"We must be the change we wish to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Field trip.

As soon as I arrived to the hospital yesterday I could tell it was a special day.   That night, 12 of us were heading into the jungle to sleep over in a Shiva Hindu temple. Everyone was in a good mood as we started on treatments.  My spirits were brought down when I realized the hypocalcemic cow from the other day had passed away over night.  I talked to the doctor about it and she explained how hard it is to properly treat the large animals, as they require such large volumes of fluids and drugs. She can't give them as much as they need because then the dogs wouldn't have enough.  I began to realize the fine balance in allocating precious drugs among the animals at the hospital. We carried on and I helped plaster the leg of the cow with the broken metacarpals. It took almost an hour, and every once in a while she would struggle violently, sending me flying.  After the cast was finally dry, it was time to head to the temple.

The trip length: 2 and a half hours. Our mode of transportation: the animal ambulance. 10 of us piled into the back of the truck.  Packed in like sardines with only two small windows I felt like a bunch of illegal immigrants trying to sneak across the border. After about an hour we felt the truck stop as we had pulled up to a small road side stand.  It was clear we were already in a more rural setting.  All eyes were on us as one by one we climbed out of the back of the ambulance.  It must have been quite the sight.  After drinking some tea and picking up snacks we were back on the road.  The rest of the trip was spent singing - both American and Hindi songs- and before I knew it we were almost there.  Jim was on his motorcycle and Erika insisted that I get out of the truck and ride on the bike the rest of the way.  I was so glad she did because the view was incredible.  We were in the mountains, surrounded by nothing but lush, green vegetation- a refreshing sensation after having lived in the city for over three weeks now.

We followed the truck up to the temple.  We walked up a narrow path, removed our shoes, and had a look around.  The entire compound was made up several structures, the main one honoring the god Shiva and the others dedicated to other Hindu gods.  In the main area a small fire was light and water constantly trickled out of a small spout, both symbols to honor Shiva. While Melanie, Claire, Erika and I explored and gazed at the monkeys and birds in the trees, the rest of the staff was already hard at work preparing food.  The dinner they prepared was amazing- spicy daal and fried chapati- a true Rajasthani dish.

Our beds consisted of small cushions with sheets and we lined them all up on the floor of the main building.  One of the staff members brought out an Indian drum called a dholak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dholak) and another pulled out a wooden harmonium.  The guys sang for over an hour while the rest of us clapped along.   What I noticed during that time was the relationship between the people in the group.  There was such a sense of brotherhood between these unrelated young men.  I looked around the room at each of the staff members.  I saw Lackshman, the manager, who is usually rather stern, wearing a bright smile (to match his pink checkered pajama pants.)  I saw Mangi Lal, the vet assistant from "A" ward with whom I had worked with the most. I saw Fatji, the polio survivor with legs of different lengths, who always has the biggest brightest smile. I looked at all eight of them enjoying themselves, entirely content with just the music and each other.  It reminded me of another quote from Shantaram: "That's how we keep this crazy place together - with the heart...India is the heart. It's the heart that keeps us together.  There's no place with people like my people, Lin. Theres no heart like the Indian heart."

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