In the two days that I attended the symposium, I was apprised of my own lack of knowledge and surprised at the discovery of rare diseases which afflict one in every thousand (as defined by WHO http://www.rarediseasesindia.org/ ). I remember I was reluctant to attend it on the morning of 18th March citing that I had tasks to accomplish but by the end of the symposium I was fully convinced that there could not have been a better investment to my weekend than this symposium.
An interesting discussion ensued on the importance of maintaining registries for informing better health decisions and that was of particular interest to me. I believe that information technology and data science has immensely significant role to play in the future of health and health care, more so in the quest of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. A lot of discussion happened about the need to have a central registry for all health outcomes in the country, which as we know is easier said than done. To this Dr. Srivastav had an interesting answer, he mentioned that maintaining state-wide registry would serve as an initiative which other states could emulate and anticipated that that way a more exhaustive and inclusive registry could be maintained. It was also brought to fore that there must be inter-operability among the registries, which I believe is a very important point. From the public health informatics point of view, the information architecture should be such that sharing data between platforms is not a task which entails re-creation of architecture. Time and again we have debates on the nature of data collection in India and the need for disaggregated data collection for better health decisions and policy making. I always wonder that as learned engineers we often talk about big data analysis and biostatistics but the very premise of application of these techniques, the availability of data and its collection is in shambles in our sub-continent. Notwithstanding the fragmented scenario of health data in India, the endeavors to maintain registries is laudable but far from enough.
The event of painting and clay modelling on Sunday, the last day of the Symposium, with kids was also a very different kind of experience. As we age we often allow the little, simple and innocent pleasures of life to fall into oblivion, however such kind of activities often refresh us and take us back to our unbridled enthusiasm of childhood years. Being with kids who exemplified artistic acuity in everything they did is too concrete a memory to be so easily forgotten in the sands of time. As Uma Chandru was pointing out consistently, it was a therapy, an “Art Therapy” and I was living it, it was soothing me and cleansing my soul second by second. All of us had participated, kids, adults and elderly alike with supreme pizzazz and vitality which was the best part. I believe there is a child in all of us and we must unleash it time to time, it keeps us young.
Looking back I wonder, if I had spent my weekend finishing some tasks other than attending this symposium I would have lost a deluge of lifelong experience and my ken would have not broadened. Looking back I have also understood that education is a potent social weapon, a panacea to vandalise the existing miseries and anthropomorphic inequalities in our societies. There was one very striking memory that I still carry with myself - no school admitted her but a teacher taught her every day for 8 years for one hour and today this girl is self-sufficient. Her name? Dhanya Ravi. Her confidence, trust in self and exuberance while astonished me on one hand inspired me on the other and filled me with more energy for my own life endeavors.
These words that I have written nothing remotely convey what I felt during my two days at the symposium but the symposium triggered an avalanche of lessons which will be with me for this lifetime. The long term effect of this short term experience is incalculable. I believe such symposiums are indispensable in a civilized society for it ushers a hope and reminds us of that sense of responsibility that all of us have owing to our education.
This article is incomplete without acknowledging that one person who led me to it, my mentor Dr. Thelma Narayan. I would also like to thank Dr. Uma Chandru, Dr. Vijay Chandru and Dr. Namitha A. Kumar who allowed me to participate actively in the symposium. Last but not the least, the venue for the symposium was perfect , the National Gallery of Modern Art, gratitude to their staff in full measure.