A Volunteer Returns

Ian Jarvis treats Inayat while his grand-daughter Subhanaw, Ian’s ‘next assistant in training’, watches

Ian Jarvis is a practitioner and tutor of ‘Spineworks’, a form of physical therapy focusing on the soft tissue of the body. Ian has just returned from volunteering in Bhopal, for the fourth time, where he has not only been offering his services as a therapist but has been working to pass on his skills to the Sambhavna Clinic.

Ian recounts his experience now he has returned from Bhopal but you can read about his time in Bhopal here: CLICK

Final post

I’m now ‘back home’, though home, at the moment, is a rather rickety balance between UK and (north-west) Spain.

I think it was Mahendra who, on my last Saturday, commented something about it coming quickly (“so soon”), as she invited me to Sunday lunch. It does seem like that. Back in February, as I arrived, the end of May seemed like an age away but now it’s come and gone the time has flown by.

It’s time for a review of what has happened, both personally as well as for the clinic. When a volunteer arrives s/he is asked to complete a form which includes personal details for any emergency but also what her/his ideas, intentions and goals are for the visit. When leaving there is another sheet to review and offer a final report as to what really happened.

Like any plan for any project, reality is different! I need to write a report for the doctors.

For me then, the ‘plan’ as such was to teach someone what I do. This is my fourth visit so there is some history. If you’ve read my ‘Bhopal Today’ page on Facebook you will know that didn’t work out. In fact, it was a total failure! There was insufficient research on the current workload of the yoga teacher and it quickly became clear to me that no-one can do the yoga job as well as being another body therapist. Likewise, when the nurse was suggested instead.

What I have, maybe slightly unfairly, and rather generally dubbed ‘the Indian Planning System’ just didn’t work. However, we have recognised the failure and what needs to be done if it is to be a success in the future. We need dedicated staff.

Rowing to the island mausoleum in Bhopal’s Upper Lake

Coming back to that Sunday lunch, you might get several invites to lunch or a meal, chai etc from members of staff who get to know you – probably those with whom you work most closely. This is a great way to learn about the way ‘normal’ Indian citizens live – but don’t be nosey! From my observation, if you are on a first visit it’s more likely to be the women and couples who are invited rather than lone men. The invitations generally come from the women here (generally, not exclusively) and there are still many gender related issues in the society. My guidance is to accept it with gratitude and do check the timing with your host, if you suggest something they are most likely to accept that even if it’s not completely convenient for them.

I asked Mahendra what time would be good for her but she shrugged and passed the question back to me so, knowing people often eat later than I do, I offered 2. When we were serving, she seemed not to have a plate so I questioned her. She said she couldn’t last past about 12 and had eaten a little then. She had made her three starving boys wait for me though! She did actually sit down and have something with us.

And be prepared to sit on the floor; ask for a spoon if you find it difficult with just your fingers; ask to wash your hands (before and after), it’s normal. In fact, just ask, about anything.

I haven’t said anything about the social life here. It partly depends on how adventurous you are and how many other volunteers there are to share social excitement. I have been both when there were many of us doing collective things much of the time and when I have been alone.

Bhopal is a large city with a lot of interesting history though it is in no way a tourist hotspot. That is why, around the area of the clinic, any obvious non-Indian is immediately recognised as a volunteer with Sambhavna or Chingari.

It is known as ’the City of lakes’ for somewhat obvious reasons, and the big one, called the Upper Lake is a magnet for visitors and locals alike. You can even take a boat over to an island mausoleum and afterwards wander up the hill to ‘Wind and waves’ a restaurant and bar where the popular pastime is sitting sipping beer (yes, beer) gazing at the setting sun and the occasional aeroplane flying over on its way to the airport.

There is a lovely little park between the Upper and Lower lakes, peaceful on a Sunday morning.

Drupadw, the start of a concert at Bhopal arts venue ‘Bharat Bhavan’ featuring Drupad singing

On the southern slopes of the lake is a wonderful art and performance centre, Bharat Bhavan, where they hold many concerts for mostly classical music and dance, all free(!) and do take a look at the extensive art displays. both modern and traditional. (There is an entry charge during the day but I recall it’s only about 10 Rupees.

Of course there are markets, thousands of them! and a couple of really smart shopping malls (to use an Americanism). One place I haven’t yet visited is adjacent to the Peoples’ Mall where they have smaller reproductions of lots of well-known buildings; Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Eiffel Tower and more. I didn’t make it this time but next time I must go there just for a look as it seems so strange.

Cinema: you must find someone to take you for a translation at a Bollywood film. The audience joins in with enthusiasm. The latest blockbuster though is not Bollywood, it’s an epic begun with part 1 two years ago leaving everyone with a cliff-hanger question. Bahubali 2 (The Conclusion) is, as it says, the conclusion of a rather violent story.

A part of the Sanchi Buddhist complex, a World Heritage Site, just North of Bhopal

Further afield, most well-known is Sanchi, a Buddhist site, which Buddha never visited, about an hour’s drive away. For a Sunday trip, it is wonderfully peaceful even when full of Indian tourists. Do be prepared to be a bit of an exhibit yourself though and smile for the 50th ‘selfie’. The other site is the cave paintings at Bimbetka, another place still on my list.

Memorable moments:

Going to Ratna’s home in an area where white faces are rarely seen, and two Muslim young women on a scooter screeching to a stop to ask if I needed help. Only their eyes were visible.

Meeting again a patient from my last visit who brought along his grand0daughter to the sessions and one day she just put her hand on him in imitation of me. She did this afterwards in all they sessions.

Two private concert parties at Sathyu’s home, one from Amir, who had come to me for treatments. He is a player of sarod and becoming know nationally. The other was by Devendra’s brother Ravendra (on a visit from Mumbai), who is a singer of Urdhu songs. Many people from Sambhavna came to this and it was a good party.

And of course, a ride on the back of a Police Inspector’s motorbike and every time someone in the street recognises me and says ‘hello’!

(If you want to know more about all this please visit my Facebook page: ‘Bhopal Today’.)




Girl with candle Bhopal

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