Pragya Bhagat, Bhopal, February 27, 2007
Each day, the Tinshed tells a different story about the people present there. Stories about widowed women, handicapped children, and the sense of loss that hangs heavy in the air around the communities that have suffered for so long. Today’s story was not as dismal. It focused on the people that have benefited from yoga and ayurvedic treatment at the Sambhavna Clinic. People like Toufique Jahan, a thirty-five year old woman who remembers that night as if it was yesterday.
We thought that someone had burned chillies. People were shouting and running outside…we just lay in bed and switched on the fans. We were as good as unconscious. In the morning, some people came and took us to the hospital where we were given some medicines and eye drops.
A constant cough, eye problems and breathlessness were only the tip of the iceberg for Tofique, and she later developed shoulder pain and gastritis. After doing yoga at Sambhavna, she has had 95% relief, calculated by the increase in range of motion and decrease in pain.
Sandeep would have remembered the night too if he had been born nine years earlier. The fourteen year old has a gentle smile that seems to be a permanent presence on his soft-featured face. He moved to Prem Nagar eleven years ago, to an area that is about one kilometer north of the Union Carbide factory. Due to drinking contaminated water, he suffers from weakness, body pain, headaches, and poor vision. After five days of doing yoga at Sambhavna, his body pain and headaches were significantly reduced.
There are many other such cases at the clinic, like diabetes-ridden sixty-seven year old Jokhan Singh whose blood sugar dropped twenty points and his drug dosage was reduced by half. Forty-five year old Leelabai had multiple skin problems which ayurvedic medicines are relieving, and yoga helped her shed three kilograms of wieght. Sixty-two year old Jihra Bee’s skin is no longer dense with white patches, also due to ayurvedic treatment at Sambhavna. Call them what you may- successes, miracles, perseverance, or leaps of faith. The rooms of Sambhavna are overflowing with such stories.
There are 18,610 men, women, and children registered at Sambhavna who are getting allopathic, ayurvedic, and yoga treatment. But there are thousands of others who aren’t getting any sort of health care. Their mothers, sisters, and wives nurse them because the pills and syrups at the government hospitals only make them sicker, as expired medicines usually do. As far as alternative medical treatments like ayurvedic, unani, homeopathic, and yoga are concerned, the government spends less than 5% of its medical budget on them. Hence, the survivor groups are demanding that the government increase the budget allotted to these forms of health care. Especially since the Sambhavna Clinic is a testament to the hope it instills amongst the gas-affected and water contaminated communities. There was a time when the dead were considered lucky because they didn’t have to suffer any longer. But because of efforts by Sambhavna and now the sit-in, there’s hope that the living dead will someday be reborn.