Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 13 - Last Village and end of mission

The opening ceremony before the assembled villagers featured an exhortation by swami, via laptop, to not smoke or eat meat.  He spoke, and his words were translated into English, so I got the message, as did all the villagers.  This is part of the public education program sponsored by the mobile hospital.  BTW, I have seen very little smoking in the villages or in Puttaparthi itself.  There was also a special fire ceremony in which John, much to his obvious delight, officiated, with cues from the other doctors.

Dr. Susheela told me that if I ever needed help or wanted something to happen, all I had to do was write a letter to swami.  I could write it on paper or on my hand, and there would be no need to post it.  Swami gets everything you "send" him.  It's up to you, however, to interpret his reaction, connect the dots so to speak.  For example, something will happen, and you will have to realize it is his doing.  She also told me that I was fortunate to be able to come to the ashram because swami does not permit all to come.  Bill Clinton wanted to come but swami would not allow it.  Obviously, I have something going for me that Clinton doesn't.

One of swami's miracles is completion of a $63 million water system bringing treated water to 900,000 people in 700 villages in Andra Pradesh.  The claim is that it was financed without solicitation, which probably means Tata funded it.  Normally projects in India are delayed, never completed, for instance because of changes in the administration, poorly maintained, etc. This one was completed in record time and apparently works.  That may truly be a miracle.  I was told about a separate water project that saved Chennai, a city of 7 million officially and probably much more unofficially, from having to rely on water trucks for delivery.  But this was also explained to me as a desalinization project, and/or as negotiation of a water sharing agreement among several jurisdictions, so it is not clear to me what swami's role was.  But he does seem able to get things done.

A few of the doctors, such as Dr. Susheela, come every month to the mobile clinic, but most are new each month.  The doctors have to be practicing in Andre Pradesh state.  They are also all devotees.  This is a very popular activity, and there is a 3 month waiting list of doctors who want to come.  They all work for free and from the heart, so they seem to be instantly cohesive.  There is a great deal of camaraderie among them, and they love to tell swami stories.  A particularly charming moment was one morning when one of the doctors passed out little sweets to everyone on the bus because it was his birthday.  It is a tradition in this area to give small presents to others on your birthday.  

The last village specializes in pokuri and they make them for the doctors each month.  Some have chilies in them, or other types of vegetables,  They are delicious, and the doctors look forward to them.  

I spoke with one of the doctors in the general surgery clinic.  Much of what they do with the mobile hospital is remove sebaceous cysts, give steroid injections, and set closed fractures.  As I mentioned earlier, procedures requiring general anesthesia, including knee replacements, are referred to the swami's hospitals, including the new super specialty hospital, the one shaped like Om.  Everything is free at these hospitals.  That is supposed to be the case at the government hospitals for the poor, but in fact it often isn't.  For example, the hospital may claim not to have certain medicines so that the patient has to buy them elsewhere.  Or the hospital won't provide certain services.  Also, the service at the government hospitals is poor, with people waiting around for hours.  Apparently none of this happens at the swami's facilities, which are all funded by his trusts.

The ENT doctor I spoke with told me he has two sons and three brothers in the US, in five different cities -- someplace in NJ, Tennessee, St. Louis, D.C., and Greensboro, NC.  He has been to visit all or some of them, and in particular likes Greensboro.  These relatives are all engineers, the brothers mechanical and electrical, the sons in computers.  None of them has any intention of returning to India.  

Our work with the mobile hospital was very rewarding because the trainees have had opportunities to do LEEP procedures and are already improving their skills.  This was a terrific experience, something truly wonderful to see.  The mobile hospital is known about all over, perhaps all over India,  It would be great is similar efforts took place elsewhere.

One last comment before I start the tourist part of my journey.  At dinner the last night flocks of fruit bats, which look to be about the size of sea gulls with wings spread, flew in loose formation over our outdoor cafe.  The show lasted for about a half hour, with what seemed like thousands of bats circling around the town as the sun set.  It looked like special effects in a film.  

The next activity was my overnight train ride to Chennai to meet up with Stephen.  It was uneventful and I was even able to sleep for several hours.  Deborah

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