Disturbing statistics show that more members of minority ethnic groups, or BAME, are dying of Covid-19. As my hospital experiences showed, this is hardly surprising, as so many of them are carrying out the essential frontline duties caring for patients in hospitals and keeping them scrupulously clean. My main carer while in hospital was almost as wide as she was tall. In bed, my eye level centred on the protruding buckle around her ample girth. From that level, I saw a lot of her hands and admired how nimble and swift her fingers were. She was totally in command of what she was doing, physically and mentally. Upon request, she showed me my clinical notes and explained them.
Fine. So, what was wrong? I was confused, wondering why in a hospital environment, more care was not taken of her health and consequently of her family’s wellbeing too – she told me about her children with considerable pride. Perhaps health care for those working inside a hospital is not within its remit. Where does one draw the line? One step over it and someone’s self-esteem may be irrevocably damaged.
Time is, as ever, a problem. It is neither easy nor quick to promote a healthier diet for people who have little free time anyway and choose fast food that is easy, inexpensive, and saves time. I am tempted too.
There is a fish and chips shop a street away from where I live and a few days ago I passed a take-away curry shop in the centre of town. Tempting, but I can hardly risk another disaster.
It happened when I was in charge of a group of British and Americans. We were staying in Allahabad, an extraordinary town in northern India where three rivers meet: the Jumna that flows through Delhi, the Ganges, and a third mythological one that divides the two. We were, mercifully, not visiting in a year that Krishna would miraculously decide to visit, when not only the wide paths alongside the Ganges but also the walkways above would be overflowing with pilgrims. Even so, in an un-blessed year, the crowds were still immense. Our small group was careful to keep together as we moved with the crowd towards the meeting of the three rivers. As it was not a Krishna year, there was more space to enjoy the entertainers along the route who were vigorously targeting the travellers’ small change. There were snake charmers galore, men with monkeys hired out for photo opportunities, sellers of every sweet and sticky concoction that could be imagined and lithe acrobats everywhere – the only obese figures seemed to be seated in temples behind a begging bowl.
I too waded into the holy waters as I had done earlier at Benares, now Varanasi, but this was different. It was evident where one river ended and the other began, where muddy waters met clear ones and it was precisely at this point that people, mainly men, were struggling to bathe, even without Krishna’s blessing. Notwithstanding, every year, with or without him, the pilgrims would gather in their thousands to thread their way around the entertainers, soothsayers, and holy men to bathe in the waters where the muddy Ganges meets the clearer Jumna and beneath them flow the crystal clear waters of the third river that, we were told, divided them.
That evening the group was to enjoy a celebratory dinner in the hotel which, it happened, was in Thornhill Road named, it happened, after an ancestor of mine who had a part in founding the town. This too was part of the celebration. They could only serve curry dishes, so I asked for the mildest one they had. It was still quite spicy but intriguingly tasty. I gave into temptation and, enjoying the conversation, consumed it all. Not long afterwards my stomach rebelled and, before I could get up and head for the cloakroom, my curry dish tried to resume its former resting place on the [plate in front of me but misfired. My companions on either side recoiled and I staggered up as quickly as I could and made for the female cloakroom followed by two anxious male waiters who peered around the open door asking if they could help. All I could do was to gesture them to go away. When I finally returned to the table it had been cleared and newly laid for the dessert. Everyone looked at me apprehensively, but I refrained from touching it. I had learned my lesson!