Student Experience Blog

The joy of free stuff

As I write this, I am almost dead from exhaustion. Actually, scratch that. I am almost dead from the heat. Today was the first day of the project proper, and the honeymoon period has ended, somewhat has ended. But then, I am starting from the middle. I hate when I do that.

Monday was supposed to be the first day of the “mission” proper. This means that suddenly, over a hundred medical professionals from all over the world suddenly congregate on site, almost like a biblical plague of locusts, but of plastic surgeons, dentists, nurses and those people who knock you out pre-surgery. (I know they are called anesthesiologists, but the title I have accorded on them sounds so much better.)

As such, it is a logistical nightmare. You have Arabs, Swedes, Indians, Italians, Americans, and other nationalities all in one place. All wanting to cut people open and make them pretty again. One of the things we are here to do is to make their jobs easier. The less they have to think about procuring staples, and pens, and printer paper, the more they can think about helping children with cleft palates. So, Mark and I, with the capable assistance of Sagar, our liaison, went on a shopping spree. In the heat of the midday sun. Which is a really bad idea in India in the middle of summer.

We went around Pan market, and solicited prices. While doing this, Mark and I were cracking wisecracks about the heat oppressing us, and us being professional and resisting that oppression, and about how Mark makes 4 million dongs a month, and he probably has half that in his back pocket at any moment. Infantile, yes, but when you have to deal with heat that would melt lead, and when yours truly is sweating like a stuck pig, and is delirious, that stuff keeps your mind on the lighter side.

We managed to purchase 20 permanent markers, 200 pens, 10 staplers, 24 scissors, 5 reams of printer paper, a weighting machine, a height scale, and two stethoscopes, All of which yours truly carried on his back (I felt like reaching back to my roots as a native of the Himalayas, and being a mountain porter.) All this was procured for under $150, which is somewhat obscene.

We came back to the heart of the operations, among the few places with AC. We walked in to Mohesh, the director of GC4, the technical name of the site, holding court with all his staff, post lunch. He went on a short reverie with Mark about the time he spent in Ho Chi Minh City, and about how he had the best ice cream of his life there, served in a coconut.

The strangest thing was that none of the people on the staff could come to terms with that fact that we were giving them that stuff, with no expectation of anything in return. And then, suddenly, in a feeling well known to any college student in America, everyone reveled in the best feeling known to man, the feeling of free stuff. I saw grown men with medical degrees playing around with the weighing scale. Suddenly there was a line of people all in line to get their weight checked. And what followed were protestations that the scale was off by 5 to ten kilos (We use metric in India. That is roughly 10 to 20 pounds for all y'all 'merican folk.)

It was not only the joy of free stuff, but the excitement of the start of a mission, by the end of which 200 odd lives will forever be transformed for the better.

We then went on to Ginger Hotel (You do have to give credit to the Indians for having the most inane hotel names. Mark and I are in Sun City Hotel, and the view from our single window is a wall of concrete and construction worker legs.) and had a pre-mission dinner and intro session. And now, after 12 odd hours in the sweltering heat, after 3 showers in the last 24 hours, here I am writing this for your benefit.

Tomorrow, we expect to be at the hospital site at 6, so that we can get to see all the patients come in to be screened. 100 patients will be screened, and the chosen will be in for a helluva week.

Here from Guwahati,

Goodbye, and Goodnight.


-Rahul Sharma

Rahul is a senior art major from Jammu, India.