Monday 21st November arrived and I felt sufficient hunger to nibble through an omelette and some French toast at breakfast, despite my recent instability in the potty department. Ilango had taken a long weekend off so as to return to his home town, Trichy, as it is known. After hearing of the trials and tribulations of Richard and I upon his return, he arranged for a resident HCL doctor to examine us, primarily to check our blood pressure and take our temperatures.
Midweek, Ilango’s boss, Prasad, invited us for lunch at the upmarket Fortune Hotel, located along the IT Highway into Chennai. It is hard to come to terms with the huge disparity between the opulence within the confines of the hotel and the poverty so evident elsewhere one travels.
The concern regarding our well-being continued unabated. Now based in Chennai, Charlie Gardiner, our former CEO at Welwyn Garden City, had suggested to senior manager Ramesh Satyanarayana that I see a doctor. Well acquainted with the variety of ailments India has to offer any unsuspecting visitor and never one to mince his words, Charlie’s enquiry to Richard seemed appropriate in the context. In a broad Glaswegian accent, he remarked: “I hear you guys have been s—ing your brains out.”
Ramesh made the call and so soon I found myself conveying precisely the details with regard to the condition of my nether region, to a local gastroenterologist, via a hands-free telephone conversation. An appointment was arranged for the Friday morning.
Luckily the doctor’s location wasn’t too far off, in Kothupuram, in downtown Chennai. The monsoon weather had set in over the last few days, resulting in his being held up in the rush-hour traffic. In the interim, an elderly but affable substitute doctor was available for the examination – he immediately requested a sample. Back in the waiting room, an earnest discussion in Tamilese was taking place amongst staff and nurses at the front desk. I obviously understood none of what they were saying however the one term that popped up regularly, I shall refer to euphemistically, as a small, wooden, backless item one might be inclined to sit upon. Their facial expressions certainly conveyed the sentiment of what they were discussing. Provided with a tiny plastic tube, what was subsequently asked of me called for an extreme level of dexterity coupled with a measure of good luck.
Having waited an age for the report to surface, the doctor confirmed that I had evidently picked up an infection. I was advised to abstain from all spicy food and alcohol and to consume only bland food – presumably that referred to Western food. I left around 10h45 after settling the bill, though I thought not having 50 rupees change for a 500 rupees bill rather poor show. A further surprise was in store for me as I left the clinic. An earlier downpour had resulted in the entire lane leading up to the entrance being totally under water. No-one had told me that a visit to the quack involved having to swim the last 10 metres to the front door! Murugesan, the driver, had to reverse the car all the way so that I could get in. After a stop-off at a pharmacy en route to pick up the medication, I was back at HCL. This being Richard’s last day, he was treated to a farewell presentation by the team. He flew out early Saturday morning back to the UK.
Determined to learn a few words of Tamil whilst in the country, I discovered the enormous difference in people’s reactions if you make an attempt, albeit just a word or two. A stroll from the hotel to a shop along the IT Highway Saturday morning, I greeted some local folk with a wave of the hand, a nod of the head, followed by the words “Vanakam, eppadi irukkinga?”, meaning “Hello, how are you?”, whereas “Appuram pakkalam” means “see you later”, appropriate when being dropped off by the driver. It does help to get the two the right way around, hence the puzzled look from my driver! I have to say, though, that “Nandri” (thank you!) is a sheer winner and invariably raises a broad smile, whether it be from anyone you might address in a shop or the ladies serving the tea in the HCL canteen.
Counting is as follows:
Onru: 1, Irandu: 2, Moonru: 3, Naangu: 4, Ainthu:5, Aaru: 6, Yeahzu: 7, Ettu: 8, Onpadhu: 9 and Patthu: 10.
It takes some practice though!