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(10) Our Chinnadagudi clinic…

June 15, 2009

Once I was traveling from Bangalore to Mysore by the KSRTC bus and happened to strike a conversation with the person sitting next to me. He was an employee in the sericulture department of the Government of Karnataka. During the course of the conversation, on realizing that I was a medical student, he started talking derogatorily of the medical profession. After tolerating him for a few minutes, I responded saying that not all were like the people he described. Being provoked by the tenor of his conversation, I told him that we were different and had just started an organization to undertake rural health initiatives. On hearing this, he suggested that if I were indeed serious, then I should visit his village called Chinnadagudihundi, located about 7 km away from Nanjangud town. We agreed to meet the next Sunday in my hostel room and then go visit his village.

As planned, he came and met me in my room. Together, we set out by the Chamarajanagar train. We alighted at Chinnadagudihundi, a railway station (more of a single asbestos sheeted room) just after the Gemini Distilleries beside the highway going from Mysore to Chamarajanagar. We went around the village and met all the village elders who had by then been briefed by him. They agreed to support us and provide a house that was vacant, to run our weekly medical clinic.

Thus was born our weekly medical clinic in the third week of December 1984. The organization had also grown from a handful to around 20 people, all of them my classmates. Around 4-5 of us would take the morning train on a Sunday morning and go to Chinnadagudihundi along with a Postgraduate who would play the role of a clinician. There was so much excitement and each of us felt so involved. I would go around trying to meet friends and raise funds. The joke going around was that people did not want to be seen in my ‘radar’ for the fear of having to become poorer by Rs.5. We would buy small quantities of medicines from M/s Raghulal and Co. in Mysore and carry them with us. Mr.Narayan of Raghulal became a good friend and well-wisher. His son Mr.Raghavan carries on the support and encouragement even today.

After a few weeks of running this clinic, the reality of Indian politics hit us. Elections were announced and there were two major political parties jostling for the electoral space. The person who had given space for the clinic belonged to one party and they claimed that they were the people responsible for getting us to their village. This angered villagers belonging to the rival party and they met me and told me to move the clinic to one of the houses that belonged to them. I was caught between these two, not knowing what to do. The first party warned me that I could consider moving the clinic with considerable personal risk. My relative inexperience and inability to comprehend and respond to the political situation was showing. Unsure of my next move, I went to the Sunday clinic with a lot of apprehension. To add to our woes, termites had attacked the medicines that we had packed in cardboard cartons and most of them were eaten away. This was indeed the proverbial last straw! I felt that the only response that I could give was to inform the villagers that we would not longer be visiting their village as the warring groups made it a very hostile situation for us to function. Thus our new weekly clinic experiment ended after 4-5 weeks. On one hand, I felt so sad that we had to close and on the other learnt the reality of rural Indian politics and how it ceaselessly works even today as an impediment to development!

– Balu

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