Moving On

To a new website:

http://www.drprunesquallor279704606.wordpress.com

I have finally crossed the Borderline, now I am “Have Stethoscope, Will Travel”

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1978 Taj Mahal. Shame I wasn’t wearing a gold medallion.

Thursday Doors

Ai Weiwei has produced a series of marble doors. This one is in the contemporary art museum in Nice. He says that by making ordinary objects they become art. What do you think?

Some ramblings about Mohandas Karamchand

Humans are not born great, they achieve greatness through struggle. And inevitably, they make mistakes on that journey. As the “father of the nation”, Gandhi’s life and sayings have been deeply scrutinised. His ideas changed and evolved throughout his life.

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His philosophy moved from benevolent autocracy, to enlightened anarchy, to decentralisation and socialism. His ideas were adopted and adapted by other players, who made them more politically expedient. Others tried to forge a school of thought, Gandhi-ism, of which he did not approve. I learned all this from the two Delhi University students who run Safarnama, walking tours in Delhi from a feminist perspective.

The walking group met at Rajghat, where Gandhi was cremated after being assassinated by a Hindu radical. It is a pleasant park, with lots of open space, flowerbeds and a central area containing a black marble plinth, and an eternal flame. It was very moving.

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After the walk, I went to the Gandhi museum to learn more about the man. I shudder to think what he would have made of India’s industrial progress and development over the past sixty years.

God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West. The economic imperialism…is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300,000,000 took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts. (CWMG V38 p243)

It is unfair to judge him by today’s standards. He was a man of his time. In 1883, at the age of 13, he had an arranged marriage to Kasturbai, who was a year older at 14.

His incongruous views about women are difficult to understand. He was a very controlling husband, who did not allow her to make new friends. She felt that this was how he expressed his love. He is reported to have told a colleague that his wife was the most venomous woman he knew. He was very traditional in his beliefs and apparently even approved of honour killings. On the one hand he compared women to deities, and on the other hand he expressed the view that women who have been raped are no longer human beings.

He respected the dignity of women, but said that sex should be just for procreation, not pleasure. Menstruation was a “distortion of a woman’s soul”. He was against contraception and thought that using condoms would make men homosexual. He was trusted enough to be allowed to address an assembly of Muslim women without being blindfolded.

In 1891, he undertook a vow of celibacy. He would sleep with two of his young nieces, not his wife, in order to challenge and control his carnal desires. One author has suggested that he had a homosexual relationship with Hermann Kallenbach in South Africa in 1913, but the book on the subject has been banned in India.

It is not nationalism that is evil, it is the narrowness, selfishness, exclusiveness which is the bane of modern nations which is evil.

He neglected his four sons and did not have a normal family life. He was fastidious about personal hygiene and cleaning toilets (at which Kasturbai assisted him). This has been adopted by the present government of India as the Swachh Bharat Mission – “There is nothing more beautiful than helping those who work to keep our country clean. Take the pledge today. A clean India is the best tribute we can pay to Bapu.”

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The cause of many of our diseases is the condition of our lavatories and our bad habit of disposing of excreta anywhere and everywhere. (CWMG: V27 p 154)

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The iconic spectacles of Bapu (Gandhi) have been adopted by Swatchh Bharat (Clean India)

He also expressed racist views about black Africans when in South Africa. At one point he even stated that the white race should be the predominant race in South Africa. At the same time, he challenged the traditional view of untouchables, giving them a new name, harijans – which translates as “children of the God Vishnu”. They detested the term, calling it a “dirty word” and preferred to be known as dalits (the oppressed). I can understand how British colonial administrators found him frustrating and incomprehensible to deal with.

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I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country, in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony. There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability or the curse of intoxicating drinks and drugs. Women will enjoy the same rights as men. This is the India of my dreams.”

Mahatma (Great Soul) Gandhi, born 2nd October 1869, assassinated 30th January 1948.

Thursday Doors

Nearly at the end of my collection of 500 photos of Delhi doors. Only one more week to go before you see the last of them. Forty nine doors in a row – I am relentless.

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Hospital Visiting Time

Government hospitals in Delhi are heaving with patients each morning. Doctors finish at 1pm to have lunch, so the pressure is on to get seen before then.  Visiting hospital is a family affair. The ratio of family supporters to a patient might be as high as five to one. This adds up to hordes of people.

The local hospital looked run down and in need of general refurbishment. It was very hot and there were not many overhead fans stirring the stifling air. Security staff corralled the patients into queues. If they had not been policing the lines, everyone would just crowd in, as they do in the Metro or at the supermarket checkout. Some people clutched scarves over their faces to keep out any airborne pathogens and noxious odours.

Away from the outpatients’ department, there were lots of corridors, linking hospital wards, departments and buildings which have been tacked onto the original design. The walls were splattered with red-brown stains. This wasn’t blood, but spittle from paan chewers. The dirt looked ingrained. I thought that even deep cleaning would never get the place pristine.

Family members provide a lot of the nursing care, but they are turfed out of the ward to allow the patients to get some rest or food. I saw small groups of people picnicking in the corridors. Meanwhile, orderlies wheeled large stainless steel food trolleys containing lunch to the wards, just like the NHS when I was a junior doctor, before the era of chilled snack foods.

There were very few wheelchairs, I noticed. Some patients had their own vintage three-wheelers, powered by hand cranking. There were no children’s buggies or pushchairs. Children walked or were carried. I saw hardly any porters. Family members helped patients to move around in the hospital.

I was visiting the obstetric department. As a male, I was not allowed to enter. I had to stand outside with the other expectant fathers-to-be. They all wanted to know about me. Who was my wife? Was she Indian or a foreigner?

The security guard on the door looked like a bouncer at a nightclub. He let me into the ante-room when I found out that I was a doctor. He apologised for keeping me waiting outside with the other men and we got chatting. He told me that not only was he a bouncer, but he trained people to be security guards. He didn’t have to do this job, he said.

I squatted down on a broken steel bench which tilted me forward over my knees. To my left was the labour ward, which was remarkably quiet. To my right, behind a screen, was the postnatal area. Female family members could attend their relatives who had just delivered. There was a pedal bin situated between the room I was in and the postnatal area. Some women were fascinated how this worked. They put their foot on the pedal and spat paan juice into the bin before the flip top lid closed. They also put blood-stained rags into the bin.

Two men tried to bluff their way past the security guard to see their new family member, but their bluster didn’t work. They tried begging and eventually, grannie came out with the newborn baby to the ante-room for the child’s first smartphone photographs.

Another delighted granny came out with a large box of Indian sweets which she offered to everyone, even me. Cynically, I thought her latest grandchild must be a boy.

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Outside in the hospital grounds, freshly laundered sheets were laid out on the ground to dry in the sunshine. I glanced to one side and saw a poster advertising free cardiac ultrasounds as a special offer, this week only. Priorities are different, here in Delhi.

In contrast, the private hospitals flourish. These can be small affairs, the size of a townhouse or huge state-of-the-art institutions, fully computerised, air-conditioned and spotlessly clean. 80% of all healthcare expenditure in India is private (The Indian Government spends just a paltry 1% of GDP on healthcare).P1290156P1290155

 

 

Going home

I know it’s a cliché, but it seems like only yesterday that I came to live in Delhi.

I will miss my work colleagues who have been very kind to me. I will miss the historical sites of the capital, that I have come to know so well. I will miss the food. I won’t regret leaving behind the heat of summer in the city.

I do stand out like a sore thumb, being the only white male in the village. Doubtless, more locals recognise me than vice versa. Over the past year, I have become acquainted with some of the inhabitants of our part of Shalimar Bagh. I am the fruit and vegetable buyer for the team, so the vendors of the Monday evening street market know my face and what I tend to buy (not bitter gourd). I get preferential service but not local prices, though.

My fellow swimmers at the Municipal Swimming Pool know me well enough to have a chat with me between lengths or while we are waiting at the poolside. I won’t miss the dirty, used Band Aid / Elastoplast which has been on the side of the pool at the deep end for the past eight weeks.

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Swimming class. Sit on the side of the pool and kick your legs, arms extended. Get splashed by the teacher if you are slacking.

Early each morning, I walk down the Gyan Shakti Mandir Marg, the dual carriageway outside our apartment. The instructor of the Hunny Driving School always gives me a wave from the passenger seat as his learner driver pootles slowly past. The men washing parked cars acknowledge my greeting with a nod and a smile, as they slosh murky water over dented vehicles. One of them respectfully calls me “doctor sahib”. A night guard salutes me and smiles every time I walk past.

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A cycle rickshaw peddler (or should that be pedaller?) sleeps on the pavement beside his bike. Earlier in the year, when it was colder and the sunrise was later, I would pass him while he was still asleep. Now, he is wide awake, doing his ablutions al fresco, or cleaning his rickshaw. There was rain last night, with rolling thunder and intermittent lightning flashes, so I suppose he didn’t get much sleep.

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By the jhuggi, I used to see the same school children, smartly turned out in clothes that are often too big for them (especially their shoes). They would have been waiting for the school bus. But it is the summer vacation, so public schools are closed and the children are already playing cricket in the school yard. The school bus drivers and conductors know me too, but they are gone now.

Bill Bryson in his book, “Notes from a Small Island”, writes about becoming acknowledged by the villagers in Malhamdale, Yorkshire. When the locals have accepted you, they greet you with a tiny finger wave, extending their index finger from the steering wheel of their car as they drive past you. It meant a lot to him and it means a lot to me when the men sitting on their cycle carts put their hands together in Namaste greeting to me, as they wait for customers to come their way.

I am amazed by the sweepers who clear up the massive pile of rubbish in the street, wearing flip flops and one who has a pink shirt uniform. How do they tolerate the stench? They scrape up the stinking mess into piles which they load onto three wheeler cycle carts. I have no idea where they dump the refuse, but I suspect it is Bhalswa Trash Mountain.

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This is Jahangir Puri, not Shalimar Bagh.

I am on “nodding terms” with the old Sikh man with a flowing white beard, who sits on a bench by the chaiwallah, sipping his tea. The gurdwara is close by with its free clinic. I’d stop for a cuppa, but although I enjoy the spicy masala, it is usually much too sweet for me.

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Pug owner feeding cows on the central reservation

I am beginning to know the animals on the street, too. The cows often have a rag tied around their neck for identification and ownership. It reminds me of nondescript black suitcases with a red swatch tied to their handles as they circle the carousel at the airport.

Some cows have small bells, others have a cord tied around their tails. One has a necklace with green stones. I know some by the deformed shape of their horns.

I know some dogs, too. There are pets being brought out to do their business by their owners and others which are streetwise and feral. Twice during the past year I have seen a bitch with puppies, and it has been satisfying watching them grow up, forming a pack.

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The barrow boys are selling whatever fruit is available. They call me over to taste and try. Now it is mango season, lychees are just appearing and bigger peaches compete for space on their carts. Ridiculously, red apples from Washington State are cheaper than apples from India. Coconuts are always on sale for drinking and puja. I usually have a chat with the sellers as I walk past, looking to see what’s worth buying. I might also make polite conversation with other customers who have completed their morning constitutional walk around the park. I nod, but don’t engage with Delhi Policemen who man a portable roadblock and never seem to stop anyone.

The barbers start work at 7am, so I see them when I am walking back from the pool. They are always trying to entice me to have a trim and a shave. Or even a henna colour. Perhaps before I leave…

Thursday Doors

I apologise in advance. Yesterday, I had to visit a backstreet camera repair shop in the Old City to get the sensor cleaned on my fixed lens Panasonic LX100. While waiting, I wandered around the eastern part of the walled city with my Canon 6D & 24-105 zoom lens. I have added most of these doors to the post as I will be leaving India soon, and have decided to abandon social media for a while. And I have reached 99% of my free WordPress account.

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Hanuman, the Monkey God, mountain in one hand, mace in the other.

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A small cartoon representing Saraswati.

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Bit of art deco

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Hindu temple doorway

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Close up of a panel flanking a door
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This builder came out to wash his hands. The door is behind him.

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Coconuts are essential offerings to the Gods at Hindu temples

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Ascend the stairs through the gloom to Sun Shine Plastics in the sun.

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This is the entrance to a beautiful Jain temple. The idols are on the first floor. There is another temple which is entirely lit by sunlight beamed around the interior with mirrors. I have yet to find it.

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Haveli converted into a fancy office
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Taking your bike into the haveli. As you do.

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These two old gents told me all about their medical problems as they sat outside a boring metal shutter door.

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An image of a God outside a temple
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The man in the beige polo shirt wouldn’t budge. I waited a couple of minutes, so I think he really wanted to be in the shot.
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There was no door on this barber shop. It was just open to the street. How about having your haircut in the latest style by a barber wearing pyjamas?

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