I am writing this post in the same hotel room in Ahmedabad as the last post. However, the last four days have been spent in Junagadh, a smaller city eight hours to the west, and the hometown of Jon’s friend Samir.
Samir was injured (same level as Jon) in a car accident seven years ago on the drive from the airport to sign his insurance papers for a new job as a software engineer in Oman. Since then he has moved back in with his elderly parents in Junagadh. Jon met Samir three years ago at ISIC in Delhi where he was one of the few patients at the hospital who was truly on his way to learning the therapy techniques to make him independent. However, he became sick on the train ride home and then developed a bedsore while recovering. For the past three years he has not had proper medical attention and has thus stayed only in his home dealing with bedsore after bedsore. This unfortunately means that all the strength and training from his successful stay at ISIC will have to be repeated.
As with Riya and Rahul, Jon’s main purpose in visiting Samir was to spend real quality time with him and develop beyond their initial friendship. We also brought a new wheelchair, with a pressure cushion that will hopefully allow him to get out of bed. The original plan to bring Samir back to the larger hospital in Ahmedabad was abandoned while we hope that the arrival of his new care attendant (an another old friend), Major, will provide the attention needed to help Samir finally recover from his bedsores and return to his physical therapy.
In Junagadh, between Jon and Samir, we were dealing with the two most common health problems quadriplegics face after their initial recovery: bedsores and chest infections (Jon has a small infection, not to worry). The past four days were a crash course for me on these medical issues. They are not light-hearted concerns and have made this week particularly pressing (many discussions and complications not fit for repeating in the impersonal forum of this blog).
Fortunately, Samir’s optimistic attitude was very infectious and our time in Junagadh was also filled with plenty of enjoyment. Sunday morning Samir and a couple friends took us to the city’s zoo. Despite the lions, tigers, and sloth-bears, my attention was most captured by the many unusual tree species growing throughout the zoo. We left in the early afternoon when the sun was reaching its highest point and the heat was becoming unbearable (I had to remind myself that this was still February and was all the more thankful we were not visiting in the summer).
Sunday night I went out for my own little adventure walking through the city. This was the eve of a popular Hindu holiday so there were many bonfires throughout the city. At these fires, families and individuals gathered to participate in the holiday’s religious ritual (circling the fire seven times while pouring water, throwing popcorn and coconuts in the fire, and saying prayers). I watched from afar and eventually took out my sketchbook to record the occasion. I was quickly surrounded by a group of kids (and eventually their older siblings and parents). After finishing my sketch I spent about an hour being led through the neighborhood being introduced to other family members.
The following morning I arranged to hike up a small mountain/hill outside the city with the Catholic priest we had met the previous day. There is an elderly Christian woman who has been living on her own (praying, meditating, tending her garden, serving visitors, etc) in the forest of the mountainside for the past 36 years. The priest visits her for mass every Sunday and that day was leading a group of visitors to spend the day with this sister. The father said that when he visited her Sunday morning, two lions crossed his path on the hillside (our hike was more mundane however). I was blessed to speak briefly with this woman living in peace and simplicity in God’s creation and then spent some time in prayer in her one-room ‘chapel’.
The remainder of Monday was particularly exciting back in the city because of the community’s celebration of Holi (the Hindu festival of colors). Basically the entire town, but especially the children, fill the streets throwing brightly colored powders and paints at one another. The adolescents zoom down the streets on motorcycles, holding large sacks of pink, green, blue, red, or yellow pigments. In a modern rendition of medieval jousting the cyclists hurl the colors at their on-coming friends as they pass each other on the road. Jon, Samir, Major and I walked and rolled through the backstreets. Because we were particularly noticeable (two guys in wheelchairs and me - tall, white, and red-bearded) we received special Holi greetings, which involved strangers smearing vibrant handfuls of powder right across our faces, necks, and hair. We scavenged a couple bags of paint ourselves and thoroughly enjoyed walking across through the laughing crowds and rainbow clouds of thrown paint. This is really a holiday we need to start celebrating back home!
We have now returned to Ahmedabad, where Jon, Vicky, and one director from ISIC will be training physical therapists and working with spinal cord patients at the civic hospital. It will be an interesting transition once again after spending time in such close community with Samir and Major and now returning to the big picture hospital/advocacy work.
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
1. Jon and Samir help capture an escaped tiger.
2. Resting in the shade at the zoo.
3. The holy mountain seen from the streets of Junagadh.
4-6. Happy Holi!