Dec 30, 2014

One blanket at a time.


    
I had decided (and should have) written this a while ago.

    Sub-zero temperature outside my window but I am writing this from the comfort of my room; neatly tucked into my bed within the proximity and the warmth of the heater. Sipping a hot mug of coffee. This is a sheer privilege (?). It had never occurred to me before; not even once. It took 5 days trip and the group of highly motivated people to make me realize this. Almost an epiphany. A blessing.

1.


I saw the birds as big as dogs.
Wild buffaloes.
The snake with the biggest girth that I had ever laid my eyes upon.
Weird lunch.
Broken languages.
Got lost and found in translations.
Dew drops and cow-dung air.
Walked on the sandy path (fun in the beginning but wears you out eventually).
Walked "God-Knows-Where" for hours.
Uncomfortable mini-van.
Back of a Toyota-truck.
And both of our commute would come to a sudden halt either due to over heating or because it got stuck in a sand pit. And it took our "Manual-Laborious-Hands-on" push to get it out of the pit.
So much more..

    .. so much more. But this is not about that bird as big as dog or those commute which came into a halt. Its about the stories I / We came across. About the people. About them. About us..

    .. about that old woman, easily into her late 60's or early 70's, who came to see me for some "gotti (=medicine)" to relieve her aching back and joint. She came clumsily draped in vibrant yellow saree. Ethnic tattoos etched into her skin. Brown shiny skin. Green teeth / No teeth. Disheveled hair. Crooked smile. Foul breath.
    Did what I could. She acknowledged as if she understood what I had just explained to her. One kind policeman who was our translator ushered her to leave to make room for the patient next in line. She began to cry. And yes I had seen few tears during this trip but it wasn't one of those. It was neither to lure us into getting her more gotti's / blankets nor to share her story. It was one of those spontaneous bursts of tears. "I have no clothes to wear, no food to eat, no windows to seal from cold." Now that was heart breaking. She was pulled out into the crowd and was quickly replaced by another patient with her own tale to tell, her own woes to share. The previous woman's part in my story was over. But I remember her face and how she cried. And her summarized story.

    This was one among the few hundred stories I came across during this short trip.

2.


     I was a part of Nyano Sansar during their trip to "Saptari." We made Rajbiraj our pit-stop and each morning we would, with all our might, go to the nearest village distributing blankets, warm clothes and providing medical assistance. It took few policemen on uniform, some locals, and 10 of us, truck load of goods, and a van to get the job done. When the trip began Max had looked at me said "Welcome to the Madness." And that was madness all-right, and circus which I was about to find out.


3.


     Now let me tell something about Max. Something about this black diary I keep.


    I jot down names of all the people I have come across that I find motivating / inspiring. These are my private heroes. There are names of some random strangers, others I know closely. Now Max is in it. He is one of the most amazing soul that I have come across lately. He is the brain and muscle behind the noble team called "Nyano Sansar." And if you haven't heard about it yet you ought to do something about your broken brain.
    In short he collects blankets and warm clothes whilst in the city, painstakingly goes and pre-surveys the target group (which I assure is mind boggling), manages the group such like I was in, reasons (=argues) during his sitting with respective authorities. What not! Now this he said was an easy part.
    I have seen the man in action. Like the captain in a storm he had to shout and smile. Punish and reward. Manage us and mange the stampede of the crowd that would come in record numbers. And that wasn't as easy crowd. That was an impossible one.
    One time during our passing through the village, entire crown braved in front of our truck. Our camera man was manhandled. Chants and shouts. They wanted few blankets distributed to them before letting us go to another village. One woman in particular was adamant. She wouldn't budge. Funny to some; but can you imagine such revolt in return for a blanket. The fact is people die there everyday because they cannot keep themselves warm. No luxury of getting medical assistance. Perhaps, I would stand in front of the truck if I were them. I would want a free blanket and medical check-up from a stranger. Wouldn't you?


     I was one of the four medical personals. And patient would come to us like they were zombies and we were the sole human survivals. It was heart-warming, frustrating, scary, laborious, rewarding all at the same time. In one if the villages, the team was ready to dispatch, we were already signaled to pack up the medicine box. Something kept me busy. Later to realize the group had left and was waiting me across the field. Some unhappy and angry faces shouting, complaining that we left too early (it was already late); I had to rush but I was cornered by the villagers. I panicked a little, and one woman in particular shouted at me, "they only treat the rich." That wasn't the case. But I think I know what she means. I was rescued by a police.

    Max would often tell us that he was never satisfied. Each day before the sleep he would contemplate there is so much more to be done. During first few days I coundn't understand. I mean isn't he doing so much already? But the day I was cornered and was shouted at, may be, I began to understand what he meant. There is in fact so much to be done.
    And thank god there are people like him doing it.


4.

    I haven't done much good in life. This has been one of the most surreal experience of my life and certainly the most meaningful one. It was so good and so bad at the same time. I have purposely left out the things (good and bad) from writing because some are worth not mentioning for a greater good. This was one of those experiences I'd be telling over and over again. One of those I'd like to remember for it motivated me. You see I intend to find my own way to help sooner or later and "This-Experience-And-The-People-Involved" can proudly take credit for it. Deservedly so.

    On my last day we had to walk back the entire length of "Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve" on our way back from infamous village "Gobargada." That was a very long walk. I decided to refrain from being my usual chatty self and walk on my own. I was listening to "Miracles" by Coldplay in loop.

Strangers had become friends.
Awkward handshakes had become high-fives.
Smirk had become shared laughter and inside jokes.
And was thankful for this trip..

    .. thankful for the epiphany; the realization that we could be judgmental about the things we do not know about; that so much could be done with so little if we decide to. Little disappointed because I had to cut the trip short because I was called for a job interview in two days. Little disappointed that I felt so bad at the sight of old woman crying because she had no clothes to wear but I didn't offer her one of my many beanie-hats / sweaters. I felt like a hippocrite. While waiting for our commute to Kathmandu I kept thinking about the entire trip, the people, that woman. Little too late, I decided to leave my coat behind. My favorite coat. I was little hesitant and shy about it. But I left it on a reception desk and decided to call it an accident. I made a phone call, "Dai, I Ieft my coat at the reception desk, would you collect it and make it a part of the donation?"
    To my friends I told that I left it there by accident even before they had asked me. Because I was shy. Its funny how even helping others can make one shy simply because its out of habit.


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