One summer we spent a few days at a resort in a forest area here in Maharashtra.
This was a holiday resort run by the state government and there were no ‘tourist spots’ to visit nearby, so not many people were staying there. There was a lake right in front of our cottage and our children, who were quite young then, were happy to play by the lake all day long.
There were just a couple of villages nearby, and a few Padas where tribal families lived. We noticed that there was a clinic run by an NGO near the resort where we were staying. One evening we went up to the clinic. The doctor there was an elderly gentleman and very friendly. He told us that he had retired a few years earlier from his job at the hospital where he had worked for many years. He had always wanted to do some social work, and had volunteered to come and run this clinic in a tribal area.
There were a couple of nurses (also volunteers) to help him and a caretaker who kept the clinic clean and did any necessary odd jobs.
On market day, once a week, there was always a huge rush at the clinic, he told us. The tribals would bring whatever they could gather in the forest – usually wood or fruits or honey – to sell at the market. Later on in the afternoon, any of them needing medical attention would come by the clinic. The doctor would listen to them, examine them, and give them the appropriate medicines. If the ailment persisted, then the patient would visit again a few days later.
There was a room with a couple of beds in the clinic. Patients could rest there for a few hours if needed, after any minor procedure. If a patient needed hospitalization or consultations with specialists, the doctor contacted other volunteers of the NGO and they would make arrangements for the same.
The clinic was free, but the grateful patients would often bring a bottle of honey or some fruit for the doctor.
There were not many patients at the clinic that day, so we stayed for a while chatting with the doctor. We were impressed with the work that they were doing at the clinic and asked if we could help.
Earlier that evening, I had mentioned the Sanskarvarga that a few friends and I conducted in an underprivileged area in Mumbai. I have written about it in this post on my earlier blog. So the doctor suggested a way that my friends and I could help.
Accordingly, after returning to Mumbai, I told my friends about our visit to the clinic. And we decided to help.
Following the doctor’s suggestion, I asked our family doctor if he could give us some medicines out of the samples that medical companies gave them. He readily agreed, telling me that many of them go unused anyway. He brought out a carton full of medicines, and told me to take whatever I wanted. The doctor at the clinic had told me that common tablets like crocin, etc, vitamin pills/ drops, ointments for skin diseases, antiseptics, etc. would be useful. So I selected these, taking care to see that the expiry dates were at least a year away.
My friends did the same, one friend even bought wads of cotton wool, gauze and bandages and added those, too. We were able to pack a large box with medical supplies, and send it to the clinic in the tribal area. A few days later we received a letter from the doctor thanking us, and saying that the supplies we had sent would be very useful.
I have a suspicion that the doctor suggested collecting medicines, not only because it would be helpful for the clinic, but also to make us realize that there were various ways that we could do something for others in our society.
And we were glad he did, for sending that box packed with the medicines that we had collected, gave us a kind of satisfaction merely donating money would not have.
Nowadays, technology has made great advances. Everything is done with a click of the mouse. People are frequently generous and online donation of money has become easy if one wishes to give to any charity.
There are online groups for causes which have thousands of ‘followers’. Online activism has a standard Mantra, nowadays- “Tweet About It”.
Not that I’m underestimating the power of the internet, or of technology in general. These are wonderful and effective tools if used in the right way.
I’m just suggesting that sometimes it’s good to leave our laptops and go out into the real world.
It’s good to have a cause touch our hearts as well as our intellects.