Sri Balaji Hospital Chennai

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December 8th 2007
Published: December 8th 2007
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The plans laid out at the end of my last posting didn't work out. I must have thought that more in-the-field research in India was needed before going home or something, because this is what happened instead.........

Woke up in Mamallipuram with a high fever and sore throat, listening to heavy rain outside - and I only had the clothes I stood up in, remember. So it wasn't too long before I caught the bus back to Chennai, where fever or no fever, there was still shopping to be done, and packing to be done back at The Hotel from Hell.

I eventually made it to the station , where I planned to catch a train to the airport- a local service with a quick journey time. How was I to know that the train would fill and fill and fill and fill until people were hanging from the doorways in true travel doc. style? With me crushed inside feeling iller by the second? Actually, 'crushed' doesn't begin to cover it: the only reason I didn't fall to the floor was that it was physically impossible. At a certain point I couldn't stand it any more, and somehow forced myself and luggage off the train, with everyone shouting behind me 'No! No! Airport is 2 more stations!'. By then though I was sprawled across the platform, vomiting and vomiting as the train drove off. A lovely man tried to help - he brought me water which he poured over me, washing my face and making me drink. A concerned crowd gathered, but by then I had lost all pride as I lay there, being repeatedly sick.

2 policewomen turned up, at as much of a loss as everyone else. Finally, they made a decision. They manhandled me, extraordinarily roughly, as if I were a somewhat dangerous demonstrator rather than a pretty ill female tourist, and tried to bundle me onto a train. By yelling and weeping I managed to avoid the first train (later now, the trains were nearly empty again), but lost the battle in the end as they chucked me onto the floor of the next one.

At the airport station, we were joined by a handsome young male pc, who carried me 'Gone with the Wind' style up the stairs (shame I was way too ill to appreciate it) and heaved me into a rickshaw, where they all joined me, together with my luggage. Airport at last - or at least the airport medical centre. Here they finally examined me and decided I needed to go to hospital - I'd been muttering that for at least an hour. An ambulance appeared and I was dumped on a stretcher - bang! The ambulance driver revelled in using his siren - who wouldn't if it meant actually MOVING in the streets of Chennai? And after that I don't remember much of the rest of the day. I think the Embassy must have been told, and dealt with the fact I could no longer catch my flight home.

What picture have you got of an Indian Hospital? I bet it's wrong. My ward at Sri Balaji Hospital resembled pretty much any hospital ward in an older-style British hospital that you may have come across - only cleaner. It sparkled with clean paint, fresh blue and white candy-striped sheets and general good order. 4 beds in my ward, with 2 nurses by night and 6 by day, all in smart white jacket and trousers uniform. The nurses, being Tamil, are of quite astonishing physical beauty: I really couldn't take my eyes of 'my' night nurse, Jhoti, whose loveliness extended to her personality. They appeared equally taken with me, and would pat and stroke me, or chuck me under the chin at the least provocation. As I started to get better, they amused themselves teaching me Tamil. With one exception, they didn't speak much English, but what they did know, they'd learnt at Nursing School. Phrases like 'Go to the toilet'/'Use the bathrooom' etc. were not understood, until light dawned. 'Ah! You want pass urine?'

Besides nurses there were:
- nice ladies in saris who appeared to fulfil some kind of auxiliary role
- doctors - lots
- men in blue jackets and trousers who seemed to be gophers, called Ward Boys
- men in brown ditto- porters.

The night nurses did 12 hour shifts and before you feel too sorry for them, they told me that when doing night shift, they work just 10 nights a month.

Medication and tests of all kinds flowed freely - they make the French look amateurs.

No TV, no radio, no nice ladies from the WRVS dispensing sweets, newspapers and library books. No getting up either. You lie in bed until you're good and better, and meanwhile you do nothing. I was caught attempting to wash on my last day, and was chivvied back to bed and given a bed bath.

At visiting time, those of us without visitors did not go without attention. Dozens of noses were pressed against the glass wall of the ward as curious onlookers gave us all the once-over. I felt a bit like an inmate of Bedlam in the 18th century.

And so that's why I didn't reach home till yesterday, still pretty unwell actually, but so glad to be here. I haven't done with my blog yet though. Lack of access to the net has meant I've had little to say about the wonderful first 10 days of my time in India, and whether YOU read it or not, I want a record for my own benefit. And I'd like to do something of a picture record too, so watch this space over the next few days. Thanks to the very many of you who've kept in touch over the last few weeks - it's meant a lot to have your interest and comments


11th December 2007

Hospital or not?
Hmm. Not really feeling better to be perfectly honest - so it's off to the GP tonight. So I'll just do a last posting and wrap up these Indian adventures. Drink soon, anybody? I'll bring the pictures too!
19th December 2007

Reply to Margatet
Hello Margaret, i read your blogs .. can't tell you whether I feel happy after reading about your 'Encounters' . I am from Chennai , working in IBM. I express my apologies if you got treated badly. People here ,would have been friendly if you were a LOCAL. Since most of them don't understand English ( including the various personnel that you had mentioned ..Police..Nurses .. goes on ) they treat you as strangers. There are good places to visit , provided you get the help of a Reputed travel agent ( Say SOTC ) I can assume you would have got cheated at few places, made to travel in over-occupied trains/buses ..these may make you feel really bad about India ...may be you are wondering if we are civilized people...but this is India ..( I dont feel proud though ) All I can suggest you is , donot trust anyone easily ( I could imagine what is running in ur mind about Indians now ..) Carry emergency phone numbers ( Police- 100 ) ur embassy numbers. I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Rajesh
28th January 2008

Hello Rajesh
Oh, Rajesh, I had a wonderful time in India. I'm sorry, I only just read your comments as I haven't looked at my blog for some time. If I sounded jaded, it was because I was ill, and took some time to feel well again. In fact, people were so kind to me when I was ill, and I lost none of my possessions when it would have been so easy to take them from me on that platform. I met friendship and interest everywhere, and have no unhappy memories about the people whom I met. Certainly Chennai as a town was difficult, but not its people, and I hope I'll be able to come back one day. Thanks so much for getting in touch. Best wishes, Margaret
3rd February 2008

Reply to Rajesh
Hi Rajesh, Me too from Chennai and living in Dubai. I'm really shocked with your comments. You know about chennai and it's people. It has lots and lots of good souls and few junk people. Don't know what made you to say, "i don't feel proud".. You'll have to accept people, religion and country as it is and lot of proud things to say about our mother land/home town. Dear Margaret, it's unfortunate you've met few wrong persons in your journey, but don't come to a conclusion with that about chennai or india. Regards Srini
3rd February 2008

To Margaret
Happened to read your reply for rajesh just now. I'm very happy and you can ignore part of my previous mail :-) Srini
21st February 2008

Thanks.....'ll have gathered that I met lots of great people. Wonderful memories! Margaret

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