So much happened during the last two weeks, so much happened. I have wanted to write as it all unfolded, but it somehow was impossible for I was caught in the moment and imprisoned by the ever-so-Indian situations. There was no way I could write, no way I would have been quiet enough to let the torrent of words flow comprehensively. And above all there was no way I would have dared taking out my shiny, high-tech, computer, for it would have looked surreal in such localness and ruralness – where again, I felt like a monster on display in a freak show and where all eyes around turned to me. Eyes full with disbelief, or fear, or disdain, or shyness, or embarrassment, or curiosity, or enchantment, and the usual routine questions: Who is she? Where does she comes from? What is she doing here? How did you meet her? How long have you known her? Where is she staying? Oh, she speaks Hindi? Over and over and over again...
So we left Varanasi together on the 22nd March. Direction Chitrakut, halfway to Khajuraho where Vijay's second sister lives, and where his mother was due to have an operation in the big hospital nearby. Vijay started to worry before we left, because it turned out she would be too weak unless she was firstly given blood. The family had to find two or three donors and fast. When we arrived in Chitrakut, Vijay's brother-in-law had already asked many of his friends and acquaintances if they would donate blood, many had had their blood type checked but none was of the same blood type as Mummy. Brother-in-law was running in the hospital corridor with a file of piling-up forms, desperately phoning an looking out for more and more candidates, getting blood tests done, waiting a few hours for the results, all day. Only to no avail. As soon as we arrived in the hospital both Vijay and I got our blood checked. I was pretty certain that my blood type was the same as Mummy's. Vijay's turned out not to be, but indeed my blood was suitable, and after the doctors double-checked that it was also healthy, I was ready for the donation. But it was useless if I was the only donor, because 250 ml would not be sufficient; we needed at least one other donor. On the third day the nurses told us that they would release Mummy the following morning if we didn't find a donor. Brother-in-law phoned yet more friends, but none turned out to be of the required blood type.
It was a difficult day, and now fearing that we would find no other donor, our minds started feeling with negativity. We were walking along the corridors, waiting and wondering and thinking, going for a quiet rest or a walk or a chai once in a while, powerless. Most of the time I didn't know where the situation was standing and what was going on, and it was frustrating for me too.
And in the meantime I was the main attraction in the hospital. I was being observed from every corner, and Vijay answered question after question about the European foreigner. On the morning of that last day we met three young men who started asking about me and chatting to Vijay. One of then, funnily, reminded me of the French actor Michel Blanc. I could imagine my Belgian friend, if he had been there, asking me where on earth I had found this resemblance in my silly brain. It was now 3.30pm and we had received disappointing blood test results from our last batch of candidates. Then we met Michel Blanc again in the corridor, and Vijay told him of the situation. He had liked Vijay's nature and so agreed to get his blood-test checked. We regained hope and I told Vijay; “In Europe we say that touching wood brings luck, so we should look out for wood and touch it”. We walked along some trees but they were too far out from our reach. Right at that moment, a man carrying a long wooden stick on his shoulder came passed us in the corridor (it was a broom, but I had never seen such a European-looking broom in India before)! Vijay laughed when I went to touch it even though it felt like a silly thing to do. And then I touched more wood from the frames on the walls, and when we went for chai waiting for Michel Blanc's results I sat in such a way that my feet constantly touched the foot of the wooden table. I focused on my breathing, trying to be as aware as I could and keeping my heart open.
At about six o'clock we got Michel Blanc's test results. And his blood-type was suitable! After that it all went fast. Some minutes later we went to the pathological lab. I was sure that in Europe it would have been forbidden for any outsider to walk into the pathological lab of a hospital! But then the hospital experience in India is very different from the European one it seems. There is no confidentiality issue and members of family walk about with reports in hands; anyone can look into a lying file (like I did to understand exactly what was wrong with Mummy), family members are very involved with the patient's care (most of the time it is them who bring food to the patient) and rooms or dormitories are full with visitors at most times. So we went to the lab, I had a banana and two oranges and pomegranate juice and it was time for the blood donation. I had never given blood before and somehow it was surreal that it now happened in India. I was a little scared, more of fainting afterwards than of the procedure itself, but it went smoothly of course; I am stronger than I think. After it was finished we were given glucose drink and more pomegranate juice and a banana. We rested for thirty minutes and kept our arm folded upwards, tightly gripping the cotton-wool. I wonder now how different the procedure would be in Europe. Indians were very careful about feeding us properly so we would build the blood back quickly, but I don't think it is a big deal at all; I didn't feel particularly weaker.
Soon we went back to Mummy's room. Already she was receiving my blood through perfusion, and it looked completely surreal to me. I was very moved that my own blood was running into my dearest friend's own mother. I was already part of the family but I was becoming even more so now. Two years ago I had given money for Vijay's knee operation. One year ago I had had a foot operation and in their house the family had looked after me. And now I was helping again for the operation of Vijay's mother, with my own blood. Beyond the personal, it also felt like a beautiful symbol of universality, a living proof that we are all One, that races and frontiers are man-creation and thus illusory in reality, for deep down the blood flowing in our veins is the same red life-force. I had known it for as long as I had lived of course, but seeing it was incredible.
It took more than a day for Mummy to receive all our blood, so she was operated in the morning of the fifth day. When we arrived that morning the operation had already started, and Auntie and her husband were sitting anxiously outside of the operation block. With Vijay's sister, Brother-in-law and their son we joined them, and soon Michel Blanc came to sit with us too. I was not anxious but calm and concerned. It was an odd feeling; I have never actually spent so much time in a hospital for the care of someone else's operation. And quite a while later the door of the operation block opened and the assistants took mummy back to her room.
Quickly after we arrived to the room Mummy woke up slowly. At first she felt very cold and her entire body started trembling, which looked pretty scary. There were many people around her and they covered her with blankets. I can't remember why I left with Vijay, perhaps we went out for some food, but when we came back Mummy was more awake and no longer cold, and she had started speaking a little although very quietly. From then on I felt reassured. For two days she was completely bedridden and was only fed through perfusion, but three days after the operation she started eating fruits and getting up slowly and with help to go to the bathroom. She seemed to recover well.
The days passed and the longer we stayed the less patient I was becoming, from idleness and boredom, from too many people watching me, and from not knowing what was going on most of the time. I became more and more silent and frustrated and tearful, and I needed more and more time out of the room with my friend. Finally after we had spent eight days in the hospital, and when finally Vijay's third sister came with her husband to take her turn in looking after Mummy, we could go back to Khajuraho. Some four days later Vijay would send a deluxe taxi to pick-up Mummy. Because it was a last minute booking, for the first time I travelled by train not in the Sleeper Class but in the (lowest) General Class, where the compartments are so crowded that people get on the train from the windows and many people spend the journey hanging onto the carriage doors (but out of some miracle that train was almost empty!?), where the berth are bare planks of wood and where again, all eyes turned to me. But I didn't care because despite the discomfort I lied with my eyes closed, and almost even slept. Early morning we reached Bamitha. We waited for a bus in what looked like the most rural place I had ever stopped by (should I even mention the looks I received, as usual?), and after a few hours on a wobbly bus we finally reached Khajuraho, exhausted but happy. The house was quite. But Mummy is back now, and she is recovering well.
A note on my three blogs
A note on my blogs
(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...
(2) sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!
(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.