Friday, January 29, 2010

Blacked Out

Its 9 am on a Wednesday morning and we have been blacked out since about midnight. So here I am with literally nothing to do until the power comes back on; I guess I will write until either the power comes on or my battery dies.

I am certainly looking at the bright side; at least its not the middle of summer when my sanity is linked to a functioning ceiling fan.

I am really looking forward to my visa running out in May...busting for a trip home. January has been a very slow month for me and has been plodding along at a turtle pace. It has been freezing here at the ashram with heavy fog rolling in each night. A couple of times we have found ourselves driving home not looking out the front windscreen but head hanging out the window looking for the centre line on the road to guide our way.

There finally seems to be a bit of a shift in the weather though. This morning when I rolled out of bed at 7am to head to the Mandir (temple) for a bit of exercise there was hardly any fog and heaps of birds where chirping. Its feeling a bit like spring.

A few of us are getting up at 7am these days to meet in the temple to do a bit of a workout. We set up a circuit and work out way around for about an hour. Giresh our blind massage therapist/yoga instructor is also up doing his sun salutations at the front of the temple. Sometimes I join in with his warm up, but I move onto my own routine when he stands on his head. His core strength is unbelievable and I have never seen any one move from downward dog to cobra so gracefully.

So what else has happened this month. Well we had two patients die within five minutes of each other on Saturday morning. Below I have inserted an excerpt from Ruth's blog as she articulates their stories so well...

Two of our patients passed away this morning. One of our staff came and told Ruth before breakfast that they weren't doing well. She found them in their beds semi conscious and struggling to breathe. Pyara Baba had been with us for months and was on TB meds but over the last couple of months his brain had slowly deteriorated from TB menengitis and he had become one of the crazy characters that makes life at the ashram so colourful and different. His tall and skinny body been helped to the clinic for his dressing as he called out "koi baat nahi" (hindi for 'don't worry') was an everyday sight and sound that we'd gotten used to.

The other patient, Lakhan, was a more recent admission, also suffering from long term TB. He was old, emaciated, and had a chest drain protruding from his right lung that sucked in air every time he inhaled. He'd been walking around the ashram even as recently as yesterday, and didn't look too close to death. But this morning, he looked like another man, gasping for breath, eyes glazed over, and not responsive to questions.

The decision was made not to rush them to a hospital as they probably wouldn't survive the journey and the hospitals won't intubate someone whose sputum positive for TB anyway. So we put them on oxygen and spent the next hour with them, comforting them as best we could as we sat with them, holding their hands and inwardly hoping they wouldn't struggle for too much longer. Lakhan was the first to give up his struggle for oxygen and his laboured gasps became slower and slower until they stopped altogether. Pyara Baba followed him within minutes.

The Indian boys then wrapped the bodies in white linen and covered them with flowers from our garden and we had a small funeral service for them. A time to reflect on the value of life, its shortness and the importance of how we choose to live it.

The service for deceased patients is a relatively new thing here at the ashram. The bodies have always been wrapped, adorned with flowers and placed in the temple until they are taken to the crematorium. But these days we have a small service and say a few words and prayers. This particular Saturday morning there was quite a turn out and Ruth did an amazing job of leading the service.

Afterwards it was suggested that we could drop the bodies to the crematorium on the way to soccer. Ruth however pointed out it would be a bit squishy in the car with the four of us as well as two bodies, not to mention that it might traumatise the kids.

I am hoping that time starts moving a bit more swiftly in February. We have quite a bit planned over the next few months. Firstly we are off for a week of skiing in the Himalayas. There will be 8 of us loading into the car for the 9 hour drive up to Manali. There has been much hoohaa as to which hotel we should book. I have two sure fire ways of picking a hotel; first I go with a recommendation from someone I know and if I don't have a recommendation I pick the hotel with the most unusual name. So if I get my way we will be staying at the Yak Hotel in Manali. Once I picked a hotel in Cooma based on its name. it was called the Hawaii Motel....couldn't be further from Hawaii if you tried; not a palm tree in sight. Ray described it as one of those motels that you see in movies like Dusk til Dawn where massacres takes place. I will keep you posted as to how the Yak Hotel turns out. One very extreme sport that Manali is famous for is Yak skiing. Here is a very amusing description of Yak skiing taken from TIME magazine (I love the use of the word behemoth)...

In the Indian hill resort of Manali, Tibetan Peter Dorje runs an operation dedicated to the most implausible extreme sport in the world: yak skiing. In winter, he takes up to five skiers and his herd of beasts to the hills above town, making overnight camp. Come morning, Pete heads to a high slope with the yaks, trailing out a rope behind him. You wait below, wearing your skis and holding a bucket of pony nuts. When Pete reaches the top, he ties a large pulley to a tree, loops the rope through it and onto a stamping, snorting yak. Now it's your turn—and this is the important part. First tie yourself onto the other end of the rope, then shake the bucket of nuts and quickly put it down. The yak charges down the mountain after the nuts, pulling you up it at rocket speed. If you forget yourself in the excitement and shake the bucket too soon, you'll be flattened by two hairy tons of behemoth. Or as Pete says, "Never shake the bucket of nuts before you're tied to the yak rope." This piece of Himalayan sagacity can be restated in many ways that apply to everyday life: do things in their proper order, make adequate preparations before embarking on a risky venture, and so on. Or it can be seen for what it is: a barmy injunction to even barmier tourists. There's one thing Pete won't tell you, though. If you spike the nuts with pain au chocolat from the bakery at the northern end of town (where you'd also find Pete), you'll transform the yaks into slobbering, compliant puppies. That you'll have to discover for yourself.

The kids have started back to school early this year in order to get ahead before the traveling begins. Sam is doing really well thus far and is enjoying his new elective subjects of Electronics and Photographic and Digital Media. Its great being at the ashram too as there is always 'educational' stuff happening that he wouldn't learn at school. Yesterday he took a break from History to duck down to the clinic to see a patient with an abscess the size of a tennis ball on his neck being lanced. It wasn't very satisfying... it didn't gush like Om Prakash's abscess it was more of a trickle. The last time we had some new patients arrive at the ashram from the Yamuna bazaar Sam was in the clinic with the smell watching who knows how many week old bandages being removed from very smelly and maggoty wounds.The other guy we picked up was literally a skeleton he also has leprosy and would have been dead within the day. At this point he is still improving but I am not sure if he will survive. We have a few patients here with active leprosy at the moment....don't worry its hard to catch.

When will this power come back on!!! I need to work. I need to do washing. I need a hot shower!

We have a few other short holidays to look forward to in March when my sister and brother in-law come to visit. Of course when they are here we will do the Golden Triangle (Delhi- Agra- Jaipur- Delhi) where we will see the Taj Mahal among other things. After that I am tossing up between an Elephant Safari to see wild tigers etc or visiting Udaipur (as featured in the Bond movie Octopussy) or perhaps a camel desert safari in Jodhpur... so much to see so little time! We will finish our holiday together with a week in Goa. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to seeing the ocean.

The month of April will be the last month I have to fill before we head home. At this point it will be a lonely month as all out amazing NZ volunteers will have headed home and it will just be Judith, Uwe and the four of us at the ashram. We do have one small adventure planned for the end of April. We will be heading to Rishikesh which is on the banks of the Ganges as it flows fresh from the Himalayas .We will be camping with 80 other expats and enjoying a long weekend of white water rafting in the icy water. Soon after that I plan to head home and escape a couple of months of the scorching Delhi summer.

Well my battery is getting low and I have run out of things to write about... I hope I have not been repeating myself as I can't get on the internet to see what I last wrote. I think I will go for a walk.


Its been nearly 48 hours and the power is finally back on. It turns out someone stole our $2000 power cable that brings power into the ashram. We now have a temporary fix. Just had a luxurious hot shower (no power means no water here as power is needed to pump the water onto the roof)

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