Because class and rotations are over, I assumed that the last week of my trip would have less of an impact on me compared to the rest of my time in India. But the past day has impacted me the most, and it has actually been the first time I’ve cried this whole trip. In span of 24 hours I have unexpectedly witnessed Death, Life, and Inequality all through three powerful experiences that I am sure I will never forget.
Death: Last night, a few of my friends and I were waiting in the hospital courtyard for some of the hospital staff to join us for dinner. While we waited, we saw a bunch of people gathering and a distraught woman leaving the ER. At first I acknowledged the situation, but did not think too much of it. As more people gathered I noticed that the nurses and doctors began to come out of the ER blessing and comforting the mother. I was now intrigued, concerned, and anxious. Finally, we see the father carrying out a small girl in his arms with a white cloth draped over her body. Everyone dropped their heads and prayed. He cried and slowly placed the small body in the car to drive home. Watching the father cry with his dead daughter in his hands on Father’s Day was one of the most difficult scenes I’ve seen in my life.
Dr. Pravesh then came to meet us and when he realized what had happened, he went to give his condolences to the family. Turns out that the family was driving somewhere for Father’s Day and they got into minor car accident. The young girl was hanging her head out the window and suffered a head injury at impact that killed her later that day. Her twin sister sat next to her in the car and seemed to be okay.
Witnessing this gave me a reminder on how fragile life really is. Everyone hears terrible stories of accidents involving young children. The reaction typically is a heavy sigh, a second of reflection, and then on with your life. But seeing the defeat and helplessness of the young girl’s family last night shook me up inside. I found myself up at night, disturbed of the horror this family is facing.
Death is the part of medicine. It is the most difficult aspect and has me a little hesitant about the profession. There are no words to console a mother or father who has just lost a child.
Life: The next experience occurred today, and it reminded me of the benefits of practicing medicine. We were all sitting around when some of our staff announced that there was going to be an emergency caesarian (Sea Section) for a woman with pre-eclampsia, a dangerous hypertensive condition for the mother and baby. The mother came into the hospital in the morning with edema and swelling of the legs and arms. The OBGYN decided it was necessary for an emergency caesarian in order to save the mother and the baby. Once again, I was intrigued and anxious. I was going to be able to see a baby being born! I was very excited. We scrubbed up and entered the Operating Theater. After the incision was made, they found out that the baby was breech, so they had to pull him out legs first. The baby boy was born without any major complications for the mother or baby. It was such a relief to hear the first cry of the baby’s life. It was an amazing and beautiful thing to witness.
Inequality: I was honored to hear Dr. Sanjay, a professor from Varanasi and director of Men’s Action for Stopping Violence Against Women (MASVAW), his wife, Madhu, a professor in secondary education and gender, and their son discuss their lives leading the state wide campaign stopping violence against women. Their focus is on informing men about the issue of violence against women, a very progressive and socially unacceptable concept for many traditional Indians to grasp. Dr. Sanjay discussed his experience with cases of dowry burnings, rape, and mental/physical abuse. A dowry burning happens often when the groom’s family is not happy with the dowry given by the bride’s family. The groom’s family will place the woman in the kitchen and burn her…it is typically shrugged off by the authorities as a kitchen accident. They also focus on emphasizing to young boys the inequalities between boys and girls in the education system through coloring book. MASVAW has been effective in helping men recognize the inequalities that women face and in changing the hegemonic mindset that society has engrained in their heads.
Dr. Sanjay and his family have an inspiring passion and dedication to the campaign. They have been looked down upon by society and seen as rebellious. Dr. Sanjay told me that he often feels threatened by society and his family. He had to dissociate from his family because they disagreed with how Mandhu practiced feminism and how Dr. Sanjay did not set her in her place. His father would harass Dr. Sanjay’s son about feminism. When we were told this story during the lecture, I looked over at the son and saw him crying.
I loved meeting such a powerful family. They had remarkable knowledge, courage, and persistence to take on such a difficult issue in India. After the talk, I spoke with Dr. Sanjay about how I was taking a year between undergraduate and graduate school. He told me that he would be happy to have me come to Varanasi for as many months as I wished to help work with the program and peers in the universities holding focus groups and qualitative research on violence against women. We exchanged information and promised to be in touch!
So it was quite a day…to top it off, I just returned from a traditional Indian Mundan Ceremony. The ceremony celebrates a baby’s first haircut at age one. The entire town was invited. All the girls got dressed in their best Indian wear and accessories. The boys looked snazzy in their dress shirts, ties, and pants. We ate on the ground, with our fingers, on a plate made of leaves. There was so much delicious food served. Afterwards Mili taught us how to Bollywood dance and all the locals watched laughing/taking pictures.
The past 24hrs was quite the rollercoaster ride and was a lot to digest. I am gaining invaluable perspective here in India that will shape my choices going forward in life.