For our first weekend in India, we opted to explore around Bangalore. And apparently when you travel with two boys, sight-seeing must include some sort of sporting event, so we went to a cricket match. (Anyone else forget that was a sport?) The stadium seats 40,000, and attendees aren’t even allowed to bring handbags for fear one might get too excited during the match and throw it on to the field. (I thought about bringing my bag anyway and explaining to the guards just how little I cared about the outcome of the match, but I figured better not to risk it.) We learned the rules as we watched—it’s a similar game to baseball, only slower if you can imagine. The pitching team has to get the entire batting team out before the inning switches, and in the two and a half hours we watched, only one person got out. I guess that’s why these tournaments last 5 days.
After cricket, we went to the national park and took a safari. The little girl inside of me who wanted to be a zoologist when she grew up was absolutely giddy. We loved getting to see the white tiger, but my personal favorite was the sloth bear. How can you not smile when you look at this creature? (Also why don’t more animals look like sloths? I’m 90% sure the world would be a better place if they did.)
Seeing as how we weren’t allowed to bring bags to the cricket stadium, I was limited to items that would fit in Alec’s pockets. My phone was an obvious choice, but second on the list was toilet paper! Most public bathrooms in India have squatty potties, which are essentially holes in the bottom of the stall. And they do not provide toilet paper. To those who warned me about the toilet situation, all I can say is: thank you.
During the week, I went with Alec to the slum clinics and the rural clinic, which was a pretty amazing experience. Generally I try to stay away from the medical stuff, (because needles and blood), but I loved getting to see how the doctors here serve the community through medical care! They even gave me a badge that said “Dr. Annick Coston” and let me check the patients’ blood pressure.
Our favorite day was visiting the rural clinics, where the palliative care team works. If you’re like me and have never heard the word “palliative” before, this team takes care of patients with terminal diseases. The bulk of their patients have mouth cancer, because tobacco chewing is very common in the rural areas. The team makes house visits every day, administering pain medicine and comforting family members. They also meet with leaders in the community and school children to educate them on the dangers of tobacco, the importance of seeking medical care at the first signs of cancer, etc. They track this progress meticulously, and hope to reach every single person in the northern part of the state within the next few years. I fully expect they’ll change the average lifespan for the next generation of farmers.
Our day in the rural clinic was my favorite. Not only is this team a well-oiled machine, effectively reaching new patients every week, but they focus on relationships and service. They sit in patients’ living rooms and hear all about their lives. One patient even let me hold her newly hatched baby chicken while the doctor counseled her. She’d had a mastectomy, (where one breast is removed), and was feeling down about her appearance. She didn’t need any medical care, she just need someone to minister to her heart. There’s something amazing about watching a male doctor in a heavily paternal society take the time to visit a patient just to help her feel beautiful. Of course, that’s after they saved her life.
It all makes me even prouder to be a part of this whole doctor life.