Saturday, May 10, 2008

Where Weird Things Happen!

I love Wisconsin: I spent 3 of my best years there. In a way, I have come to consider it my home away from my home country India. But two recent incidents have me covering my face in shame and shock.
, in Necedah township, police officials found a 90-year old woman stored in the only toilet of the house, with the children of the house being forced to live with the unbearable stench for 2 months since her death. In their defense, they said that 'God would raise their mother from the dead, and that they and their children prayed for days in hopes of that happening.' In the mean time, the children were using the pail for the bathroom and coerced into not telling anyone about grandmom. The parents face charges of causing mental harm to the children and obstructing justice. Child Protective Services (CPS) have seized the children from their care.
, 2 weeks ago, a peculiar couple in northern Wisconsin took the country by utter disgust when they failed to seek medical attention for their diabetic daughter (Type I Diabetes) who was suffering from a life-endangering complication of the disease. And she died at home! Died from something that was completely treatable and correctable by prompt medical intervention. They claim to have continued to pray for their daughter in a 'show of faith' but refused to take her to a hospital. They have been now charged of second degree reckless homicide. There are several complicated issues to this legality. Medical ethics in this multi-cultural country have agreed to honor religious and personal faiths, and such things as alternative and herbal medicine, chiropractics, reflexology, etc, even if it does not meet scientific criteria to be approved by the FDA for treatment. Then, whereas adults have the complete right to refuse any form of life-saving treatment (as long as they are mentally competent enough to make such a decision), children are bound by law to receive emergency treatment even if that means over-riding the wishes of their care-takers. That includes receiving blood transfusion and emergent surgery, say, in case of accidents, when parental approval is immediately not available or possible.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Where nothing ever happens

Ravi and I visited Charleston, WV for a conference. My initial outlook was rather snooty. After all, I was from a large city, complete with high rise buildings and cursing drivers. I looked upon Charleston as a place where nothing ever happened.
We completed the conference on a Sunday afternoon and watched the speedy emptying of the hotel we stayed in. We asked a rather Marilyn Monroesque receptionist about places to eat. My initial impressions were reinforced when we found that most good restaurants were closed on Sunday afternoons as they were family owned. As hunger pangs assailed me, I told myself- 'whoever heard of restaurants being closed on a Sunday afternoon? This can only happen here!!'
Ravi came up with an idea- 'Lets get to the State Capitol, there are sure to be restaurants there'. I had no arguments to offer, and I knew he wanted to add one more Capitol pic to his kitty. He pacified me with a banana and some random biscuits. We drove the short distance to the Capitol.
Surprise of surprises, the Capitol was deserted, as rest of Charleston was. Angrily I stared at the gold domed building as we drove towards it. Ravi was more optimistic - 'maybe there is something in the front, we seem to be at the back of the building'. I had no such illusions.
As we drove to the front of the Capitol, my anger was suddenly forgotten at the beautiful sight ahead of us. The Capitol sat on the bank of a river, cherry trees dotted the bank at the bases of which there were memorials. At a lower level there was a small path for walking or biking and stone steps led further down to the water. On the other bank were picturesque homes, surrounded by trees and the green lawns of which led into the river. There were small boats dotting the river- a couple sunning themselves, another reading a book. In the horizon, a quaint old bridge was visible. The scene was one of perfect idyll, and as I rejoiced in the peace, I realized though we had slowed down to a stop, nobody honked at us, instead the cars went around. Soon we found a spot to park right by the Capitol and took a stroll on the little path near the river.
The hunger pangs returned, and didn't seem to appreciate the scenery as much as we did. As Ravi clicked a gazillion pics, I stopped a young man taking a walk to ask him about restaurants. He spoke to me at length about the delightful steakhouse, the delicious seafood place and finally said rather reluctantly after being pressed for greater culinary delights than the ones he had told me about - 'there is this place called Bluegrass Kitchen which serves some vegetarian stuff for brunch, which is close by.' I pounced on that, and thanked him for his time (a good 30 minutes), contrasted him in my head with the type of answer I would have gotten in my busy, large city.
At the cafe, I got another pleasant surprise. The place was eccentric and had a cheery outdoorsy feel to it. One end had an open brick wall, decorated with multiple unframed paintings of various dogs. There were also antiqueish lamps, a beautifully painted Gecko and other knickknacks. On the other end was a brightly painted wall, decorated with embroidered rugs. The waitresses were chugging lemonade and were in jeans and T-shirts and scarves. Our waitress informed us that all the vegetables and meat was farm grown and they made their own cream and cheese. After waiting for a short time, our food arrived and was excellent, and had a tangy flavor with turmeric, black pepper and paprika for spice. Crowning everything was the most delicious and heavenly lemon meringue pie I had ever eaten in my short life.
Vetoing my idea of packing several of those fabulous pies, Ravi reminded me about the journey home. As we drove, I silently thought about how hastily and presumptuously I had misjudged this quaint little town. Here, I had found perfect peace and a bustling, busy world seemed far away. Here, I re-encountered hospitality and friendliness which I had lost touch with. And here, time seemed to stand still with no one being in a rush to push it along, as nothing ever happened anyway!