Skip to main content

Hospitals - Weekly LBC Post.

Sigh!  I missed the deadline for yet another LBC post.  It's Christmas and my daughter Mel dragged me out for a bit of shopping.  I purchased a great Christmas cake in case anyone calls around on Christmas day, or any of the twelve festive days.  It's been somewhat hectic.  My son Neil is having his pre-board examinations right now (the practise for the real thing) and has an English literature paper on Boxing Day.  Couldn't the school have been a bit more considerate?  I shall probably spend my Christmas day with good old William.  Shakespeare that is.  "As You Like It?"  Not this time!  I only hope I make it to the Christmas Mass.  What with being ill and the horrible weather and no lift, I haven't darkened the Church door for many a day, shame on me!

The topic for this week's post is "Hospitals" or "Doctors".  I choose the former.  I've had many a brush with the hospital since I got married and came to live in India.  Various members of my in-law family have been hospitalized since I came out here.  I have been hospitalized several times, for delivery and once with a pregnancy related condition.  I got to know that the differences twixt east and west are not entirely family related.

My late father was in and out of the hospital when I was a child.  I was hospitalized twice in my childhood. In Ireland of course.   I remember that once admitted, it was like you were taken out of the custody of your folks and were now hospital property.  The hospital fed you and you could only be visited by your friends and family during designated hospital visiting hours.  It's not quite like that in India, or in the part of India where I live.

During my first labour in in Indian hospital, the nurse asked if I would like some tea.  I gladly accepted her offer and then waited.   For about two hours.  When the tea arrived, it came in a flask.  She had sent my husband home to get it.  Moreover, my meals were cooked at home and brought in by anyone who happened to be there at the time.  I had a private room.  There was a small, second bed in the room.  One of my family members had to stay with me at all times and whoever was there at night, be it my husband, my mother-in-law or my sister-in-law, slept on that bed.  This was all very new to me.

The food matter confused me a bit at first.  Jokes about hospital food certainly didn't apply here.  Then it struck me that in a society where there are so many different communities and where those communities have different food habits, some vegetarian, some non-vegetarian etc., this did in fact make sense.  Having a relative (an 'attendant') to stay with you, was something very new.  I was lucky because my husband could afford a private room.  In the public ward, the 'attendants' were sleeping on the floor.  How strange was that!

The doctors came for their morning and evening rounds and practically moved at the speed of light.  Many of them were working in several different hospitals and nursing homes and had clinics of their own too, that was why.  That could be universal, though.  The nurses were seldom seen unless they were changing the bed linen or giving medicines.  I know they work hard, but I think that there just didn't enough of them.  You could practically go all day without seeing a nurse, though, it seemed.

Through my hospital stays, I came to know that most of the nurses come from an area in India called Kerala.  The Keralite nurse is as much a permanent fixture in an Indian hospital as Irish nurses used to be in the west at one time.  Not necessarily Christian girls, although many Keralites are Christian.  It seems to be a profession which predominates among girls of that region.

I remember attending Mass several years ago in the Cathedral Church in Lucknow. It was a special  Mass, celebrated by the  Bishop, for the benefit of nurses.  The Bishop spoke with great pride about Christian nurses and their devotion and dedication.  I wasn't sure why, but I could feel a deep anger welling up inside me.  I went home and thought over his words for a while.  Then it hit me.

Whenever you read in the Church magazines and bulletins about priests and bishops being ill here, they are nearly always treated in a Christian hospital, attended by devoted nuns and nurses.  The same treatment is not reserved for the average patient, though.

I remember when I delivered my babies, the actual job of washing and cleaning up the patient (me) after the deliveries wasn't done by a  nurse.  I was attended by a local woman.  Not a Christian nurse, a Hindu woman.  The day after my third delivery, I was surprised to see that the woman who had washed and attended me in my helplessness, with great gentleness and compassion, was actually washing the floor of the hospital.

Please don't read me the wrong way.  I have nothing against cleaners.  Not one little thing.  And these ladies did a wonderful job.  But  I've learnt that in the traditional caste-obsessed Hindu society, the job of cleaning a newly delivered woman was left to the sweepers and cleaning women, because it was supposed to be such a polluting job.  I couldn't believe that the Christians, the born again people of the New Testament, supposedly free of caste and traditions, had resorted to using Hindu sweepers for the traditional 'polluting' job that a nurse was supposed to do. Particularly the so-called Christian nurses who, according to the Bishop, were overbrimming with compassion and devotion to duty.  It made me wonder exactly what sort of Christianity was being practised here at all.  Perhaps it was just due to shortage of staff?  Christians are supposed to be free of useless traditions, particularly those which degrade others.  Hopefully one day, the light will dawn and they will understand what Christianity is really about, instead of being just another religious label. 

Certainly, my brush with the hospital has been an interesting cultural experience.

I want to wish a very happy Christmas and a happy new year 2012 to anyone who comes into my blog this week.

This is my weekly post for my blogging group, the Loose Blogging Consortium.  We post weekly (usually simultaneously) on a given topic and visit each other to see the different takes we have on the same topic.  We are, in alphabetical order, Conrad, Delirious, Rummuser,  Grannymar, Magpie, Maria SF, ocdwriter, Padmum, Paul, Rohit and Will.  If you have time, please visit my friends too.


  1. Rummuser's name is not in alphabetical order in my list. I just thought I'd mention it before anyone else does.


  2. gaelikaa, I think you will find that Christianity as an institution has forgotten many of their fundamental precepts, but many individual Christians and small, humble churches have not. This seems to me to be understandable ... but in need of being called out as you have in your adopted culture.

  3. I love your posts - I have learned so much from you!
    A very happy Christmas to you and best wishes for 2012 xx

  4. gaelikaa, it is unfortunate that you live in the most backward part of India. When I say backward, I mean that where such foolishness persists. You will not find this in the other parts of the country, particularly in the West and in the South. Just ask those nurses from Kerala what happens in their state.

  5. Wow, the hospital environment in India is much different from here in America. Very interesting description.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  6. Very interesting observation.
    Hear hear.
    And Happy Christmas to you and yours and good luck with all your exams and busyness.

  7. Astute observations about hospitals and nurses. Insightful and accurate, lovely read as usual :)

  8. @Conrad - isn't it sad the the original message has got so lost?

    @Teresa - Thank you so much!

    @Rummuser - Far be it from me to get into an argument - but that was a hospital run by a south Indian order of nuns. Need I say more?

    @Delirious - It is quite unique here, I think. I found it very strange when I came here first.

    @Blackwatertown - Happy New year to you too!

    @Ashok - You flatter me. And I adore you for that!


  9. That order of nuns are told to follow local, in this case, the Lucknowi/UP customs gaelikaa! In fact all orders of nuns, priests and other officials of the church are told to do so as part of the slow indoctrination process.

  10. Is it the only school holding the exam on Boxing day, or are they set by the State education system? If it is your son doing the exam, why would you have your head stuck in William Shakespeare? Surely that is putting pressure on your son and showing a lack of confidence in his ability. When Elly faced exams, I made sure the day before was as relaxed as possible. I would choose a book from the subject and open it randomly and hand it to her saying "Right" or sometimes "Left", she read that page and the book was closed. Somehow it worked and a question on that page always came up. I hope your son does well in these exams.


Post a comment

Thanks for visiting me. Please let me know you were here

Popular posts from this blog


Many years ago, when I lived in Dublin, I met someone nice and started dating. I wasn't serious, I just thought we could have nice interesting discussions about India, which I found absolutely fascinating, as I was working in the Embassy of India back then. I had no intention of getting attached with a foreigner, with all the attendant cultural problems. I was happy living in Ireland and the idea of marriage couldn't have been further from my mind.

We both thought we could just keep things in control. One day, after a lot of emotional turmoil and denial, it hit us both that we were in love. Truly. Madly. Irrevocably. To the point where we couldn't live without each other. I'd known about the Indian system of arranged marriages and when it occurred to me that he would probably be married off by his family as soon as he returned to India, I felt physically ill at the thought. We are both tenacious and patient people. We realised that bringing our two worlds together would…

Five Ways Social Media Has Changed Our Lives

Has social media changed the way we live? You bet it has! I’ve been in India for 22 years and have visited home in Ireland maybe half-a-dozen times. The biggest challenge about this, for me, has always been coping with the difficulty of making contact with old friends and family. However, that’s all over now, thanks to Facebook. I check my phone every morning and read that uncle Ned in Dublin is furious over the biased referee in the boxing match or that my cousin Paula in Dublin went to see Take That in concert (or whoever!). I speak to my cousin Veronica in Scotland every few days thanks to WhatsApp. We haven’t spoken this frequently since we wrote to each other as kids. Social media has definitely changed our lives forever. I can think of at least five ways that social in which it has affected life as we know it.

Social media makes the world more accessible to us. This is a fact. The world is at your fingertips. Find out which of your friends and family are on Facebook and once you …

Kipling Got it Wrong! Or Eastern and Western Culture - Reflections

What Is Culture?
I’m opening this blog post with a question. What is that elusive concept which is commonly known as ‘culture? Culture is way of life. How we live. What our values are.  Our customs, attitudes and perceptions. And also, I suppose, how we express ourselves in art through, such as music, dance, theatre and cinema.  It’s quite a comprehensive area and not too easy to define, really.

The Journey
I was born in what is commonly known as ‘the west’. I lived in Ireland for the first thirty years of my life. When I was thirty, I married my husband and came out to India to live here with him. That was the beginning of an interesting journey, which is still evolving. I must have had some east/west comparison stereotypes in my head. But in India, I found that the people I met had huge stereotypes in their heads about what they called ‘western culture’ and ‘western way of life’. Not long after I arrived in India, I was struck by the number of people who said things to me like ‘in the …