Having my life planned out always worked out for me. Since I was 15 I knew I wanted to be a doctor, a work experience stint in a hospital confirmed that studying medicine would be my goal. Two years ago, I decided to embrace spontaneity and resolved to not make as many plans. Which brings me to my current situation; a part time doctor, part time Masters student, unpaid Intern at TATA Medical Centre, in Kolkata. My interest in surgery, public health and in philanthropy was sparked when the opportunity to Intern in India presented itself.
My first 3 weeks haven’t been ideal but I suspect more luxurious than the other interns. I stay in a lovely apartment, with unlimited chai, occasional lime water when the tummy isn’t right and food made with love. A car takes us to the hospital daily. However my battle with technology, with taxi drivers and Hindi leaves me frustrated, homesick and questioning whether I want to be here. What a cliché! The summer would have provided ample time to study, earn money and socialise back in sunny London (when does that happen!). On a personal level it sometimes doesn’t feel worth it.
Then suddenly you are hit by the appearance by a young wife who has no hair (a side effect of the chemotherapy), a small child with tubes hanging from his skin and elderly people asleep on the Lobby sofas. All part of a matrix of Cancer patients, relatives and friends. At TATA Medical Centre, people who cannot afford Cancer treatment for curative or palliative purposes have subsidised care from specialists here. The hospital is non-profit, a philanthropic initiative from the House of Tata, where the ethos is of social responsibility.
The hospital, with a capacity of 167 beds, serves all sections of society with 50% earmarked for free or subsidised treatment for the underprivileged sections. In India, medical care is costly. Families have to sleep on streets and sell assets to afford medical care. They eventually lose their jobs, missing work to receive their life-saving treatment. Not quite the life they planned.
So the heat, the frustration, the lack of home comforts will be worth it. The challenge to live in India, understand & love it will definitely be worth it. My small project, in some indirect way, may give these patients the opportunity to one day make different plans for themselves.