Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chennai Day Four

Woke up this morning at about 530 am to the sound of a procession and chanting. We went to the porch and peeked over the railing to see a man in white clothes walking alone, then a gaggle of beautifully-dressed women in saris, chanting and beating tambourines, and then two more men, again in white, walking behind the group. I imagine that they also had some sort of ritual function, but they were chatting and looked like they would have been happy to be playing a round of golf together. There was a large truck in the street and next to it a tall stack of newspapers. A boy, on his bicycle, had filled his basket and was out on the morning paper route, which you rarely see in the States anymore.

I went back to bed for a while, but am finding that I get up much earlier here than at home. I poured a bowl of cornflakes, cut up a banana on top, and poured the milk on. Hmm. Definitely a bit sour. Trying to play safe instead of sorry, I dumped that out and started over again, warming some leftover chapattis in a frying pan and eating them with some of the strawberry jam from the American supermarket.
It’s 84 degrees right now – at about 9 am. And this is winter in Chennai. I cannot imagine being here during the hot seasons, because now we usually have a bit of a breeze in the evening and not too much humidity. It does feel heavy this morning and the sky looks a bit grey around the edge, so maybe it will rain.

I worked yesterday from about 10 am until 1 pm, then had a break until 4 pm. Most of the time, I wait in a seating area outside the main office, where there are plastic molded lawn chairs, the day’s newspaper, and usually some patients waiting to be seen. The office is very hectic in the morning, and my first job is to go to the person who makes my schedule and pick that up. Then I wait and hope that either I will recognize the teacher or that someone will claim me. This is clearly an exercise in developing patience, but I feel very proud of myself that I’ve been able to feel the tiniest bit of increase in my endurance level. Yesterday I approached a teacher who I was to observe to let him know, and though he was extremely polite, his answer was that we would wait and see if the student came for class or cancelled, and then, if the student would agree to be observed.
So after lunch, I set myself the goal of trying to wait to be claimed by the teacher if I was to observe. I glued my backside to the chair, worked on knitting a Shetland Triangle shawl out of some Misti Alpaca Handpainted sock yarn, and waited. And while my 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock appointments never materialized, I would suddenly hear someone from the office say “Janet, please observe,” and I would thrust my knitting into my bag (my husband very deliberately warned me not to make them wait while I finished the row…) and follow the teacher to the practice room.

Small things are important here. The two cases that I observed yesterday, which weren’t on my schedule, were of a famous dancer who now teaches dance and has given workshops in the US and a man who is diabetic and has sent many friends and colleagues to the center but never been here himself. This second class was held entirely in Tamil, of which I know none, but I was surprised at how much that I thought I could understand, and at the end, the patient asked me if I speak Tamil.
Another small moment is when the teacher passes me the case file to look at. It doesn’t happen every time (and we’re talking two whole days of experience here-), but when it does, I feel very complimented.

Well, got to go get ready. Today I may try to wear the long scarfy thing with my shalwar kameeze – just ironing it had me working up a sweat.

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