Research Travel

In the last two weeks I’ve been to 8 cities in 7 different Indian states: Panaji (Goa), Bangalore (Karnataka), Madura and Sivakasi (Tamil Nadu), Amritsar (Punjab), New Delhi (Delhi), Ahmedabad (Gujarat), and Mumbai (Maharashtra). The trip spanned the north-south axis of the country, from the southern tip near Sri Lanka to the northwestern edge only 25 miles from Pakistan. It was fascinating to see how each area was different, with one of the major differences being language. In Mumbai most things are written in Hindi and English, with just a few signs in Marathi. This contrasted with the smaller cities where signs were much more likely to also include the local language.

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I tried to make the most of the trip, kicking it off with a 3 day vacation to Goa and staying an extra day in Madauri to see the temples there. I’m glad I did, because all the other cities were nothing more than a blur. Moving around in India can be difficult and frustrating, spending 3 hours in a car to fight your way across town for a 45 minute interview. Outside the car my time was spent in homes, hotels, and hospitals. The medical facilities we did research in ranged wildly, from fancy corporate centers that looked passably sterile to extremely dirty and sad government hospitals providing free care to the poor. It’s been a whirlwind fortnight that exposed me to so much, but was also just brutal at times with 15 hour days being the norm and always spending them with an entourage of 7 or 8, including 3 clients.

One of the crazier things I was exposed to during research was watching a live surgery, a bi-lateral (both knees) total knee replacement . I stood on the side of the operating theatre in my scrubs, taking photos and notes and trying not to get in the way. Before going in I was worried about passing out or getting nauseous, but it turned out to be less gross than I expected. It is amazing what surgeons do, and at the same time scary how straight-forward it is, almost like carpentry on the human body. It’s not uncommon for the patients in India to be only partially anesthetized, usually with an epidural. That means they can hear the cut of their bones, the smell of their flesh cauterizing, the sound of a hammer pounding an implant into their femur, and the doctors saying “Oh fuck!” when something goes wrong. I can’t imagine what that must be like.

The intensity of the last two weeks has wiped me out, to the point that I’m laying low and staying mostly inside my apartment this weekend. I needed a couple of a days without the jostling of travel and the stress of constantly new encounters. I love doing and seeing so many new things, but I’m physically and mentally spent.