I type this as my eyes slowly close from the jet lag ensued from the strenuous journey. 3 flights, 1 cancelled flight and 40 hours later I arrived at the ancient holy city of Nashik.
I set off in the evening from the familiar Heathrow Airport, unfamiliar with the concept of solo travelling. Easily enough I got on the flight to Ahmedabad with a 3 hour stop over at Abu Dhabi. What was meant to be a relaxing 3 hour break turned into a chaotic 12 hours, kick starting with me being told my flight connection had been overbooked and I would have to take the night flight. After a frenzy of calling friends and family, I had time to kill in a strange but wonderful town. I visited the Grand Mosque, a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest mosque in the UAE. Followed by some relaxation at a local hotel, I hoped onto the flight to Ahmadabad. Dragging bags from one airport to the next, I finally got on the plane to Nashik. And boy was it worth it. I saw lush green fields, vineyards of grapes producing world renowned wine, many decorated golden temples devoted to as many Gods.
I was asked by my mentor in India, Dr. Rajendraji, to meet him directly at the hospital. With no idea of what to expect, I was greeted by warm smiles by him and his colleagues. We spent some time talking about the hospital – how he and a group of other doctors founded it 11 years ago and the objectives of Guruji hospital. The aim of the project is not just to provide accessible healthcare to the poorest in Nashik but to invest in Sarvangin Vikaas – factors affecting quality of life such as water sanitation, farming techniques, women empowerment etc. This is a sustainable model as in the long run can decrease the demand for healthcare services as it builds a healthy, strong community.
After we got to know each other better, Dr. Rajendraji took me to his home for lunch. I had a Magnificent Maharati Meal. I had chilli and gourd fritters with sea salt and raw mango achar, a thick spiced peas and potato stew, rice, roti, daal and kheer. After the succulent lunch, the drowsiness I had was brought to a halt when I was taken on a tour of the hospital. The hospital had very advanced systems, parallel with the NHS, as well as ultra modern equipment including chemotherapy rooms, a million pound linear accelerator used to treat brain tumours, x ray machines, and an in-house pharmacy was just the beginning of the list. The cost of a consultation with one of the senior doctors is 100 rupees (£1.14) , an overnight stay at the hospital including 24 hour Nurse and doctor supervision with meals is 550 rupees (£6.25) and dialysis treatment was 400 rupees (£4.54)
In conclusion, it was a very tiresome journey to get to Nashik but was definitely worth it. It is very evident all the staff at the hospital from the doctors to the porters are committed to providing the best treatment to as many patients as possible, regardless of status or position. The little Hindi I do know is proving useful, but it is clear I must become more fluent to communicate better and attempt to learn the more widely spoken local language – Marathi.
Tomorrow I will experience morning trek up a hill with Rajendraji, followed by experiencing the work of the Sewa Sankalp Samiti – a group within the hospital responsible for outreach programmes to local slums and tribal regions. I need a good night’s sleep for the challenging day ahead…