I spent ten weeks in the summer of 2011 working as a health intern in Bangalore through a program called Youth for Seva (YFS). YFS is a local volunteer project of the NGO Hindu Seva Pratishthana, which aims to encourage and facilitate service among the youth of Bangalore. Aided by monies from the Brandeis-India Initiative Fellowship, I was able to pursue this internship as my first trip to in India. I intend to record the details of my experience here.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Despite how quickly my departure date is coming up, I’ve not actually done that much the last week.
I left the house on Wednesday for the last of our weekly meetings. It was very different from those with the full group in June. Liz, Swathi, and I gave our last updates and purged many of our papers and information from our bags.
Afterward, we went to Montree Mall for dinner with Ruku, Prem, and Harish. I made the mistake of ordering enchiladas. They lacked cheddar cheese and included noodles and tomato sauce. I thought it might be more palatable with tortilla chips so I ordered a side of them. They gave me stale corn papads and billed me Rs 100!
I bought a book and some Carnatic music before heading home. My bus from Majestic sat for 15 minutes before leaving and then took the fly over Silk Board. I had to walk back to the stop and then catch one of those sketchy private buses back to Bellandur.
Thursday, I intended to leave the house to get reimbursement with Harish. Prakash at the office, however, said there was no cash and to come back later. I played on the computer and ate masala dosa and palak bajji for lunch.
Friday, I went into town to meet up with Liz for her last day. We had lunch with Anand and Sinu for the last time at Cool Corner beneath the fly over at Vanivillas Rd. I had akki roti which was delicious. After lunch, Liz got a short two-wheeler lesson.
Later, after goodbyes at Ajitashri we went to Venkateshji’s to pick up some things and for me to drop off a few. We had coffee and discussed the retreat that all the full-time volunteers went on last week.
I headed back to Bellandur on the same bus as Liz. Again, the bus waited for 10 minutes at Banashankari for the driver to finish smoking.
Yesterday, I finally got my reimbursement. The new YFS office is in Konankunte at a huge unfinished concrete building. When I first arrived there a dog came from inside and barked at me and chased me back outside. I assume that’s how they prevent all the volunteers from seeking reimbursement. Haha! I asked for just Rs 2000. Easily, I spent over $150 on transport alone, but what am I gonna do with that in rupees in three days.
It was also Raki Bande or however it’s spelled. A local volunteer at the office ties one on for me. Harish came late and we had juice at Banashankari before saying goodbye.
At home, Nitin and I went and got groceries after he got his tooth filled. We got high and watched Top Gear. I think that was the confirmation I needed that he and Rokaya should marry.
I woke up late again today except for letting in the maid. I’ll have parotha and sabji for breakfast now.
Monday, August 8, 2011
I’ll do my best to give a proper update of what’s happened in the last week. Sunday, 31 July was another day off. It was Jennie’s last day so I met up with her to visit a couple of temples with her host mother. Everyone else (I guess at that point it was just Liz and Swathi) went to a surgery camp in Coxtown. Venkateshji didn’t think they’d need me to I opted not to go. Jennie had been staying in Gandhi Bazaar with someone that had hosted her friend Sarah last summer. She was an interesting personality. Vijayalaksmhi was her name, I think. Anyway, she took us to a couple of temples where her family had donated the murthy. We were given the VIP treatment at each of them. She also took the opportunity to schmooze with all of the priests. I was told that she had an anniversary celebration to invite them all to. She gave me the number of a guy she knows who’s involved at a top Ayurveda college. I haven’t decided whether I’ll make contact. It might be interesting especially if I come back for an MBBS. My internet search today didn’t look so promising.
After the temples the driver dropped me at a petrol bunk in Padmanabha Nagar. I finally got to take a picture of those drug murals on the side of the road. Parimallaji was cleaning some greens when I returned home. We had an interesting sambar with roasted jackfruit seeds for lunch and then dinner. I read almost all of The Idiot’s Guide to Hinduism that afternoon and evening. Parimalla’s brother came over and showed me how to tie a dhoti. He said not to buy one because he has a bunch that were gifted to him. The dhoti was actually very comfortable—I realized in Kerala this weekend that it’s about the only comfortable thing you can wear there.
On Monday, 1 August, I took a bunch of buses around south Bangalore trying to find Jakkasandra. I had to pick up permission slips from Bosch. I then headed to Munichinappa and I got the go ahead for emergency followups.
Venkateshji had brought my things to Ajitashri—I hung out there for the rest of the day and started on my final report. Liz and I took an auto home together.
I actually moved that day. I’m staying in Bellandur out on the southeast side of Outer Ring Rd. It’s across from a B’lore Central Mall. I’m staying with a bachelor in his late twenties named Nitin. He’s north Indian and a Hindi speaker. He grew up living all over India since his father was in the air force. He’s actually the exact opposite of the RSS brothers. He’s a really interesting guy and I’m enjoying my stay here.
I don’t actually know what happened Tuesday. It’s likely that I’ve confused and blended the days.
Wednesday, I actually took the emergency referrals from Munichinappa to Dr. Aradhana’s clinic in Banashankari. The kids were crazy on the bus. One of the boys kept moving the seat back and forth trying to mess with the kid behind him. Three of the kids asked me for my trash so that they could throw it out the window. They thought it was insane that I held the tea cup from the school to the clinic. They also sang along really loud to this old Kannada song—I can never remember how it goes but I always recognize it when it comes on the radio.
It took us forever to figure out where the clinic was. The address said across from KK hospital but it was actually a block further south. Dr. Aradhana was really good about examining the kids. We made plans to start Doctors at School at Rajajeshwari this week.
Thursday, 4 August, we decided to have a meeting between the three interns even though everyone was gone on a retreat. We met at Ajitashri to exchange data and make plans for Bosch, etc… We had lunch at Subway. They are starting to recognize us but still are terrible at making sandwiches.
Pragya's Last Day (Pragya, Swathi, and Rukmini)
Pragya, Liz, and Jennie
Yes...a mural of drug paraphernalia
Hanuman near Silk Board
My room in Bellandur
Friday, August 5, 2011
We had ENT and skin referral completed at several of the Bosch schools, including my follow-ups at Munichinappa. The ENT specialist was quite good. The dermatologists seemed to be more mediocre.
That morning, I also distributed medicines at Adugodi Police Quarters. Most of them were given vitamin supplements, cough syrups, and antibiotics. We were short a few bottles but none of the medical shops around had any of what we needed.
Bosch took us to lunch after the screenings. Harish, Prem, and a new local volunteer came with Usha, Liz, and me. The girl actually sat in Prem’s lap during the car ride—definitely some sparks flying between those two.
From there I met Swathi at Majestic. We went back to her cousin’s place. The monsoon began while we were on the bus. The driver stopped and had us get out into a huge-ass river in the road. Ruku met us at the gate with umbrellas but we were completely wet anyway. It would seem to be a continuous theme throughout the weekend. I had dinner there before catching the overnight bus to Kerala.
Saturday morning we arrived in Puttur. The ride was insane. The road was shitty as hell. Every kilometer the driver would slam on the brake before driving through some massice hole in the road. It made sleeping nearly impossible. We stopped on the road because of a landslide and so were delayed in our arrival.
It rained all day. No. It monsooned all day. We drove to our hotel and visited a few temples in the area. All were very traditional and required that men take off their shirts. They also gave a premixed turmeric paste for applying tikka.
I had chicken shawarma and beer for dinner. There was no electricity for most of the evening. We lit candles and placed them all over the room.
It’s hot as hell in Kerala and basically the jungle. It thought there was a monkey under the bed. It was actually a cat making weird noises.
The mosquitos were fucking relentless. Eventually Harish turned on the AC, which made sleeping possible. The girls, however, got cold and moved into Uncle’s room in the early morning.
Sunday, we went to Ft. Bekal and the beach. The water was dark, muddy, and very restless. It didn’t really feel like a beach since no one was there and it was cloudy and raining. The abandoned playground gave the place a post-apocalyptic feel.
After cleaning up we got back into the car and drove to Harish Uncle’s house. We stopped on the border and had pakoras and dosa for lunch.
We got there around six or seven and hung around the farm. The barnyard had three cows and a jungle. Within an hour, all the men wearing dhotis showed up for the end of Durga Puja.
Trying to bathe and dry clothes
Hotel in Kasargod
Beach in Kasargod
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Yesterday, I went and did a Bosch school medical screening at the Police Quarters in Adugodi. It took three buses to get from Chikkalsandra there and about an hour. Coxtown to Basavanagudi still seems worse to me. The school was down at the back of the quarters. If I hadn’t visited the Shanti Nagar school, I probably would have been too hesitant to wander so far.
Anyway, I arrived at 10:30 AM to chaos. Anand said, looking quite disheveled, that he was happy to see me there. The doctors, as usual, were quite terrible. When I first arrived, they were actually off sitting together somewhere. Once they actually got to work, their uselessness was further proven through several obvious cases of physical problems being labeled at NAD. Two particularly bad ones included a cleft palate and some intense skin problem on the hands. Fairly immediately Anand had me conduct checkups rather than input data.
This school was one of the worst for having kids go crazy at the sight of a foreigner. Lots of handshakes and salutes turned to actual petting of my hair as I conducted eye screenings. Nonetheless, the kids were overall happy and helpful.
I just finished inputting the data for these students tonight. There were 190 students or so that were seen. The data is not finalized of course. I received an email from Sinu yesterday complaining about both the format and quality of the data from Lakkasandra School. That data, in fact, was what I refused to input because of the insane amount of time that I spent playing on excel preparing the followup data for Munichinappa.
On a lighter note, today, Swathi and I attempted to visit the same school from last week in Jayanagar. The school was closed and we’re still not exactly sure for what reason. So, instead, we went to a new temple nearby. It was a nice, intimate temple where I received the full blessings.
Next, I had my first coconut water. It was alright—the mixture of sweet and salty flavors was certainly different. Once I finished, I attempted to eat the unripe pulp. I just could not handle the gelatinous texture.
Swathi and I then went to a Jain temple. It was cool and I got a couple of photos of the outer area. I should really refresh my memory of Jain philosophy.
After a bit of waiting around we headed to Chamrajpet to see about getting some astrology done. The person was gone so we just headed to Urvashi Theatre. We had lunch there and then met up with Rukmini for a Hindi movie—Zindagi Na Milege Dobara. At intermission, I ran into Aravind. Bangalore is definitely getting smaller. For me, it is even giving me some celebrity. On my commute home, I ran into one of the Brigade ladies from Parimallaji’s Kannada class. She was very nice and I enjoyed speaking with her for just a little while. You know me and old ladies. Her friend asked why I was not staying in Bangalore permanently. I’m certainly thinking about my future more intensely. Just today, Swathi and I decided to come back for an MBBS.
Adugodi Police Quarters GHPS
Me eating tender coconut
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Well, I’ve finally moved out of my crazy house. It was a good and interesting experience, but I’m glad it’s over. Of course, it came at an opportune time. Apparently, my watching of Sita Sings the Blues or my excessive fb chatting caused the upload/download something to go over on the Internet. So, because of that, Naidu said that he wouldn’t use the Internet for a week in order to investigate whether the company was overcharging him. Whatever it was, I’m sure that it was my fault. I left a Rs 500 note in the showcase to pay for the overcharge.
It was a bit of an awkward exit. I left when someone came to the door for Raghavendra. He was sleeping since he’s on the night shift now. He asked as we walked downstairs, “When did they notify you that you were leaving?” I said that it was just the night before. They were always hard to read—I’ve no idea what they thought of me or how they felt about my abrupt exit.
I’m now back at Venkateshji’s. I spent most of my day at Ajitashri just farting around. Liz and I ate at Subway again (Liz, Swathi, and I did yesterday). There we saw some stinky French hippies. They reeked of patchouli and looked as if India was taking a toll on them. Apparently, no one eats foot-longs in India. They can eat a whole plate of rice but a piece of bread is just too much.
Not too much of note otherwise. There was an interesting little episode in Jayanagar last Saturday. I went with Swathi to go do a dental hygiene talk for Doctors at School. It was nice—a litte disorganized (go figure). The doctor, Dr. Gayatri, was nice and seemed dedicated. The school was incredibly poor and all standards shared a single roof. I spoke with one of the teachers for a while about studying India. She asked why India, and I said that I didn’t know. She said, “Indian is a good culture.” And I agreed. After seeing kids trying to mimick my hair, I had them come up and I did it for them.
Venkateshji's Nephew and Son playing Tumbling Monkeys!