As the week sped on I tucked more and more operations under my belt. I was finding that surgery was most definitely a learned motor skill and I was pleased to find myself becoming neater and more efficient with every passing day I picked up a scalpel. Though my surgical technique appeared to be improving, the memory of the compounders that I was a mere 5ft 2 and not the towering height of 6ft 6 like Jack did not so I had to adapt to carry out many a procedure on tippy-toe.
I have to say compared to vets back home, Indian vets have a pretty laid back approach to the working day. I understand that the heat gives a natural excuse to slow down a little but they were all incredibly convinced they worked so hard, when in the afternoon, they saw maybe 5 cases and spent the rest of the time drinking chai and chatting. I feel they’d get a shock if they came to the UK, where vets barely get 15 minutes to shove a sandwich down their necks before seeing the 50th client of the day.
Julia, our fellow volunteer at the charity left to return home to Germany that week. In the short time we’d known her, Beth and I became fast friends with this no-nonsense quirky girl who had a knack for telling it like it is and we were sad to see her leave. For her farewell party, we went to a gorgeous restaurant called the Peacock Rooftop Garden. It was definitely not designed for disabled access as we had to trek up five flights of narrow winding stairs to get there (one way to build up an appetite!). However, the view was most certainly worth the climb! The whole rooftop was lit up with twinkling fairy lights entwined in a canopy of exotic plants, it looked like a pixie hollow from a children’s story book. From the top you could see all the city lights of Jaipur beneath us, and like the view, the food did not disappoint. I’m ashamed to say I jumped at the chance of having something non-Indian ( as curry for three meals a day could get a bit much, even for a self-confessed curry lover!) and went for the cheesiest, garlickiest pizza on the menu which hit the spot just perfectly!
We came home feeling full and sleepy but none the less very happy and as I was about to open the door to my apartment I felt something small and furry wiggle between my legs. I have to admit there was a small horrifying moment where I thought it may have been a rat but I couldn’t help but chuckle when I lifted up the hem of my dress to find little Rajah curled up between my legs. He clearly thought my dress made an excellent tent to sleep in and he looked fairly disgruntled and tried to get back in when I removed myself from his furry clutches. Dogs will never cease to amuse me!
The next day began what would become a regular habit of hotel gate crashing. It was so hot and we were desperate to go swimming and were craving chlorine! We were meant to have been “formerly invited” by Timi on of Help In Suffering’s trustees to go to use the facilities at her hotel but unfortunately after waiting politely for over a week for this woman was yet to turn up, so we decided to crash her hotel anyway and pay if necessary. Timi’s hotel was seriously posh, we had the taxi checked and had to walk through one of those airport metal detector things to get in. This was definitely a new experience for both of us, having this level of security in a hotel! We went in intending to be incredibly honest and went up to the reception desk and asked if we could swim. To our surprise, the receptionist just waved us through without so much as a second glance, probably assuming we were staying there (though we had just come from work so looked like something the cat dragged in…. maybe he thought we were into grunge because I certainly wouldn’t have let us in if I were him!). So we sauntered off feeling quite smug having infiltrated the hotel and gained much yearned for access to the pool. The moral of this story is, act like you own the place and people will assume you do!
The pool was dominated by incredibly modestly dressed Indians which made Beth and I, in bikinis rather self-conscious so we took a deep breath stripped off as quick as lightening and dashed to the pool. We did feel slightly like zoo animals for a little while with our pasty white bodies out and we did seem to attract a lot of ….. interest. Both men and women conveniently swam close by to have a blatant stare and earwig into our conversation. A Korean bloke in budgie smugglers so tight they should have been illegal also took a liking to us. He was the worst swimmer I have ever witnessed but he clearly thought he was fantastic and kept doing a length incredibly ( and frankly quite dangerously ) close to us showering us with water before emerging and looking over at us smugly before setting off again. He then called us over to take pictures of him pretending to swim which was frankly hilarious. I feel like the UK may be the only country missing out on this “selfie” culture as the Indians are notorious for it and so are the Koreans apparently.
As we were swimming the hotel staff had been setting up for some sort of swanky event which as the evening went on and guests started arriving, it became apparent that while we were sat on sunbeds chatting to the Indian medical student we’d met, we were unintentionally infiltrating an engagement party. The staff were very confused as to whether we were meant to be there or not ( as it became clear while we were there, having received 5 wedding invitations, most of which from people we’d only just met, that it was Indian custom to invite everybody and their grandmothers to these events) but eventually they plucked up the courage to approach us and kicked us out.
The Indian work ethic still baffled me to the same extent when I arrived as it did when I left! The most hilarious argument ensued the next afternoon at ‘chai o’clock’ while working in the dispensary clinic. A customer came in to complain about the time they’d been waiting to be seen and was angered seeing everyone sat drinking chai. To my utmost surprise, there was no apology like there would be in a UK vets, no instead they all stood their ground and justified their tea break insisting she would have to wait!!
The weather looked a bit suspicious that evening, so instead of risking swimming in the monsoon ( being submerged in a large body of water + lightening = not a good combination!), we decided to check out the world trade park which is a giant indoor shopping centre, but like everything in India, was way more complicated to navigate. It was admittedly quite nice to be able to wander around the shops without people grabbing and shouting at us trying to sell us things, and we revelled in having the opportunity to shop in peace. We again went on a hunt for any kind of food which wasn’t Indian and after much perusing, settled on Thai. The food was lovely but getting it was …. interesting, as in true Indian fashion there were 6 men there with only one man doing something and despite being wildly overstaffed, they beckoned us over every time to collect each individual food item from where we were sat (apparently, they couldn’t possibly part with one of their spectators as something then was surely bound to go wrong) before shooing us away again until the next item was ready. As we ate we also noticed that for no apparent reason (though by this point in our trip, we were getting used to this!) there were men dressed as the British Queen’s guard wandering around the food complex. We never did find out what they were for…..
The only purchases we made aside from dinner were some books (India related of course!). I purchased a semi-fictional comedy about a woman travelling around India, which I found was hilariously similar to my own experiences in India. Beth purchased the original Karma Sutra which we were both quite curious about, I have to admit! We did find it rather odd that the country renowned for creating the Karma Sutra, bible of tantric sex was as a nation, so prudish…. Though maybe all that side of them happens behind closed doors?
We arrived back at the compound to be met by Natu, one of the younger compounders who was just sat by himself outside. We went to join him and asked why so many of the men never seemed to leave work to which he replied that, like him, many of them had family who live miles away whom they can only see on their days off. With low pay which they save up for the visits home and to help provide for their families, he said it left them with little to do in the evenings.We then ( after feeling a slight sadness for the chap) asked him to teach us some Hindi which began quite innocently but before we knew it the tone of the conversation had quickly descended into Hindi swear words and learning the slang words for numerous bits of….relevant anatomy. The pinnacle of the conversation however, was when he taught us the word Tuta and Tuti ( as everything here seems to have a masculine and feminine version in Hindi) and when we enquired what it meant after lot’s of sniggering he said “Puckka pucking.” Well this was met with blank expressions from both me and Beth which he was incredibly surprised about and insisted we surely must know. We were still completely baffled so asked him to describe it to which he started doing elaborate hand gestures inserting a finger into a hole whilst chuckling like a small school child….. and then it dawned on us …. he meant (excuse my French) fucking!! Well me and Beth couldn’t contain ourselves and burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter, followed by more laughter as we tried to get Natu to pronounce his Fs properly. It was nice for the tables to be turned for once and for us to be able to correct someone else’s pronunciation! After this hilarious little exchange we truly felt like we’d broken down a bit of a barrier with Natu and the next day we were greeted with a warm grin and a few choice words to provoke a giggle. It appeared the rest of the compound had also heard about this exchange, as they too seemed a lot more friendly and relaxed around us. If we knew a few naughty words would have broken down the barrier between us we’d have pulled “pucking” out the bag a long time ago!