Seeing what you cannot see.
Last week, I completed my Hospital Management Program at IIM Ahmadabad, a 1-week intensive residential training for doctors and hospital administrators. The course comprised of lectures and case studies from various aspects of management like changes in healthcare, team management, strategy, finance, MIS, data analytics, managing star doctors, medico legal etc. An important part of this training was experiential learning, which was on the last day of this training.
The batch was a wonderful mix of people from all across India and even a neighboring country, having various levels of responsibility including owners, medical directors, administration, HR, marketing etc. We all assumed that this “experiential learning” would be some kind of “practical training” in some hospital or similar setting. We kept asking our faculty chairs who by now had become friendly with us, as to where we would be taken but the professors never told. Now I feel glad and thankful that they did not tell us till we experienced it.
Across the road from IIM A is an “andh jan mandal” or Blind Peoples’ Association. We were taken here, where we were welcomed by our two guides Jayadev and Bela. While Jayadev was completely blind, Bela was blind too but had some light perception. We were told to form 2 groups, switch off our mobile phones, remove spectacles if any and keep our both hands free.
Our exercise was a simulated mini town/village which we had to experience in complete dark, not the slightest of light to be permitted. We had to identify temple and their deities, village chopal, trees, well, bullcart, village people, statues of freedom fighters etc.
So here were 20+ business leaders from healthcare industry that had came to form a new Vision for their organizations, but were left in Complete Dark and still were excited. We entered into a gate, following each other in complete dark, and holding a railing on right side as we moved step by step, with our guesses.
We had been advised that our moderators will be watching us from outside (using infrared cameras), and that simulated environment was designed safe, that means it cannot hurt us. Still we moved very cautiously. Let me remind you, that our “guides” were with us and were handholding each one of us whenever needed.
The first stop was a temple with different deities, and I was given one statue to identify it by touching it. I was elated at first when I could identify Lord Shri Krishna within few seconds with His crossed leg position. Some other group participants also could identify their Gods, while others could not.
Bela, our guide then identified each deity to us, for example Goddess Saraswati, or Lord Shiva. Then came the village chaupal, few plants, a bull cart, a well. It was a new experience to identify everything by just touching it.
We were being navigated by the voice of our guides, and where needed she would handhold to direct us. We entered in a hut, which had a cot, few utensils, an atta chakki. Then we entered into a cave which had statues of saints and freedom fighters. My earlier joy of identifying statues vanished here, as I could not identify most statues. Then came another cave with temple bell, and you could “see” (not literally) everybody turning a kid, ringing the bell repeatedly.
We were then taken into a “theatre” yes a blind theatre, where we experienced a small movie clip from “Taare Zameen Par.”We were then greeted with the voice of Mr Bhushan Punani, the director of Andh Jan Mandal (an IIMA Alumni too) who shared with us some “eye opening” information. The Andh Jan Mandal runs a physiotherapy and occupational therapy Institute comprising only blind people with various degrees of blindness. Many of them had become successful physiotherapist communicating with patients only through voice communication. That is excellent, isn’t it.
Yes but there is more to it. What if there is someone who could neither see, nor read.
Shruti: Now shruti is a Sanskrit word meaning, music or hearing. But here is the story of this girl, who could not hear anything, and also not to see anything. Deaf and blind. Unfortunate, yes, but there can be many people like her in India. But what if Shruti wanted to become a good physiotherapist?
It was a dilemma and a decision challenge for institute to admit a girl with vision and hearing handicap. She was initially denied admission at institute. But then with the intervention of Mr Punani, she was admitted. His rationale was if she can pass class 12 exams, she can be a physiotherapist too.
Shruti got the opportunity of her lifetime, the institute did have to make special arrangements for her, like assigning a special coordinator to her, but Shruti did not disappoint. She came off with flying colors, being in the top 2 performers of institute.
We were delighted to know that most of the trained physios are employed private healthcare sector and successfully serving patients.
After that Mr Bhushan also asked for our opinion which we all shared. The special observation of the author being that while most of effort was being made to make workplace and other public places disable friendly, nobody has ever spoken about places of worship with disabled friendly too.
Our temples must be disable friendly and particularly so for people with vision limitations so that they can touch and feel their Gods like we did when we were left in dark.
With this we were again “guided” to Dining Hall for a some snacks . Our vision-in-dark experience was not over yet. Dining hall also was in complete darkness. In fact, I lost my way and went in some other room. Soon realizing my mistake I returned back and was promptly handheld by Jayadev to dining hall where we were offered some nice snacks.
After this we came out side. It took a few seconds before our eye adjusted to normal daylight.
This was followed by the ritual of selfies with the staff of institute and our guides. We all were so glad and thankful to almighty for our vision, and impressed with the good services of institute. The team voluntarily made small contribution as a token of our appreciation of their efforts.
Once back we were full of praises and thankful to our faculty chairs for this great experiences.
I, do however, feel that there should be similar arrangements in all major cities of India. Also word must be spread within our industry so that more and more hospitals can hire physiotherapists from this institute further encouraging them, and bringing a change in someone’s life.