Dedicated to Christoo, Peteroo, Luisoo, and Amandoo.
Posted by sapnasshah on 5 October, 2010
I’m sitting in my uncle’s living room watching a Bollywood movie (only one mustache so far), waiting for my aunt to get back from her clinic. My next 10 days will be full of visiting family, shopping, and eating. I’ll finally get the chance to enjoy India as per usual. When I started this trip, I was thrown off by the fact that instead of my family I would be surrounded by my fellow residents, but when I left them, I was sad to be traveling alone. These last few days I’ve seen them everywhere. Most notably, I visited an ashram that my family patrons, Muni Seva Ashram. It’s similar to Sivananda in its general purpose (to serve the poor), but has a different focus. Muni Seva Ashram was started in 1978 by one woman, Anuben, who felt that it was her mission from God to go to this jungle in Gujarat and help the surrounding largely agrarian community. She began with a daycare where families could send their children. She taught them and provided them with one meal a day. This grew into an orphanage largely for abandoned girls, a home for mentally handicapped adults, homes for the aged (a very new concept in this country), a primary school, then a high school, and in the last 10 years a nursing school. A general hospital was opened in 1991 and in 2001 a state-of-the-art Cancer hospital was inaugurated. It is complete with full biochemistry and pathology lab 16 slice CT, MRI, PET, full chemotherapy, simulator and linear accelerator, 4 operating
theaters, a 90 bed general ward, and full outpatient facilities for almost every subspecialty. Further, they are considered pioneers in this country for research on alternative energy sources. They grow their own biofuel and use solar energy for many things including heating water, cooking, and to power about 1/8th of the air conditioning for the massive compound. Local farmers are taught about sustainable agriculture and dairy farming.
Anyways, without getting too carried away you can see I love this place and my experiences over this elective helped me to understand it better. I knew what questions to ask and had some basis for comparison. My visits to the ashram from now on will be through a new lens. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to have my CIT4b compadres along for the ride. I kept thinking, what questions would Luis ask? What insightful comments would Peter make? What would Amanda think of the dialysis center? And I know Christie would have had lots to add given the ashram’s focus on promoting the advancement of women in this community. You guys would have loved it and been as inspired as I am by it.
These last few weeks have afforded me a unique platform on which to experience healthcare delivery in a developing country in many ways. First, I was able to truly witness a cross section of healthcare in this country in terms of quality of care, location, economic, religious and educational background of patients and all that in a resource limited setting. Second, I was able to witness it not just through my own eyes, but through the eyes of 6 other incredible people. They asked pertinent questions and made perceptive comments. They were courageous in accepting the variety of food, culture, customs, and unfortunately illnesses this country has to offer. They were with me when I met people who changed and inspired me, like Dr. Raghu and Dr. Mercy. They were with me when certain images were burned into my brain: the little boy at the cancer hospital, the little girl on the banks of the river in Kerala, the craziness of Ganesh Chatraputri, at the Ashram when the children sang, “We shall overcome”, and most traumatically the anencephalic baby. They felt as guilty as I did when our cook took it personally if we elected to eat out instead of at home. By their side, I experienced the history of Hyderabad, the chaotic traffic, Charmy and Tollywood, the trip of a lifetime to Kerala, and quite possibly the worst driver ever. Lastly, we got to know a lovely woman, Neena Desai. She is truly an incredible person. She enjoys life to the fullest, both socially and intellectually. She has more energy in one little finger than I have in my whole body and she will tell you! She took care of us when we were sick, taught us in her clinic, shared her views on feminism, and enjoyed Hyderabad’s nightlife with us too! She took us to all her favorite shops and restaurants, to her beloved club, and told some of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard. We were truly blessed to have her as the official MVP of CIT4b.
As I end my final blog, I just want to say thanks again to all my companions. To our fearless leaders Puja, who could always make us laugh, and Shobha, who fell in line seamlessly with our motley crew. To my fellow residents, I really do miss you already and see you everywhere here. Luis, I see you in the man openly defecating. Peter, I saw you when I was bit by a mosquito at 45 degrees last night (uh oh). My courageous Amanda, I see you in every pharmacy I pass. Dear Christie when I saw a child on rounds with my aunt who truly had a hemoglobin of 1.9, I couldn’t help by think of your beautiful peaked face. And to all of you, I hope you take this in the best possible way when I say, when I see leprosy… I think of you.
This has been one of the most rewarding and thrilling experiences of my life. It was too rapidoo.