Feeling the Love

Of all the medicines we use to treat the sick
the most powerful is love
Indra Sinha

Feeling the love for each other and our friends in Bhopal

From our pitch in the Leftfield at Glastonbury last weekend it was pretty obvious that everyone was feeling the love and having a great time. People with friends and family wading through mud, exploring the myriad exciting tents and fields, and generally having a really good time at the biggest festival of British summer.

It was love that brought the Bhopal Medical Appeal to Glastonbury. Love for the people in Bhopal, love for the planet, love for humanity. And as we chatted with punters who stopped by our tent, stapled material to plastic, worked on our sculpture garden, stapled some more material onto plastic, argued over staplers and stapled material onto plastic (that’s the last time I’ll mention staplers, the memories are painful for all of us) we definitely were feeling the love. We had an absolutely brilliant team at Glastonbury, and everyone worked so hard to engage with the public, keep our workshops up and running, and keep things positive and motivated no matter what the weather.  It was truly uplifting to be part of such a lovely bunch of people, and also to be able to facilitate a space that was filled with fun and laughter as people cuddled up in our chai corner, danced round our tent and searched our sculptures for their contributions while learning about the people in Bhopal and the legacy of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical that continues to affect the Bhopalis today.

It could have been easy to lose sight of the objective among the frivolity, creativity and laughter. Except it wasn’t. Because almost everyone wanted to know what we were about. People asked questions. “What is Bhopal? Why did it happen? What can we do?” People were genuinely horrified by what they learned and the compassion and disbelief as people questioned why they hadn’t heard about Bhopal before was, at times, tangible.

Smiles and laughter in Bhopal

During the time I spent at Sambhavna I learned alot about love. I learned that being listened to and understood by a doctor for the first time in your life makes you feel worthy of love and can, almost instantaneously, provide symptomatic relief and lessen anxiety. I observed that through panchakarma massage people experience extraordinary improvements in physical and mental health. Although the medicinal properties of panchakarma have been well documented, the power of simple human touch alone cannot be underestimated. Time and time again I watched as patients at Sambhavna proclaimed with delight the recovery they experienced from relatively short courses of panchakarma therapy. Watching Beena’s tender hands work expertly on aching bones and wasted muscles it was clear to me that the love and care she poured into treatment played an enormous part in healing. Her interaction and care for those people was genuine, and their response was overwhelmingly positive and often incredibly emotional.

It is not just at Sambhavna I have witnessed the benefits of a little love. Over the years in nursing homes, hospitals and care centres the effect kindness and human contact can have on individuals has been demonstrated clearly. The breath of a dying patient quietens when their hand is held or their head stroked. Fifteen minutes spent chatting with a lonely elderly person can make them smile for the rest of the day. A hug can replace a million words,  in so many situations, removing the necessity of speech and allowing us to connect as human beings regardless of linguistic challenges or cultural differences (listening and talking and smiling and caring can all make a dramatic difference to physical and emotional health).

It is with love and kindness that the staff at Sambhavna Clinic and Chingari Trust treat the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak and ensuing contamination. It is with love and kindness that so many people at Glastonbury supported the Bhopal Medical Appeal last weekend. And it will be with love and kindness that we all stand together and continue to support the amazing work that is happening in Bhopal and challenge the disgraceful injustice, abuse of human rights and disregard that has occurred for so many years at the hands of those who appear not to care.

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We believe Dow must finally accept responsibility for Bhopal. Until then, The Bhopal Medical Appeal funds two award-winning clinics in the city. Both offer free, first-class care to victims of the gas disaster or the ongoing water contamination. The survivors have nowhere else left to turn – please help if you can.