Monday, August 22, 2011


‘Doctor, one new problem’, she said with a beaming smile as though she has won a trophy. ‘What new problem,’ I asked with concern that must have been visible on my face,

‘Don’t worry, it is just a little BP’, she said. She had found it out when she went her doctor in the neighborhood for having felt dizzy.

Esther Nirmala is now a 50 year old grandmother. She is 5’2” and weighs 90 Kgs. Unlike other obese women she is solid and carries this weight with unusual grace. I first came to know her when she was a schoolgirl 35 years ago. She belongs to a family which has a mixture of Hindus and Christians. Her parents were Hindu, her uncle and aunt Christian, her elder sister Christian, brothers Hindu and she married a Christian, Magnus Chetan. Nirmala herself is more Hindu and becomes a Christian when circumstances so demand. Like when her child should get admission or when she has to go a hospital. Most of the good schools and hospitals in the city are run by Christian organizations and she gets preferential treatment. But in day to day life she likes to be a Hindu. She usually wears bright red colours and on her forehead a circle of red kumkum [trade mark of a married woman]. This dual existence comes easy for her as it is a very mixed community she lives in. Once I had asked her about the church taking objections to her way ward behavior. She dismissed me with one word, they understand.

She could not finish her matriculation and soon enough found Chetan, another mix like her. After a few years Magnus alias Chetan moved away to gulf [where he still lives]. Nirmala lives in Bangalore and for years they have been meeting twice a year. This has resulted in two children.

35 years ago as it is now, the parents would get worried if the girl did not menstruate at a given age and it was a concern for the mother that at 16 Nirmala had not menstruated. Those days we did not have Ultrasound to diagnose but we could clinically recognize polycystic ovaries as the cause in fat girls. Nirmala was one such and I had cautioned that if this continues she may have problems. This bothered the mother a bit but not Nirmala. She went ahead and married her friend Chetan and even before the year was over became the proud mother of a baby daughter and in the course of next 5 years produced a son. Marriage causes problems for many but it corrected the errant ovaries of Nirmala.

She became a diabetic some 15 years ago. I don’t think her diabetes was ever under control. Her philosophy was very simple, go to the doctor when in trouble, Blood sugar readings mean very little to her. What she felt was more important. When I asked her what her blood sugar was. She said it was o k. knowing her I insisted, what is ok? 200 she said with a coy smile. [Meaning 200 mgs percent, way above normal but not threatening] I told her it is abnormal. She said a week ago it was 380! This is her usual defense, things could have been worse. Her whole attitude to life has been like this and I have given up trying to make her see reason. That she has lived 50 years without any major disaster is itself a surprise. But her wayward attitude worries me and whenever she comes to see me my heart beats a bit faster because I expect her to have some serious problem, given her background.

Now she is here with blood pressure. Raised BP and uncontrolled diabetes complement each other to destroy one health. I told her that and asked her to get some tests done. She had them already and showed the lab reports. They were not good. When I told her she should take additional drugs and diet more seriously, she conceded reluctantly. ’ alright, I will give up sweets’ she said as though she is making a big sacrifice for my sake.

Did it also mean she was happily eating sweets all along? You will never know with our Esther N.

Not once she showed any concern or worry and took my leave saying, you will see I will be alright in two weeks time’

This I felt was more to reassure me.

I wish I could have written all this in Tamil, the language between us, that would have been so much more fun.

1 comment:

G.D. said...

Pretty much similar experience with a diabetic; he[lives alone] once was seen buying 2 Kgs of mangoes, & on enquiry by a relative answered-'I am eating mangoes in "black", meaning without informing the doctor' !!?
He would come in for sugar tests much after such episodes to give deceptively normal values.