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India Trip Notes

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3-30-11 - Cost and Effect

I pay one rupee, two point two cents, for my morning paper. How can that be? I thought that US papers were a quarter, fifty cents, a dollar at least somewhat because of the price of paper. It's not a big paper, but it's got the basic, minimal, world news, maybe a New York Times columnist, my favorite bridge columnist and a page of color funnies including Calvin and Hobbes reruns and the two pictures that I find six differences between, and I get hypnotized by those pictures which I look at every day here and back home and think, what a charming little world in there. All for one rupee.

To continue in this vein for a moment, remember what I paid to go to the hospital when I ate the samosa with all the ants on it [3-25-11 - Random observations and Botox ants attack]? About 98 cents and that's including two shots and some medicine to reduce the swelling. I guess it's subsidized.

The other day I had a crown fall out. It was funny because I was at KC and Kama's and his cousin Shantam was serving us coconut and I bit a hard piece of shell that he'd missed and Kama said, "You can't sue us in India like in the States." It was later at dinner that it came out. It was gold. I'd been planning on seeing a dentist because I was getting some pain that was clearly a cavity if I slept on my right side and Gita had already given me the phone number of a dentist her friend Haike uses.

I called him at seven in the evening. He said come right down. Venka auto-rickshawed there pretty quick after talking to the doc about directions. By the big temple downtown. Leave shoes outside by the backup generator. Nice place - once you leave the typical approach. Air conditioned. TV. Ten people waiting. I heard some grumbling I thought when I went in before eight of them. Very nice inside his office. Two chairs, assistant on someone else.

I'd brought the fallen crown as an afterthought. He looked at it and where it came from and worked on it all and re-attached it. He said it might come out again in a couple of years. Then he looked for where the pain I'd been getting was coming from. He had digital x-ray which my dentists in the States can't afford to upgrade to. Good reason to use a younger dentist. They have something like a quarter of the radiation which is not negligible and he only took one snapshot after figuring out where he thought the cavity was which was not where I thought it was. He had a pen like camera so we could clearly both see my teeth on the, say, 24 inch screen in front. Time's up. Will get that cavity next time and I needed another cap where some tooth had broken off. The bill, 750 rupees, about $16.50. And I think I was paying a premium price.

I went back in a couple of days and said that the crown he'd re-attached was opposite the crown I'd gotten in Germany (with root canal) and it had been a little high and my dentist in Guerneville had brought it down and I'd thought it was okay but that now I realized it had always hurt a little but no more cause he'd done it just right. Then he filled the small cavity with no Novocain which I've rarely found to be necessary and got a temporary cap in place. The filling was 1200 rupees - $26. I was away for a while and when I came back he put in the final cap with a temporary glue and asked me to live with it for two weeks before he used the final glue. The cap cost 5000 - $110.

Not just that - Dr. Manoharan, call me Mano, was up on the disadvantages of amalgam fillings because of the mercury which he indicated isn't done anymore but I'm not sure where it's not done. I thought they still did it in the States. He also talked about the connection between Mercury and health, especially degenerative nerve diseases. And he had the sweetest thin, dark assistants whom I noticed were studying in their spare time.

The other day I called Venka and asked if this was a good time for me to go shopping and he was at my door in ten minutes. I showed him the screens I was putting in a tiny side room so I could get that ventilation. We'd bought the screening and Velcro together a while back and I was just getting to the final steps. Gave him the can of old contact cement and said I needed another and indicated where I wanted to attach ribbon around so the glued, unsightly back of the Velcro wouldn't be exposed through the screen edge (as is the norm). Showed Venka the painted cloth Lakshmi wall hanging I needed string for because the celo-tape was not holding it to the wall. Yes I knew the string wouldn't keep it spread out - planning to attach the hanging to a big piece of cardboard that came with the fridge. Approved. Showed him the business card for the phone and modem store - he's been there but to remind him - and showed him the little UCB modem. Picked up a bowl and said I wanted some small flat stainless plates to cover things while covering with my palm. Indicated in word and gesture at the spot that I wanted a bead curtain to hang in front of my screen door for privacy cause I leave the carved wooden door open a lot - not very important up here on the first floor (above the ground floor). He paid close attention. He speaks some English but we have a lot of misunderstandings and trouble getting stuff across to each other so the more show and tell the better.

Venka spent two hours with me driving into the center of town and around through small streets and wide, doing u-turns, puling up, crossing busy streets, sometimes while holding my hand to make sure I survived, coming in with me to the various stops where he either takes a lead or pays attention in case I need help.

He thought I wanted a fabric hanging in front of my screen door. We couldn't find a bead one. Katrinka and I were pretty sure we saw them somewhere. They use the word mesh where we say screen. I had to find some beads and hold them up till he got the idea.

We did everything and he delivered me back safely but thrillingly through the streets. "How much,?" I asked. One eighty. I gave him two hundred - that's $4.40 for two hours of personalized chauffeuring and assisting.

There was a financial setback. I'd bought a defective modem in Chennai and it took about five weeks to finally get a new one  - after many visits to small stores in Pune and Tiru and pointless calls to customer service, an earlier return visit in Chennai when they thought they'd fixed it, and the guy who sold it to me using any excuse possible, finally on the last visit to the Chennai Vodaphone store I stayed there after they thought they'd fixed it and kept using it till it conked out and then they finally were convinced and gave me a new Sim card which I sat in their air-conditioned store and used for three hours to be sure and it still works.

Vinod at Galaxy Computers and Cell phones had earnestly tried to help me with that, keeping it for a week till giving up - he couldn't get any help from customer service either. I went back with Venka, told him everything was fine, but asked how I tell how many minutes I've got left? Then I found out that I get a ton of free time a month for the first six months which I'd probably been told when I got it and forgotten when I thought the problem was I'd run out of time and put 1000 rupees on that account. Vinod was doubtful I'd be able to get them to let me use that 1000 some other way like later for the modem or to transfer to my phone Sim card. I may just have to bear this $22 loss. Kama says he and KC lost their substantial balance and personalized phone numbers when they left the country because they didn't use their phones for three months.

Another cost account. I bought the 600 page hardbound definitive book of Ramana Maharshi's teaching that David Godman [see 3-28-11 - Meeting David Godman] suggested. It was sealed in plastic and the ashram store put it in a really nice little cloth carrying bag with Tamil lettering. And it cost 150 rupees. That's $3.30. He told me it's subsidized.

Much of this stuff I've written before, but to be thorough, I'm paying $132 a month rent. The water bill last month was 200 rupees and electric 350. Got a small fridge now (8300 rupees installed - that seemed like a lot) so electrical's gonna go up but not like an electric bill back home.

I pay my landlady 40 rupees for lunch and she gives me so much I sometimes eat the leftovers for dinner. I can go out and get meals for 50 rupees or 40 or 30. I can get free meals at ashrams and temples. I pay 62 rupees to take the bus 120 miles to Chennai.

Arul at Guru Internet where I pay 20 rupees an hour for Ethernet, says he knows where we can get the bead screen.

I can almost afford to live here.

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