Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book Spotlight: Cloud Messenger: Love and Loss in the India Himalayas by Karen Trollope-Kumar

About Cloud Messenger:
An idealistic medical student travels to India intending to study preventive medicine at a medical college in Lucknow. Instead, she falls in love with a young Indian pediatrician, sharing his dream of doing medical work in the Himalayan foothills. These ideas capture the young med student’s imagination, because she longs for an unusual life that crosses cultural boundaries. After a long–distance romance lasting four years, she leaves her homeland to marry. As she participates in the ceremonies of a traditional Hindu wedding, she steps into an entirely different cultural world and begins the adventure of a lifetime.
And so starts the vivid saga of Dr. Karen Trollope-Kumar’s breathtaking journey in her award-winning memoir, Cloud Messenger: Love and Loss in the Indian Himalayas.
In this poignant, heart warming, and gently humorous memoir, Dr. Trollope-Kumar recounts an unusual eleven-year chapter of her life. She and her husband Pradeep worked as medical doctors in the Himalayas, first in a rural hospital and later in remote mountain villages. When disaster struck — an assassination, an earthquake, a political crisis — their ideals, their safety, and their relationship are put at risk. Cloud Messenger is a story of adventure and idealism, culture and medicine, faith and love, and it raises enduring questions: How can we cross religious and cultural boundaries? What happens to our dreams in the face of danger and disillusionment? And when dreams diverge, what path do we choose?

About Karen Trollope-Kumar:

Dr. Karen Trollope-Kumar studied medicine at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. In her fourth year of medical studies she met her future husband, Pradeep, on a student visit to Lucknow. After graduation, she worked as a family physician in Thunder Bay before moving to India to marry the man she loved.
After returning to Canada in 1996, Dr. Trollope-Kumar completed a PhD in medical anthropology, the study of health in its social and environmental context. She has been actively involved in medical education, developing curriculum that blends medicine and anthropology. In 2008, she was appointed Co-Director of the Professional Competencies program in the medical school at McMaster, a position she held for six years that develops students’ competence in the “soft skills” of medical practice, such as communication skills, ethics, and professionalism.

She currently works as a family physician, and she and Pradeep spend part of every year in Dehradun, India, where they lived and worked early in their married life.

 Questions and Answers:

1. Can you share what led you to leave her home country, move across the world and start all over in a different culture? Many people who have read Cloud Messenger say to me – “I just don’t understand how you could have decided to leave Canada is the way that you did.” I believe that some decisions are made on a deep intuitive level, and that was certainly the case for my decision to leave Canada. Somehow I knew that by moving to India I would embark on a great voyage of self discovery. There were many hardships and crises during those years I lived in India, and the work we tried to do had only limited success.  But what an adventure it was.

2. What was your experience working as a doctor in the Himalayan foothills? I had worked as a family physician in Canada for two years before moving to India. I had to learn so much after I began to work with my husband in the busy rural hospital where we initially lived.  I was seeing patients with tropical diseases that I had never experienced before, and also we were working with very limited medical resources. It was a steep learning curve! I also came to realize that our culture affects the way we think about our bodies, and also shapes the way we decide to seek healthcare.  So much was different about working as a doctor in the Himalayan foothills.  And yet the most important thing was the same – wherever you work in the world, as a doctor you need to treat your patients with compassion and understanding.

3. What were the biggest life lessons you learned while living and working abroad? My greatest insight of the journey was the realization that it is possible to build connections of the heart across the divides ofculture, class and religion. I formed deep friendships with my Indian extended family, with medical colleagues and the nurses we trained, and with the village people we worked with.  As human beings, we can reach across so many differences and form bonds of the heart. By crossing a cultural barrier, you learn so much about yourself.  The experience of learning to see through someone else’s eyes changes you forever.

4. Can you share some of the challenges faced and you advice to anyone marrying or entering a relationship with someone from a different culture? My husband Pradeep is from the Hindu background, and grew up in very different life circumstances from mine. After we got married we naturally ran up against lots of cross-cultural conflicts!  We were married in a traditional Hindu ceremony – it was a beautiful wedding, but at the time I did not understand the language so it was all rather confusing.  Our first cross cultural conflict came just couple of days after the wedding, when my husband invited his sister and their family on our honeymoon!  In India, the concept is generally “the more the merrier”, and he didn’t see anything unusual about going on a honeymoon with his relatives. Anyway, we worked through that conflict, but there were others that followed- arguments about politics, religion and ways of life.  However, our love remained strong throughout and we were able to focus more on what we had in common rather than what our differences were. We have now been married for 32 years, and we are still very happy. Although we live in Canada primarily, we have deep connections to India and we spent part of every year there.

5. You experienced an earthquake, assassination and political crisis while working abroad – How did you overcome fear, devastation and disillusionment after experience so much tragedy During the 11 years that we lived in Himalayan foothills, we had a number of experiences that were frightening and disillusioning, and at times we faced problems of corruption and violence.   All these events took a toll on our physical and mental health.  But these negative experiences also taught me a lot about human nature, and about my own strengths and limitations. My youthful idealism was gradually replaced by a more mature understanding of the world. Overall, the negative events in our lives were far outweighed by the beauty and joy of those years in India.

6. What is your message to anyone who doesn’t understand the importance of building bridges of understanding across culture? By crossing a cultural barrier, you learn so much about yourself.  The experience of learning to see through someone else’s eyes changes you forever.  The decision I made to leave Canada and move to the Himalayan foothills changed my life in every possible way – and I don’t regret it for a minute.  My worldview has been broadened by the experience of living in another culture, and marrying someone so different from myself has been a fascinating journey. I believe that many of the conflicts facing our world today could be improved by building bridges of communication and understanding.

7. You experience depression as you were leaving India. Can you share what you went through and how you got through it? Many of my youthful idealistic dreams about our work in India were not realized because of the difficulties that we faced. And of course, I’d had unrealistic expectations what might be possible.  I felt very sad about the collapse of some of these dreams, and I ended up experiencing a significant bout of depression.  But with the support of family and friends I slowly came through it, and I began to realize that we had accomplished a lot in India, even though it wasn’t what we had hoped for. I also began to realize more about my own strengths and limitations, and that was an important personal discovery.

8. Why did you decide to share your story through this book? What saddens me most about the world today is that instead of moving towards a greater sense of unity among people, we seem to be moving in a direction of deeper divisions. This will diminish us as human beings.  Our challenge should be to deepen our understanding of others, not to focus on differences. That is the most important message of my book – that it is possible to build bridges of love across the divides of culture.  In writing the book, I began to perceive so much more about those eventful 11 years in India, and subtle patterns emerged that I had never considered before.  It was a wonderful experience to try to capture that period of my life in prose.

My Review:

 Cloud Messenger: Love and Loss in the India Himalayas by Karen Trollope-Kumar
Book sounded interesting and I know I will learn a lot from it, especially about the Himalayas.
Memoir about the authors life.
Starts out with Karen and she's in the medical field and has a stint in India where she meets Pradeep and they like one another. Love the tours he takes her on while she's there.
They write continually getting to know each other much better-he visits her in Canada after her time has ended and she surprises him with a visit to India where she agrees to marry him. Love that the words spoken in foreign language are stated in English.
Over the years they continue on with their medical help to the people who live far away from hospitals. She finds his is more interested in spirits then medical and she gets help from other Canadians in the area and attends services to help her understand.
Through harsh medical conditions and outbreaks their lives are often in danger and they are separated as Pradeep tries to save the BNA.
Interesting to learn how and what the children must learn once they attend school.
So many challenges, struggles to make a difference in the women's lifes.
Received this copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.

 Link to buy

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