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vendredi 23 septembre 2011



Oklahoma is a Choctaw word for Okla Red Humma Earth.
Oklahoma City feels so neat, organized with a mixture of odl and new architecture, a sense of space and no crowding..! Just the week before I had been in Bangalore, known for its chaos and Singapore known for its lack of space.. so Oklahoma City was a breath of fresh air.. I was staying at Ramada Renaissance Hotel where the bathroom alone was bigger than some of the hotel rooms in other countries! Also had the pleasure of a leisurely bath.. Dinner was at a place called Mantel, a little pretentious, slightly upscale. I was able to order a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from a reasonable wine list, the grilled Atlantic salmon showed its lack of freshness. The place was crowded and noisy, a place for celebrating but not for intimate conversations. I was with two old friends.
Missed the breakfast as I had to present to a group of very enthusiastic Indian professionals working hard to improve the health conditions of Indians in Oklahoma. The morning sky was covered with a melancholy bunch of crowds and an occasional thunder reminded us that we are in the middle of the country. This gloomy morning gave no indication of a glorious afternoon of sunshine and breeze! On arriving at the Diabetes Centre of the University of Oklahoma, a somewhat opulent clinical space for someone like me who is used to settings in the developing countries, but my mind had already been made up to enjoy the good things that are to come my way during this 24 hour stay in Oklahoma City. I was led to a room where an enthusiastic group of Indians were gathering, they had driven long and short distances to be at this monthly meeting and it was my honour this month to address them, to give them a scope of the work I do, the anthropologically oriented Diabetes care to the Indians under our care in the tribes I work with. Also I could regale them with stories of my travels to exotic destinations with always a lesson to be learned which can be translated and used in the clinical settings of an Indian Health Service Clinic. The air was full of chirpy, friendly salutations and chats, most of the people in the room were members of the state-wide Oklahoma Indian Diabetes Coalition, working hard to coordinate a higher level of care for the Indian patients in the state. Dr F who is the head of the Indian Health Services in the region was there and his presence was felt and made an impact on the conference. Another presence was a couple, both looked elegant and from another world, and they were, as they were in the media world, of radio and TV. I had a chance to say hello to them later, the lady turned out to be of Italian origin.
When my turn to speak came, I felt the words and thoughts coming to my mind without any difficulty. Using cues from the power point presentation, I launched into a plea for a social view of the health problems faced by the Indians and a less biomedical view of the western world. Sensing the energy coming out of this friendly crowd and appropriate appreciatory symbols of the professionals, I felt a fluency more normal than ordinary and felt very content to be able to express my feelings. I know how to talk to Indians since it is with the heart one speaks to the Indian, I couldn't have given the same presentation at a Diabetes meeting of the White americans as they would be much more interested in facts and figures and medications and much less in what we are doing manipulating symbols of the society the Indians live in. My presentation was part science, I talked about telomeres and how they can be damaged by every day life stress (Dr Blackburn, the Australian Nobel Prize winner 2009), part philosophy, part psychology (both learned from the Indians), but at all times humble and human. The agreement and nods of the participants on hearing my proposals for a better health, which is truly a practical approach to how to take care of an Indian with chronic problems. I could have easily carried on for another hour but out of respect for the participants I decided to stop at an opportune moment. I could see from the expressions on the face of the participants that I had succeeded in conveying the good wishes of my loved ones from near and far and the advice of my UmonHon Indian teacher: May the Spirits give you good words so that Indian people may be helped, also my Kickapoo sister who felt that her prayers would protect me.
The day before at the home of my sister in Miami, I had enjoyed preparing this presentation. I enjoyed it even more the act of communicating . As Dr Ronnie Frankenberg, a professor of Anthropology at my alma mater used to say: For Knowledge to be Knowledge it has to be communicated. And hopefully the love and affection and advice of my loved ones, had eased my knowledge into the realm of Wisdom from which Indian patients may derive some benefit.
As my Kickapoo sister later said to me, now that you have enjoyed doing this, it is time to say thanks to the Spirits. That would require more sacrifice from my part, do acts of generosity and demonstrate an open heart in my dealings with Indian friends at the various parts of their country. I know that in the coming weeks I will have ample opportunity to do just that in Nebraska, Texas, South Dakota and Florida.
Lunch was to be at a Thai Restaurant, an unassuming place where people came to satisfy their craving. The lady at the table was a Thai but she somehow let us know that the owner was a Burmese. I gave her my visiting card and asked her to convey Mingalarbar to the owner. Within minutes the Burmese lady was at the lady, we exchanged the pleasantries like old friends. I am sure it was no coincidence that the owner of the restaurant my friend from Oklahoma had chosen happen to be from Burma, a country which is very close to my heart.
I was given a tour of the Medical Campus and the obvious Capitolio which resembles the one in Havana! But the symbol here is an Indian, rather than the giralda!
The poignat moment was visiting the Memorial for the victims of the 2005 bombing of the Federal Building. The visit to the adjoining museum is a must, it shows the American spirit or the Oklahoma standard as they call it there of generosity and helping when it is needed and a solidarity against evil.
This day in Oklahoma, in the company of my two friends and where I made a whole slew of new friends, reinforced my belief that one has to be humble and it is the humility that gives rise to this euphoria, joie de vivre and spontaneity. I felt more than ever grateful for this life.
Now to the quiet confines of the Will Rogers Airport for a flight to Denver..