My Story on Mosaic: Reservoir Dogs and Furious Rabies

(c) ParkinParkin

(c) ParkinParkin

Over the course of three and a half months, I reported about the intersection of human health and canine health which often manifests in rabies. India has the highest incidence of the disease in the world. The story was published on Mosaic, a UK-based science/health online magazine. Mosaic publishes under a Creative Commons license so it’s great to see six different media outlets syndicate the story — all 3,000 words! In addition, Digg picked up the story on the first day. Since it posted three days ago, “Reservoir Dogs and Furious Rabies” has been viewed over 21,000 times!

Trekking in the Western Ghats

For the May 1 long weekend, I joined a trekking group to a place called Kodachadri. It was about 15km (9 miles) through some beautiful hilly areas. The second half of the hike was very steep. And it didn’t make it any easier that it was close to 100F degrees. But we all made it to the top!

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Beautiful waterfall midway through the hike

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I was worried about leech encounters. Somehow this guy found my ankle and latched on. YUCK.

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The first climb was incredibly steep, though with a rewarding view.

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Street dogs hanging out at a temple near the top of the hike. Tempting to pet them until you remember they are not sterilized or vaccinated against rabies!

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This is on the way drive back to Bangalore the next day. Mama pig and her three little piggies were having their lunch directly in front of the restaurant where we stopped.

 

 

4 Months in India

Today is 4/13/15. I arrived here 12/13/14. That makes it exactly 4 months since I moved to Bangalore and to India. It’s still strange to me that I have not experienced any culture shock. Moreover, I still do not miss the U.S. Of course I miss my family and friends and cat. And I am absolutely starved for the sight of an ocean, a (clean) lake or a river. That’s likely been the toughest adjustment of all: learning to live in a landlocked city.

When I left New York/Los Angeles, I made a resolve not to step foot in the U.S. for a year. So the commitment is to a full year of living in India. When the year is over, I need to make a decision about staying on, going back home or trying out life in another city. No reason to make any plans now, though I should say that quite a few people have said that 1 year here will not be enough. And now I’m slowly beginning to understand their point. It took 2 months to find an apartment. And about the same time to start working. Forget about all the stories I want to do here … there are so many places to visit!

So if I can sum up my experiences of Bangalore in a few points, I would say:

—  nice, friendly people for the most part

— even, dry weather. every time i want to complain about the heat (as high as 100F) i remember that it could be humid and so much worse.

— so many different types of YUMMY food — Western, Eastern and blends of both.

— detest the traffic and all its attendants: dirty air, inconsiderate drivers, wasted time on the roads. every day i’m walking here i think about india having the highest road fatalities and wonder if i’ll get hit.

— irritated by the piles of garbage and lack of infrastructure. even walking on a sidewalk — where there is actually a sidewalk — is a challenge. it’s never even, you have to watch out for loose concrete and holes

— love the animals — street dogs and cows — almost everywhere. though sad to see them eating from garbage dumps

— jacaranda trees. reminds me of home.

Directions

So excited that I gave someone directions in my neighborhood today. Granted, I had to look up the place on Google Maps, but I was extra excited that it was an auto rickshaw driver. They are the drivers who usually know every corner of the city. His passenger, an older woman, asked me where to go when I was waiting to cross the street. Of course, the moment the driver stopped in the lane, every scooter behind him laid on the horn within seconds. I finally had them turn the curb so I could look up the address on my phone. Then they continued up the street to where she was going to catch a bus. Hope she got there safely!

“My Son is in the Hospital”

Or I could headline this post “A lady asked me for help today.” I was walking down CMH Road in my neighborhood toward the grocery store. A lady approaching me smiled and asked me something in English. I have to say I was surprised she was speaking in English considering she looked a bit unkempt — old and dirty-looking sari, teeth that needed a bit of fixing. She explained that she was not asking for money, but for some food. Her 40-year-old son was at NIMHANS (the renowned mental health hospital) and though the treatment was free, food was not provided. She said that he had not eaten in the last couple of days and was throwing up. So she asked if I could go to the restaurant across the street and buy 4 idli and 2 plain dosas.

I’m not sure if her story was 100 percent true, but is that what we are to judge when being asked for help? Especially because she was not asking for money. She said that I would get blessings if I helped her and kept touching my head, so I told her to please not touch me but I would help her.

I first said I would buy some bread from the grocery store, but she said that her son could only eat Indian food. I asked her to come with me, but she said “No, they will not like that a beggar lady is going into their restaurant, so I will wait here.” We walked a few more steps and she asked if I was from Bangalore but I said I am from California but my parents are originally from Kerala. This put a big smile on her face because she was also from there and she immediately switched to speaking Malayalam. I responded and asked her questions as best I could. Her name was Graciamma. She said that she had been married in 1972, her husband had died 8 years ago and her son had a mental condition. Her family in Kottayam (the same district where my parents are from) told her not to come back with her son with such a problem. She asked where I was staying and advised me to be careful about what I was drinking: “Only drink boiled water!”

I went across the street and bought 8 idlis and 5 masala dosas (I forgot the instructions about plain dosas). It took at least 15 minutes for the food to be prepared so I wondered if she thought I had wandered off. It also gave me time to think about what it felt like to be alone, wandering the street and asking for help. I wondered if I should give her money as well?

When I got back across the street with two full bags, she asked me how much everything was. So I told her not to worry, but she persisted (Rs. 390 = $6.40). She said was going to take the bus to the southern part of the city (probably an hour bus ride) and then walk to the hospital. She asked me to pray for her and her son. When we got to the grocery store, I asked her if she needed money. She said it would be nice, so I gave her Rs. 500 ($8.20). She asked why so much, but I said don’t worry about it. As I was doing this, the man who safeguards extra bags and packages in front of the grocery store was watching us and shaking his head. When the lady walked off and I walked toward him, he was still shaking his head and saying something in Hindi. So I said, it’s okay, she’s also from Kerala and we were talking. He didn’t say anything more.

Perhaps I got played big time. Perhaps her story was completely true and she was heading back to her son with some food. I will never know. But what is the point? There is something completely selfish in what I did. I guess I believe in karma — I hope something good comes back to me. I also think about that passage in the Bible in which Jesus says that when you feed or clothe or help someone in need, it is Him you are helping and honoring.

Kerala

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This is Nandini. She is a 30-year-old elephant and belongs to the famous Hindu temple named Guruvayoor in Kerala. The temple owns 58 elephants which are used during processions and festivals. Each elephant has three handlers who feed, bathe and train the animal. When they’re not working, the elephants are housed at a large “sanctuary” which people can visit. The animals can’t roam freely, though, because they are chained.

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