Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Silent Conversation

Winter 2012 to Summer 2013 were our acupuncture days.   On most days our timing would match with this couple -  the husband was diagnosed with some neuro degenerative disease (not Parkinsons)  that severely reduced his speech and mobility.   

They were in their late forties.  He (hence forth referred to as ‘Uncle’!)was a businessman with his sharp acumen still intact.  He apparently guided their son in taking decisions in business by mere head nods.  She was a fulltime caregiver doing her best in supporting her husband.   We swapped stories and challenges when time permitted in between the treatment.   

One day we finished treatment and were waiting for the elevator at the same time.  That was probably the first time Appa and the uncle were seeing each other.  They both raised their hands to greet one another.   Appa indicated the arrival of the elevator and uncle motioned his hand signifying we take it first since it would not hold two wheelchairs.   They then waved goodbyes.   All this communication while we, with our perfect speaking abilities barely uttering anything.  Courtesy, politeness and grace need no words. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Temple visits in Kerala

The only outings our father had for the first few years were for treatments.   There will always be one as the flovor of the season – acutouch, acupuncture, varma or some such.   Temple visits happened only couple of times.  Our presumption was that the treatments would enable him to walk into a temple.  That plan was clearly not working.

After similar misfired treatment plans in Kerala, there was little left to do than take him to the temples around Ernakulam, and take him we did, with unbridled gusto.

To those unfamiliar with the Kerala temples,  almost all of them are stunning  be it in their simplicity or grandeur.   One of our visit was to a local Krishna temple.   We were at our unprepared best.   The driver, nurse and our father squeezed themselves into the car packed with my brother-in-law dental stuff, which left no room even for the wheelchair, forcing my sister and myself to carry it on the scooter.   

She was riding pillion and found it difficult to hold the wheelchair, I had then kept it at the foot rest only for it to bounce off when I braked at a railway crossing.  To our dismay and surprise it was on road moving as one with other vehicles.   My sister got off the scooter, grabbed it and took it in an auto.  We finally arrived at the temple by car, scooter and auto.

One of the local temples in Ernakulam.  Almost all of then had lit these stunning surrounding lamps during our visits. 

Other visits to local temples were peaceful and relatively free of adventures.   Gaining confidence and aiming higher we took him to Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Amman temple.    We miscalculated a couple of things – one, the annual Sabarimala season had started and Ayyappas in thousands descended on the temple; two, we had no Malayalam speakers with out; three, wheelchairs weren’t allowed in front of Bhagavathy amman.

Authorities asked us to circumambulate the temple and leave without seeing the presiding deity.   Wheelchairs apparently are vehicles and cannot be allowed in the inner sanctum.  There were only two ways he could go in - he either walks or someone physically carries him.  Not to let go easily after all trouble of bringing him thus far, we obviously decided to carry him.  Our driver was the first happy and willing  volunteer and I found a second after some scrambling. 

Just as we were about to lift our father off the wheelchair the manager noticed the urine bag and literally freaked out.   Without letting him to lose it any further and not giving him a moment to think I rapidly pleaded  in Tamil interspersing liberally with ‘Please’ in English and some random Malayalam words.    I think it was mainly to get me to stop talking and free himself from the bunch, he agreed, but we had to make it real fast.   Appa had a lovely darshan in less than 2 minutes.  We left mighty pleased.

My brother-in-law later mentioned that temple would be closed if any infant passed urine in the main shrine.   I was glad we didn’t create that havoc. 

Main lamp at Vaikkom temple 

When we went to other famous temples we were prepared for some weight lifting, the urine catheter and bag were hidden out of site, and there were no more surprises.   In the stunning Kodungallur BhagavathyAmman temple, it was the nurse, driver and myself who did the lifting.  In the awe inspiring  Vaikkom Shiva temple, it was our driver and a good Samaritan.  In famed Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva temple, to our delight and relief, we were allowed to roam carefree with the wheelchair.

Friends and relatives ask if Appa realized he was at these temples and if he knew what went into taking him to each.   I think he did, but that's of least consequence.  We were seeking neither his appreciation nor blessings from God, but merely offering our gratitude.    

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cranio - sacral Therapy and Dr. Manik Hiranandani

Few years ago at our Acutouch treatment we made the acquaintance of a wonderful mother-son duo.   Rudra, the boy was all cuteness and Kavita, his mother was friendly and resourceful.   Places like these are great treasure troves for information on different treatments and doctors.

Kavita highly recommended Dr. Manik Hiranandani who runs an alternative treatment clinic, which is called just that - "The Clinic", at Malakkara in Kerala.  He uses a combination of treatments, but the main focus seems to be Cranio-Sacral therapy.

After our misadventure with the Varma treatment during our Kerala stay, Dr. Hiranandani seemed worth pursuing.  Given his hectic schedule and our inability to take our father to his clinic just for a consult, we scheduled a meeting at a rather unconventional place -  the meeting was outside a bakery on the highway that was taking the Doctor from Ernakulam airport to Malakkara.

The Doctor after examining our father said that he could help, provided we commit to his treatment for a minimum of six weeks.  Promising as it sounded, our concern was   the doctor’s steep treatment charges and likely high accommodation expenses for our father and his retinue of three others.

On hearing our concern the doctor gave a discount in his fees – a deep one, but said we should make own arrangements for accommodation instead of staying at the clinic.  With this new development he seemed worth pursuing more.

My sister and I made few trips to Malakkara to assess the situation.  We took a train from Eranakulam to Chengannur, which is the closest town and the one with a railway station and from there an auto to the Clinic in Malakkara.

The Clinic is set in a picturesque spot, very well maintained, and has courteous staff.  Pity our father’s accommodation had to considered elsewhere due to their high tariff.    Everyone around was helpful and gave generous suggestions on finding accommodation, although they accepted that feasible options were few.  

Pamba river flowing behind the Clinic

We were told to ask around.  After couple of promising leads took us nowhere, ask around we did  -  local hotels, resorts, vacant houses,  friends in the U.S. who might have relatives in Malakkara or Chengannur,  shop keepers and finally just about anyone on the roads of Malakkara.

A swing at the Clinic overlooking the river 

I had set myself a deadline to find accommodation.  The date passed uneventfully.  We couldn’t wait in Kerala any longer for a magical treatment that might give our father the necessary thrust in health.  Much as we try, some of the efforts may not bear fruit or rather they may not produce results of our liking.  As commendable as hard work and perseverance are, so it is to accept the payoff for our action.  May be the lesson from this endeavor was to let go and be content. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Promise of Varma Treatment in Kerala

We spent the second half of the year 2013 in Ernakulam, Kerala.   My sister lives there with her family and was sorely missing us.  To placate her we decided to visit for a month, but ending up staying for six.

Apart from the famed Ayurvedic treatment in Kerala, its also offers other promising alternatives.  Her friends suggested a Varma treatment / massage that cures the incurable.  This is an ancient Siddha treatment with its origins from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.  Although we have had some experience of Varma in Chennai, but for some reason the one in Kerala had an authentic ring to it.  

The Master, as the practitioner is addressed, graciously made an exception and visited our father at home.   Between my sister, who can understand malayalam better than speak it, myself with no Malayalam knowledge, the Master with no English and his assistant with some English, we surprisingly communicated with ease and conveyed our father's situation. 

His assessment was that our father was too weak to withstand the Varma treatment.  He would give us an oil that had to be applied for a month and then would recheck to see if our father was ready for the treatment. The Master seemed genuine, kind and a reasonable human being.  

We debated to give the treatment a chance.  But my sister and I were insistent that the Master should start the treatment after a month of oil application, irrespective of our father's condition. With my brother-in-law furiously translating in Malayalam,  my repeated argument was that our father was already 70 years old and its basically race against time. 

All that the Master said was he will see.  We came home with the not inexpensive oil.  Almost ten to fifteen days into the oil application and basic exercises, our father's standing dramatically improved.  He could stand with minimal support for almost 5 - 10 minutes.  It had never happened before and was miraculous.  Maybe there was something to the herbs in the oil.  

But in the following days he grew increasingly tired and was sleeping most of the time.  The Master had warned us of this possibility.  Our father was so exhausted that the Master asked to stop and requested we call him in about ten days for an assessment to start the treatment.  

Given the positive start we were looking breathlessly forward for the treatment.  

Ten days later, my sister called to fix a date for the treatment only to be told by his assistant that the Master suffered a massive heart attack and was in hospital for surgery.   Great news. 

We checked on him periodically out of both genuine concern and selfish reasons.  Obviously more of the later. We also paid a visit immediately upon his discharge.  Master was on bed, would communicate only through gestures.  The gestures had only one answer - 3 months before he can be on his feet, forget rigorous massage.  So much for my race against time plea.

Not the one to give up, my sister tracked down another Varma practitioner.  He incidentally was a student of the Master, but now had a separate practice.  Maybe they had a bad fall out.   He sounded nice and promised to come visit our father the next day.   Neither did he show up at the promised hour nor did he answer my sister's incessant calls.  He later called from a new number and gave adolescent excuses of losing SIM, was busy, "oh I thought you will call", "didn't have your number".   Yes, he managed to say all of this. He once again promised to come the next day.  We never heard from him again.  We finally learnt to let go.

All the oil application, anticipation of Varma with bated breath, long drawn stay in Eranakulam didn't really culminate into any treatment.  Who says we have given up?  Maybe we will find some new Master to hound close home in Chennai. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Yoga Therapy

My good friend Chitra introduced me to Saraswati Vasudevan, a Yoga Teacher and Therapist.  Saraswati comes with years of experience, she is patient, a non judgmental listener and a wonderful teacher.   

Last summer I had monthly sessions at her place and would practice on my own on the other days.  This is the Surya Namasakaram that she taught me.


Last year Saraswati also took a session for the caregivers at our monthly meeting.  The turnout was good, reviews positive. Yoga studio 136.1 was kind enough to offer their space at Alwarpet for no cost.  The following video is a set of relaxation asanas they taught during the session.  One of her students is demonstrating with Saraswati guiding her. 

If I do not practice Yoga for few months, I turn irritable, snappy, basically a threat to myself and those around me.  With no Yoga for past 6 months looks like I am surely heading there. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sri Narasipura Subbaiah Narayana Murthy

Somewhere in 2011 my good friend Rohan sent me a link to a documentary on Ayurveda.  It showcases different practitioners of Ayurveda, its ninth part caught my attention.  One, a patient in the film suffered from brain hemorrhage and two, the doctor (he is an indigenous healer / vaidhiyar, not a certified doctor) lived in Southern India which would make the travel not too adventurous.  I guessed the adventure part incorrectly.

Sri Narasipura Subbaiah Narayana Murthy (the Doctor) lives ofcourse in Narasipura, which falls under the Shimoga district in Karnataka.  My research prior the travel showed that all one needs to do is to get to Narasipura or Shimoga and locals know the doctor's place.

Our male cousin in Bangalore who is specially fond of my father agreed to accompany me.  We left to Shimoga on a Saturday since the doctor consults only on Sundays and Thursdays. Consultation begins at 7:00am, its on first come first serve basis.  I thought 5:00am would make us sufficiently early.  But our taxi driver in Shimoga ridiculed the time and took us there around 1:00am.  Apparently the documentary that got me there was the reason for the crazy surge in crowd.

Even at this hour we were already the 10th in line.  Everyone had come well prepared.  Mats, blankets, pillows, and food.  My cousin and I showed up with nothing.  Both of us don't take well to cold weather and it was rather cold to be out on the road in the hilly Shimoga region in the month of September.

After compelling my cousin to sleep in the car, I settled down next to a friendly family on the road by the Doctor's house.  Underneath me was floor mat from the car and to cover myself a flimsy shawl.  Token number 9 and my neighbors took pity on me and gave me a blanket.  I laid on the road awake for most of the night looking at the stars above and noticing constant influx of people.

Crack of the dawn showed a large crowd of waiting patients. There was a tea stall which also served breakfast and it unsurprisingly operated only on Sundays and Thursdays.  After the breakfast we fallen 50 places behind, so much for sleeping on the road.

Note: When we standing in the line.  My cousin is the one with the monkey cap and camera.  Can see how far behind we were in the line from being just 10th the previous night.

Stood in the line for over one hour. The consultation lasted for maybe 5-10 minutes.  He gave us some local barks.  One of which we were to make a paste and give with honey, the other was to be boil in water with pepper and cumin, reduce it to half and drink it.

I came home armed with magical herbs from the hills and sincerely followed the instruction.  What I always suspected happened, i.e. no change in my father's condition.  Maybe he warded off cold with all the pepper and cumin.

Was it utter stupidity and naiveness on my part to undertake something like this? Maybe.  Lying on my back on the road, unable to sleep and looking at the stars, I knew, and I suspect so did my cousin that this wasn't magically going to make my father walk or talk.  This was our massage to the universe that we loved and cared for him and have minimal expectations on what it would bring us.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Soy Milk and Yogurt

There has been a consistent and worrying drop in the Albumin levels for my father since we started him on a Naturopathy diet - more on that for later.  The accepted minimum norm might be irrelevant for someone like my father who isn't mobile or active like most people.  Thats what I tell myself to avoid panic attacks over the seemly alarming dip.

Almonds and peanuts were given to get his levels up.  They turned out too hard for him to digest and he developed constipation and lost weight.   The next hope was on Ragi (finger millets).  We had to soak, sprout, grind, boil and reduce it to half, & finally mix it with a banana.  Will elaborate on this drink in a different post, it was delicious. Everything was followed religiously.  He developed violent diarrhea and lost weight.  Meanwhile the albumin levels kept going down.

Dr. Arun Sharma, our natural hygiene doctor / Naturopath then suggested soy milk.  Online resources like the Instructables and Sharan were highly helpful along with friends who practice organic farming.

Steps for Soymilk

I soak 100gms of soybean and get around 600ml of soymilk.  The following recipe can be for any size of 1 cup.  Keep the quantity small for the first time. 

Things you need
  • 1 cup soybeans 
  • 13 cups of water 
  • Blender 
  • Strainer 
  • Thick bottom pan 
  • Container 
Making Soymilk

  1. Wash and soak 1 cup of soy beans in a pot that has enough room for the beans to expand. Change the water after the first hour.  I was recommended this as a step to further clean the beans.  Add 3 of the 13 cups of water when soaking next.  Let it soak for atleast 8 hours.   
  2. Finely grind the beans in a blender using the soaked water. Add more if necessary. 
  3. Strain the milk using a cloth (which is what I use) or a strainer into a thick bottom pan. 
  4. Blend the pulp again with some water and strain.  
  5. Repeat the previous step after exacting the milk for the second time
  6. You would have blended the bean and its pulp 3 times in total. 
  7. Divide the 10 cups of water (minus the 3 cups used for soaking) equally while blending each time. 
  8. The milk is raw now.  Heat it in the think bottom pan for around 20 -30 mins.  Keep in low to medium heat and keep stirring. 
  9. Let it cool and strain the milk into your storage container.  
Making Soy yogurt

Its the same procedure as making yogurt from cow's milk.  Through some trial and error I've figured that the soy milk can be (not should be) slightly warmer than cow's milk for fermenting.   I use cow milk yogurt as culture for my soy milk.  No fancy starter.  Maybe this is cheating, but it works.  Also unlike the regular practice of just a tiny bit of yogurt for culture, I use a full table spoon, have found this to give a thicker yogurt. 

Some Dos and Don'ts
  • Was strictly instructed to procure only organic soy beans.  I read an article that India doesn't have much of GM (Genetically Modified) soy bean.  However to be cautious I get only certified organic soy bean. 
  • Thinner the Soy milk the easier on the stomach to digest.  If I use store purchased soy milk, I ensure its organic and thin it considerably. 
  • Fermented Soy milk much better than non-fermented for digestion.  Although non-fermented soy milk did not cause any digestion issues with my father, I stick with the fermented - soy yogurt.
  • Homemade soymilk stays good for atleast 3-5 days.  If one wants to store for longer, heat it and refrigerate once it cools down. 

The smoothie

Blend one banana, add the yogurt and blend again.  Adjust thickness with water if necessary. 

I am starting to drink this with my father.  Happy soy drinks.