Breaking Bones





Is the Indian Bathroom the most dangerous place in this part of the World? I believe so!

Over the past many years, the most consistent geriatric distress story I’ve ever heard in South India, is that he/she slipped in the Bathroom and broke a bone, twisted a frame, pulled a muscle; or maybe even kicked-the-bucket! Growing up from an open-defecation Regime of many years, that’s some measure of progress, I guess! Maybe, we couldn’t find rocks (of Gibraltar), branches of Banyan Trees for support, in our otherwise steady flag-hoisting marches to the Bathroom.

Our small world broke-down this early September, when my Mom-in-law crash-landed in the great Indian Bathroom. My wife & I, run our Garment Manufacturing Business out of her sprawling House in Attur, Tamil Nadu, India — lying mostly uninhabited since the death of my father-in-law — and as a natural consequence ‘she fell into’ our care! You might say that we, in turn, fell for the ‘occupational’ hazard!

On returning from the Funeral Services of a dead family member or a friend, it’s a traditional custom in Tamil Nadu (and perhaps other Indian States as well), to take a head-to-toe bath and clean up before we enter the House. The intent being that we shake ourselves off the burial and cremation dust and enter Home in a ‘pristine physical state’. The clothes used, at the Funeral, are also washed during the session, or at least soaked in water — else no one is permitted to touch-them (If not, you use a stick to take down the clothes hung in an isolated corner and put them in water for the wash cycle — at a later time). The rigidity of the custom varies across communities. Most often, there is an outdoor or an out-house bathroom — tucked away from the main House — sufficient enough to cater to this kind of program.

My Mom-in-law, all of 74years, pale, fragile and very much a skin & bone figure, had just returned from a Funeral Service, on a rain-filled slippery evening, and marched to the ‘Out-House Bathroom’ to divest herself off the after-effects of the death she had just seen. Maybe, I had a premonition of things to come and told her to sprinkle some water on her head (that’s a clever short-cut to bypass the ritual) and use the ‘inside’ Bathroom — which she knows so well. Wedded to custom, she vehemently shook her head and marched on! No one was watching, but then, we then heard the Aaah’s and the Aiyooh’s and the sound of a frantic crawl to unlatch the bathroom door. The rest, they say is history. The local first-aid diagnosis said it was a ‘right’ hip fracture: broken femoral neck — bone breaks off the femur ball head — and immediate surgery was the only solution. We joined the chorus of the almost the everyday wailing Street Ambulance Sirens and headed to Ganga Hospital, Coimbatore for doing urgent repairs, in the dead of the night. Ganga has a reputation, in these parts, of making whole, broken fragments of bone and breathing flesh into them.

We streamed through the neatly laid down Hospital procedures, filled with X-Rays, Scans, Blood Tests, Intensive Care Surgery and after almost two painful weeks, Mom-In-Law was back at Home with a new steel ball head and attachment bored into the femur bone: old people don’t wait for bones to get–together, instead they are enough spare parts, available off the shelf, to replace them; but then, the flesh will heal only with time. There she lies on the bed, legs spread apart (else the steel ball may pop out), challenged by a Physiotherapist twice a day who coaxes her out of her air-bed and tows her, tip-toe on her broken side, within the confines of a Walker on the healing road — signal free, lights flashing.

Meanwhile, being awfully poor in post-surgery care of this kind, and having a Business to run, we cry for help. Mom-In-Law’s elder sister, who having serviced two broken hips (Left & Right of her dear hubby) over a recent period of two tiring years, and with a wealth of wide experience between the hips, joins us to provide the healing touch.

Veering back to the typical South-Indian bathroom, they are fertile ground for flesh & bone earthquakes, being always flooded with the likes of Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria, I would issue a Category-5 warning before entering one!

This is one private place which we in India should diligently westernise, ensuring a dry bathroom at all times; with a Shower cubicle to hold the spills and sufficient hand rails placed at vantage points for the elderly; maybe even hire a gerontologist to share some design tips and a judo specialist to how to fall without breaking a bone!


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