Yesterday was a day of adventure. In the morning, there were 5 hours of meetings consolidating all the work on the projects at RUHSA with representatives from various funding agencies. There is a palpable burgeoning of focused enthusiasm for RUHSA, which I attribute entirely to the defined leadership of Dr Rita. In 3 short months she has transformed not only the campus, but the spirit and drive at RUHSA. Projects are bounded and manageable instead of infinite and amorphous, creating a sense of journey which enables people to feel their achievements once more.
There was a serendipitous arrival of the representative for FoV Germany, whose members have become slightly disillusioned about sending charitable donations to a hospital as advanced as CMC. RUHSA, with its work at the very grass roots of need and it's philosophy of empowerment may well be able to picked this dropped stitch of apathy and knit it into the fabric of their work. Next year the focus is on sustainability which may well raising funds from other agencies. A fund raising officer, for the first time in RUHSA's history, is planned, with the possibility of creating a website - something I have been boringly banging on about ever since I went there.
Of course, the lengthy meetings meant that I did not have a chance to pack. Especially as I misread the time of the start of the meetings and was starting to pack (in the nude as it happens) when I realised I was supposed to be in the Mental Health Project meeting. Cold showers in this instance become a bonus and I barely (no pun intended) felt the icy needles, only their invigourating effects. As a result I had to spend an hour or so packing after lunch, resulting in our leaving much later than intended. It was for this reason that we were driving on the patchy old Madras Highway at night and therefore did not see the pothole. I was dozing at the time, so I definitely did not see it, but by God I felt it. It was as if the car had been dropped from a great height without the cushioning effect of the wheels. There was lots of swearing and clutching of dashboards whilst Arun realised that the car was not driving properly and pulled over to the side.
His fear was confirmed, the left front tyre was busti. Comprehensiveli busti. Of course there is no AA or RAC in India, but then there is such an air of general helpfulness that I'm not sure it would catch on if introduced. Having said that we were in the middle of Idlisquat, Nowhere. Mercifully there was a space between the busy, bumpy road and a drop to the fields below and Arun started to work on changing the tyre. There was a spare and there was a jack, but there was no handle for the jack which meant we spent a lot of time trying to raise it in a cack-handed manner using the wheel spanner. Luckily I remembered I had a very small torch. Unfortunately I forgot I had a much bigger and more effective one in my handbag. After 45 grueling minutes with lorries passing us rattling our teeth and dust beginning to cake each hair shaft, the tyre was changed.
We drove off. For about 30 seconds it was fine, then there was a suspicious noise, then a suspicious tapping, then a deeply suspicious bumping, noise and tapping all together.
"If that's another burst tyre, we're buggered"
It was. The phone came out and there was much excited jabbering on it. The phrase "rendu tyres busti" being notable for the frequency of its utterance. A plan unfolded. He would, carrying the wheel with the original tyre busti, hitch a lift on the back of a two wheeler from a chivalrous man who stopped for no reason except for boredom, curiosity and kindness, and get the tyre mended. Dubiously I looked at the large uncompromising rent in the rubber. Mended? I chose to say nothing, knowing from experience that extraordinary outcomes happen in India and who was I to question the inscrutable ways of providence?
We pulled the car over as far as possible and, vaguely aware that this was in direct opposition af advice from British Transport Police, I stayed in the car on the side of the road with the luggage (ie every single thing I owned in India - and I had done some heavy duty shopping). Off he went with his new friend. Three phone calls and 90 minutes later I heard the unmistakeable phutting of a rickshaw coming nearer. Sure enough he was back with a bulging patched tyre and three teeny, tiny mechanics. I didn't ask or look closely, I did not want to know.
The three teeny, tiny mechanics squatted around the lame, rendu tyre busti looking at it by the light of their mobile phones. I offered the services of my small torch again (I did not find the bigger one in my bag until after the work was all finished - grr). It improved visibility marginally and they set to work - having the same nightmare with the jack as we had. As they were working, between the subsonic rumbling of lorries, I heard a strange sound.
"Has that man got hiccups?" I asked Arun. He did. In the glow of the torch I could see the slight jolting of his body in time with each unmistakeable sound . The entire job was completed to the beat of his spasming diaphragm with no-one saying a word or mentioning it. Each time I heard one I got the giggles, creating a complimentary syncopated rhythm. Only in India. As I have said many a time, anything is possible in India, you just never know how it's going to be accomplished and rendu tryes bursti, mended accompanied by hiccups was not the outcome I was expecting on leaving RUHSA.