Thursday, November 22, 2007

Doctors and Banks

Love the first. Hate the second.

My right foot has been putting me in quite a bit of pain. I'm even limping in front of Sikhs which is quite embarrassing. They make me feel like a little weenie girl. Anyway, I injured my left knee on a bike trip to chicago a few months ago and started favoring my other leg. It threw off my gait for the next few weeks it took for the knee to heal and my foot started hurting then from the extra strain. That went away after a bit more time but it started acting up as we spent a few days walking around Dehli nonstop. By the time I got Amritsar, it was pretty bad.
I tried to find the medical clinic listed in my Lonely Planet Bible but I eventually just wandered into a little medical clinic run by a family of Sikhs. He listened to my problem and sent Tessa across the street to the pharmacy (I wonder what kind of kickback they get from him, everything in India is more complicated than it seems on the surface). While I waited, he told me that he gave me lower dosages because I am not as (he made flexing strong man motions) as we are. Tessa came back and he put some of the ointment on my foot and then wrapped it. Then he started on another patient who had been there before me. It turned out to be a man with a sizable cut on his chest. He had to wait to get stitched up while I got my swollen foot wrapped. There's something about being white. As we left, I looked at the medicine he instructed me to take. I started to laugh and laugh. I had been given ibuprofen and B12. Low dosages, of course, because we are not as (insert flexing strong man motions).

That brings me to the newest entry on my enemies list: IDBI bank of Amritsar. I did a stupid thing and left my bank card in an ATM machine. I decided to go to the bank the next day because I assumed the machine sucked it back in and getting a new card would be a pain. After many wrong turns and questions to stranger by the rickshaw driver (there's a curious custom here: the word no is seen as rude so if you ask anyone if they where something is, they will invariably say yes and take off), I get to the bank. It doesn't open for another hour but a Sikh clerk came after we had waited only five minutes. He took us into the waiting room, got chai for us and we sat and talked for the better part of an hour. I love this about India. People take their time and love to just sit and talk and talk and talk. Karan was a smart guy and I learned more about Sikhism from him although I think I impressed with what I already knew. We discussed religion in general, Indian political affairs, our families and goals in life. He threw out some eyebrow raising assertions as scientific which I am starting to realize is quite common. He told me that vegetable oil and honey, when mixed in equal proportions, acts as a poison and that the red dot that people have on their forehead is the nexus of three larges nerves. Other than that, I found him to be knowledgeable and engaging. Eventually, he recommended a great place to get breakfast and that we should return at 2 to pick up the card.
We hang out at the temple for awhile and return to the bank. It turns out that they waited for me so they could destroy my card in front of me. I got shuttled to a few different people and I kept protesting vehemently (and not quite honestly) that this card is my only source of money other than what I have in my pocket. I need it to live. They told me that they couldn't give me my card because they did not issue it. I still have a nervous tic whenever I hear the phrase "It's bank policy." By the end, I had been facing one girl for over an hour and she just simply refused. I am still kicking myself for not just grabbing the card and running but one thing kept me in check: the giant Sikh guard at the door with a shotgun. So now I am in India with $90 in my pocket. Luckily, I used to land free places to stay in Mumbai, our most expensive stop. Now I just have to figure out how to get my new card to me or how to make enough money to live on by blackmailing Bollywood stars.

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