News & Current Affairs

July 12, 2009

A return to the heart of Mumbai

Filed under: Latest, Politics News, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 4:58 am

A return to the heart of Mumbai

Despite India’s economic success, it is still home to millions of the world’s poorest people. Martin Buckley lived in Bombay, as it was known, in the 1980s. He recently went back and found, as he walked about after sunset, that the essential character of the city remains unchanged.

Mumbai at night

Mumbai: Twenty million people live in India’s most populated city

Bombay by night. It is hard to think of three words more expressive of history, exoticism, and empire.

And I do not begrudge the “new” name, Mumbai (the city was renamed in 1995).

The city’s presiding goddess is Mumba-Ai, and I spent a chunk of the 1980s living close to her temple in the heart of the city.

It was my first job after university, working on a magazine called Business India. Very few foreigners worked in Bombay then.

Pre-boom India was still locked into its Soviet-style command economy.

Paid local rates, I lived in a succession of seedy rooms in downtown Bombay.

We sometimes put the magazine to bed at 0300 local time, and I would walk home.

On the pavements were string beds, where men lay, totally abandoned in sleep.

I never felt threatened for an instant.

Slum living

We have heard a lot lately about Mumbai’s slums, so I thought it would be interesting to revisit my old haunts.

Dharavi slum

Dharavi is Asia’s largest slum spanning more than 500 acres

Mumbai is a long, thin city, and on its northern fringes, residential suburbs are mushrooming.

I went to visit Dharavi, the slum made famous by the film Slumdog Millionaire, which is nearer the city centre on land the developers would love to get their hands on.

This “slum” has electricity, workplaces, temples and mosques.

I asked a street trader selling school exercise books if he had heard of Slumdog Millionaire.

“Of course,” he said, adding that tourists had been turning up in droves to see where the film was shot.

But he said they should go home, as no-one wanted them there.

I felt no danger in Dharavi, at least, not from people.

Stepping on a sleeping dog – an actual “slum-dog” – was far more of a worry.

‘Light beatings’

The next night, a hot, sticky evening, my first stop was at a downtown police station in central Mumbai, to interview a police inspector.

Child actor Azharuddin Ismail in his Mumbai slum

The Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire highlighted the city’s slums

He was a sleek character, with manicured nails, dyed hair and an expensive-looking Swiss watch.

Sipping sweet tea from an improbably refined china cup, I sheepishly asked about the brutal police torture shown in Slumdog Millionaire.

“Ridiculous,” he replied, though he did admit that what he called “light beatings” were routine. And no, I could not visit the cells.

He moved hastily on to more comfortable territory, showing me his CCTV screens, and declaring how modern forensics had transformed criminal investigation.

His biggest task, he stressed, was managing tensions between Hindus and Muslims.

Doggedly, I asked about police corruption and drugs mafia, but received peremptory replies.

Prostitution he claimed, was sharply down, but not through policing. Rather, he claimed it was because people were terrified of catching Aids.

Decomposing facades

Physically, central Mumbai has changed far less than I expected.

There are some elevated highways from which, I am told, motorcyclists periodically plunge.

A market in Mumbai

The markets and dockyards of Mumbai are still thriving

But the great tenements still rise in terraces draped with washing, their Victorian or art deco facades slowly decomposing.

Few of the 1960s-style Fiat taxis have been replaced by newer cars.

There are bullock carts toting jute bales, tiny shops with colonial interiors, hawkers selling fruit from trolleys, men sitting cross-legged in the street selling shoes, basket-weavers working and living on the pavements.

Markets sell everything from metal ware to fresh fish, and as 2200 approached, I could still see live mullet writhing in baskets.

Nearby were the entrepots of Mumbai’s thriving dockyards, with the seedy, raffish air of a Conrad novel. And it is much easier to buy a beer in contemporary Mumbai than it was in my day.

Religious tensions have worsened, but I passed Hindu and Muslim traders working side by side.

Decay and ambition

In Bhuleshwar, in the old heart of Mumbai, I visited the city’s presiding Hindu goddess.

The pillars of Mumba-Ai’s tiny temple were entwined with flowers to resemble an indoor forest, and people urgently jostled for a glimpse of the deity.

By midnight I had reached Falkland Road, Mumbai’s infamous red light district.

Women stood around gloomily, their faces showing none of the flirtation that is supposed to be their profession’s stock in trade.

Mumbai’s sex industry caters to millions of poor men, and its squalor and joylessness are all too evident.

A pimp was hanging onto my arm. I asked him if it was true that client numbers were down. He became aggressive. Was I there to spend money or ask nosy questions?

I flagged down a taxi, and slid on to the back seat. Through the open window, the air was now pleasantly cool.

The essential character of the great city I had known and loved 25 years ago, seemed to me unchanged, and it was still a Dickensian canvas of decay, ambition, and exploitation.

But Mumbai is pragmatic. It looks chaotic, but it works.

September 7, 2008

Vein tubes ‘fitted needlessly’

Vein tubes ‘fitted needlessly’

Cannula being inserted in order to take blood

Cannulas are used to help take blood and to give drugs and fluids

A third of patients have unnecessary tubes inserted into veins when they are in hospital, pharmacists have warned.

Researchers from Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University said this needlessly exposed them to serious complications, such as infections and blood clots.

Just under 350 patients were studied over six weeks, the majority of whom had the tubes, called cannulas, fitted.

An A&E expert recognized cannulas should be used less frequently and for shorter periods.

It’s entirely reasonable to look at their use
Dr Martin Shalley, emergency medicine consultant

The study was presented to the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester.

Cannulas – hollow plastic tubes with a needle at the tip which cost around £1.70 each – are used to give medication and fluids to people who cannot swallow because they are unconscious or being given nil by mouth, and it has been estimated that around 80% of hospital patients have them fitted.

Drugs may also be more easily absorbed if given this way.

But potential complications include problems with veins (phlebitis), drugs leaking into tissues around the site of the tube, serious infection and blood clots.

‘Common practice’

Of the patients studied – who were all treated in the acute medical assessment unit of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, 91% of patients had a cannula inserted. But 28% of the tubes were never used.

The researchers also found that in 71% of patient records there was no documentation of a cannula being inserted, while in 57% there was no documentation of it being removed.

Four patients had developed blood poisoning, which infection control specialists said was likely to be linked to the cannula.

The researchers, led by Dr Yash Kumarasamy, said that in many UK hospitals, it has become common practice to insert an intravenous cannula when the patient is admitted, irrespective of need.

He said: “We would like to see the introduction of a formal procedure under which hospital pharmacists review patients and their medications and make recommendations to the treatment team about whether or not a cannula is needed.”

Dr Martin Shalley, a former president of the British Association of Emergency Medicine, agreed there had been an over-reliance on cannula use.

He said many trusts had policies saying cannulas had to be removed after 72 hours

“It used to be a knee-jerk response to insert a cannula – but we now recognise there’s a need to think if fitting one is a benefit for that patient.

“It’s entirely reasonable to look at their use. That’s the case in A&E medicine and across acute medicine too.”

And Dr Shalley said he thought the level of use of cannulas had increased the level of hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA.

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