Monday, 31 May 2010

Like father, like son

If you're happy and you know it bang the tray

We're seriously concerned about Bo's face. It's gotta hurt grinning all the time like he does. And his mouth is out of proportion with his face so when he smiles, his mouth opens so wide half his face disappears. This is him tonight at Dal Roti banging on the tin tray that owner Ramesh gave to him to play with.

Talking of Bo, he's walking! and very chuffed with himself to be doing so. You can imagine his huge beaming smile as he proudly toddles forward. He also has some words: 'cat' which he says over and over as he chases the cat at Sreeja's, 'Set' for his hero Seth, and 'ta' ('give' in Malayalam) which he repeats when he's reaching for something + mama, dada etc.

My baby is growing up! The jolly little chap turns one on June 11.

Colours of Cochin

Sunday evening sunset at the beach at Fort Cochin

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Kashi farewell

Kashi Cafe closed today, to give all the staff a month off and to do annual renovations of the building. We went for our last brunch at the spot that's been a little oasis for me over the last four months. Seth was asleep in the Maclaren and Bo was whisked off as always by the kitchen ladies, so we had a breakfast date.

Owner Dorrie turned up while I was drinking my pot of green tea and Ollie his iced coffee, so we chatted with her and stayed almost to the end at 3pm. As we're leaving I asked her the recipe for the scrummy cucumber and mint juice they serve at Shala (peeled cucumber, generous handful of mint, juice of one lime, crushed ice, sugar syrup) and the Kashi omelettes - I reckon I've eaten 60+ of them in my four months here  (she fluffs up the egg mix, whisking even while pouring into the frying pan).

This is Dorrie with some of her awesome staff, who have enthusiastically entertained Seth (that's the waiting staff, all boys) and cuddled and fed watermelon to Bo (that's the ladies who bake, cook and wash) and decorated him with bindis on his forehead and flowers behind his ears. A huge thank to each one of the Kashi staff.
As well as getting our fix of veggies and fresh food with things like pumpkin soup and beansprout salad, Kashi has done wonders for Bo's immune system. He's spent hours crawling around the place eating fistfuls of earth and munching on leaves. Seth runs around like the cafe is his, handing out menus and playing with the water pump.
Kashi Cafe we'll miss you!
(Won't miss this heat though, as you can see, we're all drenched in sweat in this photo! ugh!)

Sunday afternoon on Vypeen Island

Boat to Vypeen Island

Stuck for an idea of what to do today we took the boat across to Vypeen Island again.
We saw dolphins playing in the water and a huge ship passed right by us. As always we were crammed in between hoards of people, cars and scooters.

One of the good guys

We've spent a lot of time in the office of Jose Joseph, a travel agent who has an office on the corner of Princess Street. Ollie's booked all his flights and train tickets via Jose. He is efficient, smiley and warm, and really knows how good customer care leads to customer loyalty. Ol can call him from Mumbai and ask him to book a ticket and Jose won't ask for payment until Ollie is back in Fort Cochin.
Jose has even very kindly offered to store our luggage while we go to Bangalore for three weeks (the baggage allowance for internal flights is very low, so we're just taking one bag). Although he did warn us they need to be wrapped in thick plastic so they're not attacked by rats!
Seth is very at home in Jose's office. He strides in shouts 'hiya', holding up his right palm, and then asks Jose to put the TV on so he and Bo can watch. Both boys are fascinated by cricket. Here they are in utter silence watching the Rajasthani Royals.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Photo pause

My blog has been a bit text heavy this week, sorry. We're into our last week in Cochin so I'll snap away and get some colour back into this blog.

Mad dogs and and English woman

PAPA! returns tomorrow. Today he travelled five hours by bus from Hassan to Bangalore, arrived at 10pm and is staying with the aunt of his school friend Danny, before flying back to Cochin tomorrow morning.

Seth and Bo's Saturday treat with Pa is a visit to the Mad Dogs Trust, an animal shelter run by an English lady, Penny, who we've met a couple of times. As I'm petrified of dogs, especially mad ones, I'm going to head to the pool for some midday sun.

Principal Lakshmi's feedback

Today Principal Lakshmi gave me return feedback, on Seth. If I posted his report from his Argentine nursery class, I'd be accused of being a smug mum. So full of affirmation and affection, compliments about his character and behaviour, and no hint of negativity. Not with this one!

Two things are clear. First,his previous lack of routine, rice free diet and his nappy 'habit' were seen as poor development. Second, Seth is man of very few words (especially at school, it seems!), but he sure knows a pretty girl when he sees one.

My sincere thanks to Mr Oliver and Mrs Emma (parents of Seth) for giving a wonderful feedback. I am proud to say that after reading your feedback there is one more golden feather on our cap. 

Seth's development at Apple Kids: 

2nd Feb 2010. Joined Apple Kids. Quiet still, crying baby, barely talks, refuses to go to toilet. Had only cheese, cake, 'agua' (water). No fixed time for eating. 

15th Feb. Showed some expression like 'Uh oh!' if anything has fallen down, or torn. Learn to show fish - keeping one palm over the other and only moving the right and left thumbs. Expressed his needs by action. If he wants to go home, he will say 'shoe, shoe' or 'papa'. 

1st week of March. Started to compare Apple Kids uniform with Apple Kids boards hanging in the office room. Comparing pictures which ones are similar. Sitting in front of my table demanding (by actions) pen, pencil, paper etc. 

3rd week of March. Regularise his eating time. Snack at 11 o'clock. Lunch at 1 o'clock (rice). Nap between 2-3 o'clock. Snack at 3.30pm. Like to watch computer (concentration). Waiting for Mum or Dad. When they come he will say shoe, shoe. 

1st week of April. Comparing colours by showing. Red means wherever. Red colour is there he will point out. Fond of Ammu and her biscuits and banana. Learns to call Chechi. Got rid of the habit of using nappies. He laughs when Ammu immitates his way of calling her name (Aaamu). 

Last two weeks of April. Likes very much to come to Apple Kids. Try to mingle with all children. Started to use all play equipment in Apple Kids. When Ammu changes her dress in the evening he appreciates, showing Ammu to me 'Ammu, wa! wa!' Not longing for parents arrival to thake him back home. 

First two weeks of May. Very bright, smart, active, sharp, energetic. Started to speak many words like red, blue, apple, banana etc etc. Learns to run, jump, climb, scream etc etc. Started to count 1, 2, 3.....

15-28th of May. I can notice all round development. Wa! What a change in him. 

Shanglia used to say he is an attraction to Apple Kids. 
May God bless him in all walks of life. 

M Lakshmi, M.A. B.Ed. 
Centre Head

Thursday, 27 May 2010


Remember Seth used to play after school with Mohammed and Eisha, the two cute kids from nextdoor? Well,  no more! Apparently they're not allowed to play with Seth any more because when they were at ours one day he pulled down his pants to take a pee, but in front of Eisha. Mohammed ran to me and told me to cover Seth up because Eisha could see... and they've never been able to play together since! Uh-oh. I only know this because 7 year old Mohammed starting explaining and was whisked away by his Mum who was very embarrassed. She doesn't speak English, and I'm not convinced using Mohammed as a translator would work or be approved of.
I did laugh, but we didn't mean to cause offence and Seth bangs on their gate every day, and looks up longingly at Mohammed and Eisha pressing their noses against their balcony window. 

Ollie goes off to the farm

Ollie texted me at 6am from a bus taking him through thick tropical jungle and over the Western Ghats. He's going to spend a couple of days on Captain Gopinath's farm a few hours from Bangalore.

 Gopi's autobiography was very chaotic making it difficult to read, but I did enjoy the chapters about his farm. With a tiny budget and huge effort and determination not to give up, he built up a highly successful ecologically sustainable silkworm rearing business.

Indians are incredibly hospitable and Ollie seems to go from staying at one nice pad to another. We're hugely grateful to all his hosts as it was going to kill us financially paying for accommodation twice (us in Cochin, and Ollie on the move). Also he's been able to get some much-needed sleep in comfy beds to make up for the max six hours a night he's used to catching here.

A day in the life of Eileen Bat

Another source of regular amusement is odd use of English and misspellings. Every backpacker in India must have at least one photo example of a sign or menu that made them chuckle or caught their eye. Ollie has one from his gap year in the Himalayas. It was a road warning sign on a steep hill: 'Please be gentle on my curves'.

It is quite extraordinary how many signs or printed papers have very obvious mistakes. I went to the pharmacy today to buy nappies and paracetamol. Here's my receipt:

[Will insert later. Technical problems.]

They stamp 'Recived' hundreds of times a day! Maybe they didn't know the 'i before e but not after c rules', and unsure just decided to drop the e altogether rather than put in the wrong place....

Note also my name. Victoria. Perhaps that's a catch-all name for all white females? At the two main grocery stores in Fort Cochin they offer me credit. I usually run out of money towards the end of Ollie's trips, so if I need anything I head to Shop and Save or Preethi Stores and they down in a book how much I owe, and Ollie cancels it. They've never asked my name, but they always write something in Malayalam in the 'name' column. Mother of the boy who always begs for another toy tuk-tuk? Diet Coke addict?

Yesterday I had several very irritating calls from the local Vodafone office. This is how it went (well, first of all they'd do the speech in Malayalam, then realise I was an English-speaker, so, after 2 mins of that, this is how it went).

Hello madam, I'm calling from the local Vodafone office.
[She's speaking at breakneck speed, in a barely comprehensible accent]
Please can you confirm your identity?
You mean my name?
Yes, hello madam, I'm calling from the local Vodafone office. Please can you confirm your identity? 
My name is Emma Balch. That's B-a-l-c-h.
Thank you Eileen Bat....
No, no, not Eileen Bat, Emma Balch...
Yes, Eileen Bat, I'm calling from the local Vodafone office....lkajsdkjflakdsjf?
I'm sorry, I didn't catch that, please can you repeat it?
Hello Eileen Bat, I'm calling from the local Vodafone office...akshfkjashdkjf?
I am really very sorry, but I can't understand what you are asking me.
Hello Eileen Bat, I'm calling from the local Vodafone office....adhkjasdhf?
Please will you stop repeating that you're from Vodafone, I know that! What do you want? What are you asking me? and my name is Emma Balch not Eileen Bat....

No exaggeration. They called me five times and we kept having that conversation over and over. Eileen Bat is firmly in the system and five phonecalls later I still had no clue what they were asking me.

Apple Kids feedback

The Indian way of littering their English with idioms often makes me smile. It's never quite comfortable within the sentence. or conversation so it's really noticable. We're gearing up for Seth's final day at Apple Kids (a week tomorrow). In anticipation, Principal Laxmi asked me to write some feedback on Seth's months as an Apple Kid. I know how much she loves formalities and ceremonies and reports, and she said to me with a wide smile 'The more you write the happier I will be!' Well, I wanted to make her happy so I filled two pages of lined A4. The rain started to crash down yesterday just as I was collecting Seth, so I pulled out the pages from under my shirt, handed them to her and ran off.

This morning she greeted me like a long lost friend. Arms outstretched she announced: 'Your feedback was EXC-ellent! You made us very proud that Seth has developed physically! mentally! emotionally! socially!' listing the headings I'd used on page 2. She smiled with each word, proud of herself too that she had remembered my list. Ha, I knew she'd love it! She gathered the teaching assistants around her, and concluded grandly, 'A feather in our cap!'

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Apple munching or practicing French kissing?

Bombay Sapphire blues

I think I've developed an allergy to gin. Is that possible?


7am. Seth had been up for an hour, trying to put my 'eyes' in and terrorising me in different ways as I hid under the pillow. Amee, Amee, Amee, arrrrghh. I opened the door and let him out like a wailing cat. Pauline is up early making breakfast for us and her family so he ran to find her.

8am. Bo is climbing all over me and staring into my bleary eyes, trying to make me laugh. I'm not amused, but neither am I getting any sleep. I drag myself out of bed, and with Bo go to rescue Pauline...

We found Seth sitting on the kitchen floor, legs oustretched on a sheet of newspaper, rolling out chapatis! Like the ladies who roll chapatis on the pavement of Palace Road there he was with the dough, rolling pin, cutter and was turning them out to give to Pauline to fry. Too cute!

No photo as I didn't want to kill the moment, but I hope for a re-run later in the week so I can take a snap.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Map of Kochi

About four months too late, but a photo of our Kochi tourist map.

Sui House, where we've been living is in Mattancherry, just a little to the left of where there's a cluster of text (that's Jew Town). Bazaar Road, the one with all the old merchant shops are is the road winding around the coast from Jew Town to the tip of the peninsula in Fort Cochin. Palace Road is the long straight one leading left from Jew Town.

Ernakulam is obviously the main party of the city and I've been there five times I think. No intention of returning if I can possibly help it.

Vipin Island (not an island, but a thin peninsula) is quiet and consists of small villages dotted along the road leading to Cherai Beach where I went for a night with the boys back in our first month here.

Bolgatty Island is home to an ancient palace which is now a hotel. I've wanted to visit but it's at least a 3 hour round trip as the ferry to Bolgatty leaves from Ernakulam, and it's a 45 minute boat ride just to Ernakulam.

I've no idea what is on Vallarpadam.

Willingdon Island is where the Taj Malabar Hotel is. We've been over there to use the pool at the Casino Hotel once, and Ollie's had a few meetings and events over there. It's mostly industrial, so it's an odd location for two of the best hotels in the city. There is a coastal walkway on the Ernakulam side of the island that does look pretty though, so that's on our to do list before we leave.

To give you a bigger picture, the area on the map is on the western side of south India. To the left of the map is the Arabian Sea. The two peninsulas that house Vipin Island to the north and Fort Cochin to the south curl around, enclosing the Vembanad Lake, the smaller islands and peninsulas and the main hub of the city of Kochi, formerly called Cochin.

Oliver Donnington Rimington-Sneep...and Seth

Book of the moment is 'Oliver who travelled far and wide' and this photo is really for Papa - another travelling Oliver. Here's Seth tucked up in bed tonight like Oliver Donnington Rimington-Sneep with bat, owl, fox and ted, or two towels, a monkey rucksack and teddy. That's Seth's best pretend sleep face, in case you're wondering.

Bo's hiding place

Bo has taken to hanging out under the bed, sitting in the base of the car seat. It's just an excuse really for more fits of giggles when Seth can't find him.

Monday, 24 May 2010

An arranged marriage

It's hard to convey how happy I am with Sreeja and Usha, the mother daughter team who look after Bo. It was such a struggle to find a childminder and I'd almost given up. My little boy's face breaks into a huge smile the moment they open the door to us. He's really filled out with the food the cook for him, and he's taking a few steps on his own thanks to them walking around their little garden. He plays, and looks at books and looks so well for all the extra attention.

I only have these two really poor quality photos from Seth's first day with them. He's much fatter now! I'll post some better photos of Sreeja and Usha before we leave Cochin in two weeks. 

I like the atmopshere in their home. They're full of smiles and warmth, and always want us to stop for milky masala chai and homemade treats. Sreeja is 18 and is tall, beautiful, and mature. She plays with Bo and teaches him and her mum, who is about a foot shorter than Sreeja cooks, washes Bo's clothes, prepares his milk and gives him his bath.

Ol and I stopped for chai on Friday and were asking Sreeja when she's going to get married. Her cool older brother, Kumar, who works in a local homestay was there. As their father died 12 years ago he's the head of the household and is in charge of saving for the dowry and searches with their mother for a suitable candidate. She's a pretty girl, so I wouldn't have thought it a difficult task. Setting up an arranged marriage though is a complicated business. First you can only look within your same caste. This family belong to the Ezchuvan caste, which is one of 82 on the Central Keralan List of Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Yes, that is what they call them! Then within the Ezchuvan in the locality they need to find other available boys of around the same age who have a compatible star sign. This isn't using the simple 12 sign horoscope we know, but a very complex list of dates and the matching involves complex calculations and charting. This is called guna milap. Guna refers to the points for factors that influence marriage, and milap to their compatibility of these points. And then after all this, when find a guy, he and Sreeja have to like each other!

They've married off one sister already. Kumar is 28 and doesn't seem in a great hurry to get married. Sreeja doesn't have the luxury of a choice. She's a girl, and girls in India are born to be married off, and ideally around the age of 18. I hope they find her a kind mind who treats her well. I know she'll be a wonderful mother.

Not so brave

I've had quite a few people say to me lately how brave I am. I suppose I am with the kids, and going off to places on my own or stepping off the usual or safe course in life. But I am the biggest scaredy-cat when it comes to swimming or skiing and eating non-veg food that looks too much like an actual animal. It's taken me four months to dare to try street food (mostly after the story my dad tells from one of his visits to India involving his friend, some cow saliva and street food-wallah). We've mostly avoided upset stomachs here in Kerala, and today the crispy onion pakora frying in the pavement vat smelt too good to resist. So here I am post-pakora hoping I won't regret my impulse buy.

Having noted in my post yesterday that Bo (mini-me) does take one thing from Ollie (his ability to fall asleep anywhere), Seth (mini-Ollie) is such a wimp when it comes to water. Our weekly visits to the pool aren't boosting his conficence one bit and he'll go to great effort to delay jumping into the pool. Crocs off, Crocs over there beside our bags, ouch hot floor - Crocs bag on, ok, ready... no, I'll jump over there, run around the pool, here, ready. Hold on, better to jump from the top stair, let me sit down. By this point he's almost in the water and the jump is more of a slide into the water.

Outside water though he has no fear and especially likes making towers from chairs and boxes and his truck and he'll precariously on top until the tower and he tumble over, crashing to the floor. He cheerily stands up and builds it all over again. Bo observes his master carefully and will now clamber up onto the window ledge and stand there holding onto the bars, or climb onto the bed and sit on top of a suitcase or whatever he can find to be as high and as dangerous as possible.

Ollie, the bravest of us all, has just left for 9 hours in a 3rd class train carriage to Mangalore.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

One social night in Cochin

Last night we went to our first party in Cochin. The crowd was mostly expat, some with Indian partners. I knew almost all of them, and knew of the ones I hadn't met before. The majority of the foreigners living in Fort Cochin were there. We were about 25 people. It's a small world! Our hosts, Sophie and Emmanuel had cooked a vast and totally delicious Middle Eastern mezze. Hummus, tabbuleh, baba ganoush, homemade olive bread etc. etc. This was followed by freshly baked cakes by French friends Lauren (dark chocolate) and Elise (apple with cheese crust). Flavours we haven't tasted for over four months - we gorged ourselves! I'm in the lower left hand corner of the last photo, black from half a day by the pool with Seth and Bo in childcare. It was our belated wedding anniversary treat, and a treat it was. 

Part way through the party we found Bo asleep on the tiled floor underneath a bed! 
The first sign so far that he takes after Ollie.

Displayed around the house were objects made from recycled...well...anything. This spaceship comprises of over 200 recycled pieces. The black base is a sushi delivery tray, the half orb is from a hamster wheel. The small black antenae are from mosquito sprays, and so on. Emmanuel makes all the objects, never using glue, pins or nails. There was a hot air balloon, a helicopter, boats, planes, a tractor, a racing car. She's quite prolific with her recycled artwork. 

These fat clay men that are sold on the roadside by Rajasthanis were displayed on a high shelf around the dining room, with several painted in different colours. As there really isn't much to do in Cochin, each time they have a guest come to stay they give them a white clay man to paint. What a great idea!

Post title with slight apologies to Tom Peirce who wrote, produced and directed a short film, 'One day in Cochin'.  The blurb says 'Nine narratives interweave in Fort Cochin, Kerala, south India. The characters living in or passing through Fort Cochin win, love and lose. Whatever their destiny, they all find themselves enriched by what they learn along the way. Everything can change in a day.' The film premiered at the Anchorage Film Festival in 2008. Tom, and a couple of the actors and extras were at the party last night. I hope to get a copy of the film as a momento of our days here in Cochin.

Be prepared

We bought Seth and Bo mini umbrellas yesterday to shield them from the monsoon rains and 35 degree heat/92% humidity - both of which we're experiencing in Cochin. The rain is really fun and the heat is unbearable. More rain please!

Mangalore and Bangalore

Ollie leaves again tomorrow for a few days in Mangalore, which coincidentally is where the Air India plane crashed on landing yesterday. He's travelling by train so will still be able get there (the airport is still closed, and who would want to fly there now anyway? Apparently they were waiting for a crash like this to happen, so dangerous is the runway). I'm not sure how much coverage the crash has had outside India, but it's quite extraordinary that a few people managed to escape. One guy was only discovered to be a survivor when he was found checking into Immigration!

We have finally made firm plans for June. We're going to stay in Cochin for an extra week, but we're moving to Delight Homestay on the Parade Ground in Fort Cochin. Then we're booked to fly to Bangalore on June 5th, staying for three weeks in a beautiful apartment that Ollie's friend is kindly lending to us. Then we're returning to Cochin for a couple of nights to pick up our suitcases and fly to Heathrow via Bombay on the 29th.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Bad hair day

Me giving Seth a very bad haircut. On the same theme, I finally braved it and had my hair cut at Winnie's Salon. Wasn't bad given it cost around two pounds fifty. Not a bad experience I'd feared (oh, apart from seeing a woman having a full body wax on the bed next to me thanks to a see-through and too small a curtain).

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

It's raining: true or false?

Cultural differences are most noticable, I find, with kids stuff.

Indians make up stories all the time to Seth. So, for example, Seth's looking for Ollie when he's away on a trip. Rather than say he's working and he'll be back later, the family we live with say 'Papa's gone to buy biscuits'. Apart from not being true, and that Seth expects Ollie to reappear and with biscuits it's is treating kids as if they're stupid. Which they're not.

Yesterday we were leaving Kashi cafe and the park is right and the way home is left. Seth of course wanted to go right, but I explained we had to go and pick up Bo and go home. One of the guys from the cafe pipes up with 'Come on Seth, you can't go to the park today - it's raining!'. The sky was clear blue and the sun was still out. Did he really think Seth would think it was raining?! (an aside, Seth amusingly calls rain 'aguadown').

Talking of rain, the monsoon began today.12 hours of uninterruped rain, and although there was rumbling thunder all day it was heavy but steady rain and it's already cooled the air. Here's Seth modelling his Apple Kids umbrella.

A visit to Laxmi Hospital

I've had a sore throat and mild earache since I had Strep Throat back in February. I put it down to allergies from the fires that are always burning on the side of the road, billowing out toxic fumes from plastic bottles. I'm also always moving from air conditioned rooms to the heat and humidity outside. So I've just been popping Piriton when I remember. Last week though I found a hard lump on my neck so I went to see the doctor who put me antibiotics. A week later it's still there and bigger and has moved to the surface, so off I trotted with Seth to Laxmi Hospital (he with his shoes on the wrong feet I see). The hospital visit is an odd experience for a foreigner like me.

1. Registration. There are two booths. One for new patients and the other for previously registered patients. It's my third visit there, so I was meant for the second booth. They took one look at my white skin and told me I should go to the first one. No, I've been here before, twice, I explained. Where's your card? I don't have card, you never gave me a card. Oh, you can't be registered then. But I am. But you have a card if you're registered.... I moved to Booth 1. That's fine, I can register as a new patient. Hello, what is your name please? Emma Balch. Tap, tap, tap. Emma. Sui House? Yes! That's me! I knew I was registered. Back to Booth 2. Looks at the computer screen. Hello, your name is Emma. You live at Sui House? Yes, actually, my full name is Emma Balch, Emma is just my first name. They looked at me blankly. Emma. Ok, fine, it's unlikely any other Emma's have or will visit this hospital.

2. Token. Please sit down, they told me, and we'll give you a token. When your number appears you go to see the doctor. I waited five minutes while Seth took a tour of the hospital waiting room in a wheelchair. Still no token. Back to the desk. Excuse me, I haven't received a token yet, will there be a long wait? Oh, we don't actually have tokens. You're number 50.... The sign in the photo was screwed next to each surgery door, and we all had a number (well, given my experience, maybe they didn't all have one) but still around each door was a huddle of people who shuffled even closer to it each time the door twitched. They clearly weren't getting in any sooner by doing this and despite the efforts of these signs they still do as it clearly asks them not to do (*see my note below on this).

3. The examination. Well, if you can call it that. From my limited experience, from the visits that Seth, Bo, Ollie and I have had, these don't really happen. Certainly not by a male doctor to a female patient. Well, it was my throat that was the issue and it was a lady doctor, so no big issues there. The examination was over in about three seconds, and then she started scribbling in her book.

4. The consultation. Have you finished this treatment, she asked me, pointing to the notes. What, you mean the five day course of antibiotics that were prescribed to me in February, I thought. Yes, I replied. The meaning is often unclear in situations like this. The doctor is obviously an intelligent woman, so I assume she must have meant did I take all the pills thus completely the treatment, rather than being so incompetent that she hadn't noticed that those notes were from three months ago.

5. The diagnosis. She then said. 'That's OK!' and told me to go with the nurse. OK? What's ok? My throat is ok? or it's ok that Seth is shoving a torch down the other nurse's throat and saying 'Aaaah'? Baffled, as I always am by the use of this phrase in Indian English ('Is there a fruit shop near here?' 'It's ok!' - I think that = I don't know, or I don't understand you; 'Excuse me, I ordered rice but you've brought chappati instead...' 'It's ok!' - that one is said really cheerfully, and a giggle when I say 'No, it's not ok!' Arrgghh) Seth and I toddled off behind the nurse. She took me to the medicine counter and handed me two prescriptions. Oh right, so I need pills. What are they, and what are they for? Couldn't get a reply to that question from the nurse or the pharmacist, so I went back to the doctor. It's can't be usual practice to ask what's wrong with you as I had to sort of beg for the information. I have swollen lymph nodes from an ongoing throat infection. for which she gave me two different types of antibiotics.

Making a sweeping generalisation, Indians don't need or value personal space like us Brits. The first time I went to the hospital my blood pressure dropped so they lay me on a bed (no sheets, you have to take your own) and I dozed off a bit. When I opened my eyes there was a little crowd around the bed, looking at me. In the consulation rooms there's usually another family huddled in there too, or all sorts of staff hanging around. It's a world away from the serenity of appointments with my GP in the village surgery.

(*If I'm not mistaken, the reason why rules like this can't be enforced is because of the complexities of caste and status. So, take the roads, a policeman from a lower caste is in charge of policing a road, but if a driver from a higher caste or position breaks a rule he isn't in a position to reprimand them. I'm guessing it's the same situation in the hospital, that the women on reception, perhaps not even the security guards can tell the patients to sit down. Roles are so clearly definded that there would be no way that a doctor would get involved. So the sign is there and is ignored!)