Ratna Soni has been working in Sambhavna’s medicinal herb garden for seven years now.
Were you affected by the gas leak in 1984?
I was living in Bhopal in 1984. I knew something was wrong that night, but fortunately did not think that it was anything to do with gas or the factory, so I didn’t run outside. I stayed indoors, drank lots of water and covered my face, and so I have no health problems. Members of my husband’s family ran outside from their homes. Because of this they were very affected by the gas. My brother-in-law was very sick after the gas leak, he died about three years later.
How did you come to work at Sambhavna?
My sister started working at Sambhavna through Diwarker (a Sambhavna employee) who is good friends with my husband. I heard that they were looking for someone to create a medicinal garden and I was very interested. I wanted to help. So I was interviewed and got the job!
What is the most important thing to you about Sambhavna?
That we are providing good, free medical care to people who are gas affected and who continue to poisoned by the water supply.
What is involved in working in the garden?
I sow seeds, plant new trees and herbs, dig up ground and prepare soil for planting. I am responsible for making sure the land is properly irrigated. I also look after all of the organic composting and make the bio-pesticides, which are completely chemical free (we’ll be bringing you more on this process soon).
What has been your greatest achievement at Sambhavna?
We have grown a beautiful garden here, but the difference we have made to individuals’ health is what I am happiest about. Once, a woman came to Sambhavna with a breast lump and I gave her a paste of tridax procumbens to apply to the lump. She also drank a tea made from the same thing, every day for three months and the lump disappeared. Also, I treated someone who had very bad hemorrhoids that were not improving with allopathic or ayurvedic medicine. I gave her a mixture of five plants to drink in a tea for a few days, and she was very much relieved of her symptoms.
How would your life be without Sambhavna?
It would not be good. But if I didn’t work at Sambhavna I would probably study yoga.
What would you like to say to people reading the BMA website?
People should fight against chemical companies who are harming people and the environment. They should grow their own plants and try to use herbal alternatives for medicine, cleaning and gardening, instead of chemicals that poison our bodies, our animals and our land. We are not trying to put people out of jobs. Chemical companies could replace their businesses with environmentally-friendly methods, and people could be retrained in safer methods.
What help can you use in the garden from volunteers?
Any gardening skills or knowledge that people have can be put to good use in the garden. Anybody who has knowledge about growing natural, alternative gardens would be very useful, and we are ALWAYS happy to hear from people if they have ideas of how to make our garden better.
What are your hopes for Bhopal?
I would like to see Bhopal become a green city. The pollution and traffic upsets me a lot. We have to tackle toxicity from traffic, factories and many other areas. People are sick because of Union Carbide, but also because of the many other pollutants that exist in the environment. We have a beautiful city. I would like it to be clean and environmentally friendly.