Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Titled Gent Gets Kicked; It Is a Privilege To Be There

The Delhi summer has taken its toll on Anna. He is eating less, preferring liquids (hot or cold) to solids. He is walking shorter distances. He is lethargic and sleeping more.

Weather 19 May - 25 May 2016

It is only after the heavy downpour on Monday, that Anna has walked to the park or eaten a proper meal. And I, smacking-myself-on-the-side-of-my-head-with-my-palm, have just realised that it is the heat. Tubelight that I am.

This morning, lethargy gave way to a new story of his young adulthood. We are drinking our first liquid of the day (Anna has hot coffee and I have warm water with lemon).
Photo Courtesy

Anna: You know, I have had the privileged of kicking a "Sir".

I am very surprised. I didn't know Anna knew or interacted with any titled gentlemen from the Commonwealth. How had I missed this story as a child?

Me: You kicked a "Sir"? When? How? Why?

Anna: You know we were together.

That seems obvious, as he had to be near a "Sir" to kick him.

Anna: He was very happy to see a machine that was made by his family in the 1930s at the factory.

I now realise that this incident must have happened when Anna was a Director at the National Small Industries Corporation, where he was responsible for the growth of small scale industries.  There must have been some titled gent who came to India, as a part of some government program.

But that does not answer the question "Why, did Anna kick a "Sir"?" So I decide to ask him specifically.

Me: Anna, why did you kick a "Sir"?

Anna: I didn't kick him. We both got kicked.

This is becoming murky.

Me: Anna why did you both get kicked? And by whom?

All is quiet and so I change the topic. I see a great story ready for the telling and want to know more details.

Me: Anna, what was his full name?

Anna: I don't remember. He was a "Sir" from Scotland. Maybe Sir Badami or something that sounded like that.

Now, I am getting really excited. My maternal grandmother was born a Badami. She had fair skin, red hair, and blue green eyes (we teased her about her ancestors having liaisons with Scottish sailors). Maybe, Anna's "Sir" had a name that sounded like Badami.

Me: So why did you both get kicked, Anna?

Anna: I provided succour to him when we got kicked. I got him into the railway station in the 5mins that the lights were put on. We slept the night at the station.

This must have been long ago when not all stations had electricity 24x7.

Me: What station was this, Anna?

Anna: He told be all about travelling to England from India. I told him how to get to Scotland from London.

I am not sure how Anna knows about travelling to Scotland from London.

Me:  So Anna, why did you both get kicked?

Anna: Not kicked. Kicked out. From a party.

I want to know the juicy details! I can almost see my eyes twinkling.

Me: Anna what did you both do to get kicked out?

Anna just gives me a small grin.

Me: Anna, did you get kicked out for getting drunk? And misbehaving?

Anna: No.

Me: Anna, did you flirt with women and hence get kicked out?

Anna: No.

I can't think of any other reasons why Anna and a Scottish "Sir" were kicked out from a party in the 50s or 60s.  So I decide to get a timeline on this.

Me: Anna, when did this happen? What year? How old were you?

Anna (looking at me strangely): It just happened. A few hours back.

Then it hits me.  He has had a very real dream.

I ask some more questions, trying to determine if there are any facts that form the basis of this dream. I don't get anything. Finally, he asks for his holdall, which is with his grandmother's sister, so that he can open it out on the berth and sleep.

The dream has not completely ended.

I tell him that his holdall has been opened and his bedding has been spread out on the berth. We take him to his bed for his post coffee nap. He lies down on his side and grabs the protective rail as if he is on a railway carriage berth, and promptly falls asleep.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pray Why Does Anna Need An Aadhaar Card?

July 2015: In Delhi's heat and humidity, Anna sleeps
on a bench during the 5 hours  it took @CGHS
to apply to transfer his CGHS card to Delhi
Nearly a year after I manage the complex task of transferring Anna's CGHS card to Delhi, I (hopefully!) complete the process of getting Anna one more "proof of identity / residence" asked for by the Government of India - an Aadhaar Card. 

Why is this something to write about when it is (or should be) a fairly simple task? Because, it isn't. Specially if you are not able bodied, or haven't lived at your current address for ages and ages. 

What is Aadhaar?
Photo Courtesy
First, why does Anna, who is 87 years old, need an Aadhaar Card? I truly don't know. 

So why am I getting him an Aadhaar card? Because last year the CMO at his CGHS wellness centre asked for his Aadhaar number. 

When the CMO was told that Anna did not have an Aadhaar number, the CMO suggested we get one and link Anna's Aadhaar Number to his CGHS membership to avail of "enhanced CGHS benefits online".  What these benefits are, no one seems to know. But like any simple, law abiding Indian, I decided to get Anna an Aadhaar Card, finally proving to myself that I am a sucker for punishment!

Then came the job of applying for a unique identification number. Downloading the form was easy. It was the proof of address that added spice to the task. Anna lives in a rented flat leased in my name.  All his utility bills are similarly in my name. His bank accounts etc. all have his Bangalore address.

So I did what any person does nowadays. I went online to search for a solution, and didn't find any. Finally the branch manager of the bank, where Anna has his pension account, suggested that I change Anna's mailing address to Delhi (without moving the account). We managed to do this by submitting letters and documents (including mine).

The main Aadhaar offices
With that done, came the task of finding an Aadhaar Centre that is car and wheelchair accessible. Again we searched the internet and found a list of centres - permanent and temporary.  We then Google-mapped and called centres near our home and found that they are all located in odd places. Some in small gallis where a car can't fit, some at the head of narrow flights of stairs a couple of floors above ground, some that have shut down and the online list has not been updated. We asked some of these places if they could send someone home to process Anna's Aadhaar Card and each time we were told that Anna had to physically present himself at the centre!
Aadhaar Thumbprint Scanning
Photo Courtecy

Finally, I reach out on Facebook, and a former colleague told me to come to Noida to a centre run under the aegis of SETU, an NGO.  We decide to cart Anna 20kms away to Nithari Village, Noida, in 41˚C heat.

We find the center with ease.  The operator is ready for us. Quickly Anna's documents are submitted, details entered, retina scanned, and photograph taken. It takes multiple tries to scan Anna's thumb prints and fingerprints.  And as we wait for the operator to verify the clarity of Anna's prints, we have this conversation:

Anna: How many body parts do they need to put into the computer to know that I exist!

Me (confused and amused by "body parts into a computer!"): Anna, they only need your retina scan and finger prints in addition to your photo. 

Photo Coutesy
Anna (smiling to hide a chuckle): Now, I can't commit a crime. Like rob a house.

We all laugh. Including the operator.

Me: Anna, even if you rob a house, with your speed of walking, the cops will catch you. They don't need your fingerprints.

Anna's smile broadens.

Anna (thinking of the recent Gaya Road Rage Case): They will catch me near the scene of the robbery even if it is 56 hours after the crime! 

With your slow shuffle, they will dad. They sure will.

We now wait for the Aadhaar Card to come by post.
I continue to research the "benefits and increased quality of services"
as a result of linking an Aadhaar Card to CGHS membership. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Anna Loses Weight Tho' He Is Eating Well

Anna's bony hand May 2015
Anna, the foodie, is losing weight. It seems losing weight is quite normal for people in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease. I’ve read that if a PD patient has a normal diet, and still loses 8 kgs or more in a year, then the chances are that the patient is reaching the end-stage of the disease (and life). There is really nothing definitive with Parkinson’s Disease. Each patient is different.  They progress and react differently. Most doctors are unwilling or unable to predict what will happen at end-of-life. But, let me save that for another post.

Back to Anna’s weight. He has lost 7 kgs in 8 months. And that has me worried. He has been ill for a number of those months. Respiratory issues in November, eosinophilia in December, and then loose motions in January. But, he’s been eating OK thru’ those illnesses. And exercising. So his loss of weight is baffling.

The weight loss really hit me a last week. I was having coffee with Anna in the morning. He asked me to scratch his back. Normally, the attendant does this for him, but that day, I did.

A baby elephant uses a bit of bark to scratch
an unreachable itch on its back
Photo Courtesy
Now, scratching Anna’s back has some serious method to it.  It starts with spreading the fingers, phalanges bent, scratching from spine to shoulder joint. After about 10 to and fro strokes, the scratching moves to an up-down motion from collarbone to shoulder blade. This progresses to long strokes of scratching from shoulder blade to hip, sweeping from spine to edge of waist and back. Sometime we scratch his back thru’ his T-Shirt and sometime directly his skin.

And the man purrs like a cat when his back is being scratched. His frown disappears. He smiles.

This time, when I scratch his back I feel bones. Knobby shoulder bones. Sharp shoulder blades. Rib ridges. And I realise really how much 7 kilos means on a body! We talk about his weight loss. Tho’ he is eating less (quantity-wise), it’s not that less to cause that much weight loss. Food is regular food – veggies of different colors, fruits, nuts, proteins, carbs. And of course sugar in ice cream, laddoo, coffee, etc.

Me: Anna, you have lost a lot of weight! I can feel your bones.

Anna (giving me a sideway glance and a small grin): I was always bony.

Anna eats ice cream after his evening walk
Me: Rubbish! You were never bony. You were healthy. You are eating OK, but losing weight.

Anna: Maybe, I should eat ice-cream only once a week.

Me (not sure how resisting ice-cream will stop weight loss): Why? Ice-cream is a good energy snack after a walk, Anna.

I can almost hear wellness advocates who read this, wince at the thought that ice-cream is a good energy snack!! But, it is! For Anna.

Vegetable Sooji Upma
Photo Courtesy 
Me (sharing the day’s menu with him): Anna, you are going to get vegetable upma with yogurt for breakfast. You can have mango milk mid-morning and masala dosa, chutney-pudi  and huli (Kannada for sambar) for lunch.  Sounds good?

Anna: Yes.

Me: You also have to have green coconut water. Have it in the afternoon with some almonds and walnuts.

Anna: OK.

Me: You also have to have papaya today.

Anna: Ay-ya-yo! Why?  It is torture. Anna hates eating papaya.

We go thru’ all the reasons why he has to have papaya every day. Yet again.

Me (shamelessly bribing him): You can have an ice-cream when we return from your evening walk.

Anna (after a defeated pause): OK-amma. If you say so.

Me: Anna, if you have a motion today, you can have energy-bomb for dinner.  Or else you will have to have besan-ka-chilla.
My mother called paneer burji energy-bomb when we were kids. 
Besan-ka-chilla helps Anna evacuate his bowels.

Anna: With this menu, I can assure you that I am fully fed up!!

We have a good laugh at this. His humour is intact.

Nestle advertisement in The Times of India 
Me (showing him an ad for Greek Yogurt in the newspaper): Anna, what is the 
difference between mosoroo (Kannada for yogurt) and Greek Yogurt?

Anna gives this some serious thought. Noisily slurps the last drop of coffee from his mug and looks me in the eye and says The  real difference is in the spelling!