Friday, October 28, 2016

Everyday

Everyday, yes every day,
"Take a step", I humbly say.

Everyday, yes every day,
"That step takes us closer to our dreams", I say.

Everyday, on Earth that you get to stay,
When sun shines, I hope you make hay.

They say, Rome was not built in a day,
Slowly I am learning that progress is made each day,
In this small thing secrets lay,
That all dreams comes true, work hard if you may.

Everyday, yes every day,
Without an exception, comes that morning sun ray,
I know what it wants to say,
"Keep walking, I am creating your way".

Everyday, yes every day,
Magic of life makes me happy and gay,
Everyday, yes every day,
"Thank you Lord", is what I only pray.

Everyday, yes every day,
I strive to become human in a better way,
Every day, yes every day,
I love my life, much more than yesterday.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Meaningful friendships are a privilege : Walking down memory lane

Most people are sharing years of friendship on Facebook these days. I also feel like expressing gratitude to that one person in my life who has allowed me to be her friend and who has been a kind friend to me all this time. I do not exactly know how many years have gone by for I precisely cannot point in time when we became friends - it has been a series of unsettling ups and downs and eerie silences without any compromise to self-respect of each other. 

I think friendship is an evolutionary process;  as we grow we become mature friends, we become more open to our friend. I believe it is a process of continual acceptance, embrace and a soul-cleansing experience. I always tell her, my friend Deepshri Gupta that if I have to look back and cite my biggest achievement, it has to be this friendship, the relationship that we share. I am an eccentric person who follows her own whims and fancies but I do have memories when I have seen Deepshri taking initiatives to better the situation between the two of us.  I must admit we both have become better friends and better humans together, our values bind us despite stark differences. 
This was the most beautiful day of my college
life. I can say we became friends this day. 

I think a good friendship is like that of a family relation in which we just accept the person, care for them and yet allow them liberty; its like always being there as an inseparable part of their life's existence. Friendship is knowing that I can always call her up and say anything, or that she can call me at any time of the day and say the most stupid thing in the world and yet I will listen to it and participate in the conversation. I guess she is the only one with this privilege of saying the most nonsense of things to me. She is the only one with whom I gossip :P  I think that is beautiful, a relationship without judgments, a relationship in which the other person ceases to be "other" and becomes one's own, very own. 

I will also say that we have become better friends after college and distance has only imparted more strength to this association. And Deepshri takes credit for this one. May be people who are meant to be together always are together, I can assert that with confidence when it comes to us at this point of time in life. Deepshri is a very fine human being, her honesty, child like innocence and lack of pretence makes me respect her all the more. And I am convinced that she knows the value of relationships and how to nurture them (a skill): something we both have learnt over the course of time in our respective lives. 

Of course, there have been resentments, months of awkward period of silences, mis-communications but never have been situations of loss of trust. I know she is my greatest benefactor and she knows that I am her well-wisher and this remains a doctrine even if we separate due to any conflict. And this is precisely what friendships are about: mutual respect while acknowledging the differences. She has her own life and I have my own life, yet we are closely interwoven into each others' life through this beautiful bond of friendship. 

It amazes me that I have this privilege of a deep relationship with someone. Meaningful friendships are a treasure, never let them go.  A very fine human fabric in the form of Deepshri Gupta, it is a privilege to be your friend. Thanks mate! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

CRHP: Third day

The school that we visited.
On the third day, diligently after my morning run and breakfast I set out to explore a new place with the Mobile health team. A visit which, in retrospection seems like a strategic move by the Creator for me. The place was 61km away from Jamkhed, a residential school for physically challenged children. It was a school that catered to the students from 1st class till 8th class. The name of the school was "Shreeya Nivasi Apang Vidyalaya" at Karkhel in the Beed district of Maharashtra. 

Equipment in the room at school catering to exercise needs of children.
We were there to find out children who could be helped through minor surgeries for which a team from Canada was visiting Jamkhed in December. The school principal called children one by one, and every time the child came I sank deeper within. I had, never in my life so far seen such spectrum of disability in human bodily structure. So much so that fingers stuck to each other were also I learnt a functional limitation. One boy could not put his feet on ground, his both heels protruded  backwards. I could not find out why he could not touch floor with his feet; what seemed so easy was confounding and intriguing at the same time. One boy had his right hand bent all the way towards shoulder of the same hand. One boy had knees which were deformed and his gait was compromised. I at that time did not look at them as children for I could not stop myself from imagining them as adults. At that point of time, I looked at my own physique and felt grateful and the situation filled me with a sense of responsibility also. I could not understand why some people were born deformed, a question which later was to become a topic of intense discussion in the evening. 

I explored the school. There were close to 6 rooms, two rooms served as a residential place for children, the other was kitchen and the rest were class rooms. Common classes used to happen in that school. There was one room which had exercise equipment. This greatly fascinated me. I requested the school official to help me understand the use of every machine. He cordially explained to me practically the way to use the machine and the objective they fulfilled. This was related to the project that I was pursuing that time: fitness programming for physically challenged people. However, when I saw the equipment,  a change of thought process ensued in my heart. 

One of the classes I visited. Total students : 50. Total teachers : 5
Here was this school in a place no one can imagine catering to the special needs of the unique children of God. At that time I realized, that the change that I was trying to initiate through my project of fitness for people with disability had an ancestor. The ancestor was "change at the grassroots". That was my Eureka moment. My thought process at that time was something like this: "Of course, the change has to begin at the grassroots level. Imagine  if we make children with disabilities aware about the way they can exercise to increase their flexibility, mobility and autonomy. When they grow up to be adults, they will strive to find out places which cater to their needs because of their awareness.  Or at least, they will have knowledge that exercise is important for them and helps them lead a better life." The problem then was that of exercise physiologists: an acute shortage of such resources in India. But the lesson was very big: "Change has to be initiated at the grassroots level". 

Inspirational words in Marathi, a language of Maharashtra.

I went into their class. The children were happy to see me, stood up and then sat down. When I was leaving, they held their hands out for hand embrace. I touched every hand that came towards me, loving hands, hopeful hands; it seemed like at that moment I had made a promise and was reinforcing that promise with every hand shake. The innocent smiles on their face choked my throat, the light in their eyes reminded me of my responsibility, their carefree looks belied an intense storm that had taken place in my heart. How humbling that experience was. The images in my mind are still fresh and will always be. 

 When I was coming back from there, I was just looking outside the jeep, at the mountains and the sky and the green pasture. Here I was, educated, well-learned, working in a great company and there were these innocent children unaware of so much: such a huge chasm. People might deem it philosophical, but at times like these it is impossible for me not to fall deep into a trance in my own heart. The fact that I was educated or the miracle that I was educated is a responsibility that I have on my shoulders. The only way to do justice to this miracle is to help and serve others, less privileged. It was a personal moment of anger and gratitude, silence and storm in my heart, acceptance and revolution. Some feelings, I guess, just cannot be described by words. 

What also touched me was that a change was happening in a place which was disconnected from the rest of the nation. Witnessing this meaningful initiative in Karkhel, just like a plant sprouting in a cement, was a heart-warming phenomenon and heroic thing. 

Forgetting those faces would be a blasphemy!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

CRHP : Second day

The second day of my explorations into works of CRHP (Comprehensive Rural Health Project) http://jamkhed.org/ , was to be in the village some 65 km away from Jamkhed, where the campus is located. I went with the Mobile Health team to a village named "Patoda" in Beed district of Maharashtra. 

You might be wondering what "Mobile Health Team" is. Mobile Health team, one of the three important pillars of CRHP, the other two being the community and the hospital (Julia/CRHP Hospital). The team visits villages to cull information about the health status of the village, their health problems and issues that are intrinsically related to health. This way, every day they visit and invariably at the end of the day sit together to have a meeting and discussion. I think there are 10 members in the Mobile Health team. Every day I used to go out with them in our jeep. 

At Patoda, I observed a newly constructed, 2 years old primary health centre under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). The building looked beautiful, the veneer of the colors on the walls hiding the realities within the walls. The head nurse showed me the various rooms in the hospital. It was a good hospital, but what good is a hospital without resources? It was at that time I realized that creating a hospital in a remote area was half the work done, why the other  half was still not as good as the first half of infrastructure was to be explained by the doctor who later came to hospital. The doctor that we met had gone to some other village for health related camp. When he came, the first thing that we saw was scores of people coming to get examined. He dutifully examined them and in intervals was kind enough to answer my queries. 

Here is what I can recall from our conversation: 
Me: Sir, what kinds of problems you face here? And why do you think doctors do not want to work in areas rural?
Doctor: I do not have a bigger staff. Nurses and doctors do not want to stay here. There are no quarters dedicated for their residential needs and private sector gives more money. The dispensary is also not well functional. 

Me: I saw an Operation theatre also, what kind of operations are performed there? Is C-section also conducted?
Doctor: We only perform two kinds of operations : tubectomy and laparoscopy. No, C-section is not conducted here, for that the mother has to go outside. 

Me: I noticed that there was no emergency staff while you were away?
Doctor: As I mentioned, there is a lack of resources here. 

Me: Do you have any facility to heal broken bones?
Doctor: No, we do not have plastering facilities.

Apart from questions and his statements, I had a few visual observations also. Thankfully, an ambulance was there. The hospital was clean. 
This is the second time that I have visited a PHC and I have same observations. Great infrastructure for primary health but no 24 X 7 services to help people. And we are talking about a place which is quite far from the nearest city, in an area where paths have been carved on mountains. 

One answer caught my attention, this was not the first time I was hearing it. I had read it very many times, heard from people that doctors are not willing to reside in rural areas. Ever since I first heard it, I have been thinking hard on how it could be solved. How can circumstances be created such that ambitions of doctors for their own children and family is not compromised. Of the 121 crore Indians, 83.3 crore live in rural areas, we cannot quickly turn them into cities to solve this. We need to think more deeply. Communication is important with medical community. 

A considerable amount of Indians live in rural areas and their health is important.  I need to study deeper regarding this issue of unwillingness. Medicine should not be reduced to a profession of making money at the cost of health of people.

Monday, October 10, 2016

CRHP First day


My visit to CRHP (Comprehensive Rural Health Project), Jamkhed began on Sunday night. Monday evening I reached the campus. This was the beginning of a great eye-opening experience. I was excited, happy, grateful and geared up for my learning to come. Monday evening as soon as I arrived Dr. Ravi Arole, Director of CRHP talked to me and helped me understand more about CRHP. In the evening, immediately after the introductory discussion, Michelle, an intern from US, took me around the campus and helped me get acquainted with various sections of the campus dedicated to different activities. It was a big campus. Below is the brief description of the various sections:



Science Centre

The campus consisted of science center which had Chemistry and Biology labs. The teachers were individuals with experience and detailed understanding of how the concepts in labs are used in outside world in a practical way. The garden outside the center consisted of beautiful ways in which scientific concepts were illustrated. There was elevator principle, a musical instrument built solely using granite slabs which actually played the musical notes, resonance principle, rock climbing to name a few. All these illustrations, I was told were built by a professor from Elon University, named Martin. He stayed at the campus for a year to carry out these expeditions. Dr. Ravi had this vision to bring scientific labs to this census town of Jamkhed, where students have little opportunity to tinker with instruments in laboratory. This work began with his realization to understand the importance of relegating practical education to the students. It reminded me of my own state-of-art laboratories. Never had I been grateful to the labs in my school and college, and here was I standing transfixed and overwhelmed. We seldom appreciate what we have, until we visit places which are struggling to create and emulate what we have. I immediately wrote a note of gratitude to my principal sir, Shri Suraj Prakash thanking him for all the facilities in school.

Prosthetic Centre

Next, Michelle took me to prosthetic center which creates artificial limbs for people who have missing limb parts. The person there showed me few of the samples. This was a similar place that I have visited at APD (Association for Physically Disabled), in Bangalore. It was essentially like the “Jaipur foot”, which is a low cost solution for prosthetic leg. The person himself was differently abled and took great pride in what he was doing.
The vibrant observation that runs common throughout the CRHP and its various works is the fact that people who manage the work are the ones who themselves are clear of the “why” aspect of their jobs. We also met a lady, whose name I cannot recall, who was busy creating greeting cards using designs cut from saree. These cards are displayed for exhibition when foreigners visit the place.

Pre-School

We went to pre-school, which caters to children below five years of age and teaches them life-skills and important lessons before they embark on a formal journey to school. Meals are served two times and intellectual development along with creativity is major objective. The school starts at 8:30 am and goes on till 4pm in the evening. I happened to interact with Mrs. Meena, who is the teacher at school. She is a very self-motivated woman and I could sense her pride in doing what she was doing. She came back to Jamkhed after her marriage for she believed that being a teacher was her calling and she is very happy now. From this we learn that, Mrs. Meena is a self-motivated individual who understands very well the role that she is playing in creating the future of the children; she does not merely come to school but understands the responsibility she has as the first connect between children and formal education. Lots of fun activities, recreation, team-building games form the part of the typical day. I spent my time at pre-school and it was absolutely fun to play with children and tease them. There is innocence in children because there are no barriers when it comes to befriending them. They smile when you come, someone will hand over ball, someone will hand over bat, and someone will just hold your hand and drag you along with them, to play with them, to dance with them or to just sit with them. The carefree look on children is reminiscent of the fact that everything actually is perfect and that worrying serves no purpose. I played a lot with children and had a lot of fun. My favorite part was climbing on a wall and watching them emulating to reach out to me. Pre-school, is another aspect of the vision of CRHP which is absolutely well-furnished; in a census town this is a feast. CRHP understands well the importance of creating changes right at the grass-root level.

Julia Hospital/CRHP Hospital

The campus also consists of a huge hospital which serves the medical needs of the people in the area. It is well structured. This hospital used to be full when CRHP had begun its operations (1970s) and due to the presence of CRHP, traction for medical centres has been created in nearby villages and there is not much crowd here, not to say that it is defunct. Deliveries are carried out and emergency treatment is given when needed.

Library

What can I say? It is a great library with publications from WHO, UNESCO and books which one cannot resist reading. Most of my free time was devoted to reading books and reports. As I am writing this, I have in my mind vivid imagination of the library, its corners, its books and it was like being in heaven and being free. I read about Women in South Asian countries, a work by Mabelle Arole, one of the founders of CRHP. I also read book titled, “How to change the world” which talks about the Ashoka Fellows, who are social entrepreneurs who changed the world, though I could not complete it. Libraries have been my favorite places to be at, needless to say I terribly miss CRHP’s library.
Thus, the first day was spent exploring the campus and at dinner time I met another two interns from US: Shayla and Itisha. Dinners were usually the time to have fruitful discussions and sharing of information about the culture of the countries we belonged to. We also used to play a lot of fun games, which required quick reflexes. It was a time spent with insane periods of laughter and I do miss those times. It was a privilege to interact with students from other continent and gather perspectives about their culture and society.
I slept at around 12pm (I usually sleep at 11pm) in night on the first day with the resolve that I will exercise in morning at 6 am. I had wanted to break this belief in me, which was fixated on the thought that a great workout can happen only in gym. And I was elated that I did workout the next morning at the stipulated time. The next day brought with it, its own series of lessons in varied hues and colors.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Jamkhed : I miss you.

It's terrible, this feeling, 
The feeling of having a glimpse of your dream, 
It's fascinating, this feeling, 
The feeling of having a glimpse of your dream. 

Six days, I spent in a place called Jamkhed,
Generous enough the people to have me there, 
I learnt so much, no book ever could tell, 
the stories of people I heard while being there. 

My soul longs for the place, 
My soul longs for the library, 
My soul longs for the debates, 
We had in hall ! 

It upsets me to have come back, 
But I have responsibilities, to take care of, 
And I have work to do, 
To make the dreams come true. 

Bless the soul of Raj and Mabelle, 
Who started this CRHP, 
Vivid was their soul, 
in every corner of the place. 

I do long to go back, 
I do long to rush back, 
And the time will come. 

Till then I have to toil, 
Harder than my soul has known. 

My trip to Swasthya Swaraj : Computer Lessons

This is a post in continuation of my attempt to share lessons from my visit to Swasthya Swaraj Society. Swasthya Swaraj is a secular, not-...