Monday, June 11, 2012

Oh no!


This morning I woke up at the crack of dawn. I was curious to see what the view, outside my window, looked like at this time of day so I threw open the curtains. The world was coming to life. The canal was filled with boats making their way towards Fort Kochi.


I can't remember exactly what I was doing at the time but somehow, I knocked my glasses off my face and they went tumbling down the roof and beyond. I am certain they had fallen all the way to the bottom of the canal.

Usually, I pack a spare pair of glasses with me but for some reason, I failed to do that. This will teach me to not forget next time.

I am blind as a bat without my glasses. I can see up close e.g., well enough to use my iPad but anything beyond a few feet is just all blurry to me.

I immediately headed down the reception desk and humbly professed my stupidity. The kind receptionist said that he would send someone from security to check. I knew we both knew it would be an exercise in futility but I'm a paying guest and so he has to follow through. As I was standing at the desk, the receptionist pointed me to a box that held reading glasses. I picked up one and put it on. It only improved my long distance viewing by a hair's bit but I think I was just comforted by having the feel of glasses resting on my face. The receptionist also told me that the concierge would be able to find an eye place for me buy a replacement pair of glasses. Knowing that also comforted me. Even so, I was kicking myself all the way back to my room. I've not been either very smart or lucky on this trip. Hopefully, the streak of bad luck is over and the rest of the trip will go well.

The receptionist told me that the stores don't open until 9am so I decided to wait until then to see the concierge. In the meantime, I occupied myself with more blogging, some TV and sending my dirty clothes to be laundered. I decided it would be very rude for me to show up at Smitha's house asking to do laundry. I've had house guests do that to me and I don't mind but for some reason, I can't do the same.

A few minutes after 9a and I was down at the concierge who is a very nice young man who recognized me from the day before. I told him my story of woe. He told me that there was a very good eye hospital only 20 minutes away. Hospital might be overkill but I agreed to go. Of course, I would hire the car and driver to take me there. Into the car I went and the driver, Biju, headed down the road back to Kochi.

It was morning rush hour and there was plenty of traffic.


Even with that, we arrived to the Vasan Eye Care Hospital in a matter of minutes.

I entered the front door to the hospital which I realized was an eye clinic with a frame store located next door.

A young girl greeted me and I told her my story of woe. I told her I needed to have an eye exam and to get new glasses. She asked if I had been at the hospital before and when I replied that I had not, she handed me a short form to fill in.

I took a seat and filled in the form. After I handed it back to her, I sat back down and waited....not having any clue of what would happen next. I was in the hospital's hands.

Only a few minutes passed before I heard a female voice call my name. I walked over to the woman and the receptionist behind the desk asked for a payment of 300 rupee which is less than $6! That was the total cost of my examination. Unbelieveable!  I also got my Vasan registration card which entitles me to free checkups for the next two years.  Now that's a great deal.  Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be back here anytime soon for a checkup.

The woman handed me a receipt and even blind as I am , I could see the words "Fast Track Consultation" printed on the piece of paper. I hadn't asked for any special treatment but I was obviously getting it and no complaints from me for that. I had told them that I was leaving town tomorrow and needed my glasses today so I think they were doing me a favor but getting me in the front of the queue.

I followed the woman up the stairs and into an examination room. There, a technician did one check while another woman took the reading glasses and attempted to read their strength. I had to explain to her that they were not mine.

They then led me down the hall to another examination room. Inside there was a young woman who motioned for me to sit down on the chair next to her. Across the room from me was the eye chart. That was a good sign. She asked me a few questions about my general health and then began the series of eye tests. I have to say, she was very, very thorough.

She began the test by having me read a chart at eye level. The funny thing about was that the chart had all the names of Indian states - Assam, Bihar, Jaipur, etc. Lucky I know how to pronounce all the names otherwise I might have failed the first exam!

Then came the finger test. You, how many fingers am I holding up? Of course, the further away she moved from me, the harder it got for me to see her fingers.

Finally, it was the eye chart which is always a challenge for me - especially when it comes to deciding whether A is better than B or B is better than C. The last part of the test was to actually read a piece of paper at a comfortable distance which I don't recall other optometrists ever doing but it made sense as I don't want to have to remove my glasses to read as I currently do.

After we finished my eye exam, the young woman led me to another examination where she quickly did the air puff test. I must have passed because I was then led by yet another woman to a waiting room. I took a seat along with probably about 20 other people. Before I had a chance to settle into my seat, I heard my name called again and another woman came by to escort me to yet another room - this was marked VIP lounge. There were three other people seated inside.

It was a bit of a wait but I can't complain. After all, it was me who made the stupid mistake to begin with. I patiently waited and in came another young woman who led me to another room. Inside was Dr. Jacob Mathew, ophthalmologist. He asked me what I was doing at the hospital and I told him my story of woe. He did one quick exam and then proceeded to educate me on the benefits of Lasik surgery. I always thought my eyes were beyond repair but according to Dr. Mathew, my eyes are still within the vision range that can be improved through laser surgery. He says I might still need reading glasses but that's it. I will definitely consider it.

I thanked Dr. Mathew for his time and he sent me on my way to the eye glass place to buy my replacement glasses. With all the women escorting me, I had no idea how to get there from his office so yet another woman escorted me back downstairs and to the shop.

On the way I passed Biju and I told him I wasn't quite down. Of course, he said he would wait.

I entered the small store. There were two attendants inside and both were busy so I handed one my prescription and took a seat to wait.

When my turn came around, I told my story of woe which now included a request to have the glasses ready by 4pm. I didn't tell the guy I have to have the glasses by then because I have a Kathakali dance performance to go to at 5pm and I don't want to be seeing the performance half blind.

Since I was wearing the reading glasses, he took out several cases of similar looking glasses - all very manly looking and to be honest, a tad ugly.

Eventually, he pulled some selections that were passable and I settled on a purple frame. Yes, purple :-)

As with all my recent pairs of glasses, these would be fitted with progressive lenses. The thinner the lens, the more expensive and the longer it takes to get them. It would take me the two days that I don't have to get the thinnest of the lenses so I'm settling so something a bit less. The guy assured me that the lenses would fit okay into the frame I picked out.

Then came the challenge of time. I told the attendant I was leaving town tomorrow and so I needed to pick up the glasses today. He said they would be ready by 7:30p but that time the Kathakali performance would be over so that would not do. I asked if he could have them ready by 4p. He got on the phone and when he got off, he said 5p so that's what we agreed to. I just hope they are there by then.

Frames and lenses cost me 12,800 rupee which comes to $229 which is about 1/2 of the cost of what I would pay back home!

After I paid for my new glasses, I met back up with Biju to head back to the hotel. With all the activity, I hadn't eaten breakfast so my stomach was beginning to growl. Time to grab some lunch.

Back at the hotel, I headed to see the concierge first to arrange for a car to take me back to Vasan Eye Care Hospital and then the Kerela Kathakali Centre for the dance performance.

With my transportation arrangements made, I headed to the restaurant and dove head deep into the Indian buffet lunch. I always tend to overeat at buffets and I think it's been worse here as I cannot resist all the tasty delights.

After lunch, I headed back up to the room and spent the afternoon blogging and just relaxing. Without my glasses, I'm blind as a bat but I can see well up close so working on the iPad was easily doable. I had the TV on for background noise and occasionally, something would pique my interest so I would stand with my nose to the screen :-(

I had arranged for the car to be there at 4:30p so that's when I headed back downstairs. I wanted to pick up my glasses as close to 5p as possible so I could be sure to make it to the Kerala Kathkali Centre with plenty of time to see the actors putting on their elaborate make up.

Flash forward about 20 minutes later and I'm back at the eye glass shop waiting with baited breath for my glasses. I need my glasses for the performance otherwise I won't be able to see squat to fully appreciate it. So you an imagine how far down my heart fell when the guy told me that there had been an issue with my glasses and now they would not be ready until 7p. I told him that I could not come back at 7p to which he replied that he would drop the glasses off at the hotel. I reminded him that I would be checking out tomorrow and the glasses had to be there. He assured me that they would. I had no choice so I left empty handed with the hope that he would keep his word.

Back in the car, we headed to Fort Kochi to the Kerala Kathakali Centre.  Dance time!