Monday, November 17, 2008

Relatives Help and Visit Pune

In Anita's extended family (as may be typical in large ones) interactions range from little or no contact with some relatives for decades, to having very close bonds. We're fortunate to find many in the latter category.

But people lead busy lives and we don't expect them to disrupt these on our account. This is especially so when we're not seeking any help, and assuring relatives that any situation we're facing is firmly under control.

So on our recent trip to Pune we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of warmth, support and help from Anita's folks, who're mostly my good friends too.

When I first arrived to tend to my in-laws' medical emergency I only sought advice and contact information from the three Pune-based uncles and aunts about good hospitals and doctors. That was enough for me to move Daddy and Mummy to the hospital, lock up their apartment and get their treatment under way. Most of Anita's relatives live in Mumbai, and I emphatically told them I needed nothing else and that they shouldn't bother coming to Pune.

But they'd have none of it. Now I know from where Anita gets her stubborn streak (and those other qualities that made me woo her decades ago.) When we come to India we typically stay a few days in Mumbai to meet up and spend time with relatives living there. This time we stayed put in Pune, yet a lot of Mumbaiites that we care about come to us in Pune.

In the process, the visits were a big morale booster for Daddy and Mummy, and our doctors said that these probably significantly helped their recovery. And there was more.

Here are some highlights:

  • Anita's cousins Ashok, Gul, Indru, Jagdish, Kavita, Meena (with daughter Tanny) and Rita specially made the 8 -10 hour round trip from Mumbai to Pune just to look up my in-laws and spend time with us

  • Aunt Duru and Uncle Hira cancelled / put off all their travel and holiday plans despite our protestations, to help, regularly visit and advise us in Pune till my in-laws were home

  • Again, despite my dissuasion Rita with maid in tow left her husband Dilip (who is miserable without her and vice versa) for six days to join me in Pune to tend to Daddy and Mummy in hospital. As it turned out her help was invaluable because I wasn't expecting to be so heavily occupied with Daddy's emergency surgery. Rita's company and consultations apart, I was also able to leave Mummy to her care in this time before Anita had joined me

  • Dilip himself made repeated calls to get me to agree to his visiting Pune and taking me back in his car to Mumbai for the flight back to USA. I instead asked him to postpone his trip so he could look up Daddy and Mummy some time after I and Prakash had gone. Dilip agreed and his trip on Nov. 17 - 18 provides valuable coverage, as did Kavita's second trip on Nov. 8th. This way there's always someone dropping in and checking on Daddy and Mummy as they're steadily getting better

  • Ashok lent a vital cell phone and datacard for internet connectivity on our laptops from anywhere. India's anti-terrorism measures include dumb provisions that make it very difficult for those of us visiting from abroad to obtain cell phones and data cards in our own names. So Ashok's help proved very useful

  • Ashok (and owners Gul and Indru) repeatedly offered all the resources at the 5 star Sun-n-Sand Hotel in Pune which is a short walk from Inlaks. When Anita landed in Mumbai, she was brought to Pune by Ashok and Indru. Then we were ensconced in the penthouse suite of Sun-n-Sand for the next two weeks with the full run of all facilities. It was like living in two worlds, transitioning daily from the hubbub and frenetic activity of the hospital to the lavish luxury of the hotel. There were 300 exotic dishes to try in the hotel's multiple restaurants, a nice gym to work off (half) the calories we took in, and a retinue of smiling staff to attend to our needs
  • Moti Uncle and his wife Mooma lived in Pune for decades till recently, called regularly to enquire about Daddy and Mummy, and give valuable advice. They also had a good 50th wedding anniversary bash in Mumbai on the same evening that I was arriving from Pune to catch my flight back to USA. I went with Meena and Tanny to the party and spent a wonderful 45 minutes meeting and revelling with the assembled clan before leaving for the airport

So despite the serious purpose of our visit and some hectic activity, Anita and I had a memorable trip interspersed with these warm get-togethers, and helpful relatives. (For poor Prakash, Anita's brother and the dutiful son who relieved me in Pune, it was just a lot more of work, which he cheerfully did without having time to meet many people.)

When marrying Anita, I hadn't realized I'd gain such a nice extended family of hers as dowry.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Close Indian Neighbors

For those living in the US who are used to cordial but occasional contact with neighbors, the experience in India can be quite revealing.

My in-laws (Daddy and Mummy) live in a closed apartment community in Pune, India which is called a (housing) "society". I have been struck by the warm and close interactions with neighbors in their society. This became even more evident recently.

A couple of times Mummy tried to walk and fell in the small hours of the morning, and Daddy wasn't able to get her back up. Their neighbors not only rushed to their help in those times but also rallied to monitor and care for them for several days subsequently.

I (and subsequently Anita) arrived from the US and had both my in-laws hospitalized. In the next several weeks they overcame a number of conditions on the road to recovery. In this time as well the close involvement of neighbors was striking. Some examples:
  • Some neighbors visited Daddy and Mummy in the rather distant hospital. Many more were intending to do so but heeded my request about no visitors so we could concentrate on their treatment

  • Immediate neighbors took charge, discontinued part-time help and stopped delivery of supplies, newspapers, etc., to my in-law's apartment during their hospital stay. I hadn't anticipated any of this in the midst of the medical emergency

  • After their return home, Daddy and Mummy had streams of visiting neighbors to welcome them back. Many brought along children or grandchildren to help cheer them up. I was impressed seeing these kids under 10 years of age patiently and respectfully spending time with my in-laws when they could be doing more fun things elsewhere

  • Many came forward with local information and advice that was helpful to us in making arrangements and settling my in-laws back down

  • This Mira Society has over a thousand residents, yet a third of them seemed to know about our predicament, and who I was. I'd cross and greet apparent strangers walking in the internal streets here and they'd stop me to ask about my in-laws, and how long I planned to remain in Pune

Life in Mira Society is of course not typical of that in other places. In Delhi and Mumbai we see neighbor interactions that more closely mirror those in the urban US.

My in-laws have stayed in Mira Society for over 30 years, and I can understand their reluctance to move to a service apartment as we have urged, that is more suited to elderly care.

The other remarkable thing is the way Anita's extended family came together to our help. I'll describe some of that in the next post.