Beyond Money
Smiling through Tears

For terminally-ill cancer patients, Avedna Ashram in Jaipur is a haven, writes  Dr Nita Mukherjee

Avedna means absence of pain. While this is the one thing in life that all of us pray for, for the terminally ill, this hope alone can make life worth living. It is this hope that the Khailshankar Durlabhji Avedna Ashram offers.
The Ashram’s first brochure had spelt out the founder Rashmi Durlabhji’s vision thus: “We accept the inevitability of death as also the certainty of pain. When medicine ceases to play a role, when friends and relatives tire of providing support, Avedna Ashram steps in. Here we will add life to a person’s days when medicines cannot add days to his life…” The trustees appealed for “contribution in bringing peace and dignity to someone in pain.” The people of Jaipur responded, as they continue to do when they see the selfless service that the volunteers, as well as the professional staff of the Ashram, provide. 
Started in 1997 by Mr Durlabhji, a gemstone trader, in the memory of his father, the Ashram is now spread over a 64,000-sq ft, four-storey building. The hospice provides palliative care to cancer patients in their final days completely free of cost and is equipped with a modern blood bank, laundry, library and kitchen. Admission to the hospice is only on being certified as ‘terminally-ill’ by a doctor.
Hospice care is a special way of dealing with patients suffering from incurable illness. Unlike hospitals, hospices provide only passive medication. Patients receive emotional, spiritual and practical support to relieve pain and prepare them for death. In the US, the government provides hospice services free of cost. In India, so far, it is left to the non-government sector and charity organisations.
“We don’t offer cure,” says 77-year-old Shirish Mody, a member of the advisory committee of the Ashram. “We offer patients a chance to face the truth. We prepare them to confront pain, anguish and death. Hence, emphasis is on counselling and treating the spirit.” The Ashram has a prayer hall where multi-faith prayers are held every day. Free medical and nursing care is provided irrespective of community, caste or creed. Despite being surrounded by death, the staff maintains a cheerful face at all times to keep the spirits of residents high. “It’s not always easy to smile,” says Mr Mody, “but everyone is brave.” The atmosphere of cheer and hope has been largely responsible for the hospice’s success.
Even after spending Rs3.5-crore on the hospice, initially, few people came for admission. The stigma of ‘being dumped’ and an ‘old people’s home’ as being a ‘one-way ticket to oblivion’ so deeply ingrained in the Indian psyche remains. But slowly the word spread; now, of the 100 beds in the hospice, on an average, 80 are occupied at any given point in time. Many residents have come to look upon Avedna Ashram as a home. Some years ago, a 65 year-old goldsmith afflicted with lung cancer, even wrote a new will before his death, adopting the Ashram as his home and its inmates as his family. Till date, the Ashram has provided over 2,00,000 person-days of care to the terminally ill. The longest stay of a patient was over two years, the average stay being 20 days. 
On the ground floor, the Ashram has a Day-Care Centre for senior citizens with facilities like free medical consultation, yoga, physiotherapy, acupressure classes, indoor games (like carrom, cards, scrabble and chess), a well-stocked library and reading room. Fitted with ramps and lifts for the disabled, the Centre is open from 10am to 5pm. The Centre has a resident doctor and some beds for afternoon siesta. 
Volunteers organise several group activities: every month, there is a joint birthday party celebrating all the birthdays in that month. The one-time registration fee for the Centre is Rs200. Currently, 250 senior citizens are members. 
If you can smile through your tears, do volunteer. Donations are exempt under Section 80G.
Khailshankar Durlabhji Avedna Ashram SDM Hospital Campus
Bhawani Singh Road 
Jaipur 302015
Phone: +91-141-2566251


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Living in the present is living healthy

If we could make our work our play we would be eternally happy. Loving what one gets is healthier than trying to get what one loves

“False science creates atheists; true science prostrates Man before divinity”—Voltaire

The best time of one’s life is here and now. Human kind, in the present century of hi-tech revolution, makes itself miserable by living in the prison of either the past or the future. In the rat race to earn more and more, we lose sight of the real pleasures of life like spending time with our near and dear ones or doing what we would love to do. If we could make our work our play we would be eternally happy. Loving what one gets is healthier than trying to get what one loves. Many of us are so conceited that we live in a make-believe world.

I met an old acquaintance lately who had lost himself in his own world of living an artificial life of borrowed affluence. He always boasts about his expensive car and his wonderful house that surpasses all others in that locality. He believes that he is somebody very important in that society. Naturally, he is always so tense that he pops in a couple of blood pressure lowering pills and rests content that his pressure is under control with the tablets! I had learnt a good quote that applies to that gentleman. If one wants to be somebody, one must start believing that one is a nobody. One could even go to greater lengths by allowing oneself to look stupid to humor others—that is the key to comedy.

The present era is full of contradictions. While at one end there are the go-getters trying to burn their candles at both ends, there are equal number of fanatics who try to decelerate time. An organization by name Bra, in Italy, is one such place where their members cook their own food and take time to eat healthy. The “Slow Food Movement” is catching up with the affluent and the fast food chains are worried. Time was when the versatile British prime minister, William Ewart Gladstone, wrote a book on chewing. His hypothesis was that if one were to chew each morsel 200 times, one would be very healthy! Poor man did not have any ‘scientific’ training but he believed in his innate intuition. Lo and behold, this book gave us a scientific jolt in the area of human nutrition in the last century.

Centuries later there was a group of fanatic students at the Yale University Medical School who wanted to try Gladstone’s experiment. Along with the students lived their bio-chemistry professor in the dorm. He was a crazy guy himself. He was watching the boys trying to chew every morsel 200 times. He noticed that the boys ended up with less than 15 gm of protein per day, in contrast to the then prevailing wisdom of one gm per kilo body weight, based on the Nazi secrets of the Second World War. The professor kept a prospective watch on these students and found out at the end of their four years there that they were healthier than the conventional eaters. That is the beginning of the present day thinking that low protein vegetarian foods are healthier. Western science of nutrition is based on very shaky foundation of incrementalism and that is why it keeps changing so fast!

If one tries to meditate in a quiet place—mediation being a non-religious activity anyone, even atheists could indulge in it—one would soon enjoy listening to his own breath. The joy of knowing and following one’s breathing pattern is something unique and makes one so tranquil that elevates the mood even of the depressed souls. When you graduate further you could listen to your heart beating rhythmically. The more one goes inside of oneself, the more he/she gets to understand the real meaning of life. Mediation needs two things in particular—the time and the timing. Beyond that it only needs one to cut off as many stimuli to the brain as is possible. Simply shutting one’s eyes would do the trick. One need not, and cannot, control the thoughts. Thoughts come and go like a child playing in the room. Leave the thoughts alone and they would bring peace within—sooner than later.

In Tokyo there is a new type of school that teaches children alternative methods of learning with pleasure at leisure compared to their peers in other schools. The students from that school have not done any worse than the conventionally schooled children—in fact, they do better in life. The motto of the school is better now. When one is on the fast track, life passes by. It is only when one gets to the slow lane; life gets meaning and becomes enjoyable. This is the secret of healthy life. One also realizes one’s responsibilities to society. “Only those live that live for others, rest of us are more dead than alive,” said Swami Vivekananda. Modern bio-technology tells us that even trying to help others gives the best impetus for our immune guard to be at its best to protect us against all ills and also to help us repair the damage done already. Live in the present and LIVE HEALTHY!

“Some people are making such thorough preparation for the rainy days that they aren’t enjoying today’s sunshine”
—William Feather.

(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at [email protected].)




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