My destination: A medical camp at Sri Ramakrishna Sevashram in Dakshin Akhratala village in North 24 Parganas. Rivers Bidyadhari and Betuni meet here, about 70km from Kolkata.
Ramakrishna Mission Residential College, Narendrapur conducts the medical camp on third Sunday every month.
I got into the Innova along with my friend Satyaki Pal (he’s been teaching English in Narendrapur RK Mission College since 1983) near Jadavpur police station around 8.45am last Sunday (July 16). Our next stop was SSKM Hospital where we had to pick up three doctors– Dr Anisha Rathore, Dr Akhansha Mishra and Dr Varsha Saboo– who volunteered for the medical camp.
Dr Rathore and Dr Mishra are currently doing their post-graduation in Gynaecology & Obstetrics at the SSKM while Dr Saboo is doing senior residency after completing her MS.
These young doctors’ dedication and commitment are amazing. What struck me particularly was their zest and unbounded enthusiasm. Even though Dr Rathore and Dr Mishra had done night shifts, they were ready to spend the day serving the poor villagers.
Our car left the SSKM Hospital at 9.30am.
As our driver Gautam drove past Bypass and took the Basanti Highway, I was impressed by the tidy road. The city skyline slowly disappeared on the distant horizon as the car sped through the highway. The drive through the countryside lifted my spirits even as the monsoon rain added a soothing freshness to the greenery on either side of the road. We drove past Bantala, Bamanghata, Kantatala, Bhojerhat and Ghatakpur.
On the way we could see motor-driven vans carrying loads of fresh vegetables to the markets nearby bustling with the Sunday crowd.
My eyes travelled over the huge water bodies on either side of the road that looked like seas.
We reached Malancha at 10.30am. One can take a left turn to Basirhat/Taki or take the straight road to Basanti from here. We took the left turn.
At Bamanpukur, we saw numerous smoking brick-kilns by the roadside. At Metiakhali, we had to take the dusty road to reach our destination barely four kms away.
As we reached Sri Ramakrishna Sevashram at 10.50am, we were greeted by locals. I was deeply touched by their warmth and cordiality.
Chandan Maharaj and two college students who were travelling in another car had reached 15 minutes earlier.
We were given a hearty breakfast on our arrival. The doctors soon got down to business. Two pharmacists were also there to help. The Sevashram Hall was already packed with patients who had come from faraway villages and had been waiting since morning to consult the doctors and get medicines.
Even as the noontime sun flexed its muscle, patients kept coming to the Sevashram Hall to enlist their names. The camp was conducted in an orderly and disciplined manner. “We’re grateful to Narendrapur RK Mission for holding this camp every month. Villagers get free medicines and they have been immensely benefitted,” said Dhananjoy Mahato, a former panchyat pradhan.
“After Cyclone Aila, construction of roads was the first thing that was undertaken. Brick roads were built which provided connectivity to crucial services like healthcare, sources of drinking water, schools and markets,” he added.
“Most of the patients here are females. That’s why we decided to bring lady doctors,” said Chandan Maharaj, who has been overseeing the camp since October 2016.
“This is the 10th medical camp. Today about 200 patients came to the camp. We provide free medicines. Most of the medicines prescribed by the doctors are given to the patients free. In a few cases, patients have to buy medicines from local markets. We take a note of those medicines and try to bring them during our next camp. We spend about Rs 15000-Rs 2000 on medicines for every camp,” Chandan Maharaj said.
“Sri Ramakrishna Sevashram’s secretary Anandababu helps us a lot in running the camp. We are also grateful to Pranab-babu, a teacher and Sevashram’s president Tapan-babu for their unwavering support,” Chandan Maharaj said.
In a world of an unrelenting 24-hour social-media-driven news cycle, our media may not be interested in such extraordinary and magnanimous initiative. For the RK Mission, it hardly matters. It is committed to continue with its mission with single-minded devotion.