Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lessons from Ukhrul

One picture of the landscape

This tree flowers once a year - the hills were covered

The ubiquitous presence

An official convoy

The health system in our country has been touted as one of the best in the world - on paper. The reality as we all know is quite the opposite. I recently visited a small mission hospital in the district of Ukhrul, Manipur. The two things that strike you on the 4 hour drive from Imphal are the beautiful rolling hills and valleys, the symbol of the North East and the ubiquitous army personnel, who also are unfortunately a symbol and who can be seen roaming the fields and the roads armed with all manner of equipment including rocket launchers! The longer you drive, the more you realise how far this area is from 'civilisation' as we know it. And how the simple life that we now cannot even imagine is the norm. Where waiting in a long queue to collect water from the sole source in the village is part of the everyday routine. Where 'necessities' like electricity, cellular phones and internet have not yet made their appearance. And for me, the most difficult to bear, where health facilities remain so basic as to be nearly non-existent - there is no surgeon in the entire districe. Nearly 2 lakh people with nowhere to go for a surgical emergency. Due to the unrest in the region, travelling at night is out of the question, so Imphal is often too far away in times of need. In fact, there is only one resident specialist in the district - an obstetrician who has a private practice. Once or twice a week, a paediatrician and a pathologist(??!!), who are posted in the civil hospital, but live in Imphal , make their appearance.

This is not a new story. It is retold in so many of our districts and states. It is published in so many of our newspapers and periodicals. We are so used to hearing of it that we now take no notice of it. Our leaders have so come to expect it that they take no action to remedy it. The people go on with their lives - in places like this, illness and death are a part of everyday life, they cannot be taken too seriously. And the terrible tragedy is that doctors, nurses and health care professionals throughout our land turn a blind eye to this travesty. For our present day medical profession, commercial and professional advancement are held up as the standards by which we measure our success. The idea of medicine as a calling or vocation has long been swallowed up by the tidal wave of commercialism and health 'business'. Today we wonder how enlightened people could allow Hitler to commit his awful crimes. Tomorrow our descendants will look at us - the doctors, nurses and health workers of today, in that same light. Are there any who will choose to respond to the need... Or will we all accept the situation of today and pretend there is nothing we can do to change it...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The beauty of Shillong

Is this Shillong?!!
View down the hospital hill
Nursing school
In front of our house

Just when we thought we had seen all there was to see of Meghalaya's wonderful natural beauty, we were surprised yet again! We had a 15 minute hailstorm today and the power of the wind and the size of the hail needed to be seen to be believed. I braved the end of the storm to rush back home to get the camera, slipping in the ice all the way. The view of the hospital lawn is always beautiful, but this was the best yet. And I thought, isn't it amazing that there is always something more that you can see and experience if you will only wait for it... The beauty of Meghalaya continues to surprise and inspire.