Friday, October 31, 2014

The General Motors Diet

After reading about this very unusual rapid dieting method on the net, I decided to undertake this diet from the 27th of October and am into the fifth day as I am writing this. In the first four days, I have lost about 2 kg. Today, I may not get a chance to take my weight as the hospital duty is off. This may also be the case tomorrow. However, I plan to stick to the diet as much as possible, and check my weight on Sunday, when I go back to the hospital for the start of a new week.

This diet involves a set routine. The expectation is that your body gets detoxified, the taste buds get primed afresh, and you lose anywhere from between 5-8 kg in seven days!

My room-mate Dr. Afzal is my silent partner in this self-improvement project. He does feel a little inconvenienced as I am not around to make the usual foods for him, but I cannot help him in that! My compliance with the diet is about 85-90%, and I do tend to cheat wherever possible.

My younger daughter Hannah did plan to join me (from Mumbai) but backed out as her exams are near. However, she continues to be a facilitator and I converse with her daily to share my experience and to hear her encouragement. 

Some of the expectations were that the diet may cause headaches due to dehydration, weakness due to the reduced calorie intake and so on, but I am happy to report that I haven't had any problems so far. I am functioning normally, getting good sleep and am able to walk about half an hour each night as part of my diet + exercise routine. 

That's it. I will try and upload the details elsewhere and send a back-link here to let you all know the actual experience.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Random thoughts

One of the good things about being on call is that you don't have to sit in the out-patient department and deal with the kids and their parents from eight to four. The bad thing, of course, is that once the out-patient duty hours are over, you are liable to be called for any emergencies from the evening until the next morning. The reverse is true when you are off-call. You do need to attend to the out-patient flow, but once the duty hours are over, you are totally free and cannot be called even if the sky falls down on your village.

This is my off-call week; however, I worked the whole week, seeing patients in the out-patient clinic. I also took a lecture for the staff members on "Team work in health care" (this was on Monday). I made mutton biryani on Tuesday, and Dr. Afzal and I had the biryani over the next few days. Along with the biryani, I had also made tomato soup to eat with the biryani. 

Today, i.e. on Thursday, I drove to Taif, from where I am writing this entry today. As usual, I am at the Ahle Saif hotel here. I had a very good Skype session with our study group on account of the fact that the internet signal is very strong here in Taif. After this, I went to Vitamin Palace for my dinner cum dessert. This was a special meal because today is Diwali as well as the night before the start of the new Misri year (1436) - so I ordered a shawarma plate and a big glass of fruit salad with vanilla ice cream.

I intend to spend one night more here in Taif. Then, I plan to return to the village of my work.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Slowly increasing my level of study

If there is one thing today's youth teach me, it is how to be persistent in your efforts. Of course, my friends already know that I am a tenacious son of a gun, but when it comes to studying, I tend to put it off until "later". This has led to days and weeks passing by and my exams coming nearer and nearer, but I am still not there in my seat and reading something that will help me pass the exams. 

During the last 24 hours, I was in touch with a couple of my friends who appeared for the last exams of MRCPCH in Hyderabad India. They were both rueing the fact that all it would have taken them to pass were an additional 5-6 marks ... but as they could not get those marks, they both failed to clear the exams and will likely re-appear in the next session.

For one of those two friends, it was the first time, but for the other, it was the second time he failed to pass. Now, all this might not matter much, but the fact is that the examination fees for this exam are very high indeed. For my January exam, I will be paying over 125000 rupees. Plus I would be travelling to India for the exam. And staying in a hotel for 5-7 days. You can well imagine the kind of expenses I am talking about! 

How my study graph looks like

During a Skype chat with my first friend, I got adequately psyched up to download a few useful documents and have begun to read them in right earnest. However, a few of my old habits prevent me from reading well, in particular, my fetish for playing a few games on Facebook and elsewhere, both on my laptop as well as my smartphone, which, by the way, is a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. In addition, I have to continue to cook, wash clothes and do all the other necessary activities as I am in a foreign land. 

So let's see how this goes ... thanks for reading, and bye for now.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A week later: Purchases, MRCPCH and third anniversary in KSA

The last week has been largely uneventful. Other than the usual duties, there were two significant events that occurred. I received two items that I had purchased on an internet market-place in this part of the world (see this); these two items are a 2 TB external hard drive (Western Digital, for approximately INR 7500) and an Alba brand ladies' wrist watch (for INR 6800). The drive is great for storing the hundreds of movies and videos that have accumulated on my laptop. It replaces my earlier 500 GB WD drive that I forgot to bring back with me from India where I had taken it on my last vacation. 

The other thing that unnerved me is that the new music system that I had installed in my new car was stolen by persons unknown from inside on the night of Thursday last. The thief/thieves broke the small triangular glass at the rear, accessed the door lock to open it and then made good with the system. I have had to fix a small piece of laminate to close off the gap temporarily and will affix a new piece of glass when I next go to Taif.

By the way, I did go to Taif once for a single morning. It was on a Tuesday, and the purpose was to meet Mr. Ali Asmari, our liaison officer at the Taif Muderiya; I was to get my new contract, submit some papers of my colleague Dr. Afzal, who is still waiting for his iqama so that he can go back to Kashmir to help his family rehabilitate after the massive floods that have almost destroyed his home back in Srinagar. Ali, in his own turn, handed over several things to me to give to my colleagues (both doctors and nurses) back in Al Muwayh. The visit also allowed me to send my application to the UK for the MRCPCH exams in India in January 2015.

This means that if my application gets accepted this time, I should be appearing for the final installment of my MRCPCH certificate early next year! And if I clear those exams ... but well, let's leave that for another day.

On the 13th of October, it was also 20th of Dhulhajj, the last month of the Islamic calendar. The date is significant because it marks the completion of THREE YEARS of my stay and work in the Kingdom!

Thus, the fourth year has begun. My salary has gone up by a small amount of about a thousand Riyals. But, as my readers know, this date also marks the beginning of the end of my Saudi innings. I am likely to complete my MRCPCH, then look for a job in the UAE, and then resign from here. I request my readers to pray for me and help me reach my goals!

Thank you for reading this, and may Allah bring happiness and cheer in your lives as you move towards the Festive season.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Three days in Ta'if

After the end of the Hajj pilgrimage days, the roads to Ta'if, Makkah and Jeddah open up for the local people on the 15th of Dhul Hajj. Accordingly, I planned an outing to Ta'if from the 15th to the 17th of the current month (October 9th to 11th). I took one day's official leave, but left Al Muwayh in the evening of October 8th. Dr. Niaz Qureshi accompanied me from Al Muwayh, and he got off at a place called Arafat, which is a small village about 35 km before Ta'if. 

I checked into the Ahle Saif Hotel in Ta'if and had a quiet dinner at the Asian Hotel there. The first night passed off peacefully. On Thursday, I took my car to the garage where my Pakistani mechanic friend Mr. Nadeem Gujjar works. Handing over the car to him, I mandated him to repair all that could be repaired, and to overhaul my vehicle for any defects; after this, I returned to the hotel.  In the evening,  went around Ta'if, completing odd tasks; I also went shopping here and there, but mostly, I relaxed. Downloading some nice movies on my laptop was part of the relaxation strategy! 

In the night, I went to Vitamin Palace - an eatery on Abu Bakker Siddiq road, and ordered myself a treat of a Cheese-Chicken Jumbo Sandwich, a Fakh Fakhena (Fruit salad with Avocado, Mangoes, Pineapple, Pomegranate seeds and Papaya, to name a few ... with two single lops of ice creams at the top - vanilla and strawberry, in my case) and a soft drink. It was an immensely enjoyable dinner!

On Friday morning, I went to Jeddah in my now repaired car to meet Mr. Tanveer Malik, the Pakistani cabbie who had possession of the registration card of my old Toyota Corolla ... to bring this back from him. My forward journey got prolonged by a 100 km, thanks to wrong guidance by Samsung Galaxy's Google Maps, which guided me to a non-existent bridge to Jeddah (this prolonged my journey by 60 km), ... and then skipped a crucial U-turn to make me drive an extra 40 km!

Tanveer met me at his house, and I ate lunch with him and his nephew Mr. Ali. After this, before he could press me for more money (he has managed to inveigle me into parting with over SR 2000 in my last two trips to Jeddah), I took his leave and returned uneventfully to Ta'if by 5 p.m. In the night, I took dinner at the Asian Hotel. 

After this, I went to the Mobile Market and bought a slew of stuff such as a new battery for my Note 3, a monopod to take photos with my phone through a bluetooth connection, a new 10 GB Mobily Card for internet, and a new USB plug for recharging my phones.

Saturday saw me go to the Aramex office (it is on the King Faisal Road at a market place  just before the road turns to go toward Jeddah via Hada.) Here, I picked up my just-arrived external hard disk (2 TB for SR 474/-). Then, I went back to the car garage to fine tune a few installations, and then, to a car-key maker to program a new key. This guy could not make my new key because the programming did not occur properly. As a result, we had to wait for an hour before re-attempting the process - and this time, another man with greater expertise attempted it - and managed it successfully.

Earlier in the morning, I visited the local Centrepoint showroom on Shahar street and bought a new blue-coloured jacket and a new shirt for myself.

I then began my return journey to Al Muwayh, picking up Dr. Niaz again from Arafat. I arrived in Al Muwayh at a little after half-past seven. My journey had come to an end.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Culture congruence

Understanding the culture of another people is a very difficult task and one must go deep into the psyche of these individuals if one wishes to make head or tail of what is happening around one. I have been among the village Bedouin folk of Saudi Arabia since three years, and even now, I find it difficult to sometimes pick up the nuances of a conversation. The way Saudis greet each other when they first meet in the morning is a sight to watch! They are very animated. They touch  cheeks against each others' are a cheeks, and make a pecking sound with their lips; next, they embark on a "Good Morning" and "How are you and yours" for the next several minutes, repeating the above 2 phrases to each other so many times that I used to think they had gone plumb mad!

After nearly two minutes of repetitive effusive greetings, they will then shake hands, and get to the topic on hand. This behaviour is universal among adult males, regardless of their age, social status, etc. 

Yet another major issue is the level of disinterest one must show towards females. This is  not only a hijaab issue; it touches upon the way men and women must socialise when in public. And that is where we are totally deficient.

More later. Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Eid ul Adha has come and gone

As I near the end of three years in Saudi Arabia, I think back to my arrival in the Kingdom on the night of 16th November 2011. At that time, Hajj had just got over, and in the post Hajj scenario, I never got the chance to see how the Eid ul Adha is celebrated. This year, however, is my third year in the Kingdom, and what I saw is that the evening before sees a lot of activity and visiting shops etc. Almost all the villagers in the village are out on the roads in their cars. They visit shops, supermarkets and so on, while their male members are busy getting hair-cuts, buying new clothes and accessories and so on.

The same was the milieu in the village on the evening before the Eid! The next day, the shops stayed closed through most of the day as the locals dispersed to their own homes after the Eid prayers. It was only after sunset that a few service-oriented offices had opened, and that too, very sparingly.

Over the course of the day, and for a day more after that, we continued to attend to our duties in the hospital; we received quite a few packets of goat's meat from doctors who had performed the sacrifice. My colleague Dr. Afzal - a Kashmiri doctor - prepared fried mutton pieces - a dry, tasteless offering that I could not reject, yet, did not enjoy much. Our mutual Kashmiri resident doctor friend Dr. Tahir prepared a traditional Kashmiri dish called Yakhni and sent a large amount for both of us (Dr. Afzal and me). We had this the next day, and by jove, it was fantastic.

In the last three days, I completed three CME courses offered by the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom. These courses were all offered ONLINE and concerned preparedness of the Ministry in case of an epidemic of either the new Corona virus or the Ebola Virus and what we must do to save the patients as well as protect our own selves. Each course took about an hour and a half to complete successfully.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

In Zalm ... day 2

Yesterday I reached Zalm for my 2-day stint at about 10 a.m. The doctor who was waiting for my arrival is Dr. Hany Moharram, an Egyptian Pediatrician who is quite senior but usually very amiable and friendly. Today, my meeting with him was a bit soured by his impatient temperament bordering on poor manners. I learned from others that he had been pressurising the Medical Director for some days to be allowed to go for 3 days to his family in Taif, but when I received the missive from them, which was in the afternoon the day before yesterday, I only agreed to go there on the next day. Which I did. 

Anyways, Dr. Hany left as soon as I had met him, and the rest of the day passed off without any major event or calls. I had brought a plate of paya with a roti from the Pakistani restaurant in Al Muwayh before leaving that place, and I invited the Zalm ENT surgeon Dr. Baksh to share this with me at lunch. He did come, and we also finished the hospital-provided lunch between us.

I slept in the evening for quite a few hours, and as a result did not get any work done on the net or in relation to my courses. In any case, the rest of the evening passed without incident. I sat with a few other doctors who are also serving at Zalm but have come from other places just as I have; at mid-night, I took leave of them and went to sleep.

Early the next morning, I received a Cesarean section call, and so, I left my room at six a.m. After the job was done, I returned to my room and freshened up for the rest of the day's duty. The duty hours passed uneventfully again. I had just 4-5 patients in the OPD. In the evening, I returned to my room and watched a very endearing unusual film on rollerblade skating for children. The movie is called "Hawaa Hawaai" and featured child artistes in the main roles. I guess it was released sometime in 2013. I would recommend that my readers do try and see this movie if they can. 

That's it for now.