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jeudi 4 juin 2009

An Eclectic Day in Paris.. in June

An Eclectic Day in Paris

It is not that often that in a short span of a few hours, you have such a variety of experiences as I had today in Paris. You have to appear a little Exotic, appear Friendly and be approachable.  Looking Pretty Helps!
Social services offered by the State to its citizens is nothing short of INCREDIBLE and would make all the westerners especially Americans from the USA drop their jaws.. Developing Countries should use the French Model, rather than the selfish, aggressive models of other economies.
Health Care does not ONLY mean, access to Doctors, Clinics, modern Technology and the latest medications and investigations. It also includes the social services provided to make the lives of its citizens much more comfortable, and for the unlucky ones, much more tolerable.

The Economist, on its 28 May 2009 issue had an article  Life is Expensive about the health care delivery (should it be called that? In USA?) in USA, giving one solid example, like the many most people have heard or be aware of.
An IBM executive began experiencing pains in the region of his chest, instead of going to a GP or Family Practioner, he refers himself to a Cardiologist (Fee for service system allows this route, in the name of freedom of choice in providers). One week later, he has had many tests, a CT Scan, an angiogram, a stress test, an Echo Cardiogram, a Doppler test of his carotid arteries. At the end of the week, the specialist doctors said: we cant find anything, but here is the bill, $15000. The company doctor, a humble GP, consulted him and asked him some simple questions.. Which the specialists had forgotten to ask in their busy schedules and appointments for invasive procedures. Has your lifestyle changed in any fashion in recent weeks? Yes, the executive answered, I have taken up gardening. The pain in the chest region was due to this unaccustomed stress and it went away quickly..
We are taught in Medical Schools, a good history is important.. But globalization of Medical care and economies have left very little time for such niceties.. And of course, at a tremendous price, which someone or other has to pay..
I went to interview an officer of a private company which works closely with the social services agencies of the Government. The services provided to lower income families were impressive indeed, and the same services are offered to middle and higher income families as well, since a couple in the higher income bracket many need similar social assistance when it comes to health, disease, pregnancy, children, education. The array of services offered to children, nannies, visiting nannies, psychologists, medical doctors at little or no cost were very impressive.. On and on, went the list.
It turned out that the lady explaining these matters, was married to a New Zealander who now lives in Paris. I thought to myself, how many Parisians would be married to New Zealanders? A handful at best, and here I am talking to one without even looking for one. It gave an additional adder to our conversation. NZ was once considered to have the best socialized care, which the progress and globalization has eroded into, and they have fallen off that pedestal.
When I came back to the flat, I was glad to see it spic and span, thanks to the lady from Ivory Coast who had laboured over it. Did you know that in France, if you employ a cleaning lady, the government gives you tax credit? In the end, she is paid well, illegal immigration is reduced and it costs you much less.
On my way back from Burma, I noticed a black spot on the back of my hand, I thought it was a burn, but when it did not go away, and when I became aware of it on my arrival back in France, I thought of Melanoma (the burden of being a doctor) and that our beloved Bob Marley had died of it because he ignored a black mole, saying Black people did not get Melanoma! Within 24 hours I had an appointment to a Dermatologist, with offices just off the Champs Elysses . At the entrance to his office, which like most doctors offices in France are without the flurry of activities of clerks and nurses and receptionists and bill collectors and other odds and ends, you go to a waiting room and then the doctor comes out and leads you to a consulting room, not a cubicle, one of the many in a long, aseptic corridor..
There was a statue which was the typical Buddhist one, the kind in Burma they pray to, before going on a journey, more like a Nat, a spirit. He is the Burmese equivalent of an Ellegua or a Gunpati.. The dermatologist turned out to be a Jew but a deep admirer of Buddha. Made me feel at ease to see Burmese script in golden letters prominently displayed. A nice encounter. We talked in general about the two cultures we held in esteem in common. He looked over my entire skin and assured me of the benign nature, kidded me for being so nervous and prescribed some creams, much more cosmetic ones rather than therapeutic ones, but one including an antifungal one for my nails. The entire pleasant episode of nearly one hour had cost me 90 euros including the medications. If I were French, most of the money would have been refunded or given as tax credit. But I was glad to pay for this service.
On the train home, I took a double take, a man was standing at the entrance, a splitting image of David Gumpilil, the Australian aboriginal actor. I looked at him again, and had he told me he was Australian, I would have no trouble believing. He was also scrutinizing me, and he spoke, in English with a French flourish, are you related to Ravi Shankar? There is a resemblance and I amsure others have told you that before. This, I chuckled to myself, is a by product of looking a little exotic and even more so when you costume yourself with exotic clothing, like a Hmong Jacket or a Kadi Bandar shirt from Bangalore (like the one I was wearing on this day).. I have been told I have a resemblance to Caetano Veloso (this was in Brasil) and to Mahler (something that floored me, but he was Jewish after all!) by no one other than the president of the Mahler society of Malaysia! 
Imagine this scene, if you will. The train is crowded, people are trying to get home, it is about 8 pm in the evening (there is still bright light), they are tired after a long days work and the train is crowded, and this conversation attracts a lot of curious attention and not to mention a few smiles as well. I have heard of Ravi Shankar and admire him for introducing the Sitar to the west, but no one has ever told me I bear a resemblance to him.
Where might you be from? I am from Ille Maurice but have lived in Paris for more than thirty years. We had a very nice chat. I have genuine affection for Australians, he continued, and more than once, Australians have stopped in the streets of Paris to ask me whether I am an Australian aboriginal person. I told him that I had recently read a book, the first of a trilogy, by Amitav Ghosh about the migration of Indian indentured laborers, mainly from the north to the island of Mauritius. While most were from the north, some went from the south as well, as this gentleman’s ancestors may have done. 
I explained a little bit to him about the Todas, Vedas of the southern subcontinent who are racially related to the Australian Aboriginal population and that it might be the reason that he looked Australian! My name is Sookia, he said, do not forget that name, since I am going to call you and invite you to my house for a nice cup of tea. I thought to myself, a very long time ago, someone from the old Madras Presidency (TamilNadou, AndhraPradesh, Karnataka) by the name of Sukkayyah might have migrated to Mauritius.. We will talk about when we met.. 
We got out of the train and we walked together until he had to go in another direction, he said, do not forget, I will be calling you ( I had given him my card, explaining that one of the many telephone numbers is the one to call in France)..
I was thinking of the various interactions so far this afternoon.. A French woman married to a New Zealander, a French Jew devoted to Buddhism, a JUBU, like they are known in the USA ( must get him a copy of Louis Kaminitzers book, The Jew on a lotus, I made a mental note), and now a descendant of a Tamoul labourer to Mauritius now French in his speech and manners..  
I decided to go into the pharmacy to get the creams the doctor had recommended.. I picked up my courage, and asked the pharmacist, where might you be from? Oh I came from Vietnam very long time ago, but I am only one quarter Vietnamese, I am also Cambodian and Chinese.. It was nice to make this new friend, since her pharmacy is very close to where I stay in Paris. And I might visit her pharmacy later for other needs.. And it would be nice to talk a little about Cholon and Saigon; Mekong Delta and Bun Ga Xao and so on..

This was my day.. When I got home, prepared a nice repas for a good friend, born in the island of Corsica to a father from Chicago and a mother who had descended from the aristocracy fleeing Haiti many many years ago..

Ah well, as the poet Pablo Neruda once wrote.. What all happens in the course of a day..