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Holidays are over

Written by Antje on October 22nd 2013 22:09

It’s been a quiet week at the hospital because two celebrations have been taking place: the Hindu festival Durga Puja and the Islamic Festival of Sacrifice Qurbani Eid. Quite understandable that nobody wanted an operation planned just before the festivities began, so I didn't have much to do for a week.  

Even so, yesterday a 5 day old baby was brought in with a congenital abnormality consisting of non-development of the anus. I was pretty shocked to hear that the family had been turned away from their local hospital in Rangpur, a teaching hospital, because there hadn't been a surgeon available. If you’re not wealthy enough to be able to afford a private clinic, your options are limited. Our hospital is always open during festivals, and luckily enough the family knew how to get to us. Today we operated on the child and constructed a stoma. Later, I’ll reconstruct an anus and then close the stoma. It’s in times like these that I'm thankful for the year’s paediatric surgery I did before coming out here. Thanks to this year I had had the chance to observe these kinds of operations at least once before taking on the challenge by myself. 

It’s really been quite funny recently to hear the different ways in which people address me. By the title they use I can take a pretty good guess as to their background. Most people are not spoken to by name. Some kind of relational word takes its place: somebody is your ‘older sister’, or your ‘sister in law’ (if the relationship is with the partner), or your aunt etc. I'm often addressed as older sister (didi for Hindus and Christians and appa for Muslims). People who have worked in or for international organisations call me ‘sister’. Those who choose to address me with particular respect use ‘madam’. The title which always makes me smile a little is ‘sir’. Often the case for folk who haven’t had much education and work in the fields. 

Most people, including patients, are quite curious about my life here. The first question is usually ‘How many children do you have?’ Or ‘Does your family live here too?’ They find it very difficult to understand that an adult woman like me hasn't got a family. The persistent questions about whether I've got a husband or not are sometimes quite irritating. Particularly because it’s hard to explain why in the west we don’t have arranged marriages, but instead go ourselves to find a spouse. Recently, in one such conversation about my lack of family, a patient asked me ‘So I suppose you don’t have a Dhulabhai?’ (husband of older sister). An indirect way of asking if I, like her older sister, also didn't have a husband.

Next week it’ll be work as normal. The weather over the last few weeks has started to cool down. Last week it was even as cold as 25 degrees in the evenings. Today back up to 30 degrees, so enough time to adjust. Really nice that at last it’s not so terribly hot at night.

100_1870.jpegSunset during a walk in the neighbourhood.