Mid October 2014 –– What’s On in Bhopal
The last time you read anything from me I was moving on from Bhopal to a four-week yoga course in Rishikesh. I am sure you will be pleased to know that I passed the course with flying colours and returned to the UK.
I really didn’t expect to be writing an update in October (though I mentioned the possibility in my last BMA post) but I find myself back here, just for a short 2-month visit this time. I also had a trip to Vietnam for a Body Harmony seminar and when I returned I spent some 4-5 weeks working at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre, sister, one might say, to Sambhavna and also funded largely via the BMA.
As many readers will know, it was set up in 2004 by two women, Rashida and Champadevi after they won they Goldman Environmental Award that year. One day, Rashida wagged her finger at me and, through the helpful translation of Tabish, ‘commanded’ me to spend more time at Chingari on my next visit.
As I had a limit of time, and did not want to spent another unheated cold winter here, this is my fulfilment of my promise to return, unfortunately cut a little shorter than I had planned by the Indian visa authorities.
This time of year is one of the best in terms of weather for Europeans to visit this part of India. The rains end around late August to early September, this year the latter, after which it remains hot until sometime in October when it gently begins to cool. We notice it first in the early morning when the sheet on the bed is actually needed for the first time and breakfast at six is beautifully cool. Now, at the end of October, some of the late evenings are also a little cooler.
It will not get really cold until early January and last until the end of February or March. That was true this year after which it became hot with a vengeance! And I am told that the summer was a very hot one this year. Ordinarily though, that period from the end of February until maybe mid-May is also good in weather terms.
So if you are European and thinking of visiting, those are my recommendations.
Apart from the weather, what is going on?
One of the first to welcome me at Chingari was a little girl with blue eyes. Blue eyes are extremely rare in India and the first time she saw mine, during my last visit, she was so excited she brought her two friends along to show. Maybe now she knows she is not alone in the world with blue eyes. All three are deaf and there was much excitement. So when she saw me back here she came running up to me to ‘say’ hello and every day she has been in, she would come along to where I work right next to the door of the physio room and say hello.
Many of the children from my previous visits are still attending of course so it was almost like coming back to a group of old friends. Sanjay, the senior physio was, as always, very warm in his welcome, despite the extra crush I create in the room. As you see from the picture, it is a very small room and right now it has two extra therapists working there even before I arrive!
Zeba is on the left, you can see her knees sticking out, Huma is just beyond and Sanjay at the back, turning round to speak with the man on the chair. Rishi is in the chair on the right and Poonam hidden behind him on the other side of the grey ball. You can just see my leg in the right foreground, and one of my regulars, Paatchi and her grandmother.
And here you see us all just after an elegantly posed picture, with Champadevi. Zeba on the left, then me with Huma in front, Rishi, Poonam and Sanjay (leaning over). The dolls on the right are ‘emergency tools’ for when any child feels upset or cries.
Poonam and Zeba usually work in the room for occupational therapy but that has been enlarged and is undergoing a facelift, so the only place for them is with the physios. As Sanjay and Poonam are married it does lead to some harmony! This has meant the move of part of the education team to another room at the other end which was used for storage and staff dining.
The almost finished room for occupational therapy.
Even with my extra pair of hands, we are each doing 10 to 15 sessions every day with the children. That is not as bad as it sounds since many of the sessions are only 15 minutes as that is quite enough for a small baby. Nominally, each physio has 28 children allocated as ‘their’ patients but there is a lot of swapping about as the needs and timings vary. The children also have other things such as speech therapy and special education so the organisation for the day is pretty tight and subject to great variability. However the nominated person is responsible for progress and the quarterly report on each child.
Back at Sambhavna, where I am still staying this time, I agreed to work each Saturday and have been seeing mainly old clients but some new if the need arose. The first had been sorted on my first day at Chingari as Afzal, with a large kyphosis, heard I was back and came along there to make an appointment. The best thing was that it was at the end of the day so he gave me a ride back to Sambhavna on his motor-bike. In Bhopal, this is something of a high-risk pastime as the roads just here are more pothole than tarmac, they are crowded and many people go too fast, though fortunately that is not very fast in real terms, just relative ones. He asked if I wanted to drive, but I said, “not in Bhopal!”
Sambhavna has had some staff changes since my last visit. The two allopathic doctors and the yoga teacher had all resigned so there were new people filling their places. Though the yoga teacher has already resigned since her husband has a new job in another part of India. So, again, we need a teacher of therapeutic yoga.
Saturdays for me can be very busy, with more people discovering I have returned and sometimes just turning up. I have become more ‘Indian’ in my approach and tend to treat whoever is there, regardless whose appointment it is! It seems that people in India are used to waiting, so when I ask someone who IS on time to wait as I am running behind, I have not had a single complaint. They just smile, sit back and relax. On my final Saturday, last week, I worked non-stop from 08:30 until 15:00 and without a break.
Monica came with me this time, her first visit to India. Bhopal is a bit of a culture shock, even if you have travelled in tourist India before, so you can imagine what her first impression was as we drove through the back streets to get here. She is a craft artist, as she likes to call herself and has been updating those T-shirts that say ‘25’ years, a remainder stock of about 150! Having finished that she was handed three huge banners that needed repair as the letters were all faded and some needed updating also to 30 years. This entailed a trip to the old market where we bought fabric paint at about a tenth the cost of it in Europe. So now the paint should last longer on the banners.
On the social side, strangely, there have been no other volunteers here. Two sets of photographers, one pair Spanish and one pair French, but neither has stayed here.
We have been again to Bharat Bhavan and decided I have a lot of work to do before I can appreciate classical Indian singing (which is different from Drupad – but not significantly so to my ear.) And we went to Sanchi again, always worth a visit for a bit of tranquillity. I also discovered the delights of Kamla Park which is located on the dam between the upper and lower lakes. I have passed it many times but never spent time there. There is an old palace and a famous mausoleum as well as more park below which cannot be seen from the road.
Kamla Park; a little bit of tranquillity in the middle of Bhopal on a Sunday morning.
Finally, what can you carry on a motorbike along with two adults? A washing machine, three children, sheets of glass, a large mirror – all these we have observed with our own eyes. And we also travelled 3-on-a-bike. It is also quite unusual to see anyone wearing a crash helmet, even policemen, when it is a legal requirement.
Now, as we prepare to leave for a few days in Delhi before returning to UK, the Diwali lights and firecrackers are growing all around us.