last Saturday. We had a nice dinner and then drank and danced. Joanna and Justine were both tired from the self defence class and sad that their trip was coming to an end. The next morning the girls did some last minute shopping and then we packed up our stuff and went to Koramangala to visit Miki, Mario and Niharika for Justine and Joanna’s last days in India, and my transition into volunteer work. The next day we went to do some more shopping at The Forum and ate some Indian McDonald’s. The McChickens are pretty much the same except they add some cheese sauce. Justine got the Maharaja Mac, which is basically a Big Mac with and Indian style chicken burger instead of beef patties. The consensus was that it was not good. Sadly, no one opted for the McAloo Tikki. We also saw a sign that on some other day we could have met Ronald McDonald. I was not disappointed, since Indian Ronald McDonald (the guy, not the statues like in the picture above) is one freaky dude. Basically a brown guy with a bad red wig and white face make-up reminiscent of It. This is the best picture I could find on the net. Later that night after dinner, Karn (who lives in the area) drove us to Russell Market for some chai and then we went to Monsoon for some yummy molten cakes. Karn brought a card reader so that Joanna could get her pictures off her memory card (Karn had been taking a lot of pictures with Joanna’s camera at the roce and the wedding, and at the wedding he slipped while dancing and broke her LCD, so he had sent it for repairs).

The next day we relaxed a bit and then Justine and Joanna grabbed a cab to the new Bangalore airport, which is more than an hour away, and doesn’t allow non-travellers into the departures area at all, so there was no point in coming along. For the next couple of days I relaxed. One day I went with Miki on a site visit for her survey audit for the group Saathi. Saathi works to reunite runaway kids with their families, and rehabs the kids that have addictions. We were to interview a 12 year old boy who had already ran away several times. When we got there, he had run away again, but we interviewed his sister and some of the other local people. Finally, it was time to head out to Palamaner to begin the volunteering phase of my trip.

May 29: Tara and Jay’s Wedding

June 17, 2008

Finally the big day arrived. Justine, Joanna and Nandi got primped in the morning and after noon we headed to Uncle Cecil’s for the blessing. Of course we were all there before the bride, who was late, at the parlour still. She finally showed, looking quite beautiful, and we did the blessing and went on to the church. The weather held and it was a beautiful sunny day for the ceremony, though it was very hot. Since I was a groomsmen I was in the front row and the camera was right on me, so I kept looking to see when it wasn’t on me and then wiping the sweat off my forehead. The ceremony was nice, though at the end of the homily one of the bright halogen lights at the front briefly went very bright blue, then exploded and shards of hot glass jumped across the altar, past Jay and Tara, and hit one of the flower arrangements, starting a small fire that was quickly put out by the photographer. Otherwise the ceremony went smoothly. After that we had a brief rest at Nandi’s where she and Shiva perfected their toast, and then we headed out to the Bangalore Club for the reception. Again there was lovely outdoor decorations but it would rain lightly and then stop, so we had Nandi and Shiva’s toast outside, but then had to hurry back in. There were other toasts by Jay’s brother and dad and finally a nice thank you from Jay. We did the wedding march, ate, drank and danced, and then came the bouquet toss. Everyone was rooting for Justine to get it again since she has been designated most eligible bachelorette, and somehow quite accidentally the bouquet landed straight in Justine’s hands. There’s no garter in India since the brides wear saris instead of gowns, but for Tara’s wedding Jay pinned a flower on the eligible bride to be, which not so accidentally turned out to be Karn, Justine’s dance partner. There was also the always-dangerous lifting up of the bride and groom in chairs and parading them around and having them kiss. I decided to leave the lifting to Jay’s able-bodied family and Tara’s ninjitsu friends. We drank and dance some more, and then 11:30 came around which is the time when you are supposed to stop serving alcohol in Bangalore, which kinda sucks. We stole a few large bottles of beer to drink while everyone left, and at midnight it was Alia’s birthday so we got her to stand on a chair and sang her happy birthday. After that we headed back for a good rest, with all the wedding madness finally behind us.

May 26-28: Tara’s Pre-Wedding Madness

June 17, 2008

Monday morning was Tara’s mehendi party. The girls all went early while I got to sleep in. Mehendi is the traditional application of henna in intricate designs on the hands, arms and feet, and is trypically done to the bride and other women. When Joanna and I looked it up in wikipedia, we were laughing because the above hand from the mehendi page looked just like hers. Anyway, Shiva and I headed over later for lunch and got to meet the groom Jay and his family, as well as more of A. Brinda’s family. That night I was pretty tired but still Joanna and I headed out with some fo the other younger people to a club called Taika, which played Top 40 in one area and then house in another area. The house area was weird because there was the DJ in front and then everyone on the dance floor was just facing him and doing their thing. At one point some hairy hippieish dude behind us urged us to give him more room for him to groove or whatever.

The next day was Tara’s roce. I was prepared this time, and wore one of Shiva’s old shirts and brought a change of clothes. Should have probably borrowed an old pair of pants as well, since my khakis now have a rather large stain right by my crotch where the coconut milk pooled, rendering them unwearable. The roce was held at Opus, one of Shiva’s restaurants that is actually on the same property as his parent’s house, which meant we could take showers after the roce. After all that prep though it was more or less all for naught, as U. Cecil and A. Brinda enforced a coconut only blessing, much to Nandi and Alia’s chagrin. They couldn’t stop Jay’s family however from drenching him with many bottles of ice cold beer. Luckily I was spared that fate. The rest of the night was lots of fun, highlighted by Justine burning up the dance floor with Karn causing her to lose a layer of skin on the bottom of her big toe, and Joanna burning up the dance floor with Jay, his dad, and pretty much all the other men present. We also did a bit of bad karaoke at the end that was luckily limited to two songs.

The next day we had the wedding rehearsal followed by an awesome Thai lunch at the 13th floor, where I gorged myself on Thai curry. Mmm. That night was Jay’s roast. There was scotch and cigars, as Jay’s family and friends tried there best to roast Jay, but it seemed there wasn’t too much dirt on him. Early on it almost turned into a roast on Jay’s dad, as his family seemed to have a lot more dirt on him. That night the girls went to Tara’s, and there was apparently a lot of dirt shared then. We tried to get back early and rest up for the big day.

Sessions, Shravanabelagola, Halebidu and Belur: May 24-25

June 16, 2008

In India, house music is pretty big, and Tara, Nandi and Shiva know at least a couple DJs who mix the music for parties they call Sessions. Justine had already been for one before we came, and then the Saturday after Smita’s wedding Shiva, Nandi, Justine, Joanna and I and some of the ninjitsu crew headed out to Ganga farm for a Sessions party. Their fellow ninja Karn was one of the DJs. The farm was actually nicer than I thought it would be, with a bar, a lawn for the dance floor and a bonfire. We drank and danced into the night, until finally Shiva drove us back home. Nandi, who had been pressuring me all night to DRINK FASTER was passed out beside Joanna and me in the back. Joanna, Santosh and I serenaded Shiva with our usual drunk singing repertoire, including Basketcase, American Pie and Hotel California. Nandi was too tired to complain, but the next morning she promised that when Joanna is in labour with a child and I am passing a kidney stone, Nandi is going to come and yell Wonderwall in our ears.

For some reason, Justine decided it would be a good idea for us to go to Shravanabelagola, Halebidu and Belur, three temple towns, the next day for a day trip. We got back to Nandi’s around 2:30 in the morning; Justine came back with Nikolaj and only got in at around 4 or 5. Shiva woke us up at 7 in the morning to drop us off at the bus, and Justine was alert enough to get us out the door on time. I passed out on the bus, waking up briefly for our breakfast stop, and then we got to the first place, Shravanabelagola. This turned out to be a 620 climb to the top to see a temple in the hot sun, not the most fun when you’ve just been on a wild bus ride and are hung over. We also had forgotten to bring socks to protect our bare feet from the hot stone, since you’re not allowed to wear shoes. Luckily there were enterprising young boys selling socks at Rs 10 a pair, which we picked up. We eventually made it to what we thought was the top, with a few stops on the way. There were some men carrying old people up in palanquins which I was temped to take. When we got to the semi-top, there was a small temple and then more stairs to another temple. Joanna and Justine decided they were too tired to make it, but I decided to soldier on. It was definitely worth it. At the top was the Colossus Gommateshvara, a giant Jain statue of a naked man, which was pretty epic. As I was leaving Justine had worked up the energy to see the statue too, but Joanna wouldn’t climb a step more. We headed down the stairs, which is not as bad as climbing stairs but is almost more difficult, especially since some of the stairs were steeply sloped or chipped. Justine was worried the bus was going to leave without us, so she bounded down the stairs, and was feeling the pain the next day. When we got to the bus we actually had about 10-15 minutes to relax, and I had a drink of mango juice to replenish some of my lost fluids. Bad idea. This was probably our worst bus trip of the entire trip (maybe because we we were hung over), but the bus driver kept weaving and jerking non stop, and blaring his horn which sounded like an air horn. I got sick, and you can’t really tell those buses to stop, so I puked up all the mango juice, but none of the breakfast, into a plastic bag. I feel sorry for the people that could see/hear me. After that I felt somewhat better, and we headed to Halebidu, where I disposed of my puke bag. Joanna was still feeling crappy, so Justine stayed with her while I followed the tour guide and saw the temples and Nandi bulls, which were pretty similar to some of the temples we saw in Hampi, but still very nice. After that, we headed for our lunch. I decided not to trust my stomach to the bus driving, so I ate nothing, but Justine and Joanna ate. Our last stop was Belur. Here Joanna and Justine finally joined me for the entire tour of the site, though by this time we were all templed out and found it hard to concentrate hard enough to decipher our guide’s accent. After that was the long ride back to Bangalore. First though we had to wait because the road was blocked with hundreds of men celebrating election victories by throwing dyed powder at each other since the state was dry for the election vote counting. We eventually got through them and headed back. They decided to put on two loud Hindi movies which were quite odd. From what I gather, the first one started with a no goodnik boy who was being chased by some men, but was rescued when he hid with some random girl on a carousel. She gave him a charm necklace, which he constantly tried to get rid of but implausibly came back to him. Then we jump into the future where there’s a magic act involving a tiger, who somehow turns into a man, which is apparently the no goodnik boy grown up. Also, he is now Neo, and can kick everyone’s ass. The girl has grown into a servant girl, but her bosses hate her and try to have her killed, but she is saved by Neo. Then they somehow get to some magical god place, and Neo is transformed into a god himself, and overthrows the evil god. Then we go back to earth and the evil god follows him and transforms into a sexy girl and tries to seduce him. Other stuff happens, it gets super violent and Neo kicks everyone’s ass and then dies and then comes back to life and kicks more ass, and somehow that charm comes back and saves the day. Also there were random dance sequences interspersed. The next movie was even worse. It consisted of some guy who basically whined nonstop and thought there were all these injustices going on, so he finds some website that makes him transform into a big evil vigilante who kills people very violently, like tying them up and covering them with flesh eating worms, or basting them in Tandoori and then deep frying them. Sadly, we got back to Bangalore before we could finish this gem. We returned to Nandi and Shiva’s for a chillaxed meal with cousins on our side and A. Brinda’s side.

Smita and Siddharth’s Roce and Catholic Wedding: May 21-23

June 16, 2008

Smita’s Roce was on May 21st. The outside was beautifully decorated but it was unfortunately raining, a trend that would continue. The roce is a traditional blessing ceremony that happens a few days before the wedding where the bride, groom and all young single men and women are blessed with coconut oil and milk (and as I soon learned, other beverages, which doesn’t happen in Canada). We said hi to our many relatives and then the roce began. The girls got off relatively easy, only getting lightly smeared with coconut milk. Then it was the boys turn. For some reason, it was only Siddharth, his brother Arjun, Smita’s brother Rahul (or Raoul as Joanna likes to call him) and me up there. And I guess since I’m their first cousin, Miki, Tara, Nandi and Alia decided to be very mean to me. Not only did we get drenched with coconut milk, we also got beer, fanta, and (the worst because of the sugar and pulp,) guava juice. I had not anticipated getting this thoroughly drenched, so I had no change of clothes. Afterwards, we went to the bathroom they had there to find the faucet flowing very slowly and then when we tried to fill up a bucket with water, it had a hole in it. Siddharth thought this was an elaborate joke, but really, it was just India. (TII as Joanna would say) I rinsed myself and my kurtha off as well as I could, and we headed back to the party. Luckily my kurtha was silk and dried quickly, but alas, my pants did not. After some more dancing, we grabbed some dinner and ate outside where it was now not raining. The dinner was quite good and after some dessert we headed back home.

Two days later was Smita’s Catholic wedding. Once again it was raining when we got to Holy Ghost Church. The ceremony was nice, though a little odd because they had to change it since Siddharth was Hindu. Joanna and Alia represented their families, reading the intercessory prayers. After that we had a quick break at Nandi’s before heading to the ceremony at the SRI Officer’s Mess. The ceremony was nice and rather informal – only a speech or two, the wedding march (an Indian tradition), and then more eating, drinking and dancing. Our family of course was all over the dance floor, led by Miki and my uncle Mario. When the bouquet was tossed, it landed on the ground between a married woman and Justine. The married woman handed it to Justine, much to her delight/chagrin. We got to see a lot of relatives we haven’t seen for a while, including our cousin Mayuk who 9 years ago was four feet tall and would follow Joanna everywhere, and is now taller than me and has a faux-hawk. Needless to say, we all had a good time.

Smita and Siddharth’s Hindu Wedding in Madras/Chennai: May 17-19

June 12, 2008

Before we headed to Madras, Shiva took us along with the Abreo girls and Nikolaj and Shalini to a very nice restaurant call the Jolly Nabob at the Windsor Sheraton Hotel. It was a hangout of the Brits during the Raj, and was very colonial, with wood paneling and antique phones and guns and swords mounted on the walls. The food there was very tasty. While there Tara showed me where the bathroom was and we noticed that the mens bathroom had a sign that said milord, and the womens said milady, so we took a picture by the signs and call each other milord and milady now for fun.

A few days later, the three of us headed to Madras with U. Cecil, A. Brinda, Tara, Alia, U. Alwyn and A. Anita, A. Sylvie, U Robin, A. Sheila , Rahul and A. Muriel. We had some dosas for breakfast on the train and then some biryani for lunch during the 5 hour trip. Going to Madras everyone warned us that it was brutally hot. When we got there it was pretty hot, but not really as bad as everyone made it out to be. Maybe this was because for the most part we were always in air conditioned places. At any rate, Smita’s husband-to-be Siddharth met us at the station and they had some cars for us to take to the hotel, which was all kindly arranged and paid for by U. Robin. I was to bunk with (U. ) Gerry but he was arriving later that night with A. Munnu and ended up staying with her, so I had an entire room to myself. We headed out to a jewelry store which Madras was apparently famous for, and while Uncle Cecil did his sudoku and I wandered aimlessly, the girls went nuts with the jewelry, so much so that we were quite late getting back to the hotel, and had to hurry so that we were not late by Commander Deans’ standards. We had a quick change and headed to Siddharth’s house. There we finally met Smita and got to know some of Siddharth’s family. The bar had no alcohol and our dinner had no meat, much to the chagrin of the Mangies present. Still, we got to eat a very tasty traditional Indian meal on a banana leaf which we had to eat with our hands. Tara taught me how to eat with my right hand properly. In India, the left hand is used for bathroom duties and so it is considered extremely rude to pretty much use it at all outside of the bathroom. Joanna sat on her left hand just make sure she didn’t unconsciously use it. After dinner, the party pretty much ended, unlike our Canadian dinner parties which typically go to all hours of the night (though they usually also have alcohol). So while most of the aunties and uncles went home, the younger crowd, along with (U.) Neil and U. Cecil went to a hotel lounge/bar for some drinks. We then headed back to the hotel so that we could get ready for the Hindu wedding the next morning.

The next day we got up reasonably early and got all decked out in our Indian gear for the Hindu wedding. We headed over to the hotel where it took place, and were quite early. Apparently there’s about a hundred ways to do a Hindu wedding, and I don’t quite know how to pronounce or spell the format that we saw that day. There was a woman who conducted the ceremony, and she was kind enough to explain what was going on and the significance of the different rites. It was pretty interesting, with a large pyre where things were occasionally tossed, and that Smita had to somewhat precariously walk around. After that there was a nice vegetarian brunch complete with dosa bar. For some reason we decided it would be a good idea to go straight to a non-air conditioned church for mass after that, still in our Indian gear. This was the one time where we felt the full extent of Madras’s heat, as we melted in the pews, and I was craving water. After mass we returned to the hotel and lazed about, watching Harry Potter on tv and napping. That night was the reception for the Hindu wedding, where we finally got to eat some meat and drink some alcohol, which we of course took advantage of. There was also some dancing, and all of us got on the dance floor and this was where Joanna decide that the Rebello’s party harder than the Mascy’s. I got to show of my adequate though not exceptional swing dancing moves, and U. Alwyn and A. Anita were quite impressed, though they hadn’t yet seen Shiva or Nayan’s moves so I think their bar was set relatively low. For some reason we left somewhat early, but not before Tara had secured a bottle of vodka and some cranberry juice to mix from the bar. We headed back to Tara’s hotel room where we played a truncated game of Kings since we didn’t have much booze, and then I tried unsuccessfully to wrestle with Tara. She let me think I was winning part of the time, but pretty much tired me out. Then she showed me some of the ninjitsu pressure points and moves she knows, and then I decided I wouldn’t mess with her any more. Alia still thought Tara was fair game though and attacked her next.

The next morning, everyone but us and U. Cecil’s family left early in the morning on the train back to Bangalore. All of us but Alia went on a bit of a tour of Madras which both U. Cecil and A. Brinda knew reasonably well. We also went by the church where St. Thomas the Doubter is buried. After that we headed back onto the train and returned to Bangalore.