Sunday, 13 April 2014

13 April 2014 – Into the Yoga Room

I leave Bhopal on 15th just 5 months after arriving here. Not much has changed in the world though I have spent very little time looking at any news.
Much has changed in my world though.
One of those Linked In contacts, Mohan who has a healing centre, made while I was in UK and who I noticed was located in Bhopal so wrote. We have met in the flesh several times and I have seen the work he is doing and he offered me a part in a healing centre he is working on with a collaborator to offer a complete holistic healing at a residential centre some way away from Bhopal. I had said that the daily clinic was not for me as I don’t want to live here full-time, though that has been proposed several times. The centre, though, with non-Indian guests could be a place I could spend some time.
In response to this suggestion, I often say, “find me an Indian girlfriend and I will learn Hindi too!”. I am sometimes taken seriously!
 As I have been working in the Recovery Room with the nurses, I have seen much of the way they work and also chatted with Alice, a UK nurse who was here for a few weeks. There were times when I thought she would give birth to kittens; maybe a hygiene difference, or a method, or the age of the equipment. She had to retrain herself in using a manual blood pressure monitor and her efforts of teaching a nurse about the blood system just failed in frustration for both.
But, as I always say, it works here, and we cannot impose our ‘western’ ideas of standards and methods automatically. There must be empathy with the people, the culture, the experience and the training as well as expectation. There is also a hierarchy here which is difficult to bust even in Sambhavna which prides itself on equality. Where society itself has a strong cultural norm it is difficult to get the individuals out of it even if the establishment wishes to.
The doctors, particularly Qaiser and Jay have been encouraging with those mentioned asking when I will return. Many patients have also asked. We had a serious, if brief, discussion about how they can continue to give the sort of work I do on a permanent basis without me moving here. For me, the best solution would be to get a recent physiotherapy graduate with an open mind. Probably a woman. Then I can return for short visits and teach them my style with Spineworks. I have a feeling they WILL take it forward though I am unsure of the financial implications of another salary.

My brief time at Chingari has been lively and fun-filled and I have experienced a wide variety of patients. Sometimes our room has had two or three babies all crying simultaneously and sometimes they fall asleep during treatments. There have been older children too. For me, two teenage brothers, Umai and Azar, both with Muscular Dystrophy, probably living out short lives, and a Shamia a young
woman really affected by Cerebral Palsy with weak and tight legs. She has been through operations to cut tendons and ease the restrictions. Together we managed to help her to stand upright and balance on straight legs – a difficult feat for her. Sounds easy for you, yeah? That’s what we can learn here. 


There are several other young men who come in and do exercises of various sorts and Sanjay works with them every couple of days. He keeps a very good idea on what they are doing and knows which are the ‘lazy’ ones.


Partly because of that it is not always a story of success. Just over two years ago I helped a young man stand, some of you may remember his picture.  
But today all he can do is hold his legs under him and swing them through as he moves with his arms. I remember Sanjay saying he was lazy which was why I wanted him to stand to show him what was possible.
Something in him maybe does not want that. Who knows.
 A repeated question has made me think about why I am here. Several patients have asked as well as Rashida at Chingari. I still don’t have the answer fully and you will have to wait for the book to learn some of my thinking. It will be called, Bhopal Today: a Diary of Life in Bhopal, or something similar. Suggestions are welcome.

Finally, as I pictured Huma and Rishi with my hat, then I must balance it by adding Sanjay – looking a bit serious here. I definitely think Huma looks the best in it! (But maybe that is tempting gender politics.)

I am now off to play in Rishikesh on a teacher training in Astanga yoga, my own practice, so will sign off this blog. I hope those of you who have come across it, read it, shared it etc have enjoyed these occasional writings. I will let you know when the book is out. This time I may get kindle and physical done together.
Enjoy YOUR life journey.
            With love

Sunday, 30 March 2014

30 March 2014 – A Breath Before Leaving

Sunday morning. About 8 my time. I have just turned on BBC Radio 3, which is the classical music station. Nothing quite like that for a Sunday morning. I sometimes think it strange how Sunday morning always ‘feels’ different – no matter which country I am in and even before churches etc have started. Even here when Friday is the important Mosque day (40% Muslim), Sunday is still the day that feels different. All I need now, as I used to say to Nicolas, a Frenchman, is croissants and coffee!
Maybe I need to go to some other countries!
You know something? No-one else but myself takes a blind bit of notice of my schedule! I cannot understand why they are not as interested in it as am I!
A week at Chingari: (ignore my spelling of the names)


Khattek is one of the older children. He arrives in the second batch of busses and makes his way to our room. His legs are folded under him and of little use. He swings along using his hands and this is making his spine rounded. He also has some spondylosis which of course does not help. He has a wonderful smile.

Zoya has also seen me every day. She is a young hyper-active child, doesn’t speak and also has weak musculature. Initially she wanted to play but I have managed to have her lie down for a short time, as you see. She is more interested in the camera of course!

This little boy, Manmohan Singh, is about a metre tall and 10 years old. He is a bright lad for his age but suffers with Muscular Dystrophy (MD) and Hydrocephalus. That is his mother with him on the left and his little sister. I think he shows an amazing calmness – Rishi treats him on most days.
Amman is another of the (seemingly increasing) number of boys with MD. He is the left-most boy, just to the right of the sports teacher. This may look like just a board game but it involves flicking a disk with a finger to knock another disk into a corner pocket. They used to play it at Sambhavna. So it is good practice at hand-eye coordination as well as exercise for the fingers which are often among the most affected muscle groups.

This Friday, Huma and Rishi were messing with my hat so I have to show them here:




Sunday, 23 March 2014

20 March – it’s another Holi-day

(Written on 20th but unable to upload because internet not working!)
I am returned now from Vietnam and, thank you for asking, had a really good time. I was on a Body Harmony conference/workshop which attracted many people from that side of the globe. (Does the globe have sides? – Well, I use it as a manner of speaking/writing.) There were a few old friends from Europe, I was the lone UK representative, but many from Australia and couple from Thailand.
If you want to know more about Body Harmony, you will have to ask me elsewhere and/or request a session on my return to UK, as this blog is about my work and life in Bhopal and not me personally. But here are a couple of pictures of Vietnam.
Our Hotel
The group Gathers
My Son Valley


5 decorated volunteers!

I came back on Sunday to a public holiday on Monday for the Festival of Colours, Holi, and such things in India seem to take on their own life and extend in indeterminate ways to their maximum extreme! So today, a Friday it is the ‘5 days after Holi’ festival which takes place only in certain regions of India, Bhopal being one of them.

Both Sambhavna and Chingari are closed which is why I am writing this today, though I may not get it posted since there is no internet access, as there wasn’t last night. Our routers are working so it must be the provider’s server that is out.
It has been a funny week. Monday was the ‘proper’ Holi festival with a Government holiday when we went out and got coloured and then had a picnic with a large family on the grass outside the main Shiva temple, high on a hill with lovely views over the city.
On Tuesday I went to Chingari to start and met the two new (since my last trip) physiotherapists then to the Collector’s office to see about my visa but the young man dealing with that was absent at a Holi event.
Outside the offices is a row of shelters where sit people, some probably lawyers, with typewriters, writing letters and completing forms for people who cannot read or write. This is a common sight in India where forms are almost a way of life. In Sambhavna, one frequent task is the writing of letters to hospitals on behalf of one of our patients.

On Wednesday I returned to the office as requested and spent most of the afternoon there seeing the Deputy Inspector General (the DIG) and the, new, Superintendent of Police discussing the extension of a tourist visa. All the other visas can be easily extended by the local office but tourist visa must be done by the government office so is more complicated and takes much longer. “Why?” You might ask. “Why?” I did.
Thursday was a more-or-less normal day at the Chingari centre which, I may have mentioned, gives treatments therapy and education to children born with disability as a result of their parents exposure to the gas, the water or both. We are 2 or 3 generations down the line and, if anything, the rate of disability is increasing.
I saw only 4 children as attendance was light because of the extension to Holi. A little hyperactive girl with weak musculature and 3 boys, one with Cerebral Palsy (CP) and two with Muscular Dystrophy (MD). MD afflicts only boys.

(Sorry about the random placing of the pictures, but I cannot work out how to do it properly in this googly limited word processor)
I will post more pictures of the children as they become more familiar and it won’t disrupt us. These are from my previous visit.


Summer, or fiery spring, has arrived in Bhopal. When I left just over 2 weeks ago it was getting warm but only just warm enough at 0730 to start my yoga practice. Now, at 0730 it’s almost too hot to continue! The cold water is luke warm. Katrina tells me that the web gives it as 36°C. She is really suffering and as the temperature rises so does hers. She is talking about going north to a cooler part of India.

These pictures are taken from the same place just three months apart, you can’t feel the cold or heat but you can see the light.


Listening to Jean Michel Jarre; 1976, Oxygene - who remembers?

Thursday, 27 February 2014

27 February – Final Week

I am in my final week of work at Sambhavna and it is raining. Not that I think the two are related but it has been something like the wettest winter ever and the coldest.
I remember when I went to live in Greece that it was in the wettest winter for something like 80 years and the following year was the coldest for about 50.
Maybe they ARE related.

On 19 Feb, I wrote in my diary that it seemed as if my final two weeks were going to be a series of ‘Indian’ days as I had another one today! In the end that day, I did 9 sessions but the first two didn’t come, though Sunil, who should have come at 08:35 and had missed a couple of sessions, came at about 11:30 but had to wait until 13:00 as Anwar and Saligram were on time. Amzad also came at the same time – he had missed two sessions also so I had put someone else in his old slot and had to reschedule him for tomorrow. I rather suspect that he had been pain free but the pain has returned, as I could expect if we haven’t had enough sessions to complete fully. So he came along again saying he felt a burning sensation down the right side of his neck. His symptoms go back a year but flared up a week or so ago.
Then I slotted in Sunil and arranged him for 08:30 tomorrow so he can go to work afterwards. Will he come? Then Shabnam came over to say there was a new patient waiting! Shabiha is a very serious case so I hope we can help in the seven days I have remaining. Her MRI report shows neck and lumbar spine problems with disk desiccation and bulging as well as several other issues.
Surprisingly, the next day everyone turned up on time!
This week, my final before I am off to Vietnam on a course and the ‘Indian’ flavour is getting hotter. Not only that but I have had three new patients this week! I’m not sure what I can do with such little time. However one has not even come for his first appointment.
Aziza said “you have a patient waiting. An old man.” That ‘old man’, I said is a year younger than I am! That set me to thinking about the appearance of people here because this is not the first time for this sort of remark.
What is it that makes some people ‘older’ than others? Often not just in appearance but also in attitude and behaviour? I would guess that poverty has much to do with it, especially here. Then how about expectation? Lifestyle, family and work, nutrition, opportunity and the way s/he is treated?
Maybe there is an entire book in those thoughts.
Some more things you might not know
·         it was between 3,000 and 15,000 that died on 3 December, depending on who is counting.
·         that at least another 20,000 have died since as a direct result.
·         that many families had only one parent surviving and some families were wiped out.
·         the compensation went to only 573,588 of the victims. About $500 equivalent each.
·         the compensation works out to 3p if spread to all the people who should have received it.
·         these people will suffer* for the rest of their lives. And some of them are still in their early 30s.
·         about the water pollution because toxic chemicals dumped on and around the site have been washed into the ground water source.
·         that these poisonous chemicals and heavy metals are still being washed into the soil and spreading the water pollution by 200 metres every year.
·         that people still have to drink this water.
·         that babies born to parents exposed to the gas or water are several times more likely than babies in the rest of India to have some form of congenital malformation**.
·         that no-one knows when this inheritance will stop. If ever. Probably never.
·         that Dow Chemical bought UCC in 2001 and refuses to accept any liability.
·         that Dow still will not tell the Indian Government the exact gases to which people were exposed to and their effects on the body.

* Health problems include lung and breathing problems, many gynaecological issues including sterility, blindness. Cancer rates are high, diabetes rates are high, asthma rates are high, hypertension (high blood pressure) is high.
And it’s raining lots here!