This is a poem I wrote in March, 1939, 6 months before the outbreak of World War II, just before my 14th birthday.
THE CHILD'S PROBLEM by a child.
Trouble is brewing, fact trouble is near,
If I'm not mistaken trouble is here.
The paper's depressing, the wireless news bad,
The conclusions's been reached that the world's going mad.
Everyone seems to talk only of war.
Why can't they be happy like they were before?
Can it be true one man's caused all this strife?
He's made everybody in fear of their life?
Does he want war when we're all wanting peace?
When is this terrible waiting to cease?
Why do the trenches spoil every nice park?
Why are some towns being put in the dark?
Is it just cowards who shake in their shoes?
Or are we all feared that our loved ones we'll lose?
Can anyone tell me if there is a heart
In someone who in cruel war would take part?
Why, if we want one mad man to appease,
Must there be thousands of poor refugees?
Why can't the States some good settlement find?
(And not tear it up the week after it's signed)
Good God above, why can't friendship be laid
Here, in this beautiful world which you've made.
HOSPITAL IN INDIA 2006-2007
I flew to India to stay with my dear friend Mrinalini Sarabhai and was thrilled to be with her, her family and friends in the paradise complex she has created in the city of Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, called DARPANA.
Every December, in their open air theatre, Darpana stages a 3 day festival--on this occasion it was after I had enjoyed 10 days of a delightful visit. I had been to the first performance of the Festival on December 28th. The following evening I didn't feel well, so stayed in my room while the rest of the family went across the gardens to the theatre. While they were all gone, I developed the most agonising pain in my stomach and was violently sick...there was no phone and nobody to call! When the performance was over, Mrinalini came hurrying back to the house and to my room, to find me rolling in agony! She called her GP, Dr Saumendra, and he came straight over, saying that I had to go at once to Hospital. Then he gave me an injection to ease the pain--I do not know how I could have coped without it.
It was by now 11.30 at night. Mrinalini's son and his wife, Kartikeya and Raju, drove me, but also by my side was one of the servants, Bojraj. He serves meals at the table. He brings me my early morning tea. He brings me a chair onto the terrace, He arranges the flower petals in the entrance--he is always smiling. He does not speak English but, despite being up very early every morning, he insisted that he stay with me with the others until 1.30 a.m. They took me to Samved Hospital, where there are only 4 private rooms, and luckily I had one of them. They put me on a drip which contained pain killler, antibiotics, liquid and nourishment. I didn't sleep, of course, and next day they gave me all sorts of tests.
Let me describe Samved Hospital. Nowhere in the world could I have had better nursing and medical care. Shefali and Janak Desai, wife and husband, and both eminent Surgeons, built and own this hospital. Janak is a Urologist and Shefali is a General and Laparoscopic Surgeon, Specialist in Thyroid, Breast, Abdominal, Anorectal Surgery and Laparoscopic Surgery. My room was a good size, and even had a second bed in case a member of the family wanted to stay there. My sheets and hospital garment were changed every day..as were the sheets on the spare bed which was never used. There was a large TV set with remote control, including about 4 English language channels, including BBC World, and there was a telephone for local calls. Every morning at 7 they brought me the English language TIMES OF INDIA.
Adjoining was a small with room with a toilet and basin--everywhere there were tiled floors. At least once a day a girl, looking like a film star, brushed into every corner, wiped every surface, then on her haunches wiped over the whole floor with a damp cloth smelling of disinfectant. Sometimes an older lady, wearing a sari, would come in with a brush, but was evidently very taken with me and wanted to talk. Except she didn't know a word of English, so she made dramatic gestures with her hands and arms, all the while talking in Gujarati. I never understood a word she said.
The flush tank on my toilet took an hour to refill. The single tap on my basin, cold water, needed the help of a towel to shut it off. As everywhere in India, no toilet paper. There is a tap and a jug, and you are meant to wash yourself. I sent an SOS to Darpana for toilet paper, and it arrived quickly. What I didn't know was that the boy who cleaned the toilet room went in with a full bucket of water, which he vigorously threw over the whole room, including the toilet paper. I learned to catch him before he went in, and gesturing with my finger going round in circles, he understood to hand me the toilet roll before he started.
Every morning I was given a wash-down. I sat on the Tiolet and put my feet in a bucket of water. Only occasionally was it warm. Then they took my flannel and washed me all over, and rinsed me with a jug--the water going onto the floor and down a drain in the floor.
I became especially fond of the House Doctor, a girl of 23 called Nisha. Shefali was my doctor, and she was amazing--we have since become friends and she and Janak and Janak's father have even stayed with me here in Wimbledon. The nurses were darling, but only one of them had a few words of English--Ila. The first time she came into my room she carried a little container and said loudly and forcefully: "Stool--Morning" without a smile. She turned out to be one of the sweetest, sometimes sitting on my bed to chat. I asked her: "Are you married?" "Oh no, I'm a Nun. I share a room in the Convent with one of the other Nurses, who is also a Nun". Flash forward to when I had to have a test in another Hospial, and was accompanied by Nisha and Ila. While waiting I said: "I think I am covered from all angles. You, Nisha, are a Hindu. You Ila, are a Catholic. And I am Jewish!" "Oh no" said Ila "I am a Hindu Nun. Instead of Christ, I am married to Krishna".
At Samved when I needed to communicate with the Nurses, they would speak in Gujarati and me in English--with gestures, eyes, head movements, and usually we ended up screaming with laughter.
New Year's Eve. Beautiful flowers arrived with a note of good wishes from Janak and Shefali. Masses of Toilet Paper arrived from Darpana. I was allowed 3 sips of water, and even a small container of spinach soupl There was no bedside light in the room, just two phosphorescent strip lights, one at either side of the room, with the switches near the door. December 31st, 2006. At 11.30 I thought I might be able to sleep, so I rang the bell, and 2 nurses came in to settle me down and turn off the lights. But at 11.50 I started to feel very sick, and gestured for the basin, which they gave me. There was nothing in my stomach, but I started to heave! The 2 nurses looked at the clock and saw that it was Midnight. Solemnly they shook hands with each other and said the only English I ever heard them speak: "Happy New Year!" Then they wanted to wish it to me, so, head still in the basin, my arm went out while they shook my hand, saying "HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!"
About five minutes later, my close friend, Bijoy, walked in, followed by his wife, Anita, followed by his son Aniruddh Peter (my godson--he was 13 and he is named in honour of my late husband, Peter) and another friend, Satyam, each of them carrying a bowl covered in silver foil and filled with flowers, and they were singing HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU!!
I was in the hospital for a few more days. Each day the nurses had to find a new vein for the intravenous drip, and that was very painful. One day, when Ila was putting in the new drip, I was crying out loudly with the severe pain. Once it was in, she said in her very broken English: "I like you. You always smiling!" "I wasn't bloody smiling just now!" I shouted back. Oh dear, and her a Nun.
I was taken to another hospital for a Colonoscopy in an Ambulance. The driver looked like a navvy who had just been drilling the road, with a black stubble. The handle was off the driving door. He opened the back, and there was no step or block for me to climb in--I had to be lifted, But, before that, Nisha and Ila had called the bloke over--the bed and bench were thick with dust, and the floor had black marks all over it. When I got the Bill for the Hospital just before I left, I saw that there was an item AMBULANCE. I said: "Surely you are not going to charge me for that Ambulance.."--then I saw what the amount was...£1.27. So I said no more.
They aborted the test the first time, as my insides were not clear enough. When I got back to my room, I made myself laugh: "Here I am, 81 years of age, and I have just had an Abortion!" The second test was successful. After a rest in the Recovery Room, I was taken in to talk to the Specialist, Dr Nilay, who had done the test. He explained the problem and showed me colour pictures of my intestines! As I left I called back: "I'm an actress and have had hundreds of photos taken of me on stage, screen and TV, but never photos like those. Don't you dare publish them without my permission!" he laughed. I was then pushed in a wheelchair by a lady in a Sari. She wheeled me back to the Recovery Room. "No!" I said to her firmly, "I want to wait for my car down in the Entrance Hall". She looked at me blankly and insisted on tapping the bed. I tried to communicate with gestures, refusing to get out of the wheelchair and pointing to Exit. She started to push me towards the exit, turned the chair round in a complete circle and back into the Recovery Room, again patting the bed rather angrily. The Recovery Room was just off a ward with about 9 people in it. I called out loudly: "Does anybody here speak English" and they called back: "Yes, we all do!" They saved me, and got the sari lady to push me to the lift and down to the Entrance without a hint of smile.
I went to an English specialist when I got home,and he was very impressed by the excellent treatment I had received in India. Having had the bad luck to be taken ill, I could not have had more good luck..superb treatment, and such a hurricane of love, care, concern and affection from everybody. Even after all this time, I want to say a huge "thank you".