Saving Sanjana after Meeting Vikram Chandra

on Thursday, February 24, 2011

(Even before you start reading, I request you to jump to the last paragraph and visit the link once. Please)

It still is a fantastic feeling, Ecstasy, disbelief may be. It does not happen often that you get to meet  your God figure in person. I met mine, today.

While I was still nascent, and hunting for avenues to carve out my career in, Journalism appeared to be the most natural, appealing and pragmatic choice that I  could have made. But then, doubts over the credibility of media and stability of this profession, coupled with the overtly protective (read: suffocating) atmosphere I enjoy at home drowned all my ambitions for pursuing my dream profession.

Nevertheless, this blog post is not to fret over lost dreams; dreams which I do not consider totally lost even now.  This post is to express angst which I derive out of perhaps the most overwhelming and memorable experience in life. Yes, it is ironical, and this irony, at a level, pains me. A small happening, but a higher point on the learning curve definitely.

 Journalism, while it still cast that charm on me, was synonymous with a few names- Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt and of course, the person who rules my mind right now, Vikram Chandra. I remember having cried for about four hours when I had lost a remote opportunity to see Barkha Dutt, not even interact, but see her in person. I remember having seen Rajdeep Sardesai in my most prized dreams as a co-anchor to a show we hosted. And, as for Mr. Vikram Chandra, I only remember staring at him intently on the TV screen, with no fancy thoughts on my mind, but only a keep urge to observe and learn. By his diction, poise, ease, intelligence and presentation, he always simply bowled me over. Continuously following The Big Fight on NDTV instated him as my God figure ( though, admittedly in moments I was not already enraptured by the audacious Devil's Advocate, Karan Thapar)

So a few days back, when I was informed that HE is going to visit our campus to do a talk on Careers in Media and Broadcast Journalism, I just knew I HAD to organize this event, obviously in pursuit of pure selfish interest. I did. I remember, and I will always remember standing at the podium as Mr. Chandra entered the event venue and took his seat, taking my time to recover from his aura and then, summoning all the traces of confidence still left in my body to utter on the microphone- "Wasting no time, and with all my palpable enthusiasm, I introduce you to Mr. Vikram Chandra, a person who definitely needs no introductions". Even while uttering these lines, I was in disbelief over the fact that I am getting to act as the compere (for however little time) in the esteemed presence of Mr. Chandra.

Anyway, so the day went well. Predictably, we got a huge crowd. More than two fifty girls in the hall, and innumerable turned away because of space constraints. While addressing all of us on the need to get famous celebrities to endorse causes with social welfare, Mr. Chandra hit a particular sensitive nerve in my heart. It was then that I experience that angst mentioned earlier in this article. Through whatever he said Mr. Chandra made it evidently simple to realize even if you are to go ahead with the most noble motive aimed at the welfare of someone in need, you need to have in place strategies for selling the 'cause' effectively. And yesterday, when I set on to do something good, I ignored this aspect. I am regretful still.

About UsIt was yesterday that I undertook perhaps the most meaningful activity in all three years of my college life. An alumnus of our college, Sanjana Sahni, is diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, more commonly known as blood cancer. After having undergone extensive therapies and experiencing relative respite from the heinous disease, Sanjana's cancer relapsed some time back. Now, she is virtually without hope. She needs a stem cell donor urgently because her life span is being cut short at an enormous pace. Upon request from an NGO working to create awareness about the Stem Cell therapies, and who have adopted Sanjana's case as their poster cause, we decided to run a Stem Cell Donor Registration Drive in our campus, preceded by talk entailing everything that a donor of stem cells needs to know.

I feel shameful to admit that the initial number of girls from my own college who showed interest to attend the workshop voluntarily was only about 16. Upon much coaxing, I could manage to take that number up to 52, and subsequently 73. As an organizer, I just cannot disappoint my guests. Giving them an audience becomes my responsibility. But really, I felt embarrassed that girls in my college have such busy lives that they could not spare fifteen minutes to attend this presentation and become a part of something good. Leave alone any flowery expectation, but our girls could not even come ahead to held someone in dire need, and found is okay to give me all sorts of ludicrous reasons as to why they need to leave the presentation midway. Basic courtesies are hard to find, I know, but basic human instincts? Have they become rare too?

Mr. Sanjeev Kulshreshtha, the person giving the presentation, mentioned somewhere a dichotomy between the West and India as far as compassion to unknown persons is concerned. Out of some 16 million registered stem cells donor in the world, only 5000 are Indians. And this after we rant on about the massive human capital potential which will change the face of India. While we ape the West, something we've been consistently accused of the the self-proclaimed-saintly generation preceding us, somehow we totally ignore imbibing the better parts which characterize a Westerner. The concept of family bonding still remains strong in our nation, but a feeling of belongingness to the community at large is fast dissipating. We do not feel we have a responsibility which is social in character, until the cause in question is something we're affected by closely back home. Out of the girls who willingly volunteered to be a part of this programme, a sizable number had some case of a terminal illness affected person at the back of their mind when they came to join us. Not surprising at all. Again, I feel pathetic while admitting, that the rest had merely been forced to sit there.

I can go on and on about what I am feeling, but having conducted the talk, now I am all pepped up about the Donor Registration Drive, scheduled to take place on 8th of March, 2011, in our campus. Through a non invasive procedure, sample of stem cells will be taken and analysed to see if they match Sanjana's need. It costs about $50 to conduct tests on stem cells of one person. Sanjivni and Dhatri Foundation, conducting this drive in our college, have agreed to bear the burden of this monetary obligation. But they, like many more organizations wanting to make a difference in someone's life battle a severe resource crunch.

It won't take much time. Anyone of you who manage to read my article till this point, please visit the website once. Read what Sanjana has to say about herself. It might move you. I am not urging you to proactively start supporting Sanjana's cause, but being lost in the economic riddles of the material existence we all lead, we do sometimes leave our goodness somewhere behind. It is always good to reclaim that goodness back. A story like that of Sanjana's might help you reclaim that goodness, and with luck, may be a conscience too.

By the way, did I mention, Sanjana is blessed with two beautiful twins?