Friday, December 09, 2011

Day 22, Wednesday, 7th December, 2011: The Otaibis

I am, to be honest, overwhelmed by the love and attention showered on me by you, my dear readers, in response to my entry of the previous two days. I am convinced more than ever that I am not alone, and that your good wishes and prayers will see me through these difficult circumstances. Inshallah, I will emerge a better human being, a better Muslim, a better Indian, a better doctor, a better husband, a better son, brother, uncle, etc. and a better parent. 

Not a day passes by when I don't think about my life back in India. It is a very different life here, and when I think about it, not all of it is bad. I mean, one can't get the amenities that one usually takes for granted in Mumbai - over here - but also, one is free from the hectic pace, the pollution, and the humdrum existence that is  the bane of the urban Indian. I do have to wake up by six, yes, and I do have to report for work before eight, but once this is done, the work at the hospital is so slow and so less that one actually wishes there were more sick children in Al Moweh! 

Patients in this town are not very literate. Almost all Saudi women abhor breastfeeding, and this may, in part, be due to the fact that their social milieu is such that they cannot stop child-bearing even for a legitimate lactational contraception (for the non-medicos, this means that when a woman is lactating, she cannot conceive another child for a variable period of from 6-12 or more months, i.e., till she is still breastfeeding ... although this is not a fool-proof method of contraception). Also, the cosmetic side-effects of breastfeeding may be on the minds of the Saudi men, who, I am told, are very conscious of their spouse's physical attributes and do not desire that they "spoil" their innocent looks with a thing like breastfeeding, which is known to lead to the transformation of breast shapes into a more pendulous and large size, with darkening of the nipples and areolae. Thus, most mothers start bottle feeds from day 1 of the baby's life in this town, and perhaps all over the country. Indeed a sad state of affairs.

Natives of Al Muwayh and neighbouring towns are Bedouin Arabs (or baddus, as they are more commonly referred to), and many belong to one or the other tribes, though I have seen that most patients who come to me belong to the "Otaibi" tribe. This also becomes their surname, and hence, I can readily identify their tribe while recording the full names of their children. As a rule, although they are less literate than what we desire them to be, they are assertive, aggressive, and sometimes argumentative when it comes to listening to and agreeing to the doctor's advice. Most come in their own cars or pick-ups, and are impatient to be done with the consultation so that they can get back to their lives as soon as possible. Above all, they are all extremely mindful of timings of namaaz, and will, if still within the hospital, join the staff in the afternoon prayers.

In keeping with Muslim tradition, the mother of the child will rarely, if ever, directly speak to me, and if asked something specific, will look either at her male companion (either the father or the elder son or her brother, as the case may be) and reply to my query. Because I am still naive in Arabic, sometimes, they will gesticulate or speak with their actions to convey problems like abdominal pain, or watering from the nose, or eye discharge, etc. The situation can either become hilarious or tense, depending on their perception of my level of understanding, competence and ability to deliver the right remedy for their kid's illness. 

Their ignorance of medical stuff prevents them from realising that a cough and cold are simple illnesses, that they need not always ask for X-rays and blood tests for such simple illnesses, and that the child does not always even need anything more than a simple cough and cold remedy, and certainly not antibiotics. These, along with my language problem, sometimes leads to situations where the parents leave unsatisfied and/or seek out Dr. Yasser, my Egyptian pediatric colleague, for a second opinion or reinforcement of my plan of action.

There was nothing remarkable about today, except that, at the end of the working day, I forgot to bring back my NatGeo jacket back with me home ... a situation that could, and did, create problems with me over the next two days when it would be a holiday for me, and I would be unable to retrieve my jacket until Saturday morning. In the evening, I went out to purchase provisions, as I have tentatively invited Dr. Narendra to my place for dinner on Thursday. Also, I plan to do some serious cooking, with 3-4 dishes so that I do not have to worry about the food for the next week. 

That's it for now.


Unknown said...

I don't think that looking at male companions while replying to a doctor is a Muslim tradition.

MUHBEEN said...

enjoy the pace of life in saudi. actually God has made humans for this pace but we have messedthings up. so eat , sleep, pray and enjoy life. i am sure nishrin and children with join u atleast for few months in a year.