Thursday, March 20, 2008

Queen Rita

My first few days at RUHSA has been and gone already, time is passing so quickly. I am so spoilt that I am imagining another 7 3/4 months here but in reality of course I have only one week. I have yet to catch up with the elusive KRJ who fobs me off at every turn. Eventually, I invoked the power of the VRCT Trustees and he conceded to make me an appointment to talk. Lying between us like some mangy dog is the threat to his ego - I am no threat to his job or anything else, in fact, despite everything that has happened and much to the disgust of my mum who is much more clear-headed about this type of behaviour than me, I am still one of his strongest advocates, both within RUHSA and with the Trustees. Perhaps I shall let him know that my loyalties are being stretched to the limits.

So, I hear you cry, what happened with the garden, did they do it? Well, I went to the village on Wednesday and sat, not looking outside, but awaiting Kalaimanai to come and help translate my cries of delight or my cries of disappointment, depending on the outcome. I'm sure they wondered what on earth I was doing, not making any effort to go and see what might have been going on in the back yard. I became increasingly nervous as no-one seemed to be wanting me to go outside. I steeled myself for disappointment. After about an hour when it was clear he was not coming, I finally went into the yard. Rathinam followed me, looking excited.

The previously barren untended land was transformed by green mohicans of beautiful, pristine bicuspid shoots, ecstatically liberated from thier dessicated seeds, the red earth mahogany with irrigation. Dotted in spaces around the rest of the yard, tomato plants grew proudly supported by bamboos, already heavy with growing fruit. Freshly toiled furrows awaited brinjal seeds. No-one needed my cries of joy translated.

When I returned from Keelalathur, in my usual state of excitement, I caught up with Dr Rita. She and I always manage to have very forward looking conversations and today was no exception. In the block I am staying are two Australian elective students aged 22 who are leaving RUHSA today having been here for three weeks. They have had a terrible time; bored senseless by the lack of activities and restrictions. Being so young, they are not very able to find ways of entertaining themselves, so much so that they have been going to sleep at 7.30 at night. I hate people leaving RUHSA hating it, it is especially frustrating considering the latent knowledge base and fascinating opportunities RUHSA could offerNot only do they fail to capitalise on these chracteristics, but they are completely negated by the soulless empty atmosphere.

Rita and I have discussed this several times, and both agree that visiting forgeigners and interns should not be subject to the ridiculous strictures placed on the Convent nursing students. There needs to be a space wehere people can meet and gather, cook dinner occasionally to break the monotony of rice and sambar, even watch television. The ultimate aim is to build an international hostel but that will take time - just think how long the one room kitchen at Keelelathur took. Then Rita had a brainwave, and a Rita brainwave is more than pie in the sky, she will organise it I know. She will convert one of the rooms in the hostel building to a common room and kitchen. She has already been responsible for putting up curtains and bedspreads. I added an extra plea - to change the mattresses which cause me so much grief, resembling, as they do, lonely unbuttered Ryvita, only marginally less springy. What a genius idea, not only that but I will suggest a bookcase and then I bring over all my unwanted novels next time and games etc. It will make a huge difference to foreign students, I hear there is a girl coming out for a year. She will slash her wrists if there is not an improvement.

Whilst chatting to Ria, I noticed a peice of paper on her desk with her personal details on and noticed that her birth date indicated that she was due a significant event in three days time. Rather cheekily I told her I had noticed and wished her a happy birthday. She shook her head and said no, no that it not my birthday. So was the date on the form wrong? No, no, that is my official birthday, my real birthday is in July. I was confused. Eventually after much complicated explanation, she told me that owing to a glitch in her schooling when she was fourteen, the only way she was alowed to continue to atetend the school she was at was if they changed her official birthday and brought it forwards 4 months. Consequently, all her official documents, passport, driving licence, medical licence, work application documents all give the March date. Every year, the institution she works at sends her a birthday card 4 months early. She was delighted when I told her that the only other person I knew of with an official and personal birthday was the queen.

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