“Science is easy…Love is hard”
My work week at Doctors For You started strong starting with a rotation in General practice medicine at the Lallubhai compound. The flow of patients was non-stop and, at points, overwhelming. Observing so many preventable illnesses within a community that is already so deprived was confronting. Deficiencies in nutrition fundamentals, including calcium, protein, and iron, were common in almost all patients regardless of illness. Sadly in the Govandi district, the most affordable, accessible, and safe-to-eat food is generally carbohydrate and fat-rich meals. Before commencing this internship, I had expected to see sorrowful and disheartened people in slum and slum redevelopment neighbourhoods. However, I have seen a passionate and determined community that embraces life to the fullest. Despite all the illness presentations in the general practice clinics, the patients and their families have spirits of great strength. It’s hard to capture into words, but when I think of how honest, receptive, and positive each patient was towards their health journeys, I feel in awe.
Working in the maternal and antenatal clinics, I met many young families and expectant mothers. I learnt about India’s laws on marriage and pregnancy, in which females must be 18 years old and males 21 to marry legally (I remain puzzled by an age variation based on gender). Despite these laws, the youthful appearance of some presenting mothers in the clinics reflected to me that child marriage likely continues in some communities. In contrast, an absolute honour this week was using a fetal doppler to listen to a baby’s heartbeat of an expectant mum. The machine took a while to pick up the heartbeat, but once located, the strong beating sound was like music to everyone in the room’s ears, and we all just smiled at each other. Fun fact: fetal heartbeats are fast, typically at a rate of 140 beats per minute. Whilst an adult’s heartbeat at rest is approximately 70 beats per minute. Just goes to show that being tiny is hard work.
Tuberculosis (TB) clinic rotation: the frontline to the respiratory epidemic plaguing many underprivileged communities in Mumbai. In the suburb of Govandi, where I am interning, TB infection is likely present in over 50% of the population. Additionally, the practice of younger females taking care of sick family members is typical in the local communities, resulting in a higher exposure risk to TB. Thus, I observed and was shocked by the number of young female patients suffering from TB in the clinics. Also, in the TB clinics, I have been learning about an integrated system which enables access to patients, pharmacists, doctors and more to ensure a seamless treatment and monitoring process. The program is called Nikshay and runs across the country as part of the TB elimination goal for TB-free 2025. In addition, I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting with local government officers of the TB program, which opened my eyes to how the state of Maharashtra is approaching and evolving new ways to reach, treat and help individuals with TB. One thing I found particularly interesting was the approach to medication adherence. When TB patients pick up their medicine from a pharmacy, they have these cool blister packs with unique phone numbers on the medication seals. Then each day, when a patient breaks a seal to take medication, they call the unique number on the seal. The call takes a few seconds into an automated system, which then, on the back end, digitally recognises the patient’s adherence to their protocol and logs it to Nikshay. Overall, this helps healthcare staff understand how the treatment is going for their patients and enables them to reach out to non-compliant patients to see if there is something they can adjust or do to help them get back on with treating the illness.
Dental rotation: I shy away from the dentist at the best of times, and yet this week, I have spent more time in root canal procedures than I think I made the need for a lifetime. Dental care in Govandi is a luxury; patients only choose to undergo procedures when a situation has become too painful for them to manage. Thus, the most common dental practices in the DFY sites are root canals and tooth extractions. One thing to note, though, is if one earns the NZ dollar, a root canal will only set you back 1000 rupees which equates to $20, so if you are ever in the region and feeling so inclined, it might be worth a check-up.
Purchasing a train ticket from Mankurd station one day, I found myself taken aback. The kind ticket seller asked my name and country and was genuinely happy that I was visiting from New Zealand. Once on the train, I reflected on the moment and realised that New Zealand has such a positive reputation here. I am continuously surprised by how many people know of our small country at the bottom of the world (although I suspect the Black Caps team and India’s love of cricket has some strong influence).
My colleagues at DFY are beautiful people both inside and out. The day before Republic day, two of the women I work with showed their amazing talent with Mehndi or henna, as some may know, and did amazing artwork on my hand.
Two birthdays in the Auckland Uni Mumbai team this week (shout out to Chris and Emma). Fun fact: last-minute cake or anytime cake delivery is a reality here in Mumbai. One can just jump on Swiggy, an Uber eats of India, and order a full-on beautiful birthday cake, decorations, and candles at 10 pm, and ten minutes later, knock-knock; it’s time to party because birthday cake is here.
On the weekend, we went to NMINS, a University here in Mumbai; a group of students welcomed us to their campus, performed for us, taught us Bollywood dancing, and shared so many tips about sightseeing and shopping in Mumbai. I was fortunate to connect with a few students over a shared love of coffee in a tea culture country. As a group from Auckland Uni, we performed for them a few songs, including Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi (thank you to the world champion Black ferns for the inspiration).
Starbucks Reserve, something I didn’t know was a thing. Now you may be wondering who comes to Mumbai to drink a Starbies?? But the thing is, India is a chai drinkers heaven; delicious chai (tea) is everywhere anytime, day or night (although commonly diabetically sweet). But at my core, I am a coffee drinker, and I have missed the bitter, rich flavour of coffee that sparks joy for me and, thus, the Reserve adventure. The Reserve experience is something with moving art on the walls, leather-bound menus of coffee any way one could think of with so many varietals. I settled on a signature americano over ice with an orange syrup infusion topped with a spiced cold foam (bitter glory 10/10).
Another day I stumbled upon a magical desert shop in our neighbourhood of Colaba, which sells dried fruits, slices, sweets and treats of all flavours, colours and sizes. I picked up some mango sweets and cashew cookies to take to my work colleagues to celebrate the approaching Republic day. Handing them out at work sparked joy in both my colleague’s faces and my heart. FYI: Sweet treat of the week is Gulab jamun; this is a ball of joy served in syrup, and only one is needed to satisfy your needs.
Phoenix palladium is a mall, but perhaps more accurately described as a shopping destination the size of a small New Zealand town. The place has hundreds of shops, bright lights and fancy displays around every corner. They seem to pump perfume into their air-conditioning units and run the whole extravaganza at cold air-conditioned temperatures whilst playing rave-style nightclub music throughout the complex. It was a fascinating spectacle; however, I was so overwhelmed by the ginormousness of the place that I brought nothing beyond some Momos for dinner.
On the 26th of January, India celebrated its Republic day, and the light show across the city was truly spectacular. Almost every building in sight had been lit up with the Orange, white and green of the Indian flag whilst all the people on the street celebrated, wearing flags on their outfits and enjoying selfies with all the lit-up buildings
Juhu beach and its street food night market is a world within a world. Street food collectives are such a fun way to engage in eating. A collection of 30 or more food stands are within a small square space on the beach, where one can pop to the counter and order a dish which is then cooked right in front of you, and then you eat it right there at the counter, sharing with your friends until you move on to the next booth to repeat the whole thing. This night was my first Kulfi experience, a frozen dairy dessert which is love at first taste. The flavour of the night for me was mango kulfi; fresh, fruity, clean, cold and just delicious.
Worried that I have left my lassi reviews behind? Never! This week’s flavours and thoughts included mango lassi from Juhu beach 7/10; it was a win for finding mango, but the consistency was on the runny side, and the cup was small, coming in at around 150 mL, which is comparatively small to previous experiences. Mango lass from the supermarket, 9/10; you can get five bottles for under $2; they are sealed for your freshness, cold from the fridge, have a great thick consistency but still drinkable, have a lovely mango taste and are not heavily sweetened.
Last day of the week called for fitness to try and work off some of the glorious food I have been consuming. So at 4 am, I jumped into an Uber with three friends to drive for an hour or two out to Sondai Fort to undertake a guided trek. An overestimation of travel resulted in an extra early arrival to the meet point, so we spontaneously yoga and stretched until our hike leads and companions arrived. Thankfully the fellow day hikers included three qualified doctors, so we were in good hands if anything went wrong (nothing did). The journey was an uphill hike with a touch of rock climbing. At the top, we were treated to a stunning view, a Hindu temple, and a bunch of young monkeys putting on a playful show for us. Following the traverse downhill, I enjoyed a calm two-hour train ride back home to Colaba.
What, who and why Pathaan?
The landmark I use when navigating back to where I stay is the Regal cinema, and this week’s special Friday night was a trip to see the long-awaited Shah Rukh Khan movie Pathaan. This blockbuster of a film is an action extravaganza, a side step beyond the actor’s usual romance movies. Fun fact: this man has an eight-pack of muscles and shows that anterior scalene muscles can exist without anatomical dissection; oh, by the way, he is a 57-year-old hottie. So to set the scene, the cinema was sold out; we were loaded into the Civic-sized theatre (two stories and all) and had seats in the third row from the back. The theatre experience here is beyond greatness. Before the main picture, the audience all stands for the national anthem (it is quite a moment of patriotism). Once the main event starts, it’s all guns blazing; all moviegoers (ourselves included) wolf whistle, singing, shouting and cheering at the top of one’s lungs throughout the film. In addition, there was an intermission in case you forgot to pick up chocolate popcorn for 80 rupees ($1.50) when you first arrived. No spoilers here but for all those wondering, I am team Jim (yes, he is the baddie and 50 years of age in real life, but he is a visual masterpiece nonetheless).