Thursday, December 27, 2012

A week-end Update

The year 2012 is on the verge of ending in a few days. 21st December, the date of apocalypse came and went without the end of the world as we know it, and everyone was, albeit secretly, relieved that the Mayan prophecy had not come true. I was watching the clock quite eagerly as the time in Saudi Arabia neared 4.46 p.m., the equivalent of 11.11 a.m. GMT (London), the time at which the final disaster was to annihilate planet Earth.

In the event, the big non-event proved to be a damp squid. After this, my spirits improved too. I have been enjoying myself greatly since then, and have either been trying to cook new stuff, or watching programs and news on the TV. Most evenings, I go for my walks, and sometimes, I even see serials and films on my laptop. 

Last week, I watched, with increasing anger, the story of the 23 year old Delhi-based physiotherapist who was gang raped in a bus as she was returning home from work. The spontaneous response of people of all ages, especially youth, was, by turns, gratifying, alarming, energising, disruptive, and finally, gratifying again. These reactions occurred, respectively, when the response began, when it swelled to huge numbers, when it began to unnerve the Delhi law makers and politicians, when it turned violent, and when it finally led to some solid actions by the administration. The drama unfolded hourly, with newer and fresher events; it was heart warming to see men and women marching on the streets of New Delhi, but not just there ---- also in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Lucknow, Jammu, Varanasi, and so on. When the Delhi police retaliated on the third day of the protests with repeated rounds of lathi-charge (caning), tear-gas shelling and firing of water cannons, I cried within. The response was totally uncalled for, although one can perhaps defend their action when one knows that a section of the protesters turned violent and started rampaging and throwing stones on the police, injuring many of them.

By the fourth morning, that is by Tuesday, the situation had improved, but even as I write this on Thursday, 27th December 2012, protesters are marching in New Delhi. Usually, I watch Times Now channel, but sometimes, I switch to Zee News to see what is happening, and the scenes in both the channels were nearly the same. However, Times Now is a much better channel, both visually and in content. Its executive editor is a very sharp, brazen but disciplined and articulate man (Abhinav). A recorded version of its evening telecasts is shown in Saudi Arabia after 2-3 hours (the actual time difference being approximately equal to the difference in the time zones, which is 2.5 hours. Among its varied programs, the late evening telecast in the form of "Newshour" is very interesting indeed. This is because the chief editor coordinates and chairs a panel discussion where several people relevant to the topic under discussion are invited and drilled till they speak the truth. 

What else is happening? Nothing much, as internet access has worsened in the last few months in Al Muwayh. I have been forced to wean myself from net-surfing, or to search for free Wi-fi hotspots wherever possible. Thus, I am seen less often on Facebook and elsewhere, and this has already provoked many comments from my friends. To all my readers, I ask to please bear with my situation. I am fine, thanks. If you wish, you may email me and I will definitely answer all your questions/doubts/queries.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A fortnight has passed

Since I wrote my last post, a fortnight has gone by. I got a substitute doctor to work in my place and therefore, I managed to escape from my hospital for about 4 - 5 days. You probably already read about  that in my previous post. During the last fortnight, I have been rather busy with my work at the hospital, or walking in the garden, or solving questions for my future exam in May 2013, or sleeping. I usually try to watch at least one episode of either "Castle" or "Grey's Anatomy" (I am watching old episodes from Season 2 of both the serials ... thanks to my daughter Inas, who has uploaded these to my laptop during my last vacation in May/June 2012). While "Castle" is an out and out crime detection serial, it provides useful life lessons on how to bring up a teenager, and provides unexpected but welcome comic relief when the two main actors (Rick Castle and Beckett) spar with each other as they go about solving murder cases. 

"Grey's Anatomy", on the other hand, appeals to me as it is about medicine ... surgery, actually, as the story revolves around Meredith Grey, a surgical intern at SGH (Seattle General Hospital), and her four colleagues. Christina (a Japanese American) plays the parallel lead role. Both of them are great actors, as are the other lead players, the surgical resident Bailey, the two visiting surgeons, Drs. Sheperd and Burk, and other supporting cast. 

In other news, I keep trying new food items, but I have yet to finish with the stuff I brought back from Ta'if - included among these are the delectable Mutton Biryani, a rather non-spicy Chicken Chilli, and Mutton masala. Also, I am going through my own cooked dishes like the dal, the lady fingers, the kheema and the now cooked black-eyed beans (chola). I can say that I am really enjoying myself. On the anvil in the next few days is a salad that I am planning to make with yellow, red and green peppers, lettuce and tomatoes, a noodle dish with real spring onions, and perhaps a fish curry.

TV watching has been taking up some of my time. Over the last few days, it's been an overdose of Times Now channel, with its round the clock reporting of the gang-rape case that occurred in New Delhi last week. All six men have been arrested. The victim is a physiotherapy intern, now battling for life in Safdarjung Hospital. She has undergone a near total intestinal resection on account of extensive gangrene and has a gastrostomy and a duodenostomy in place. Her only chance of return to normal life will be with an intestinal transplant, something that may have to be done abroad. Supporting her are thousands of normal Indian citizens, mostly women, who have come out on the roads with morchas, candle-marches, storming of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the C|M's residence, the hospital, and so on. Protest marches are being held in more than 20 cities all over India, including Jammu, Bangalore, Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Patna, etc. There is a demand to mete out the strictest possible punishment to the perpetrators ... viz. the death sentence. News is mostly confined to this story. The only other story that held the nation's attention was the assembly election in Gujarat. Narendra Modi has been re-elected for the fifth consecutive term, and is now eyeing the seat of PM-designate of the BJP for the forthcoming elections in 2014. Let us see what happens there.

On the family front, Hannah has some huge plans for the coming months. She wants to join some UK-university courses, wants to be a worker for some huge project for the United Nations, wants to be an intern at some company, and what not. Inas continues, albeit a little dissatisfied, at the Juice Salon. Nishrin is, as usual, a harried person, what with the house, the children and her work. It appears that my absence from the house has taken the most out of her, and although she is managing, she sure isn't happy that she has to bear so much burden, and is clearly tired of it all.

Mom continues to be confined to the house, and will remain to be there till mid-February, after which she can leave the house and be among the others in society. She is putting up a brave front indeed, and is sure to feel worse as the days pass and the feeling of being alone sinks in. 

That's about it for now ... 

P.S. My colleague is due to return by the end of next week ... what a relief! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Taking a much-needed break: Wed 5th December to Monday 10th December 2012

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, my co-pediatrician went on his annual vacation in the days immediately following my return from Hajj. Since then, I have been working all alone without any break. I knew I could seek relief from my duties for a few days, and the hospital administration would need to give me substitutional relief by appointing a locum doctor in my place; such a locum doctor would have to come from any of the other hospitals in the Ta'if region. Dr. Shehabeldin went out on a limb for me, but could not get a replacement for me from ANY of the other places. I was getting frustrated. Eventually, he sent a request to the Muderiya to arrange a locum doctor from Ta'if, most likely from the Children's Hospital in Ta'if. 

The substitute doctor arrived at about half past three on Wednesday 5th December 2012 (21st Muharram 1434 H.) Having explained everything I could about the in-patients and showing him around the hospital, I finally left the hospital to start my five-day leave. I decided to stay in Al Muwayh that evening, winding up my other tasks and relaxing. 

On the next morning, I travelled to Ta'if with Dr. Alaa Ashwah, the E.N.T. surgeon. He had his own work here, He was kind enough to leave me as close to my hotel as possible. Later, I joined him in Panda and browsed the mall with him until after the dhuhr prayers. He also took me to a food mall called the "Riya", where I purchased some salted, baked biscuits and a pineapple fruit tart (which, by the way, was very nice!) After this, he dropped me near the mall and proceeded back to Al Muwayh. I handed him some of my purchases, to keep in the boot of his car - I promised him that I would retrieve my stuff when I returned to Al Muwayh.

I returned to my hotel where I relaxed, prayed, downloaded movies and did similar stuff. In the evening, I went to the "tahweel al Rajhi" to transfer some money to India, then went to the Mobile market to buy a Samsung S3 phone and then back to the hotel to retire for the day. I ate my dinner at the Indian restaurant below my hotel (as usual). 

On Friday, I purchased a "Pehla" TV pack from a shop on Khalid bin Walid street, visited King Faisal hospital to meet my friend Dr. Asadullah (the surgeon who has always helped me in the past), and got my contacts and other data transferred from my old Samsung Ace to the new Samsung Galaxy S3 with the help of an Egyptian Mr. Ahmed, who has a small shop in the mobile market. I ate breakfast at the Thara restaurant but the next two meals in the Indian restaurant. 

On Saturday, I went to the Muderiya, retrieved my passport, which I have decided to keep with me (they have recently permitted this for all expatriates who work in the medical sector) and then went back to my hotel. I also recovered my new Iqama from our hospital's liaison officer Mr. Ali, who met me near Gazzaz mall after the Ishaa prayers to hand it over to me. Barring this one job, I relaxed the whole day. Then, early morning on Sunday, I went to Jeddah. The reason: I wanted to visit the office of the  Ministry of Foreign Affairs (vazarat kharjiyyah) to submit the form I had filled for my family's upcoming visit to the Kingdom. I had filled this form online, then downloaded and printed out a copy. Along with the form, I had also brought with me, my marriage certificate, birth-certificates of both my daughters, the copies of all our passports, and a copy of my new Iqama and a letter from the Muderiya showing my current occupation, salary, etc. (the so-called Taarif Maali). I took an early morning taxi from right opposite my hotel, reached Jeddah at about 8:00 A.M., and reached the MOFA in a new taxi in the next seven or eight minutes. A very orderly queue of people was in place, all controlled by just a few policemen. At about 15 minutes past 8:00 A.M., the offices opened, and the queue began to move forward. After entering the complex, we had to surrender all our mobiles/laptops to a policemen who put all the cell phones in small cul-de-sacs, and handed a numbered token to the visitor. The queue inside led to a third policeman, who asked for the original Iqama to confirm our identity, and thence, admitted us to the inside room where a bank-like token system took me to a window within about 40 minutes, and I submitted my form and the supporting documents to the Saudi man inside.

By half past nine I had finished my work. I left Jeddah soon thereafter, and reached Ta'if at about half past one. By three p.m., I checked out of the hotel, and taking the usual bus of SAPTCO, I was back at Al Muwayh at around  half past eight p.m. in the evening. 

I resumed work the next morning.

Monday, December 03, 2012

How the last month has passed

My visit to India was rather short, and followed immediately after my exams at Jeddah. I stayed in Mumbai for just over a week, and was back in Al Muwayh just 4 days before my departure for Hajj, i. e. around the 21st October. After the completion of Hajj, my co-Pediatrician Dr. Yasser immediately proceeded on leave ... and eventually went to Egypt on his annual holiday. Since then, therefore, I have been totally alone. As I write this, I have been working alone for over 4 weeks, and managing both, the out-patient department as well as the calls and emergencies. It's never been hectic, but the OPD has seen a constant flow of patients with cough and cold ... almost 15-20 patients daily. This can perhaps be attributed to the change in climate: winter has set in, and how. Just three days ago, it rained torrentially, and following this, the next few days were marked by strong winds and extremely low temperatures. It was only today that the temperatures became a little more comfortable and allowed me to go on my evening walk. 

The last month saw me experimenting, purchasing, and generally enjoying myself. As my first year in the Kingdom neared completion, I began to spend some money on my own comforts: of course, my Indian colleague Dr. Narendra exited last month, and I ended up buying his car (a 1993 model Toyota Corolla, white), his mixer-grinder (Maharaja), his vacuum cleaner and his double blanket. I also received a few freebies from him, including some utensils, a bed with a cot (that needed a little welding) and so on. I also bought a micro-wave oven (Samsung), and recently, a carpet for my study room. With these purchases, my life is a lot easier, especially w.r.t. the purchase of the car, because of which my commuting within the village has become so comfortable. Not just that, I am now able to go to the garden more easily to do my walking. 

The experimentation mostly occurred with my cooking: in the past month, I made several new dishes and items, such as Adai dosa (a Tamilian recipe) with the accompanying potato bhaji, chutney and sambar; veg. hakka noodles; a dry chicken dish that turned out absolutely delicious; potato wada; cauliflower bhajiya; strawberry milk shake; chutney/boiled egg/chicken/kheema sandwiches; etc. The unique thing about my experimentation occurred when a Chennai-based anesthetist doctor joined me for dinner. He (Dr. Bala, from Mizan) was in Al Muwayh on substitution duty. He helped me make the dosa, and also rated my cooking thus: 8 for the dosa, 6 for the sambar, 0 for the chutney and  7 for the potato bhaji. The ratings have emboldened me further, and I plan to continue experimenting with my cooking. 

In addition to the above, I also purchased a new 21" television set. I am now able to watch over 350 channels on Nilesat; unfortunately, over 330 of these channels are in Arabic and I cannot understand them! I am therefore limited to watching the English language news channels (BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera International and France 24), Zee Aflam (the Hindi movies channel), English movies on MBC 2 and MBC Action, and a few others. In any case, this has been a welcome change from my continuous net surfing and watching of English serials and movies on my laptop. My net surfing has also reduced as a result of the TV viewing.

Yesterday, with the start of December, I have also started studying for the next phase of my exams - I am planning to appear for Part 2 of MRCPCH in May 2013, Inshallah. I even purchased an online examination resource package from Pastest, one of the best learning websites. I have already begun to solve questions from this site.

A few other things also happened: in addition to Dr. Narendra, our Egyptian radiologist, who had just completed a year in Al Muwayh also went back to Egypt; our Pakistani resident Dr. Sadiya (whom I have mentioned earlier in my Hajj posts) has also decided to leave after just one year; two new residents from Sudan and a new Orthopedic surgeon from Tunisia have joined - the last one being Dr. Mohammed Hattab, with whom I have become quite friendly; there have been some exits and some new entrants among nurses as well; in fact, four Indian nurses left in the last three or four months, in addition to a few Filipinos; Al Muwayh keeps growing, with new buildings coming up in several places; I have applied for the renewal of my Iqama (the residence permit that all non-Saudis have to keep with them); we are planning to come out with a monthly newsletter for the staff of the Hospital, and I have been appointed as its executive editor; since the Hajj pilgrimage, I have become absolutely punctual in praying all the namaaz (except the morning one, where I keep defaulting as I cannot wake up at 5 a.m.); I have begun writing my child-care book again, with the intention of completing the second edition as soon as possible; my website http://drtaherforkids.com has now gone public and my child-care book is now available for sale through the site; and finally, I have started learning pencil-shading in my drawing books.

I have been in regular touch with my family and my mom; all are fine; my mom is still in iddat, and will remain so till mid-February; Inas continues to work in Juice; Hannah is enjoying herself even as I write this; Nishrin is busy with her work at the salon, in much the same way as before; shortly, my Mumbai home will start undergoing some needed renovation work; and, my family is considering buying a car for local commuting and I have suggested that they buy a second-hand car from Maruti True Value at Phoenix Mills (Sai Service Ltd.).

That's about it for now.