Sunday, December 22 2019
location: room 202, Mayom Hospital, Gurugram, Haryana State, India
With pillows piled on my head, I managed to get about an hour of sleep. What awoke me was the nurse coming into the room to take yet another round of measurements. After that, I couldn't get back to sleep, so I continued my writing, interrupted occasionally by tangents of internet research. At some point Gretchen was awake enough to go to the bathroom to piss away a small fraction of the fluids that were now making her visibly puffy. Putting weight on her right foot, she was reminded that something had apparently happened to it in one of her two collapses. It hurt to put weight on it and there was a mark on the top of it, but nothing looked too out of the ordinary.
I'd been hoping that I might be able to check Gretchen out of the hospital early and get her tucked into bed back at the hotel. But when Gretchen asked the nurse when she would be okayed to leave, the answer was "ten or eleven" in the morning, whenever the doctor I've been referring to as "the cardiologist" got in. At the time it was something like four or five in the morning and I couldn't imagine being able to stay with Gretchen that many more hours. So I devised a plan to return to the hotel as soon as possible.
That hotel was only a fifteen minute walk away, and I knew I wouldn't be able to get quality sleep unless I returned there. But I didn't want to walk along crazy Gurugram streets in the darkness. I did some internet research to learn that the sun would be rising at about 7:10 am and setting at about 5:30pm, meaning that at 28 degrees north, they only get an hour more sunlight at the winter solstice than we do in Hurley, NY (about 14 degrees further north). So at about 7:00am I gathered my things and made my way back to The Ferns. Sunrise was a magical time of the day, with dense fog limiting visibility to just a block or two. The street dogs were all getting ready to start their day, one of them sitting contempatively in the road, taking advantage of a lull in the traffic. While the hospital experience had definitely been the low point of the trip so far, the walk back to the hotel was definitely the high point.
Back at the Ferns, breakfast was just getting started, so I made myself a plate of food to eat just before crawling into bed, avoiding (this one time) coffee. Even in the short time I was there in the dining area, I had to reassure at least two people that Gretchen was going to be fine. The interplay of performed concern and performed reassurance is a basic mode of human communication, and often, as with all such communication, it isn't fully sincere. It's the performance part that I find exhausting. Eventually, though, I had the privacy of room 301. But then I began to fret that perhaps Gretchen was ensnared in a scam. I'd briefly been up and down the halls near Gretchen's room and found the ward surprisingly vacant. Clearly Mayom hospital needed patients, and there was no patient they would want more than someone like Gretchen, a westerner with plenty of resources and only the most basic of medical needs. If they could only they could have 20 Gretchens, all those staffers would have something to do. Short of that, though, maybe they could devise a way to keep Gretchen at the hospital even longer. So I send Gretchen a quick email telling her that she should insist on checking out the moment the doctor arrived this morning and to not stay for any further procedures. I also told her to be suspicious of any "last minute medication." After hitting send on that message, my nascent conspiracy theory expanded into a consideration of whether or not the pharmacist who had given Gretchen the wrong medication might have done so deliberately, knowing it would send Gretchen to the hospital she was now in, which happened to be directly across the street from his pharmacy. Then, the conspiracy theory continued, the hospital would give the pharmacist a kickback for having funneled such a lucrative patient their way.
After sleeping for several hours, I awoke and checked my email. Gretchen's parents were over at the hospital and were in the process of getting her released. I took that as a good sign and stopped worrying so much about what would happen. I wandered out into the parking lot in front of the hotel to marvel at the street dogs, which had their own society happening in parallel (and interfacing) with human society. There was also a young male dog wearing a collar out in the parking area, and, though he interacted with the street dogs, it was clear he wasn't really part of their society either. There were a number of men in that parking lot as well, and they did such things as maintain the cars that were used to drive around the foreigners staying in the hotels. Some of these street dogs (including an enormously pregnant black dog) were evidently allied with these men, who regarded other dogs arriving from the north as enemies, chasing them off with hurled stones. Near a bus at the edge of the parking lot was a large pile of dirt covered with boards and roofing material, and, judging by all the chewed-up material around it, this was the den where the welcome street dogs lived.
Back in my hotel room, at some point there was a knock at the door, and when I opened it, I found my sister-in-law and nephew standing there. They'd recently arrived in Indian and just returned from the hospital, where they'd been visiting Gretchen. According to them, Gretchen's foot was being x-rayed to see if perhaps she'd fractured it yesterday. This was the kind of last-minute additional medical procedure I'd been fearing, though it didn't seem like the kind that would extend Gretchen's hospital stay by all that much. Content with how things were going, I joined my nephew and mother-in-law for lunch down in the Ferns's dining area. This time we ordered off the menu and the food was fairly good.
We were still eating when Gretchen and her father returned from the hospital. Gretchen was hobbling with a bandaged foot, but otherwise she seemed completely back to normal, including a healthy appetite for Indian food (though she'd also been eating at the hospital, where she'd found the food somewhat bland but excellent). The xrays (which Gretchen's father got to keep) had showed that Gretchen hadn't fractured any of the bones of her foot. To help it recover, it had been wrapped with a wide putty-pink ace bandage. We soon got an accounting for Gretchen's entire hospital stay, and it only came to about $450, which is hardly enough to even make an insurance claim. Amusingly, that's less than we now typically pay to have quills removed after one of our dogs is quilled by a porcupine. Had identical procedures and an overnight stay happened in the United States, it probably would've cost about $20,000. The difference, though, is that no American hospital would've kept Gretchen overnight. Their demand for patients isn't anything like that of private hospitals in India.
At some point this afternoon, Gretchen's father went into town and bought a cane for Gretchen to make it so she wouldn't have to put so much weight on her injured foot as she walked. Not long after that, one of our Indian fixers called up from the lobby to say that my camera had been found in one of the cars. It was actually my father-in-law's camera, the one he'd feared he'd left at Sultanpur National Park. With it recovered, it was looking like all the things that had broken yesterday were finally repaired and we could go on with our vacation.
This evening, all of 22 of us who were part of the Veg Voyages tour assembled in The Fern's dining area, where we gave introductions and were given some essential orientation information. We were asked to go around telling our names, where we were from, and how long we'd been vegan. Gretchen said she'd been a vegan for twelve years, and I said I'd been a vegan for ten (though I was still a month shy). Many of the vegans in our group (including Gretchen's parents) had become so eight years ago after seeing Forks Over Knives. There were also a fair number of non-vegans in our group, including my sister-in-law, who said (as part of her introduction) that it looked like she would be vegan for this particular tour.
At this point it was time for dinner. We all piled into a bus, which drove us to a Christmas-themed outdoor shopping area that one had to pass through a metal detector before entering. The detector went crazy for both my me and my father-in-law, but we were obviously gringos requiring no further investigation.
Tonight's dinner was in a small upstairs dining area of Greenr, a gourmet vegan restaurant in Gurugram. The cook had prepared a large number of foods, which came out over the course of the dinner, as did various items of Veg Voyages schwag, including a cloth shopping bag, an autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, and an electric mosquito repellent diffuser (which we might need later in our voyage). I was sitting at a small table with just my nephew and sister-in-law, talking with them mostly about their new life in Fayettville, Arkansas. My nephew is in a band with a couple other kids he met in the Jewish scene. Meanwhile my niece (who didn't come to India this time) has a best friend who is Muslim. My sister-in-law is trying to resume her quilting/fabric arts business in Arkansas, but she's been unable to find people with the necessary sewing skills. As for the food, there was a surprising amount of pizza in the mix, though my favorite thing was the veggie pot featuring jackfruit. Normally I don't even like jackfruit.
The dog nest (with street dog) in the parking area near The Ferns.
Street dogs in The Ferns parking lot.
One of the unwanted street dogs who came through while I was watching.
The Christmas-themed area outside Greenr, the restaurant where we had dinner tonight.
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