The Blame Game and other concerns

Less than a week before I’m back in the States.

This morning Sapna got all teary-eyed as I was preparing my carry-on bag for Monday’s departure. She asked, “You will call me, right?” I told her I would. She says she never took care of ‘such an American girl like me’ before and will think of me often. I’ve been in this situation before, (circa 2008-Anita, Dr Marda, 2009-Jai Ram, 2010-Dayanda Ashram…the list goes on). Everyone involved feels some level of sadness and within a week, will be back to his/her regular schedule. It happens. Time and again. The attachment is natural; we are around one another every day for months, until one day we’re not. The memories fade. Sometimes people’s feelings get hurt and we move on with our lives.

I nod my head assuring Sapna that we will be in touch, even though inside I know it’s a lie. This morning I asked if I could take a picture of her so I could remember her. She happily agreed and I quickly snapped a pic on my iPhone. So check out Sapna as my picture for the day. Even if we never talk again, I’ll remember this.

At the clinic there is a young female therapist that has been working with me since December. She’s sweet and naive. I found her to be good company and we would chit chat in between sessions; topics ranged from my physical progress to the best places in Bombay to shop. As my time at the clinic became increasingly difficult to tolerate and an unhealthy place, I decided to leave for good. I sat down with the doctor’s assistants and gave my reasoning. I said as easily as I made the decision to come, I decided it was time to leave. They listened, argued, listening some more and finally we shook hands. The young physical therapist expressed how hurt she was by my decision (‘I thought we were friends! I never thought you would do this to me!’) but I knew–and she did too–it was a long time coming. The clinic knew my issues with them from Day 1. I adjusted, accepting the notion that, ‘This is India, deal with it,’ which was so often thrown my way during tough times. That place was no longer for me for so many reasons. Part of me felt guilty for the way everything has ended, but that was short-lived. I spoke my truth and if I may say so myself, exited gracefully. I was proud of the way I handled the situation, in a clear almost peaceful manner. Although still 26 yrs for another month, I felt the maturity in that moment. 27 came sooner than expected! I did not blame them nor myself for not trying hard enough.

In India–or let me rephrase that, at THIS clinic in India– patients’ rights don’t count for much. I’m aware of my rights as a patient whether in India or the US. Once that settled in, I knew I had tolerated too much. To BLAME INDIA is NOT a solution. It is careless. ‘Turn a blind eye and accept this,’– is exactly what I was told when I first arrived. There were TONS of solutions to the clinics on-going problems. But the way in which they chose to deal with them was to not. The staff lives in fear of ‘Sir’, the main doctor who runs the joint. I can appreciate hating/fearing/respecting your boss, but this was on another level. The clinic’s weakness are due in part to ‘Sirs’ protocol. I eventually came to understand this was what I took issue with, prompting my decision to discontinue therapy there.

The clinic will be moving in April– a brand-spanking, shiny, new, spacious place completely devoted to rehabilitation. It will no longer handle all of its operations (business and otherwise) in an unventilated basement like it does now. I congratulated the doctor and offered him a challenge for the new center: consider your patient’s decency, always. The doctor said nothing. His assistant agreed she would and we said goodbye.

Oscar night

It’s Oscar night here in India! I set my alarm to wake up at 6AM for the live show, major fail…
Watching the pre-Oscar action got me thinking how similar Bollywood and Hollywood actually are; basic cinematic rules of thumb, the plots, drama, and of course, the classic characters.

Take the above photo of Devdas for instance. We have the rich hero, Devdas, (top left) who turns drunk and disorderly after his parents refuse to accept his love, Paro (top right). Then comes ‘the other woman’. The plot thickens when both ladies meet (below), but the two become fast friends–  I seriously doubt this would actualize in Hollywood film, but Bollywood is more about the whole friendship thing.

Naturally there is wise old granny dishing out life/love advice:


And finally, the villain in all his glory, aka his mustache:


Is Bollywood just a super colorful, lengthier version of Hollywood with hilltops and dance numbers for good measure? If our characters are constant and stories varied, are there any true distinguishing factors to the whole of Bollywood vs Hollywood?

Triple threats

Our (or rather, Balu’s) Tata Indica car broke down early this morning. It was only a matter of time. His car looked like a wounded solider returning home from ‘The battle of Bombay street traffic’: the side view mirrors are neatly bandaged, but hanging on for dear life. This tiny vehicle has no shock absorption, resembles the shade of a spray tan gone wrong (not quite orange, not quite bronze), but part of me has become attached to seeing this little orange-bronze bundle ‘tut tut’ its way up to the entrance of our building. Upon exiting a store, I breathe a small sigh of relief at seeing Balu’s car and knowing I’ve reached home base.

Balu didn’t seem bothered by his car’s death and went to work like a proper mechanic as though he done this many times over. I stood aside in amazement watching him calmly attempt to revive his car’s battery. Balu is a talented man. ‘Driver’ simply does NOT do justice to his mass skill set. A driver in India means you not only transport people around in a car and listen to incessant passenger conversation, but also function as a tour guide and mechanic, as needed of course. Balu, the driver-tour guide-mechanic. I wondered how that would look on a business card…

Change of plans: instead of a Bandra-Santa Cruz trip we would stay local. M and I went out about our business heading to Chembur station in an autorikshaw.

After completing our list-of-things-do, we again headed back home in an auto. Our auto-driver was swerving all over the place, when he suddenly hit the brakes. A car was backing out of a driveway and the coolie (security guard) of the building had signaled the auto to halt. M and I flew forward slamming onto the auto-drivers back, the auto hit the coolie and the car hit the rik. A three-way accident, luckily no one was injured. The auto-driver got out and exchanged some loud angry words in Marathi to the car’s driver. The driver got out of his car. They both assessed the damage: none to the auto, a huge dent in the car. The two men (three, including the coolie), had a good laugh. Auto-man got back in the auto, turned to look at M & I, and continued onward to our home. M and I found this exchange to be hilarious because in the States what was a 3 min occurrence in India would take 3 hours in America: police report, exchanging insurance and driver info, etc.

The driver explained, “Madam, this is India.” Sir, you are correct.



“Here in the Sahyadri forest was an old man, a tribal with no schooling, practicing a highly principled philosophy of life—give when you take; do not take without giving. This was culture at its best. I smiled and gracefully accepted his gift…The Thandappa rose even further in my esteem when he remarked with a twinkle, ‘There is a grace in accepting also.'”

Made in India

Re: blog post about my terrible, awful, no good, very bad day? Well, the good finally came and I cashed it in, literally. I begrudgingly went shopping with M yesterday to a store in Santa Cruz West called Raas. My physical therapist at Nanavati suggested I check it out after telling her about fatal ending of my old churidars (fire in a fabric store…read ‘Burn Bollywood Burn’). We walked in and I immediately picked up a yellow number. I perused all the racks, handing M each outfit I liked to model. It must have been one of those ‘lucky’ shopping days because everything we found, we loved. The workers were so friendly, the place was clean and best yet, they FED US. The manager ordered us Swastik sandwiches (famous pressed toast sandwiches–say a lightly pressed panini–with tons of spices inside). I needed small repairs done on my necklaces from NY and Raas led us in the right direction. Magic I tell you! It was one of two extremely successful shopping days here in Bombay.

I went to the changing room to throw on an outfit I thought my sister might like. As I was changing, my eye caught the inside label of my *American Eagle* shirt, ‘Made in India.’ I couldn’t help but cringe because I spent 40 USD on that sucker, which I could have easily gotten ‘Made in India‘ for 5 USD. Note to American Eagle: stick by your brand name! Make your damn clothes in America.

After all the saris-suits-salwar talk, my head was spinning. A day of total materialism. I needed some food for thought. I decided to strike up a conversation with Balu the driver about Guru’s in India. Friday morning, M and I will be going to meet a Guru; there are signs plastered all over Chembur’s roadways, probably the whole of Bombay, promoting this event. I asked Balu if he had a Guru. He adamantly denied this and went on to say that he believed it was all BS. M, Balu and I all put our two cents in about the Guru topics; I shared my all-too-familiar story (amongst my friends in NY, at least) about the Naga Baba in Rishikesh. When I went to meet Naga Baba, (a naked guru-type-healer-of-sorts) he was immediately offended I didn’t touch his feet upon arrival (this is seen as a sign of respect in India). He then argued that because I was female, I was not allowed to touch him. I told him about my medical condition. He sensed an accent and asked where I was born.

His response: ‘American? Hahahahahah. No help for you. You come from land of the monsters. You are monster’ –loosely but accurately translated

I shared this and other details about my naked scary man-guru experience in Rishikesh with Balu. We all enjoyed a good laugh, Balu at my young attempts to tell the story in Hindi, M that I agreed to see an old naked man, and me of my ridiculous life.

It was smooth sailing home, the streets were empty for kilometers. I forgot to mention Bombay was on strike yesterday. Yes, that’s right, on strike. I asked Sapna, our housemaid, how she came to work since she travels only by autorikshaw or footpath. She said the autos were running, no problem at all. Huh? But Bombay is on strike! Apparently Bombay-ites are as lackadaisical about going on strike as they are about being punctual. It was kind of amazing. Still, despite the attempted strike we got to experience the rare pleasure of driving sans traffic. I loved the open road. Inside, I wished Bombay was always ‘on strike’.

10 Lessons from an uncle

  1. One can earn suitable money at a job, but mastering the art of multiplying money is the key to becoming rich
  2. Give love, get love
  3. Drink at night to forget the day (does not an alcoholic make?)
  4. Forget the day but remember the exact price of everything you own (ie: 5000 rupee shoes)
  5. Calling someone your girlfriend means you have a strictly platonic relationship (hmm…)
  6. In the end, you take nothing with you (amen)
  7. Eating garlic is a cure-all
  8. Spoil your kids rotten then blame them for it
  9. Never trust women
  10. Always be positive