Vegetables, Steam and In-laws

22 07 2009

As I departed in the immortal words of Arnold, with a resolution of “I’ll be back”, little did I know that my solid confidence and regards for the Queen to uphold my blog and keep the visitors coming would be brought crashing on by her solitary post with all its tartiness in effect. The detrimental effect of having the amount of unique visitors drop from 40-something to a measly 10 for the last 4 days shows how tempered and generally non-tarty-minded my readers are (all 4 of them; the rest 36 are, I think, accidental Stumblers).

Anyway, the in-laws are still in, with an impending travel date finalized. Things are fine (and those two sentences are not related, mind you) and going well.

The atrociously weird post heading brings me to the vegetable market in WadiKabir next, where a bulldozer was spotted digging up the floor and wrecking general havoc. At the risk of upsetting dear wife, I managed to stop the car and get a peek and saw these great large trenches and deep pits all dug up, which proclaimed a “they’re resetting the drainage system” comment from an elder, after which they’ll have to re-do the flooring with new tiling. No signs of any accelerated work, nor are hordes of little dark workers being dumped; no urgency to completion, not even regular speed, as there has been no work in evidence for 3-4 days now (based on when I manage to drive by there). I did take some pics, but currently don’t have the mechanism to make them reach this pc, so that’s all pended for a later update.

Humidity and heat in the atmosphere elicited a comment from a 10-year old who pompously stated that it was so hot because of all the steam in the air. Trust good ol’ brain-farted me, who spent a good 10-minutes explaining to him the difference between humidity and steam, only for him to remark, in the manner of all 10-year olds, “I know!”, leaving me feeling pretty uncomfortable. Sadly, I avoided a 10-year old kid for the rest of our excursion trip.

Otherwise things are going on. Life goes on and the dents you try to make are pretty soon popped out by the pressure of everyday events. The huge dent put in by MJ with his death and memorial and all has already started filling in, where you can spend 3/4 hours on the telly without seeing an MJ story. QoT’s rant on Joe Jackson’s mug notwithstanding, the key players in the children’s money custody drama to emerge are more busy with lawyers and stuff than ever, who shall be ignore by the media until something untoward happens, such is the twisted demand of the viewing masses.

The Renissance Day holiday has been announced on Saturday, the 25th. All talks of the govt joining the Islamic Holiday of Israa’ wal Me’raaj and Renaissance Day have evaporated with only 2 discrete off days in 2 consecutive weeks. Good thing though that the extended weekend shall bring more people out of their houses if the current overcast condition prevail till Saturday, as it did Monday.

Stay In Peace.

-FK





Healthcare? What healthcare?

15 04 2009

It pisses me off. It really, royally pisses me off.

In the near past, I’ve had to spend some time in a hospital room. Mom had a bout of food     poisoning (probably) followed by weakness, resulting in dehydration, shooting of her blood-sugar level (darned diabetes), blood pressure and hospitalization. Called from work by a very flustered sister and being the nimbnomcoop that I am, I took Mum to the great Badr al-Sama’a in Ruwi.

Were sent to the emergency ward/room. The inital emergency saline drips were attached and  lots of blood extracted for tests. That is fine. Apparently.

After initial reports, the case is referred to Dr. S. He arrives, looks around for someone with her, spots me, confirms if I am with her, and in a very important voice proclaims “There is severe dehydration and weakness. Blood sugar is high, we shall try to control it. Also there are many ketones. We shall have to admit her for atleast 2 days”. I hmm & huh in the right places, say ok, confer with dad, consider our options and decide, ok, lets continue here itself. Mistake # 1.

Then comes up nurse # 1, hands me a slip of paper and vanishes. I stare at it, at the place where she was and then figure maybe I need to get Mum registered as a patient, after all, the “paperwork”! So I go to the reception, state the case, present our medical insurance cards, get a stare and get a :

“Where’s the patient?”

“In the Emergency Room”.

“Who are you?”

“Her son.”

“Whose medical card is this?”

“Hers”

“What is company name?”

“Xyzabc ltd”

She then proceeds to press 20 keys, the spacebar 5 times, looks around twice and asks 2 people something in her native language. Rest assured I don’t understand a word! She then calls the company, asks for a relevant person, gets Mum’s profile, rank/grade/file and get a confirmation of the medical coverage. After being satisfied *phew* she proceeds and processes us. What if it had been after-office hours? What if the relevant person had been unavailable?

“Show me Labor Card”

Okay. I show her mine.

“Is this the patient?”

“No, this is me!” *Duh*

“Want patient’s card”

“I have no idea where it is, at home, in her purse. I can find it and bring it later. You need it now?”

“Yes, now”

“We came in an emergency, kinda. Can’t it wait?”

“Now”

Luckily Mum had her purse alongwith her with her card innit. Another What If…?

Anyway, we get a room, transfer Mum, do the first round of settling in. Get a couple of close relatives to know what’s happening, get a few essentials from home, I volunteer to be the permanent attendant (I have never trusted the nursing staff, sorry). Then begins the ordeal.

We stayed there 3.75 days. I was there with Mum the whole time. In 24 hours, there are 3 different nurse shifts of 2 nurses each for the in-patients. The evening shift 5pm-1am has 3 to cope with visitors & extra load & all. Out of 7 professional nurses in an Arab country with multinational citizens in a medial clinic only “one” was kind enough to understand and speak “a bit of” English.When I asked for a spare blanket, I got a bedsheet. When I asked if there was some facility to re-heat eatables/any microwave ovens, it was something like a conversation between  2 deaf mutes, sorry, but seriously:

“Can we reheat this?”

“Huh?”

“Do you have some thing to heat this?”

“Huh?”

“Do you have a pantry? A kitchen?”

“No tea. Tea downstairs.”

“No, no, no. Do you have a microwave?”

*blank stare*

“Can I make this *pointing to dish* hot? For eat?”

“Ah! Hot!”

*enters the bathroom, opens the hot water tap*

“Ergh” *facepalm* “Forget it. Thanks”

In the end we got one of those electric hotplates.

And then there was Dr. S. He made his rounds twice a day. Only 2 rounds for an inpatient with an in-doctor (don’t ask me how I know, but he lives in the same building. 3 days in place teaches you lots.) Apparently more money is made treating out-patients. So he comes in at 9 am, when the patient is invariably asleep. But no problem, his 9 am can be as late as 11 am, no worries. He sees the blood/sugar reports, sugar/bp/medic log of the past 24 hours, the nurses and he converse in their local lingo (tamil/malaya/telgu no idea).  And then leaves. Only because I interrupt his Snape-like sweep of his coat to return, does he consider telling me something, “Blood sugar is high, we’re administering Insulin. These drips shall continue. We are giving medicines for blood pressure. Ketones are still there”. Another Snape-movement. “Doc. Till when do you expect to have her here? I need to fix things with her office and mine.” “I shall wait until stability is there.” And then Gone! Leaving me staring at the door open mouthed! (This was my 2nd encounter only. I was numb by the 8th time).

Being the way that I am, out comes the trusty P1i and Wikipedia and I search Ketones. Apparently they are something that forms when body nurtition is low. And, apparently, they are not much of a big deal. Whenever you skip a coupla meals, ketones appear. But whatever the doc says.

To cut a long story short, Mum came home. Alhamdulillah. The company footed a bill of 370-something rials. But atleast Mum was home. Albeit with 9 tablets to have per meal. For 3 days. After 3 days, the weakness is still there, blood sugar is still high, blood pressure is still high & now, her taste system is wrecked. Everything tastes ultra-salty. So we go back. Dr. S, in his infinite wisdom, increases the dosage.

“You were taking 2 tablets of Diamicron per day? Now take 2 in the morn & 2 at night!. Take 2 multivitamins.”

“For how many days?”

“30”

O_O

The same night, after the 2 multivitamins, some weird sort of swellings, alomst like insect-bites, on the whole of her arm. So at 3 am, we go back to the Great Badr alSamaa. The doc on duty, bored out of life, looks, sees the prescription of his colleague and tells the nurse to prepare a syringe with something. I dare to ask,

“Is this an allergic reaction?”

“Maybe”

“Maybe? Can it be something else also?”

“She has taken no medicine that can be allergic”

“Ah! So you’re injecting an anti-allergy?”

“Hmm.. yeah”

“Fine!”

But when repeated home-checkings of BP & blood-sugar show no improvement even on the double dosage, my non-spidey sense tingled. So did Dad’s. We took Mum to our almost-family doc, a very nice guy, his own clinic, inner Muttrah. We also take the Badr al-samaa file. He sees the list of medicines and then starts,

“This injection they billed you 8 rials. Its actual price is 300 bz”

“This injection they billed you 12 rials. Its actual price is 700 bz”

“This tablet they billed you 1 rial. Its actual price is 200 bz”

“This drip they billed you  1 rial. Its actual price is 150 bz”

“This anti-allergy he injected for 9 rials. Its actual price is 3 rials and that is because it is NOT an anti-allergy, it is a steriod”

!!!!

So this doc does his own tests, decreases the amount of tablets to be taken to 2 per day, enforces a strict diet regime (the previous one had allowed almost everything except obviously sweet things). He called Mum back everyday for 5 days for tests then is satisfied with her progress. Alhamdulilah, its been 2 weeks now, the sugar levels have dropped 50 points (but are kinda hovering around the 170 mark), Mum is back in her swing and is fast gaining on her nutritional levels.

And this latter doc, he charges us 7 rials only & 1 rial for every subsequent test.

GOD I am so anti-Badr al Samaa. Atleast make mindless profits but don’t be lax about our healths. Especially since we, being expats, cannot go to proper hospitals and have to stick to clinics.

Pray for us all.

-The Fark Knight





Dubai – Money crisis to Image crisis

8 04 2009

A lot is buzzing on the blogosphere about the BBC’s Panorama’s coverage of the plight of laborers in Dubai. UD has, as usual, a very nice piece on the matter.crisis

Recently, too many Omani had come to believe (like many around the world) that the way to wealth was easy: through speculation in shares, property and land; by being allowed to be a minority partner in some Government development; by being Mr.5% for some foreign company; or by effectively taxing the income stream of the expats you could sponsor. Money was swilling around the country as oil prices exploded and the Government spent large on big industrial and oil infrastructure projects.

Perhaps now there can be a return to sensibility: That wealth should be gained through professionalism, hard work and true value creation. That education is important because of the skills and knowledge it brings and not because it is supposed to provide a magic piece of paper that gives an automatic right to sit behind a desk reading the papers all day. That borrowing beyond your means to consume and speculate is unwise. And to be wary of hubris.

Methinks that it is only (and only) the strong hand of law (at the topmost power echelons of the country, where even the upper-upper management thinks twice, says once) that we are where we are, and not somewhere alongside Dubai (in terms of economic downfall). We used to call it ultra-conservatism, caution turned out good. Even a matter as mundane as not following the Saudi govt in matters of moon-sighting (for Muslim religious holidays, SA being the nexus of Muslims) & instead the local moon-sighting committee viewing the moon on their own and making their own decisions, even such mundane matters point to the idea of ‘think before you act’.

But the attractions Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait, their flashiness, the throwing money around, the queues at the border of cars exitting Oman, they make it hard for the ‘upper-management’ of the country to resist freehold property projects, sprawling resorts. Glad to see that we’ve been able to resist ’em till now.

Jamie Stewart, in his blog, writes about the developing trend of Dubai-bashing and somewhat passively-aggressively objects to it.

I’ve written before that there is no shame in taking a hit due to the behaviour of a posse of greed-fuelled, unregulated, Western-centric, champagne-guzzling, yacht-sailing, cigar-waving bankers, injected to the hilt with bonus cheques and platinum coke-stained credit cards, too busy getting their nails manicured, their empty suits fitted, their egg-shell-white-with-raised-gold-type business cards printed, and their lazy, sponging sons into the same company as them, to notice that they were dragging not just their partner for the night, but also the entire capitalist system, to its grubby knees.

And why is there no shame in that? Are we fine with breeding such a class? Are we satisfied with the cyclic nature of economic depressions just so that we can let this posse ‘be’.

So when the worst global recession since the great depression reared its ugly head last year, and the international liquidity river ran dry, Dubai, busy whistling away, blowing up balloons in the corner of the room and generally minding its own business, found its throat was particularly parched.

Minding it’s own business? Dubai? World’s biggest building, world’s biggest theme park, world’s most expensive hotel, world’s biggest artificial land reclamation, world’s biggest indoor ski area. I don’t think Dubai was ‘generally minding its own business’, it was making the world make its business their business (or vice versa).

So rest assured, there is still much work to be done. Wrongs to be righted. … As for Dubai, as it finds itself again thrust into the international media spotlight – and not out of choice this time – the truth is out there. Allegedly. Maybe it’s a place that grew so fast, the wheels of legislation could not keep up. Well if so, they now have their chance.

Dubai grows faster than intellectual and scientific growth in the US? Does their legislation fall behind? Okay, that was too specific of an example, but still, that’s no excuse. Granted its the way these countries work, then why expect them to fulfill all other criterion? There is no labor rights but then there is no press freedom either. There is no democracy too. There are no taxes too (no 35% income taxes, in the case of Dubai – or is there? correct me if!)

True that Dubai-bashing might be an opportunistic  trend. Indeed, when the going was good, all was good, when the going gets tough, only the tough get going. Seems the European, Indian & Chinese economies are tougher than American and Dubai-ian ones.

The labor force issue, which is the primary concern of the BBC programme, is entirely different…

Here, across the road, in Oman, we have a similar setup in terms of expat laborers. The problem is that while rich, you-pay-me-just-for-being-your-sponsor locals are sitting and earning in the good times, even then the laborers still live in 3/4 people to a room. They still have 20 men sharing a bathroom and they still live in the coolest place they can find, which is not at all related to their bed. Any site project, at any good time, has had those wooden portacabins, overloaded with men, in the middle of the desert, drinking salty/metallic tasting water, wearing the same workclothes for the entire duration of the project, handwashing them in the evening, and that too only half of them, who want to. And this is considering a 3000/3500 person workforce, where required, is a ‘huge’ project in Oman. Dubai works on a bigger scale.

Imho, it is a bit more complex than what meets the eye. Forex, consider a typical laborer that we are talking about. A person who has paid a certain amount to money to leave his country (mostly India/Pakistan). In most cases who cannot even speak the common Hindi, let alone English; cannot sign their own name; give them a suite and they’ll sleep on the floor ‘coz they have been doing that their whole life; they will still squat on top of the toilet bowl.

Seen the slumdog millionaire? That is a realistic picture. Imagine someone who has spend 20-30 years in that environment and just can reach Dubai by spending money. Does that teach him how to use the facilities he’s been provided? No. Give each man a room of his own and they’ll be all sleeping in a single one and holding drinking binges and gambling tournaments in the rest. That’s because that’s the only thing they have seen. Been to the Ford showroom lately? The salesmen there speak Yoda-English. Does that mean the company here is to blame? Maybe yes for hiring them in the first place.

I know I’m generalizing things, but these cases exist. And individual bad-exceptions reduce available facilities for everyone.

But still, basic rights are basic rights. Food, water, health. These should be provided, no matter what.

Apart from these… *shrug*.. its a sound made using both hands, not only one.

-The Fark Knight

The BBC Programme: Slumdogs & Millionaires





Catch 22 (me if you can)!

5 04 2009

Hmm.. I wanted both of them to be this post’s title. I even thought of double posting with two titles! Anyz.

Reading through this news article in the Gulf News set me thinking. An exit pass is when we are all returned our passports, then are required to get a signed piece of paper to show/submit everytime we cross the border, by land or air. I think that is worse-er than having to submit your passport! Atleast I can get my p-port from Company 47 once and travel 2-3 times before returning it, as long as I have my off-days! But with this exit permit, if we have a 10-day holiday, and I plan to travel to Oman-UAE-Oman-UAE-Oman, does that mean 2 exit passes? Who’s gonna get it signed from Company47 during the hols? What if my 2nd trip is *shudder* unplanned?

Such a travel is indeed a possibility. I recently bought a car from Dubai (before the prices hit rock-bottom, sadly). I then drove it here (went by bus 1st time), got it registered, parked it here and went back in my own car to spend the rest of my off days there. And all that with my pport with me!

SA and Qatar are using exit passes only because they are the 2 countries that are ‘left’ doing so. The others have moved on, progressed.

Another good read.

So in a nutshell, we want our passports to be free to travel and that results in us being even more trapped. And to avoid being even more trapped, we have to submit our passports.

Sigh! Where’s my red pill? Atleast no pport is required there.

-TFK