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A MOTHER'S AGONY

...When desperation evokes divine intervention


The dollar daze can’t be more apparent than in the dazzle of the burgeoning city of Mehasana, in the state of Gujarat in western India. Among its many claims to fame, Mehasana is well-known for its “foreign content”. It is believed that one or more members of every family here have ventured abroad in pursuit of economic prosperity. A substantial segment of the highly successful Gujarati community settled in the United States of America traces its roots to the Mehasana region. The lure of the American greenback is so strong that it is believed that people of this region do not shy away from paying huge amounts in dollars to go the USA.

 
Industrialised and prosperous - Mehsana is one of Gujrat's happening cities

The area also enjoys substantial in-house economic growth and activity. Some indicators of this prosperity are the large presence of the ONGC (Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Limited). Natural resources are aplenty in the region. Mehasana enjoys a rich crop of peanuts, mustard, psyllium (isabgol) and other agricultural produce.

The municipality is also looking forward to reaping an improved harvest of water from the state’s Narmada Dam Water Project. Located not far from the city of Ahmedabad which is the commercial hub of the state of Gujarat, Mehasana is also home to the Dudhsagar Dairy Cooperative, known as one of India’s greatest milk collection centres. The local breed of Mehsana buffalo has acquired a reputation for its high yield. In addition, Mehasana also has the biggest iron and steel market in India. And what good would all the wealth be without some fun and recreation? Mehasana is also the home of India’s largest water amusement park, the Shanku Water Park.

Thanks to the economic boom from within and the high rate of foreign exchange remittances from abroad, the gloss of growth cannot be missed in Mehasana.

The Divide Between Two Hemispheres

Yet, while Mehasana’s wealthy elite may enjoy enviable lifestyles and prosperity, this apparent achievement has an ugly underbelly. Alongside the glitzy skyscrapers and sky rocketing land prices is the grim urban squalor. Like most cities in the developing world, the north-side divide in Mehasana is sharp and severe.

 
 
The beautiful Shanku Water Park

The co-existence of two hemispheres, divorced from each other like day and night are the two opposing zones that have two totally contrasting realities. While the financial boom is rapidly adding wealth to the coffers of the rich, this prosperous but caste-conscious city also has a huge segment of a poor and illiterate population that remains untouched by this prosperity. They are barely surviving on the periphery of its economic epicenter: marginalized men, women and children who are yet to enjoy any of the fundamental rights guaranteed to them in the Indian constitution, let alone ride the wave of Mehasana’s recent tide in fortunes.

Children of a Lesser God

This is the story of one such child of a lesser God and his mother, a single parent, who wept, wailed and besieged a higher power out there, to help her out of her desperation when she faced a parent’s worst nightmare – to helplessly watch her child die a slow death before her eyes. She felt totally powerless, unable to reverse this tragedy only because she was poor and lacked a social support and health-care system. It is a story of how those who support and sustain the giddying economic boom at the grass-roots level are so not valued and manage to slip and fall through the cracks in the system which offers no safety net to them. This is a tale of a victim of the utter despair and callousness that a society’s capitalist conscience could not care less about.

This is the story of Bhavesh Chamar, the only child of Pittiben and Ramabhai Chamar of Nugar village, near the prosperous town of Mehasana. Early in his childhood, Bhavesh lost his father Ramabhai. As suggested by their last name, the family belongs to the Chamar community that represents the lowest rung of a class-conscious society. The Chamars were, and still are by many unenlightened people, considered outcasts and untouchables.

With such social stigmas and the obvious disadvantages of an illiterate and poor widow, Pittiben struggled to make ends meet and to provide for her son Bhavesh. She worked as a construction labourer in a ceramic tile unit. She made Rs. 20 a day. Her typical monthly income was barely Rs. 300-400 (less than US $10). Bhavesh attended the village municipal school at no cost.

 
   
Pithiben's state was pitiable to say the least

 

A Mother’s Worst Nightmare

By the time Bhavesh reached the age of 11 years, he started getting tired very easily; he could not walk more than 20 yards without taking a break. Consulting a doctor was not a choice his mother could afford. His condition continued to deteriorate finally forcing his mother to seek medical help at the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad. The diagnosis struck her like a bolt of lighting. Bhavesh had a hole in the heart, a condition also known as Ventricular Septale Defect (VSD). He could not play, walk or perform any of the activities of a normal 11 year old child.

The news shattered the poor and desperate family. Initially, they struggled and managed to get by with the medication provided to them by the hospital. However, misery loves company and soon Bhavesh developed appendicitis and had to undergo treatment for the same.

Bhavesh's life was directionless and dreary
 

The local Member of the Legislative Assembly, neighbours, and relatives chipped in then and paid for the surgery that was performed in a local private hospital. Subsequently, his condition deteriorated further and this time around an operation for his heart became imperative for his survival.

The surgery was estimated to cost Rs. 1.25 lakhs (approximately US $ 3000). Given the fact that the family could barely feed themselves one decent meal a day, such medical treatment was out of question. Recalls Bhavesh’s uncle Mr. Ambalal Shankarbhai, also a construction labourer: “We felt that this family will not survive.”

In their desperation, they approached the local Member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly who wrote a letter of recommendation to the Government Hospital in Ahmedabad. They were offered a subsidy from the Gujarat Chief Ministers Relief fund to the tune of 33% of the cost of the operation that was estimated to cost Rs 1.25 lakhs (around US $3000).

But this was no relief. An expense of another Rs. 80,000 (US $ 2000) odd was unimaginable, on her monthly income of less than $10 or Rs. 300-400.

 
 
Ambalal, Bhavesh's uncle, did not believe there was hope

Her only child was dying a slow death each day and she could do nothing to help him. Pittiben was inconsolable. Her last resort was to beseech God her moments of frustration, she even fought with the Goddess, the presiding diety of the Chamar community. She was frequently found at the small temple near her house praying to the Goddess for the life of her precious and only child. She would weep and wail in front of the Goddess. The Chamar Vas (Chamar colony) in Nugar village echoed with the cries of this helpless mother who had no one to turn to except the Divine mother.

Meanwhile, Bhavesh’s uncle Ambalal continued to meet with and seek help from various government officials in the hope of getting some money or medical subsidy that would solve his nephew’s problem. However, no help materialized. With each passing day, the family’s hopes for Bhavesh’s medical treatment and survival were ending on a sliding scale.

Somebody, Anybody Out There?

An utterly distraught Pittiben continued to send out her pleas for help into the vast nothingness, hoping some power out there would care and take note of her situation. She was desperate and had no one else to turn to. Her pleas for a divine intervention were not lost.

It was sometime in the second week of February 2007 that a Sai devotee and leading doctor of Mehasana, Dr. P.D. Patel informed Bhavesh’s uncle Ambalal of a diagnostic heart camp scheduled to be conducted in Mehasana on February 25, 2007. The information was based on an article in the local newspaper which also said that patients requiring surgery would be operated upon free of cost! Various centers for pre-registration in the heart camp were listed too in the article. Ambalal immediately took Bhavesh and his medical records to the nearest prescreening center for registration. This prescreening camp was held in Dr. P D Patel’s clinic.

The medical camp was about to come to Bhavesh’s doorstep as a part of the community outreach program of the Sri Sathya Sai Hospital of Rajkot, a city located at a distance of 200 kilometres from Mehasana, about a four and a half hours drive by public transport – an option out of Bhavesh’s reach and awareness, given his situation.

 
 
Mehsana and Rajkot in Gujarat, Western India

 
 
 
The Sri Sathya Sai Heart Hospital, Rajkot
 

 Seek And Seize The Opportunity To Help:Baba

The idea of conducting prescreening medical camps in the remotest and economically disadvantaged areas of the state and to actively seek out patients suffering without any hope or access to a healthcare system is the brainchild of Bhagavan Baba. At the time of the hospital’s founding, Bhagavan had advised His devotees in Gujarat to take relief to those who are the most in need of it. Bhagavan had categorically directed and guided them to seek out those who are caught in the viscous cycle of abject poverty, helplessness and hopelessness. “Do not wait for an opportunity to serve: go out and seize the opportunity which is already available, Baba had said.

In direct adherence to this command from the source of ultimate compassion, the Sri Sathya Sai Hospital, Rajkot, has been, since its founding in the year 2000, conducting regular diagnostic cardiac camps in different districts of Gujarat, going to great lengths to specifically target the most backward and neglected areas. These camps spread awareness among the poor about the free tertiary care facilities available at the Hospital and offer prescreening camps.

 

Patients are examined and necessary tests are undertaken on the spot; those requiring surgical intervention and further diagnostic attention are identified, and then given all necessary information to come to the hospital in Rajkot for the necessary treatment, as always, free of cost. The patients and their family members accompanying them are offered free meals. In cases of severe deprivation, even the bus/train fare to the hospital is reimbursed.

The Sri Sathya Sai Hospital of Rajkot is but a reflection of the teachings of Bhagavan who repeatedly reminds us that “Service to man is service to God.” Swami says: “God has two forms: Lakshmi Narayana and Daridra Narayana. Most of the people are engaged in serving Lakshmi Narayana; few people serve Daridra Narayana... Service to Daridra Naranya is the highest form of Sadhana .”

The hospital actively seeks God by seeking to serve the poor and alleviating their pain and misery. All involved, from those who flex their monetary muscle, to those who perform hard labour and every body in between, including highly specialized and dedicated medical professionals, gear all their efforts, energy and knowledge to help the forgotten, neglected and destitute members of society.

Service to any being amounts to serving Me, for I am in all,” Bhagavan reminds us. “The relief and joy that you give to the sick and the sorrowing reach Me, for I am in their hearts, and I am the One whom they call out to. God has no need of your service. Try to serve the Godly; become the servants of the servants of the Lord. Service of man is the only means by which you can serve God.”

Camps Exemplify Compassion and Coordination

For those involved in organizing the various aspects of such heart camps, it is a very special opportunity for narayana seva or service to God. In Rajkot , the Sai devotees like to call it a ‘heart narayan seva’. “We are going to the people rather than waiting for them to come to us,” says Manoj Bhimani, Trustee of the SSS Hospital, Rajkot . “The awareness of this world-class health facility has to penetrate to those who feel most neglected and forgotten by governments, NGO’s and the world. Bhagavan’s mission is to uplift the downtrodden and infuse hope, love and health in their lives.”

The hospital administrators routinely monitor patient data to determine the patterns in the district-wise access to the hospital. Based on the geographical trends that emerge, the districts that indicate lower patient access to the hospital become the administrators’ top priority. These districts are then aggressively targeted through media campaigns and the local population is informed of upcoming prescreening heart camps. Once the word spreads, villagers from the remotest of areas turn up. Most patients and their families have usually given up all hope and simply resigned to their fate. Once they experience the heart camps, a renewed sense of hope is rekindled in their hearts, often reaffirming their faith in the goodness of society and in God, as they see it as a direct response to their prayers from a higher power.

 
Patients from all communities and backgrounds queue up during the hospital's medical camps

This mammoth effort is made possible due to the close coordination between the SSS Hospital of Rajkot, the service wing of the local chapter of the Sai organization and the Sri Sathya Sai Organization of the state of Gujarat. The synergies result in a well-oiled living organization that has successfully been translating Bhagavan Baba’s message of love and service into reality for such forlorn souls as Bhavesh Chamar of Nugar village in the municipal jurisdiction of Mehasana.

The entire operation is conducted with a clock-wise precision. For starters, a number of pre-registration centers are identified. Publicity about the event is conducted using local newspapers, radio, word of mouth, posters, and pamphlets. Local councils, health authorities and local government authorities are apprised of the camp information so that the maximum number of local people can derive benefit from the effort.

Typically, clinics are spread across the districts, with specific emphasis on covering areas that emerge as weaker points of contact from the hospital administrators’ data base. These are manned by the doctors of the SSS Hospital of Rajkot as well as volunteer doctors from other reputed hospitals. Patients are made to fill out a form to provide such information as patient’s name, age, address, contact coordinates etc. Many patients are from economically challenged backgrounds and do not have telephones. Patients are given appointment tokens for consulting cardiac surgeons at the camp.

 
Registration is done diligently by the selfless Sai workers...the volunteers run the whole show

Heart Camps – Therapeutic For Volunteers and Local Leaders As Well

On the day of the camp the location is a beehive of activity with doctors, the ever dedicated seva dal volunteers and administrators trying to do their best. The camp starts in front of Swami’s portrait with the chanting of three Omkars and prayers. The Seva Dal leaders give their final instructions to their respective groups reminding them of spirit in which they must perform their duties. The camp then opens its doors to the long lines of patients.

 
The Camp starts with Vedam chanting
 
...and followed by Bhajans

Patients who have already registered are directly sent to the top-notch surgeons who spare their valuable time to serve at these camps. Seeing the scale and sincerity of the SSS Hospital of Rajkot, there is no dearth of such dedicated medical professionals who volunteer their time, energy and medical know-how and join the SSS Hospital ’s effort to bring healthcare to the remotest corners of Gujarat.

 

Typically, the surgeons review the patient’s previous medical record and refer the patient for ECG and/or ECHO tests, as required. These diagnostic machines are available at the camp itself. Based on the patient evaluation, the doctors then recommend them for surgery at the SSS Hospital, Rajkot. 

As in the Rajkot hospital, the camps also offer all tests, checkup by consultants, meals and other medical services totally free of cost to the patients. Even the relatives of the patients accompanying them receive free meals.

The experience of both who serve and those who are served is poignantly moving. As everyone goes on with their duties in the spirit of love, an overpowering sense of compassion fills the environment. After medical tests are concluded, the patients are referred back to the surgeons. Given the magnitude of these camps and the selfless spirit in which they provide the much-needed relief to the suffering villages, they are often graced by local dignitaries.

Dealing with love with a young patient
   

 
Shri Mangal Patel, Speaker, Gujarat Vidhan Sabha shares
his views at heart camp in Mehsana, February 2007
 
Member of Parliament from Mehasana Mr. Jayantibhai Barot was
moved by the spirit of selfless service at the camp

 
 
 
Many dignitaries graced the heart camp in February 2007 and left inspired and invigorated
 

One such guest at a recent camp was Mr. Mangal Patel, the Speaker of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly who visited the heart camp in Mehasana on February 25, 2007. It was the same fateful camp that would offer the very first glimpse of hope to Bhavesh Chamar and his mother Pittiben.

Speaking at the camp, a former teacher and now the Speaker of the state legislature, Mr. Mangal Patel said: "What you see before your eyes is not an ordinary event. The kind of activity and the scale at which you are doing the same is not possible without the grace of the Sadguru. It is His energy which allows you to serve in this way."

The Member of Parliament from Mehasana Mr. Jayantibhai Barot donated Rs. 25 lakhs (approxiamately US $55, 000) from his MPLAD fund (a corpus fund that Members of the Indian Parliament can utilize and allocate for initiatives directed at the development of their constituency) to the SSS Hospital in Rajkot. So moved was he by what he saw that he confessed if he could help it, he "would donate all the money from the fund if the government permits me."

Such is the grace of our Bhagavan that the work done under His banner and supervision motivates, inspires, touches and helps many others, apart from the patients of course. From the volunteers, doctors, medical assistants, lab technicians, visiting dignitaries to the families of the patients, all find the energy in the camp both therapeutic and moving.

In the words of the Lord, “Work done with no desire is the supreme ideal of man.”

Serve others, visualising them as kindred atmas”

Rajesh Krishnani is a Seva Dal leader who has participated actively in such camps. For him, “The finest reward I get during this camps is to see the face of the patient when they are allotted a date for surgery at the hospital. I see love and hope in their eyes. At this time you feel God is somewhere near us. You get the feeling you really are doing God’s work.”

God Listens: Hope and Happiness Descends on the Hapless Mother

By now Bhavesh was in the 9th grade and his future looked grim and dismal. The fateful day finally came in the lives of Bhavesh Chamar and his distraught mother Pittiben. On February 25, 2007 at the recommendation of Dr. P.D. Patel, a Sai devotee and a prominent doctor of Mehasana, the patient and his mother arrived at the camp in their own vicinity to seek the much needed medical intervention to save Bhavesh’s life.

Upon being lovingly received by the volunteers and directed promptly to the right channels, Pittiben heaved an unexpected sigh of relief. Somewhere deep within her she sensed that her cries for help over the last five years had not gone unheard after all. The divine Mother whom she had been praying to and fighting with all these years had actually been listening and was finally interceding. The once unheard of and distant Rajkot hospital had come to their doorstep, seeking her and Bhavesh. Perhaps there was hope at the end of their tunnel, that could indeed end their plight.

 
   
Pithiben...life has begun once again for her, joyfully now

Ever since she had lost her husband and her world had turned topsy-turvy with her son’s diagnosis, she had carried the burden of gloom, hopelessness and despair in her heart.

 

On February 25, 2007, for the first time ever, in years, Pittiben felt at ease. She felt wanted and her son’s survival mattered. The visit to the camp was a first step towards restoring a sense of dignity to their otherwise pathetic existence.

After being examined at the camp, Bhavesh was speedily referred to the hospital in Rajkot where within a fortnight he was operated upon and granted a new lease of life. How can Bhavesh, Pittiben, Uncle Ambalal or the Chamar community of Nugar village ever forget the date March 14, 2007 when a frantic women who thought she had lost all in life, found hope and the gift of life for her dying child.

Despite the initial misgivings of her community about subjecting her child to a free operation, an idea that sounded too good to be true, Pittiben was desperate enough to explore the option and in the process she discovered pure love and an affirmation of her faith in God’s compassion.

Bhavesh is now full of vigour and youthful energy
 

Hargovind Bhavesh’s uncle Ambalal Shankarbhai now says: “The Sathya Sai Hospital is our God”. His neighbor Hargovind concurs: “We could not dream about doing this operation in seven lives”. When Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba stepped in, all it took was two weeks to permanently restore a child’s health and his mother’s faith in the power of her prayers. If the mother is the child’s first God, Pittiben, a woman of no formal education, epitomizes such Godliness, for in her simplicity lay her trust in God and her sense of surrender to save her son when no government, health care system or social safety net came to her rescue.

There are numerous Pittibens and Bhaveshs whose prayers are answered by the SSSH of Rajkot. Over 26 people from Mehsana were operated upon within 20 days of the camp held on February 25. These include patients who required serious heart operations with valve replacements and other such procedures.

Sai – The Saviour of the Forlorn

The hospital is keen to serve those who grace its camps in a spirit of love as advised by Swami. When the SSSH, Rajkot was being built, Swami had told the trustees to provide the best services and to consider every patient as Narayan Swarup (Embodiment of the Supreme God). The SSSH Rajkot is following Swami’s words in spirit and to the letter.

Sai is the sole inspiration for this unique healthcare set up that seeks out the poor and the helpless and delivers to them, free of cost, the best possible healthcare services in an efficient manner at the Rajkot Hospital. Verily God Himself arrives in the form of the poor, helpless and uneducated patients such as Bhavesh Chamar presenting an opportunity to serve. And while the patients receive relief from their physical ailments, the experience also restores their sense of dignity and emotional well-being.

In fact, the healing occurs from within and without and at multiple levels for all parties concerned. Some are cured of their physical maladies, others are touched and inspired to selflessness and yet others grow in their hearts to experience the joy of serving God. From the doctors to the seva dal volunteers and everyone in between, all parties involved agree the hospital is their personal healing centre where each one of them is receiving their individual treatments at deeper levels for the own spiritual health and well-being!

 
   

The devotees of Gujarat are beholden to Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba for considering them worthy of participating in such noble work. Their sentiments of gratitude are well captured in St. Francis of Assisi ’s prayer:

 

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

- Heart2Heart Team


Dear Reader, did this article inspire or move you in any way? Would you like to share you feelings with us? Or have you similar experiences of healing at Swami's Hospitals that you want our readers to know about? If so please contact us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country.  Thank you for your time.


 

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Vol 5 Issue 06 - JUNE 2007
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