As the Seasons Change

It has been a year now in Raleigh, and we have gone past the four seasons that slipped by gloriously. Last years winter was harsh, though not as bad as the ones at other places we had lived in. The spring was short while the summer was hot and sunny and now it is the period for a fascinating autumn or fall. The trees are changing color and you can watch the changing colors of green, interspersed with orange, red, some shades of purple and yellows in between, until many of the leaves fall away to leave those artistically symbolic but gloomy looking skeletal branches devoid of leaves as winter finally sets in. Then arrives those grey days filled with rain and fog and mist and frost and finally snow while scowls and grim countenances replace the happy and cheerful faces of spring and summer on faces of people that pass by.

Life has been reasonably good for us so far, though the mood is generally somber and the country struggles with the recession whereas various other minor issues come and go on the home front. In the course of these 365 or so days, we met some great people, some not so nice people and some very interesting people. Like the other day we met a couple from Cochin who read my writing and visited us, becoming friends in hours. Some call, some write, mostly people I have never seen or met, but I am thankful to all of them for remembering us from time to time.

We have made some good friends here and Raleigh is from that sense a good place to belong. Great libraries, schools & colleges, a well spread out tri-city with a lot of young people. Well, the area as such is called the triangle area, covering Cary, Raleigh and Durham. Two more cities have joined the group, offshoots from the three, called Apex and Morrisville and in this five-some, live some 30,000 desis. There are a multitude of desi restaurants, some good and some humdrum, some classy and some spartan but serving decent fare. The other day we were at one of the former, listening to live sitar as we munched Chicken tikka, and the Sitarist, a long haired Guajarati proved to be quite good actually. It is funny place from a foodie point of view, and you can judge that statement when I tell you that the best North Indian fare we found was in a restaurant run by a malayali-tamil couple!!

Shetty on the other hand is a successful entrepreneur who manages a movie theatre multiplex, the Udupi restaurant and a provision store. Recently he added an Indo Chinese restaurant with gusto. Well, we get to watch Indian movies in his theatre and that was where we saw Endhiran joining the cheering Tamilian crowd and later Aakrosh, which was such a fine movie but there were exactly two of us in the 300 people auditorium. Shetty tries gamely to elicit interest in his Chinese restaurant offering discounts for the movie ticket if you ate at his restaurant (I would not be surprised if the ‘buy one dinner get one free’ comes up there soon), though I am not sure how well that promotion is turning out.

At the home things are settling down, the lawn has been aerated, which is of course the local term for turning the soil over. Only they do not do it the way it is done in India where a laborer uses a hoe or a mini tiller to manually turn the soil over. Here they use a machine to pull out plugs of soil (like AA batteries) from between the grass and drop them on the surface thus increasing the nitrogen content or some such thing. Anyway that proved to be a hilarious story by itself, for I joined up a neighbor who had rented a machine to do it ourselves at first. It was a beast of a machine and pushing it up the slopes was not so easy. But once I got the thing going, the worst happened; it simply started pulling out the sod layer off the ground in our newly laid lawn. After many bouts of laughter by all and sundry around and moody outbursts from me, we had to stop the DIY and call in the pros. They came and took care of it quite well, and did the over seeding and all that – things which are to be done as a matter of course in these quarters during early fall.

A couple of weeks back we went on a trip up the Blue Ridge parkway. It was marvelous to drive by those quiet and serene environs. The locations as well as the road were ‘mind blowing’ (a usage very popular these days…you hear it all the time) and the sights ‘out of the world’.

It runs for some 755 km, mostly along the famous Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. So the idea is to start around Ashville and drive up the parkway stopping off and on at various locations, in a leisurely drive. Some of the stop-over’s were so great that you simply marvel at the beauty of nature and the changing color of the leaves. Oh! I forgot to mention that most people make this trip during the fall season to see the changing colors of the trees in the valley during autumn.

Most of us from India have seen only green leaves and if one of you wonder why these leaves change color here, read this interesting description from ‘Science made simple’

As summer ends and autumn comes, the days get shorter and shorter. This is how the trees "know" to begin getting ready for winter.

During winter, there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along. We just can't see them in the summer, because they are covered up by the green chlorophyll.

The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in the fall. In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the leaves turn this glucose into a red color. The brown color of trees like oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves.

It is the combination of all these things that make the beautiful fall foliage colors we enjoy each year.

We stayed in Little Switzerland for the night, a lovely little place with just a hotel and a few shops and just scenery.

I get mischievous thoughts as I write this (and have got into so many problems from those in the past) like I was thinking, maybe that is why people with diabetes have reddish hues on their cheeks. No, it is better not to go in those directions. But maybe these is some sense to all that and I think we all get so sick because we eat too much in winter when it should be the other way as around compared to nature. If you did not eat in winter, the food stored in those tires will be eaten away and you will be fit. Who knows? Maybe I am right and might become a millionaire by starting a starving clinic where no food is served and you just hibernate to music and books.

Over the last few weeks, I sat and read some great books, the latest from Archer and Forsyth – they were just ‘so so’ and the fascinating ‘White tiger’ by Adiga which I enjoyed. Now I am into Adiga’s next book ‘Between the assassinations’ and am starting yet another called ‘Red carpet -Bangalore stories’ by Lavanya Sankaran. I read a couple of stories from the latter and was lost in thought, wondering about the changes in Bangalore. Though we visit the place now and then, the underlying changes visible only to old timers come up well in this book and wryly I compare the place I once loved to that pictured in the book... Well, I will get to more on it after I am through, but I am sad, at how the character of Bangalore has changed and how much of vice has arrived to that once serene town, things I know from various relatives and after reading Adiga’s and Lavanya’s books. Cost of development I suppose.

So as the fall is setting in and the Diwali celebrations have passed, we watched a few interesting Malayalam movies, Pen Pattanam, TD Dasan Std VIB, and Patham Nilayile Theevandi (the train on the 10th floor). Wow! the acting by Innocent in the last movie is simply great and reminds you of the time when the Malayalam film industry churned out meaningful movies.

I have been going on for a while now, I think I must bring down the curtain to another of those ramblings into nothingness…We are looking forward to the winter holiday which is going to be fun, with both the kids home and some guests as well…

Parry in Madras - Chennai days – Part 3

Some days ago I wrote about Triplicane, Hamilton Bridge and Amir Mahal. I uncovered in other articles stories around the Icehouse and Burma bazaar as well, and talked at length about Muthuswamy Dikshitar and how Western music influenced him to create Nottuswaras, but Chennai would not be complete without Parry.

Parry – the very name evokes nostalgia of two kinds. One being the Parry muttai or Parry sweet, the éclair wrapped in its characteristic green wrapper. As children it was an intimate part of our lives, some liked it some hated it. Parents loved it for that was the cheapest, I never liked it. But that green wrapper which made a crackling sound when opened will always be in ones memory. The second is the fact that almost all the bathrooms of our time had Parryware installed at one time. It was the first thing you saw in the morning.

But well, for those who lived in Madras at one time, and for some who worked there for a while like me, you would always remember the bus terminus and the Parry’s corner. As you got off the bus, 13 or 5 of whatever, you saw the towering white building in the corner. It was the Parry’s building otherwise titled the Dare house. Strange isn’t it? Why was it called Dare house?  Everybody would say, it is near Parry’s building, but you would go there to see the building with the name Dare house. Well, get to that later.

The stretch from Pookada to Burma bazaar had all the offices of that time. The streets in between, the Thambu Chetty, Lingy Chetty and so on housed the various traders and their small offices, and Burma bazaar showcased all the smuggled goods. Here was where we had the great Hari Nivas and so many nice hotels. At lunch everybody would spill out into the NSC Bose road and wander around in the hot sun for a while. I myself worked at the Bombay mutual building and well, at lunch we took a short walk round the corner, past the Dare house. All the foreign sounding offices stood there, Gammon and Gammon, Shaw Wallace where my friend Krishyna Iyer worked, Crompton Greaves, Best & Crompton, Binny & Co, Standard Chartered bank and so on…

But then we did not know that this was the corner where Comte Lalle (Hyder’s man- who was in Madras after his exploits in Malabar) planted his cannons and aimed them at Fort St George, and let loose a few salvos to the very place where our friend Dikshitar used to go (or so it seems) to listen to the army bands.

Some avid readers of Hindu would remember an article ‘The house that Parry built’ written by Muthaiah. Well, he really knew a thing or two about Madras, I can tell you and simply loves carrying out that research on his beloved town. But then, today the name Parry and Co is slowly starting to ‘bite the dust’ as Queen would say and soon we will be more familiar with the Korean Lotte India Corp, I suppose. That was the story of a company which lasted through 1792-2010.

Thomas Parry and many others from England, Wales, Ireland & Scotland who came to India were from families who tarried in search of fame and fortune, to strange heathen and faraway lands as they thought at that time. They became families who left their name imprinted in the minds and soil of those lands, even after they left this abode.

His arrival in Madras in 1788 was not exactly accorded a guns and roses reception, in fact the man with the exceptionally long chin named Thomas Parry either waded or was carried across the notorious Madras surf after a difficult 5 month voyage as supercargo(!!). Little was he to know that across the Ft St George where he arrived would stand an edifice that would remain to this day bearing testimony to his efforts and toil. And would create a place that bore his name, Parry’s corner.

Parry was a free merchant of that day, one licensed to enter and trade by the East India Company. It was a time when Madras had 11 writers, 87 cadets, 11 surgeons and 110 mariners (BTW this is the white count). He was here to meet a friend of his brother in law Gilbert Ross named Thomas Chase an agent of the EIC and start a business. They did just that and ventured out into general trade, agents but mainly banking, but after he had worked as an accountant & secretary for Gen Meadows.. Money was lent out at 12.5% plus 1% commission. The main borrowers were the princes and the EIC. To those who think this percentage high, one must point out that the security was virtually none, so the risk of loss or write off was pretty high. After a profitable start, Parry started his own company in 1792. The company made a lot of money mainly owing to the wars with Tipu and the large needs of the British.

Now if I were to name the items that Parry exported in the beginning, you may not quite figure them out. They were textile types called Punjums, izalies, natchnatches, booramboor chintz and rajabahadar cloth - all various varieties of cloth I suppose. This industry was soon to be destroyed by the mills of Manchester (strange isn’t it, today there are no mills in Birmingham and Manchester, all consuming towns in Britain,  whereas the Madras textile industry is booming again some 200 years later).

Well, in 1794 Parry undertook another risky venture, marrying a widow Mary Pearce. Peaceful matrimony existed until 1807 after which Parry lost his children and his wife returned to England. But the streets of Madras provided him much amusement and entertainment, for it was a ‘city full of houris, from the Mesdames of the Choultry plain to the dancing girls with the ‘eminently beautiful counters’ and Madras was no place for celibates’. But his business was a disaster and by 1796, he gave it all up and became an employee of the Nawab of Carnatic, to look after his treasury.

Well, in 1800, Lord Clive came and changed all that; he stopped private trading and evicted people from the area near Ft St George. That was when Parry had to move his offices and thus he ventured out by 1803 to the locality we now know as Parry’s corner. It was a not a popular place, with rough sea on one side and black town behind it, whites stayed far away from that place, except for Parry. His acquisition of the site (some mention at a half price of 10000 star pagodas) was also very interesting, and is a story by itself. The corner belonged originally to Begum Malikunissa, the daughter of the Wallajah Nawab. The story centers around a deed of gift called the “Persian writing’ and held dear by the owners of Dare house, but more of that some other day. This piece of Arabic or Farsi parchment provides an interesting name to the area – The royal dwelling on the sea shores in the town of Chinapash (my history readers might remember the story of how the Chinese left Calicut and perhaps ended up here!!) was how the location of dare house was named originally in poetic Persian.

Muthiah however explains thus - After the French siege was lifted and the Esplanade created - Parry's still tend a boundary-marker of that open space - John Company's Chief Engineer, John Call, built a garden house on the site. He sold the house to Nawab Muhammed Ali, whose daughter Begum Malikunisa occupied it for several years. It then appears to have been sold by the Nawab's successor to Lautour & Co who, in turn, sold it to Thomas Parry. Here Parry re-built the house in Palladian style, with godowns on the ground floor and offices on the third floor.

By 1817 it was a multi storied building with godowns. But during all this time, his association with the Nawab had put him at loggerheads with the EIC who nearly banished and deported him. They did not enforce it provided he behaved himself, and that he did. In the meantime he had acquired interests in the Coromandel areas. Soon he entered into the manufacturing field, working with stinking leather in Santhome, or Adayar. During this time, his house or Parry’s castle was located in Santhome. Later he got into indigo business after losing money supporting the Wellesley’s and their sailing ventures. Interestingly Parry fought the Bengal establishment of EIC again and by 1809, he was formally banished from Madras using the old document which had been filed away. Parry fled to Ceylon, and around this time another interesting person entered the Madras scene, John William Dare.

Parry returned in 1813, a year when his fortunes looked up again and the EIC monopoly was rescinded. Life was OK until 1818 and after a break up of partnerships, Parry joined up with Dare who decided that shipping was an avenue to look at, interestingly at a time when it was still not possible to fill a ship up with trading goods, either way, but they made a fortune ferrying people.

Parry had in the meantime settled with another lady Mary Ann Carr and was of course happily ‘relating’ with many others (Muthiah adds - Parry's will was a remarkable document. Apart from a bequest to his sickly wife in England, he was most generous to sundry ladies, who seemed to be of all nationalities and hues, and several children.), but his health was declining and so finally in 1823, he decided to return to England. The Hindu inhabitants (landlords and businessmen) of Madras had even made a gold cup as a farewell gift but at the appointed hour, he decided not to leave. But since the cup was made, it was presented to Parry in Feb 1824, testifying his support to the poor and his friendly behavior to the natives of Madras. 

The following was the inscription on the vase.

"From the several respectable Hindoo inhabitants of Madras to Thomas Parry, Esq., of the same place, merchant, as a mark of their great esteem and respect for the support and patronage at all times received by them during his several years' residence in India, through his natural humanity and benevolence to assist as much as lies in his power the poor, distressed, and helpless persons among the community.  "Madras, 1st February 1824."

It was a time when there was but one English woman to 10 English men, not a very satisfactory ratio. Nevertheless Madras of the 1830’s was a gay place, with dances, balls, concerts and so on and Choultry plains were resplendent with those activities. By 1838 a shipload of new (female) entrants were received with gusto.

Life is certainly strange, for later that year, Parry and 10 year old George Parry Gibson (his son?)  went to South Arcot to visit his indigo factory in Porto Novo and was smitten by Cholera and died soon after.

Parry's enterprise was from then on run by JW Dare.  Parry was a gentleman, Dare a businessman, who soon shook up and turned around a limping company. But he was to die a few later in 1838, a bachelor. All these years it was Parry’s, Dare and co.

So how did the building we started with get the name Dare house? Muthaiah states thus-  His contribution is recognized in the name of the art deco building that opened its doors on the Parry site in 1940 as Dare House, when its other tenants felt that putting Parry House on their letterheads would be tantamount to supportive advertising. But that would not be right as Dare was a partner himself. Finally a Parry’s building was indeed built, but that was during the early 1950s, when more space and became essential, so Parry's not only ended the tenancies, but also built Parry's Building behind Dare House as well as Parry Annexe across from it in Moor Street. But the aspect of supportive advertising is no longer valid today as we all know; try telling that to people like Trump today who has buildings and towers named after him. In any case, this is a little mysterious as there were a couple of Dare houses around Madras at that time.

However, the reason attributed by Hilton Brown was the large impact made by Dare on the Blacktown native population. While Parry was more associated with the EIC and the Nawabs, Dare was the one who made a larger impact. In fact it appears that years after Dare’s and Parry’s death people would say to the jutka driver, that they wanted to go to Dare house, not Parry house. Dare also had his gardens in Kilpuak named after him.

Strange isn’t it, the business survives with Parry’s name, the building survives with Dares name and the whole locality is named after Parry. Incidentally the company became EID Parry after it took over as the managing agents of Eastern India distilleries and sugar factory as well as the Arcot sugar works around the turn of the 20th century. Another interesting story is the rivalry and later association of Binny & Co with the Parry’s owners. Also in these annals rest another story of how Parry tried to take over the ice business of Madras (failing though) after the American deliveries proved fickle and the Whites of Madras had become addicted to ice from Tudor.

But then those were the days – as Bruce Norton (don’t ask me who this fellow is) wrote about the ‘hum drum madrassers’ – Small talk moves in an endless cycle of tittle-tattle, scandal, mount road dust, punkhas and mosquitoes. One does not require with the thermometer ranging from 84 degrees to 90 degrees, to be informed twenty times a day that the land wind is very hot, or that the sea breeze is comparatively cool, the mosquitoes are very capable of advocating their own cause and Mount road dust would redden whiskers and spoil bonnets even were the fact not nightly chronicled at every tea table in Madras… Bruce Norton was classified a superior fellow among the gentry of that time, or so it seems, but his description of Madras still possibly stands the test of time. Though they may talk of Rajnikant and Amma in addition, the above basic constituents of Madras conversation remain omnipresent.

We cannot leave the story of Parry without mentioning a beneficiary in his will named Chillie. Who could that be? Hilton Brown concludes that it could be (chella - little pet) a native woman who was probably in Mary Anns service. She was to get Rs 5 per month and she was in fact the very last to draw from Parry’s legacy, outliving every single one of Parry’s offspring. Chellie even outlived Marry Ann who herself continued to live for 20 years after Parrys death!.

Parry’s will said - I request that my executors will pay to the following persons, monthly, the sum set opposite to their names, during their natural lives :—Mary, a poor blind woman brought up in my house, eleven rupees; Chillie, a native woman, five rupees; Beer, a CafFre, five rupees; Mary Anne, a native woman, five rupees. To all my household servants, excepting gardeners, I direct that three months' wages be paid.

W Dare however seems to have died May 18, 1838, after falling from a horse – his Obituary reads thus - At Madras suddenly John William Dare Esq senior partner of the firm of Messrs Parry Dare and Co Injuries produced by a fall from his horse and terminating in apoplexy were the causes which led to this unexpected event.

Parrys of Madras – Hilton Brown
Collections historical & archaeological relating to Montgomeryshire, Volume 19 - By Powys-land Club – See page 248 for Parry’s will

Pics - All pictures sourced from the book

Additional Notes

I found out who Bruce Norton was – He was a lawyer, the advocate general of Madras in those times. He was appointed Government Pleader in 1845 and served from 1845 to 1862. In 1863, he was appointed Advocate-General of Madras and served from 1863 till his retirement in 1871. John Bruce Norton was appointed Sheriff of Madras in 1843 and served from 1843 to 1845. His son Eardley Norton was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress; Eardley wrote for the Hindu and was very pro Indian!

The Choultry Plains of Madras - From an old census text - After the siege of Madras, the region which was known as the Choultry Plain was regarded as an eligible locality; but one or two pioneers discovered its advantages before the French attack was delivered. The Choultry plain commences about a mile and a quarter SW of Fort St. George, from which it is separated by two small rivers.To the south of the Fort, where now are the arsenal and bandstand, was a large fishing village, from which came the masula boats employed for the Company's shipping. Beyond that was the open space now known as the island. Southward still was a great sandy plain extending from the sea on the east to the Cooum on the west and from the Government House Bridge on the north to St. Thome on the south. This great plain, of which the four angles are now represented by the bridge over the Bar, Law's Bridge, Munro Bridge, and Capper House Hotel, was called Choultry Plain, from a choultry which then existed, and is probably that which now stands near the native village of Nungumbaukum. This Choultry Plain is now occupied by the districts of Chepauk, Triplicane, Chintadrepettali, Royapettah, Nungumbaukum, and Teynampett. Some of these districts were then represented by the villages from which they take their name, but in Chepauk, Teynampett, and Chintadrepettah there does not appear to have been a house. This Choultry plain has become historical from a curious accident. At a very early period the Madras troops not required to garrison the fort were usually encamped on this plain, and the Commander-in-Chiefs garden-house was consequently erected there. Thus the Choultry Plain became his head-quarters, and all general orders were issued from thence. The plain has long since been covered with houses, and at the present time upwards of 70,000 people dwell upon it. The Chepauk grounds alone represent its former greatness, yet, by a verbal figment, head-quarters are still supposed to be in the Choultry Plain, and general orders are still issued under that address, although it is probable that neither generals nor soldiers have the slightest idea of the whereabouts of the place. It must not, however, be supposed that at any period of the English occupation the Choultry Plain was absolutely open, for Nungumbaukum, Triplicane, and perhaps Royapettah are named after villages that had existed there for hundreds of years. The present native village of Nungumbaukum is an excellent example of them, for it has remained almost unchanged from that day to this.

Choultry Plain was also the old designation of the Hd. Quarters of the Madras Army; equivalent to "Horse Guards" in Westminster

Of calculi and the such

Have you ever had a calculus? If the answer is ‘yes’, my sympathies. If not, let me hope and pray that you never get one. If you did get one, let me pray that you never get another one. As for me, I had them twice, and while it was a torrid period, it did offer its lighter moments to me.

Arun my second son interjects, what Calculus? I tell him to be patient, don’t jump the gun.

I lived and worked in Bombay those days (early 80’s). We were driving to Nashik that particular day from Bombay (Bombay then was Bombay, not Mumbai and Nasik was Nasik, not Nashik) and it ended as a fairly good business trip. I got back, bone tired and brain rattled, the roads were bad in some parts and the music played in the car very loud. I was also feeling that a back pain was kicking in, a nagging pain on the lower back. I figured that it was due to the cramped seating & the longish drive.

Arun hearing the story, asks me why I never turned down the volume of the car stereo and I explain to him that it was actually a shared taxi that I used between Dadar – Nasik and back. So there are others in the car and me being the youngest of the lot, could not get my word of objection in..Arun is not able to understand the concept of a shared taxi. Fortunately for him & me, we see a nice ‘ready made food ad’ on an Indian TV channel just about then, where the taxi driver is calling for passengers and how he gets different types of people, the vendor & his basket, the hens….all that stuff & some 9 people into that taxi. Something like a mini bus. Now that he sees it on TV, he gets the point. He is all ears again.

It is sometimes fun to have a listener asking lots of questions, but you realize that as you grow old, it can be exasperating. You tend to lose the thread and you start to drift off, Arun is attentive though, he brings me back to focus, with the car trip and the calculus.

Yes, now I am back in Bombay, I get into the crowded suburban train – the dreaded Central railway services, and get off at Bhandup, where I lived those days with my brother & cousins, get into another of those shared services, this time an auto rickshaw (Arun’s eyes light up, he loves auto’s – he says the feel of the wind on his face, the sound etc excites him) for the one rupee ride home from the train station. I reach home, no problems so far, decide to pee and what do I see? Bloody pee…I was a bit shaken. Wondered what was wrong (No, Arun, there was no internet & google and the such to check out on the web in those days, listen to me, now don’t interrupt…). Waited out the evening. The pains started. Throbbing, pulsating, phew it was tough I tell you, and each time I peed, a bit of blood in the urine. The pain was horrible, coming & going in waves, it was nothing like I had ever experienced. Tears were streaming out of my eyes at that time, and I saw all kinds of stars and white lights. It was like I was seeing the Arora Borealis in the northern skies. I was trembling after some of those spasms, actually.

Arun interrupts, ‘what Arora Borealis’? I tell him to shut up & listen, promising to explain the Arora Borealis later.

I rushed out to meet my doctor friend, Dr Pawar, the next morning. He heard me out and felt that I had a kidney stone. He suggested that I get myself checked by an urologist. Off I went to Ghatkopar to meet Dr Patel whom he had recommended. By this time the pain was unbearable, coming and going in quick waves. The doc looks at me and says that I should get admitted to his hospital. He quickly injects me with a painkiller and tells me that X rays need to be taken, to start with. ‘Yes, OK, thank you doctor, I will do what you say’…off to the X ray lab where the procedure was completed without much ado. I get the film and go to the doctor to be told.. ‘Aha! there it is, I can see the calculus in the ureter and what you are going through now is intense renal colic’…

Well, well, I had studied calculus, I had some knowledge about that kind of mathematics though I was forgetting the details, but then what did calculus have to do with my ureter and a kidney stone? Dad was a doctor, still this was new to me, I had never heard of calculus in the urethra and you know how the doctors of those days were, they had no time or interest to explain these details. These overloaded guys brush you off when you pepper them with questions. I decided to keep quiet, just listen for now and ask my friend Dr Pawar later. Anyway calculus (pebble in greek) was what it was. I guessed that it was some sort of kidney stone rearing to come out of my body due to the gravitational force exerted by the earth.

Arun is giggling, you know how kids are, when you start talking about stuff that is generally not brought out into open conversation, like ureter, urethra and all that..he wanted to know what, where, I managed to shut him up & continued.

The pain was still there, I was groaning and was promptly ordered to bed by Dr Patel. It was a double room, there was another man in there, no idea what he was admitted in for. So, there I was, supine, wondering what next, when the nurse comes in. Right away, I knew we were from the same state in India..Kerala. Malayalis can usually pick out their brethren easily in a crowd. We have unique features, names, mannerisms and accent and as is well known, the nursing profession worldwide is dominated by these fantastic women from Kerala. Her name was Mariamma.

Now what? Mariyamma takes one look at the bedside chart and cluck clucks. ‘you have a kidney stone, is it painful?’ Phew… Chechi (sister) can you not see that I am half dead with pain? She now wonders how I managed this at this young age, muses that it could be due to my improper fluid intake or diet…busy life in Bombay & all….Mariyama then drops the bomb shell ‘The doc has advised an enema for you to reduce the pain, it will reduce pressure on the urinary bladder ’. I was aghast….an enema, what in hell!!!..and I did not really or exactly know what an enema is all about, though I had heard vague mentions of getting out stuff from your bowels in forceful ways using water pressure..

I squirmed, tried persuading Mariyamma that I had not eaten anything anyway , that I was OK and that I did not really need an enema, all of no avail, no way would she budge, she retorted wisely that I probably had lot of gas in there.. She then went to get the tools for the procedure and came back with that characteristic white enameled vessel and the rubber tube. Then she says ‘turn over to your side’. I was getting really embarrassed now, wondering if the unthinkable was about to happen. And she goes on, ‘now open up your legs’ (it is quite difficult to translate exactly what she said, but I hope you guys know what I mean). Even in that position, even with the extreme discomfort, even with the throbbing pain, I wondered about the irony of the situation. A lady, telling me, a man to open up??? Nevertheless, there was nothing I could do but shamefully obey. The other guy in the room could be seen sprouting a snigger, making the situation even worse.

Arun is giggling like hell by now hearing all this, he eggs me to go on…..he is getting impatient, I guess, to hear what happened.

Well, I got the idea and Mariamma, shoved the tube up. Holy cow, the next seconds were real hell, hot water coursing up. I was completely lost in all kinds of torrid feelings, discomfort, shame, and what not. Finally the act was done, she pulled out the tube, I was full of hot water and she says, OK, go and get it out. I ran in and virtually exploded..

Thus ended my one and only enema experience. I was shattered actually, wondering if I could ever look at Mariamma again. What a terrible experience!! Must say I felt better though, afterwards.

The next day, I was feeling better and the doc told me that the stone was neither big nor small, so it would eventually pass out when peeing, and that it was on its way down, albeit slowly, due to its size. He stated that I could go home, take some rest and asked me to be on the look out for the stone when delivered, as it was needed for analysis. My room-mates at home gleefully pulled my legs about the enema incident & Mariamma’s ‘open thy legs’ command, for many years after….

I went to Dr Pawar later in the day and he explained that in medical terms kidney stones are called Urinary Calculi. He suggested that I drank lots and lots of fluids to flush it out. With a wink, he added that I should probably start out by drinking a couple of bottles of beer and continue so till the stone came out. Now, Now, that was the saving grace, just what you needed to hear from a doctor…My room-mates of course offered to help, no way I was going to accommodate them after all their earlier taunts.

‘Kingfisher beer to the rescue’….I drank beer and read books for the next two days. Finally, and at long last, while peeing with dread, out came the stone in a blinding flash (you can imagine the pain) …about 4 mm long and 3 mm across. Oblong in shape, with jagged edges..the reason for the pain and the blood.

Arun pops up with an idea, don’t you think the beer companies can use this idea for advertisement? I shut him up again…

And that was how I delivered that inanimate object, christened ‘renal calculus’.

I did get a second one, many years after, this one was conceived in the middle of the gulf war, in Riyadh. It stayed on for a while, though the colicky part (labor pains) subsided quickly. It was eventually delivered at Fort Lauderdale in Spring 91, again after a few bottles of beer (Now, keep in mind that you do not get beer in Saudi) while there for a conference.

No more Calculus or Algebra…All is fine now, except for memories of Mariamma and the enema.

When I see Kingfisher beer, I still silently mutter thanks. Do you know why? Because if the calculus had not come out naturally, they would have pulled it out with a special pair of forceps equipped with a basket at its end, through you know where…No way will I go through that, nor do I want to listen to worse quips from Mariamma..

Authors notes:

This was actually written some 9 years back, but I found it recently in an old flash drive and decided to post it.

Some friends asked me why I did not opt for a Lithotripter treatment, a system where you are suspended in a basket in a water tub and sonic shock waves are directed at the calculus to smash it to powder, so that you eventually pee the residue off. A specialist doctor tells me that LT’s are used only for bigger stones, >5mm and <20mm in size..