The magnificence of Petra.

 

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Awestruck describes me!

 

Most times, high expectations lead to an anticlimactic downfall. I can safely say that a visit to Petra is not one of those. Infact, it surpasses your expectations and quite literally takes your breath away. Whenever I saw pictures of the famous treasury, I assumed that Petra started and ended there. I did not realize that it is an actual city whose ruins are quite well preserved and akin to Hampi. It showcases the glorious civilization of Nabatheans and their mastery in carving out huge monoliths out of rockfaces.

 

Apart from feasting my eyes on beautiful haunting canyons and gorges, huge stark stone tombs, and the multi hued desert landscapes, it was there that I realized that I was an ignoramus in the history department and a  snob about twenty first century state of the art life style.

The Nabateans seem to have enjoyed the same pleasures that we do as far back the First century BCE on a much grander scale! I can only imagine the sense of awe that Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the Swiss explorer felt, when he first laid his sights on the magnificence of Petra.

Petra was founded in the first century BCE by an Arabian tribe called the Nabateans, who made Raqmu (an older name for today’s Petra) their capital.

The entrance to Petra is through a two kilometer long trek through a canyon. Apparently the canyon was formed by a geological fault, split by tectonic forces and then later on smoothed by water.  The Nabatheans made canals through these formations for the flow of water into the city. They also built a dam!

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Huge boulders, narrow inways.

The treasury or the ‘Al Khazneh’ is undoubtedly one of the best sites of Petra. At the end of the trek, when you are getting slightly tired of seeing endless bends in the canyon, you suddenly get a glimpse of the treasury. And it is massive. There are a lot of stories about why the treasury was built. Some say that it was used by the bandits to store looted treasure, some others believe that it was a mausoleum, a few feel it depict the calendar, some more believe that the Egyptian Pharaoh used it to store his treasure and the last one goes that it was built for its wow value. The Nabateans apparently wanted to stun anyone who entered Petra with their brilliance and grandeur. They sure did succeed on that one.

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The first glimpse

 

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There are multiple trails through which one can explore the city, and we chose one which led to the monastery. For this we walked into the city which was home to more than 20000 people. The city starts with multiple tombs. Each family had a tomb where in the dead could be preserved. Like a home for the dead family members!

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Tombs, tombs, tombs.

Beyond these are the royal tombs, which are more intricate and carved in detail.

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Then on is the royal street with buildings and palaces on both sides (most of which were ruined during the earthquakes).

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Then comes the climb to the monastery. Winding stone steps with canyons as far as the eye can see. Each boulder with a character of its own, tall, bent and moulded by natural forces for more than 2000 years. They appear to be silently witnessing our ordeal of huffing and puffing through the climb!

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The monastery at the top is the highest point in Petra. A café, a chill breeze and an almost replica of the treasury welcome us to the top. It almost seemed like the ostentaniousness got replaced by piousness as the Nabateans trekked upwards!

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After a cup of sweet mint tea, we trek back, taking with us the memories of what we saw, and wondering how we could possibly explain all that we saw to our family and do justice to its beauty.

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I remembered reading a quote by Ibn Batuta which goes “Travelling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a story teller”. Petra does that to you!

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Doctor Diaries. Patient prescribed treatments.

Thanks to a doctor’s strike in response to a very obnoxious law that the State Government is intent on passing, I finally get the oppurtunity to sit down in front of a computer without the chaos that I’m usually immersed in. Kids packed off to school, no patients waiting and my ward rounds done, I sit in my OPD and wonder how to start off. Its been so long off the blogosphere, that just the thought of writing something is giving me the heebi jeebies of a newcomer climbing on to the stage for the first time.

And then, there is a discrete knock on the door. My hired help comes in to enquire about medication for her daughter’s cold. I give her the name of a tablet and look back to my laptop screen. She hovers around and finally asks ” Ondu tonic kodbahuda? (Can I give her a tonic too?”.

And gives me my fodder for today’s blog.

Practising in a smaller city gives me an oppurtunity to deal with a potpourri of patients. Some of them young, google friendly and fit bit savvy and the others who still believe that spending a few lakhs of rupees on a puja is much better than spending a few hundred on a qualified person’s consultation. The rest oscillate between the two.

Every place and its population has its own etiquette and culture which make it unique. Apart from the cultural and religious norms that we follow, there are certain illness behaviours specific to people and their mindsets. Most of these dictims are age old and seem to have no logic attached to it, but are still followed diligently. These are a few things that seem to constitute a set of behaviours that I call “patient culture”.

Sample a few of them:

  1. Post partum mummifying:

Just as a pregnant woman can be identified by her baby bulge, so can a post partum one (in any part of India), by her near mummified state. This special garb includes a head scarf which conceals cotton stuffed ears, a heavy sweater over a nightie which is covered by an even thicker shawl, socks, (occasionally gloves) and hawai chappals.

Never mind that it may be the middle of summer with average temperatures hovering between 30 to 40 degrees. Just looking at the woman makes me feel like taking the ice bucket challenge (which was an internet sensation) willingly!

On my ward rounds, innumerable number of times, I have admonished the relatives,  made sure that the additional layers are removed and switched on the fan- only to find that the moment I leave, they sneakily get back into the same attire, tch tching about my state of ignorance about correct post partum fashion!

The lady in question accepts this with equanimity though she is sweating buckets!

2. The obsession with tonics and tonic injections (mind you, both are different and decided on by the patient, based on severity of his symptoms).

In my part of the world, patients believe that any consultation with a doctor which ends with only a prescription and some well meaning advice is a complete waste of hard earned money. Throw in a colorful looking injection and a bottle of vile smelling B complex syrup, you rise up in their eyes, as a doctor of worth.

So strong is this obsession, that occasionally, when they are strapped for cash to buy medicines, they buy the tonic and give up their antiepileptics!

I recently visited a renowned stroke center in the middle of a village in Uttara Kannada district. The center is famous for an injection which is supposed to cure stroke. Pushing through a patient line of close to 200, we met the administrator to find out what the miracle injection was. Turns out that it is Methylcobalamine (which is vitamin B12). The administrator rues the fact that patients cannot be convinced into taking physiotherapy and medication. The center does not even have a neurologist! A huge board which claims “We do not give injection for stroke” hangs desolately next to the serpentine line, with no takers for its claims!

3. The glucose panacea.

In furtherance to the obsession with injections, is the enormous level of faith that our masses have on “glucose” – which means any IV drip. Feel tired, feel woozy, not feeling like work, heart burn, heavy bleeding during your period, seizures, heart attack…. go to the nearest doctor for a glucose to solve all your problems. If the patient so much as skips one meal, the relative discretely asks me why I have’nt yet thought of the “Glucose”.

4. The concept of cold and hot foods.

Deriving directly from the concept of ayurveda is the concept that certain foods cause “heat” and “cold” in our body. When a patient innocently asks me how to cure his constipation, he gives me no clue that he knows the ins and outs of his body’s reactions to a million items on the food list. Consider this- bananas cause phelgm, milk and ragi cause cold, nothing from the fridge beacuse it causes his throat to itch, ginger and garlic give him piles and mouth ulcers, sesame and papaya are known to his give his wife increased mentrual bleeding, oily food causes cough, sour foods and peanuts give him gastritis, porridge cause flatulence,  and so on. I am left grappling with a tiny list of acceptable edibles to prescibe. So much for balanced diet!

Once you accept these stoically without batting and eyelid and nodding understandingly, your are accepted as an experienced doc!

Have you had any experiences to add?

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