Amar Seva Sangam – Fond Memories & Goodbyes

Its my last week here in Amar Seva Sangam (ASSA) and I gotta say, even though it was frustrating dealing with life here at times, my memories of my 5 weeks will be nothing but fond. All hope for a quiet week of send me off went out the window right on Monday. Do Mondays suck worldwide? There’s a topic worth researching.

Those who have worked with me in the past few years know that I enjoy getting things done ahead of time. There is nothing less appealing than scrambling last minute to finish work, and that’s motivation enough to not procrastinate. So last week I stayed up late to do all my paperwork with the hopes of having a light last week, more time with my patients, less behind a desk. Long story short, this was not in mother India’s plan. People pull no shows, I have to reschedule with few days left, people asking me to take on new projects, and most delightfully, a random inauguration on Wednesday that basically commands the schedule of every patient on the unit (not to mention the rest of the compound).

This lunch lady was all smiles
This lunch lady was all smiles
This guy and his buddies are chopping and cooking every night
This guy and his buddies are chopping and cooking every night

Working closely with people from this country has really gotten me thinking. I’m trying, perhaps at no end, to understand the reasoning behind customs here. Why are things a certain way? Why the status quo? This inauguration for example, celebrates the beginning of a new batch of students at the school on site. Great! Certainly a kind gesture, but why the patients? Why not the students only? Apparently, the dignitaries and head honchos have to take their place on stage and be seated at their respective places of honour. A couple thoughts come to mind. India is a country of pageantry. VIPs visiting the school must be paraded around, with an audience that may or may not be relevant to the nature of the event, ie SCI patients at a school inauguration. This was extremely frustrating and disruptive to therapy. Most of the patients agreed so, and there was practically no notice given until the day of. It just makes no sense.

Some of the wonderful staff. The one on the right is too badass to smile but she has a toothpaste commercial worthy grin.
Some of the wonderful staff. The one on the right is too badass to smile but she has a toothpaste commercial worthy grin.

However, on the flip side of things, this is a site that is completely funded by donations. It is unique to this area of India, and provides much needed services for a population that would otherwise be without. I suppose it is important to recognize dignitaries and important people. They have to create an experience for guests worth talking about so that awareness of what they do spreads, funding continues to come, and they can keep doing their good work. Wednesday afternoon you could see groups of people making their rounds to each unit and seeing their work. And this is working from what I know. People seem to recognize that ASSA is special, and that their work betters the community. In fact, on Tuesday I ran to town and wanted to pick up some eye drops from the pharmacy. After chatting with the owner and telling him that I was a volunteer with ASSA, he just gave the drops to me, saying that he knows the kind of work they are doing for the community.

This wonderful granny would not stop feeding us
This wonderful granny would not stop feeding us

Spending an extended amount of time in India has given me lots to think and ponder about. The culture here is confusing, but abundantly hospitable. ASSA has given me amazing learning experiences both professionally, and personally. I know that I will be back in the future to contribute to this little community.

Relaxing in Kollam after 5 weeks of placement
Relaxing in Kollam after 5 weeks of placement

For now its time to head to Kollam in neighboring Kerala for some adventure and R&R


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