The author with an infant in village Sangod, Kota
It was about 5 in the morning when I woke up in my dark room in the dharamshala that I was sharing with five other girls on the Yatra. Each one of us had worked till late in the night and the last to sleep was Jina. I hated disturbing others while they got to sleep the 3-4 hours that they do. It's tough being a journalist most times because after the day’s work you can’t really unwind or rest - there is that writing to do. I was pressurized beyond my limit now, four weeks into the all-India tour with no break and the heat of Kota was unrelenting. Tonight however, my complaint was an insect that had gone into my right ear and seemed to be trapped inside. I could make out from the flapping wings and the noise it was making inside my ear that if it was to come out of my ear, it would be up to me to do something about it. I bent down on the floor to grope for my backpack which had a torch in the front pocket. I found the torch and switched it on and kept the light on the ear opening, hoping the light would attract the insect out. Nothing happened. The insect was making noise and irritating my sensitive ears. The room was quiet, every movement of mine was enhanced by the stillness of the early morning. I was undecided about what to do, sleeping over it till 8 am was an option and then go look for Parth, the 25 year old doctor who was looking after the entire 500-member team of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra. The more cumbersome option was to wake up my friend and roommate Vaishalli. The insect started moving more vigorously in the ear and moved more inwards. It helped me to decide what I had to do next.
"Vaishali, please wake up, it’s me. I have an insect inside my ear. Help me take it out," I said in a whisper crawling all the way up to my friend’s bed. Vaishali was fast asleep and I hated doing this really. The insect suddenly bit the insides of my ear. I howled in pain. Vaishali woke up with a start and sat there on the bed, taking time to understand what actually was happening. In her dazed state and in my restlessness both of us worked up a plan. We would drown the little devil!
I got the Vatika coconut hair oil out of my toiletries bag. Together we checked the stream of the nozzle. The flow of oil was just right to pour few drops into my ear. I held the torch light for Vaishali while she poured few drops of coconut oil into my ear careful to not pour more oil than necessary. We didn’t want more trouble than we already had at the moment.In that commotion Jina in the next bed got up and rubbing her eyes said, "What is going on here?" One of us told that an insect had gotten into the ear. Jina dropped to sleep again with a moan. What a crazy moment it was.
The oil sank into the deep recesses of my ear aperture. I could feel it soak my insides. The insect bit me few times when the oil was streaming into my ear. It was hell. Vaishali told me to put the sides of my face on the bed so that the ear opening stayed pressed onto the bed. I felt the oil drip out of the ear. I sensed a small weight shift from inside towards the opening of the ear. I lifted my face from the bed and saw on the bed, a black colored beetle writhing in Vatika Coconut oil. I felt so relieved.
Vaishali and I went to bed almost right away. The day ahead was going to be hectic as it was the last day of the Yatra at Kota, Rajasthan and soon we would be proceeding to Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. In my eagerness to catch some sleep, I didn’t even kill that devil!
I woke up with a mild pain in my ear. With the insect gone most of my concern was over but the pain left a suspicion of possible ear infection due to the bite or secretion. I walked up to our doctor in the compound and he volunteered to take me to an ENT specialist who worked in the lone private clinic in Sangod, Kota. There was one more person from the camp who had suffered the same fate as me in the night and complained of ear pain. Together we three walked in the morning Kota sun to the private clinic.
Sangod is a small town some 60 km. from Kota city, brimming at being described as a big village. There is a small government hospital but that does not have an ENT wing. This private clinic was a boon to our health requirements at the moment. We found the small clinic. Once inside the clinic in no time we met the ENT specialist, Dr. Jaswant Singh. Our situation was explained to him, we two were individually checked. "Now that the insect has gone out you don't have to worry any more." I was relieved. He told he would prescribe antibiotics for the possible ear infection and in few days I could forget about what happened.
Now it was time to write these prescriptions. As per the norm the doctor asked me my name, age and place of residence. When I told him I was from Bangalore, he asked the most obvious question anyone would ask, "What is a girl from such a big city doing in Sangod?" I told him I was part of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra. This didn’t help much as he looked blankly at me. Okay, so very few people knew about the Yatra, I thought to myself. My two companions looked at me to elaborate as I was part of the active outreach team.
"Nirmal Bharat Yatra is a initiative of the Ministry of Rural Development and other development partners to reach remote parts of the country and carry the message of water, sanitation and hygiene and in the process assess the situation in these parts of the country and have a recommendation for the government at the end." My prescription was a dose of antibiotics with some other tablet. The other guy was also given his prescription. It was now time for us to pay the consultation fee to the doctor. That moment of embarrassment for us patients to ask how much to pay and for the medical practitioner to tell the amount. I wish something better could be done to eliminate this process and replace it with a more dignified way of making payments. In this case, Parth asked the ENT specialist how much had to be paid. The doctor dismissed the query and waived off the consultation fee and said, "I can do at least this much for my country, and for those who are doing something for it." I was taken aback by this beautiful gesture. I was touched by his goodness. I guess different people do good differently.
I wish I had my camera and my note pad or my voice recorder so that today as I sit to write about this wonderful human being who is a medical practitioner in a village in Rajasthan, I could have furnished a picture of him for you or a detailed interview but at that time I was just another patient with ear pain. I am sleeping with ear plugs tonight and my pain has subsided after medication and rest. I am inspired all over again to resume work from tomorrow and carry forward the torch of hope with the Yatra proceeding to Gwalior from here. I take a learning from my visit to the clinic here today morning.
It really doesn't matter who we are and what we do as long as there is a will to do good yourself or to support those who do good. In the end, it's all the same.
By Urmila Chanam, India Water Portal Fellow, Arghyam
For full coverage by India Water Portal of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra, click here.