Pragya Bhagat, Bhopal, March 6, 2007
When the body is not being provided with food, it goes through various lines of defense in order to stay alive. The body stores glucose -its primary fuel – in the form of glycogen in the liver. When the carbohydrates from a meal are digested, the liver converts the stored glycogen back into glucose and releases it into the blood. Once the liver runs out of its 12-hour supply of glycogen, it produces glucose from amino acids, the building blocks of muscle. Fat begins to break down and is released into the bloodstream as fatty acids. These fatty acids in the blood are then used to make ketone bodies. The brain is completely dependent on glucose for its energy, but in the event of low blood glucose levels, it uses ketone bodies for energy. The longer the period of starvation, the more ketone bodies are used…that is, until the body’s pH becomes dangerously acidic and reaches a state of ketoacidosis. In a nutshell, fasting results in the loss of fat, loss of muscle, and loss of energy to perform well mentally as well as physically.
The six fasters are still fairly active – not much has changed in their behavior except that there is more resting during the day. One can tell that the energy is lower, but the morale is higher than ever. Events are being planned for the upcoming week to put further pressure on the Madhya Pradesh government. People are taking the initiative to help the cause in any way they can; some are fanning the napping fasters with folded newspaper, warding off the heat along with the buzzing flies. Some are massaging tired heads with soothing oil, while others chop potatoes, knead dough, and cook the puffed-to-perfection chapattis on the makeshift stove put together with dry wood. It is small acts like these which make the Tinshed a functioning unit. Division of responsibility combined with the rotation of duties makes the sit-in site a relatively tension-free environment.
The reality of course, is that there is an unbearable amount of tension present, especially when you think about why we have been sitting here for fifteen days now. It has become a matter of life and death not only for the six individuals on the indefinite fast, but also for the hundreds of thousands who are dying a slow, painful death only because they use the water in their communities to drink, bathe, and cook. Water is supposed to give life, not take it away. And yet that is what the contaminated water saturated with Union Carbide’s poisons is doing- killing people from the inside out.
Shivraj Singh Chauhan is tesing the survivors’ strength, trying to break their spirit. He ignores every word they scream out to him. He looks the other way when the living dead lie before him. He lies incessantly when praising his supposed efforts in helping the downtrodden. Hi is pushing the limits of their determination. But instead of weakening the survivors, it is only strengthen their resolve.
To ensure that the fasters are in stable condition, Dr. Shyam Aggarwal comes everyday to measure their blood pressure, weight, pulse, blood sugar levels and ketone body levels. Crumpled cotton and tiny syringes lie used in small plastic cups after each checkup. The tent is starting to smell like a medical ward in the evenings. Before Dr. Aggarwal had arrived today, a doctor accompanied by a policeman showed up to measure the conditions of the fasters. Look at how caring our government has become, sending policemen and doctors to monitor the progress of those who are surviving only on water. Shivraj Singh Chauhan, your people are too kind. Now if only they could provide doctors to people at all times, maybe these six people wouldn’t have to fast indefinitely in the first place.