Jagriti Yatra Day Five: Still waters run deep

A third of the #JagritiYatra is over as we leave Madurai after meeting Dr S Aravind and Dr Ravichandran, Chairman, Aravind Eye Care Systems. The morning started with a news that the train changed its route and instead of heading to Madurai, it ended up in Chennai. And so, the train had to re-route to Madurai which cut through our time allotted to the Aravind Eye Hospital visit.

Anyway, we reached the destination and saw this great documentary, Infinite Vision, on Aravind Eye Care Systems which was started by Dr G Venkataswamy with just 11 beds and, in 38 years of its existence, it went on to become the largest eye hospital of the world with eight such hospital in South India and collaborating with over 300 hospitals across India, Africa, South America and Europe.

Dr V had this vision of ending needless blindness in India. And he dreamt of replicating the model that McDonald’s adopts to deliver the same quality burger all over the world with same efficiency. This story is known to all of us. But the point is having this great vision and a desire to excel, not for the personal gains but for the larger good.

The hospital runs on an inherent culture of catering to the needy with 2/3rd of the patients treated free of cost and at a stupendous pace of one doctor performing 2000 surgeries as against the national average of 200! It funds itself through the money it generates by treating people who can afford to pay. And it requests other patients to contribute for their poor counterparts in whatever little or big way they can.

The idea was that resources need not get bigger than the aspirations. A dream can very well be translated in to reality if there is a clarity on the joy of giving. Resources can trouble you but they can’t hold you back. Aspirations should be strong and large enough to keep you motivated as well as grounded.

It was really an awesome evening spent, though had we come in the morning we could have visited the labs and hospital as well. But it was not meant to be. Still we took home quite a few lessons.

Before that, we had a good group interaction session in the AC Chair Car where we were put into groups and given five question one after another, each with a gap of four minutes. We had to talk among the group and look for some solution by writing the solutions on the chart paper. At the end of the session, all the suggestions were discussed. It was a good exercise on self evaluation.

Earlier in the day, I was with my group where we share our stories and create a comfortable space for all of us to open up and speak. Every time one of them narrates his/her story, I think, ok, this guy is just great, he came through all the troubles… And then comes this another guy which has another great story.

Today, one guy, who is in his early twenties, narrated his stories. He is this chubby guy who is fun, stays calm generally, and is from Assam. Honestly, I never took him seriously as he never projected himself to be such.

He narrated his story today. A regular guy, average at studies, humble at heart and chirpy in the talks, he spoke in his typical way. He would keep giggling and pass very serious things with a subtle hint of satire. And I would start wondering, oh, this guy doesn’t speak much, and when he does, he makes so much sense!

He started speaking about his personal life, about how he was taught in an English medium school and how the school taught anything but English! There was English as a subject but they never ever had teachers who could teach the subject with seriousness.

The he made it light with his girlfriend story, a typical school guy thing. Talked about how and why he went for her, how she rejected saying him to stay friends, how he never lost hope as she said the word ‘friend’, how he proposed second time and how she accepted.

He had seen a great loss in his early life when a fire destroyed all his family finances and they were left with nothing. But his father worked hard and they got to the top level again.

After sharing his love life, he wanted everyone’s attention to conclude and he says, ‘fir wo suicide kar liya’ (the girl committed suicide in September). I got very sad. And he asks me, “Arey Sir, aap kyo sad oh raha hai, mai to sad nahi hua. Usko Jana tha chali gayi, reason nahi pata chala, lekin mere Karan usne aisa nahi kiya ye mai janta hoon…” He said that these losses don’t affect him much as he has sen bigger losses!

This guy then started talking about the situation of various things in Assam, the political crisis, the economic issues, infrastructure issues, the exclusion from main stream, prostitution, infiltration, culture, arts & crafts, education etc. And all I did was to sit and admire him.

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