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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Recovery From Cardiac Bypass Surgery: Day 12

I woke up a little late today. My father had already started exercising by the time I woke up, so it looked like his recovery was well on track, with him needing less and less assistance from me or my mother. After breakfast, there was some discussion about which of the multiple internet service plans to subscribe to with the new provider. Finally, we reached a decision to subscribe to a connection with 256kbps speed and 1 GB bandwidth limit per month for about $7 per month. The sales representatives were supposed to show up around 11:30 AM to take the application and security deposit.

Some relatives showed up at around 11 AM and we were chatting for a while about various things. They had had their shares of frustrations with the bureaucracies they had to deal with on a regular basis, and some of their stories were quite hilarious. Computerization of various things without adequate training for the computer operators had resulted in snafus that generated bills that were 10 or 100 times what they were supposed to be because someone misplaced a decimal point. There was also the story of a bank branch that took twice as long to process each transaction after the introduction of computers because each transaction was entered into a computer and also entered manually into ledgers before being completed! The more things change, the more they stay the same!

There was also some talk about how traffic had deteriorated over the past few years. The infrastructure was in pitiable condition even when I left for the US 20 years back. Since then, almost nothing had been done to improve things on the infrastructure side. But in the meantime, the number of vehicles on the road had exploded because banks had made credit cheap and readily available, enabling everyone with a steady job to buy a vehicle. Owning a vehicle became a status symbol, like in most parts of the world, and everyone who could afford one got one, even if they had no intention of doing anything with it. In fact, it was difficult to do anything with them because the streets were choked with traffic, and parking was a nightmare in most parts of the city. Parked cars spilled out on the narrow streets, clogging things up even more.

And the noise of traffic is a constant din. Honking is a way of life here, not a sign of danger like in the US. Everyone honks constantly if they have access to anything that makes noise. Only pedestrians are silent on the road! An American friend of mine in the US once visited here about 10 years back as part of an exotic adventure tour, and he made a very astute observation: he said it would be a lot more efficient if the vehicles were wired to honk by default, with the driver needing to do something special to stop it from honking if he needed to be silent for some strange reason! As it is, everyone leaned on their horns and expended considerable energy honking on a constant basis! Everyone laughed when he said this, but it is actually completely true. I think it is only a matter of time before someone realizes it, and actually rewires their horn to work as my friend suggested.

I hitched a ride with these relatives in their car and got dropped off at a mall with a couple of department stores. Unfortunately, the trip turned out to be a waste of time, effort and money because neither of these department stores had any Japanese Abacuses in stock. It looked like the abacus was losing its popularity here, with abacuses being so difficult to obtain, even through the teachers. The abacus had suddenly shot to fame about 10 years back and lots of children had enrolled in classes and learnt the technique as part of after-school activities. Now, it had reached its limits and was probably on the way down. Easy come, easy go, I guess!

After I came back home from my abortive trip, we were visited by more relatives and friends inquiring about my father's health and well-being. There was some discussion about how common cardiac bypass surgery had become and how the costs of the surgery had come down over the years while the success rate had gone up. For instance, even 5 or 10 years back, the cost had been closer to the equivalent of about $10,000 while my father's surgery had cost less than $4,000. The doctor who had performed the surgery on my father had performed over 10,000 cardiac bypass surgeries so far. He performs 5 to 8 of these surgeries on a daily basis 5 days a week, enabling him to perform about 1,500 of these surgeries on an annual basis every year. And he is just one of at least 5 to 10 doctors doing similar numbers at other hospitals around the city!

It had been hot ever since I got here, with daytime temperatures over 100 degrees on every day, and night time temperatures falling to no cooler than about 80 degrees. For some reason today felt particularly hot and sticky. I just could not get any comfort regardless of what I did. The ceiling fans were on all the time and the doors and windows were kept open for cross-ventilation, but it only seemed to increase the temperature inside the house. The hot air kept circulating over and over, and provided no relief from the discomfort whatsoever. Any part of my body that was pressed against any other or against any other object would be covered in sweat within a few minutes. The only way to get away from it was to cower in an air-conditioned room whenever the air-conditioner was switched on. In fact, I took to standing right in front of the air-conditioner letting the cold air blow all over my body rather than just being in the air-conditioned room.

The representatives of the internet service provider finally showed up late in the afternoon. Their punctuality in collecting completed applications was very reassuring! It filled my heart with hope that we would get our internet connection exactly when promised by them, with no delays! They answered a few more questions and clarified that some of the numbers they had quoted were different from what was in the sales material because the prices had changed and the sales material had not been updated. In any case, they promised that it would take no more than 3 days to get us a working internet connection. They counted off the days and assured us that the latest we could expect the technicians who would install the required equipment and hook our PC up would be Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. They also did not collect any security deposit from us. Instead they said we would be billed for it as part of the first month's bill.

After dinner, I switched on the air-conditioner in the guest bedroom and shut its doors so that the room would cool down to something reasonable by the time I was ready to go to bed. Today, I slept in the guest bedroom while my mother slept in the master bedroom with my father. It was another sign of my father's recovery that my mother felt confident enough about my father's condition that she did not need me to be next to him at night. I slept peacefully, and it had to do only partially with the air-conditioner being on all night, and not being woken up by my father wanting to go to the bathroom during the night.

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