Friday, February 02, 2007

Jamkhed, India

November 21-22, 2006
I splurged (300 rupees [US$8] instead of 150 rupees) and took the sleeper bus to Jamkhed (see photo) for view!. It took 8 hours and I arrived in the dark at about 6am. I was terrified I’d miss the stop as the driver didn’t speak English and all the highway signs are in Hindi. As we were getting close and I was peering frantically into the dark trying to see a roadsign that would mean something to me, I noticed that there were a lot of people squatting in front of lanterns on the side of the highway. I thought that they must be saying their morning prayers, although it did seem an odd place to do it. Well, Amy told me later that they were actually having their morning poop! There are lots of pigs roaming around and they take care of things (not sure where the pigs poop though!). Apparently it has been very difficult to get the rural population to use toilets even when they are given to them for free. Although, having used an Indian toilet on the way to Jamkhed, I wasn’t completely surprised. They are called squat toilets and they are just holes with treaded porcelain on either side for standing on without slipping. And TP is not provided. It gave me a deeper understanding of the right hand for eating, left hand for less clean activities!
The two highlights of visiting Jamkhed were making rounds in the hospital and having dinner with a local Muslim family. The hospital is quite small (40 beds I think) and set up ward style. The hospital does not provide food or bedding so family must come and provide this. There’s a courtyard that is used for the families to do the cooking. So rounds are quite interesting as you get to meet the patient and several family members. The patients were either post-partum, post-op or suffering from an infectious disease such as typhoid, hepatitis or HIV.
The Muslim family was celebrating Neem belatedly with Shobha, the doctor who runs the hospital and we were included. The family was fairly well off, at least for this poor rural part of India, and 3 generations lived under one roof – the “patriarch” and his wife, 3 of their 8 children and all the grandchildren. Only the older couple ate with us and everyone else helped serve and sat around and chatted – in Marathi so I didn’t contribute a lot to the conversation! We sat on the floor in the living room and a piece of cloth was used as our table. Someone came around with a pitcher of water and a bowl and we rinsed off our right hands as there were no utensils. We had chapattis, curried chicken and biryani. It was all delicious but it sure is hard to tear off pieces of chapatti with one hand! Dessert was a kind of custard followed by paan, which is a betel leaf containing I don’t know what and all wrapped in coloured paper. The first bite tasted OK but then it seemed kind of gross but I did manage to get it down without embarrassing myself!

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