It was in May 2010, Hyderabad made the adventurous announcement of hosting the next Annual Meeting of Friends of Max – HELLO HYDERABAD! After months of planning and preparations, everything was going as per plan. However days before the event trouble started for the city and team Hyderabad.
In the run up to the Friends of Max 6th All India Meet, Hyderabad had seen it all – Agitations, bandhs, dharnas, rasta roko, rail-roko, no public transport (city buses), torch march… you name it! However, against all odds, FOM Hyderabad was able to host the event successfully – and if I may say, in true Hyderabadi Andaaz!
CML AWARENESS WALK – 1ST October 2011
Saturday evening 6.30pm, and our friends from various City Chapters assembled at the Necklace road for the Awareness walk – banners, placards, candles… all set. Those of us volunteers who had a busy packing session till late afternoon headed towards the Necklace Road beating the hectic evening traffic. Renowned Radiation Oncologist, Ex-Director of Nizam’s Medical Institute (NIMs) and Padmashri awardee Dr Kakarla Subba Rao flagged off the walk. He said he was impressed by the initiative taken to spread cancer awareness among the people. The event saw a turnout of around 100 people. It was a leisurely candle-light march, of about 1km – The candles twinkled, their wax dripping harmlessly onto the cut-out bases, people slowly walking down the aisle, awed and joyous at the same time. It was a sight to see everyone’s faces illuminated in the candle lights!
The walk concluded at the Eat Street, where Dr Raghu motivated us – the FOM team and other City Chapter leaders – to say a few words about our experience. After having some refreshments, we all dispersed and had dinner at the Water Front / Eat Street food courts across the road.
The response we received for the walk (despite the unfavorable conditions prevailing in the city) got us into high spirits and boosted our confidence for the next day’s Grand Meeting.
FRIENDS OF MAX 6TH ALL INDIA MEET – 2ND October 2011
7 AM —-
The Venue- Sri Sathya Sai Nigamagamam Auditorium, surrounded by greenery and vast landscape garden, wore a festive look from the wee hours of the morning. The banners, posters, Map of India, Registration Counters were all in place. Max Foundation team, FOM Hyderabad and FOM core group members from other cities and volunteers- all geared up to start the day. People coming from far-off districts, started trickling in from as early as 6 am onwards. A team of volunteers were specially deputed to guide them to the dining hall to have their breakfast.
8 AM —-
Registration began and in no time long queues started forming. As folks steadily assembled in the auditorium, they were welcomed by the bright natural light (direct ventilation from the dome) and impressive stage back-drop. The videos of Friends of Max activities kept the people entertained.
9 AM —-
With only half-an-hour left for the program to commence, we were a little concerned that the huge (1200+ seating capacity) auditorium was barely half-full.
9.30 AM —-
Subba Rao and Usha kick-started the day by welcoming everyone. The good day being Gandhi Jayanti, it was but natural to initiate the day’s proceedings with the National Anthem. Young boys presented a soulful violin recital of – Jana Gana Mana – captivating everyone. The Chief Guest, popular veteran actor and Dadasaheb Phalke awardee, Dr.Akkineni Nageshwar Rao, inaugurated the event by lighting the lamp, which was followed by the invocation dance.
10.15 AM —-
It was Dr.Raghu’s (Soul of Hyderabad FOM) turn to take to the podium and take the program forward. After welcoming everyone and saying a few words about the significance of our slogan “Grow with the Tree of Life”, he invited Ayeshah onto the stage to do the introductions.
As Mr.Ramji Shahani, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Novartis India, was unable to join us for the occasion, his wife Dr (Mrs) Indu Shahani (Sheriff of Mumbai & Principal H R College, Mumbai) and son Siddhartha were the special guests. Mrs Indu read out Mr. Shahani’s address in which he reiterated his support and admiration for the Friends of Max and spoke of Novartis’ continued commitment to research. She then talked about how her college students were involved in helping the underprivileged. Mrs Shahani said she would take back fond memories of the courage and determination of the hundreds of survivors she had seen and met on this day.
Beena, the face of TMF South India, then presented a video-taped message from Pat Garcia Gonzalez, co founder and Executive Director of The Max Foundation. Pat said she was disappointed that she could not attend and be in our midst but always had a special place in her heart for FOM. She said we were the largest, single support group of this kind in the world and was proud that we were making our presence felt in the world.
Later, Viji Venkatesh (VV), the most popular face of TMF India, was called upon to give the TMF presentation. She touched upon various aspects of TMF – from its formation, the need to spread awareness, to the formation of Friends of Max, and the activities of TMF worldwide. She then called on stage the Hyderabad Core-group team and congratulated them on the spectacular organization of the meet.
Bhai and Bhidu were in next with their Compliance skit which was both informative and at the same time humorous – thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd including the Chief Guest Dr ANR.
11 AM —-
Finally- the moment everyone had been waiting for… Dr Raghu welcomed the honorable Chief Guest, Dr. Akkineni Nageshwar Rao, on stage, while clips from his films played on the screen. FOM Hyd volunteers escorted him to the stage and felicitated him. The 1000+ crowd (official count by 11am) waited fervently to hear the superstar’s address. Dr ANR said that he was highly impressed to see so many survivors doing well and with smiling faces. He confessed his ignorance about certain facts about cancer, and that it was a great learning experience to be a part of this meeting. The great orator that he is, he kept the audience spellbound as he talked about his humble beginnings, rise to stardom, achievements in life, health issues, and most importantly his “Determination” in life – Never to give up – and that was his message for all present. His speech received a huge round of applause.
11.30 AM —-
Time for the Medical Session. VV introduced the Doctors as they came on stage escorted by Volunteers. The Panel included- Dr Tapan Saikia (Mumbai), Dr Pankaj Malhotra (Chandigarh), Dr. Rejiv Rajendranath (Chennai) and our experts from Hyderabad doctors- Dr Raghunadha Rao (NIMS), Dr SVSS Prasad (Apollo), Dr Senthil Rajappa (Indo-American). This time the session was in symposium style with each doctor giving his presentation- topics covered being – Overview of CML/ GIST, Importance of Compliance, Periodic Monitoring, Coping with Side-effects, Marriage & Pregnancy, and Second Gen. TKIs. Though we received a huge flurry of questions from the audience, most of them got their answers during the presentations.
Dr Raghunadharao Rao conducted this informative and interactive session with an overwhelming response from the audience. Doctors were presented with mementos, followed by Vote of Thanks by the FOM Hyderabad & TMF.
1.30 PM —-
Lunch time! People just loved the sumptuous spread and delicious food – a combo of Andhra, North Indian, Chat counter, Chinese and not to forget the assorted desserts. YUMMY!
The novel idea – FOM stalls were put up in the dining hall where everyone could have a look during lunch time. Despite being the first time, it was a good job done by various city chapters in showcasing their regions and their outreach and awareness activities amongst the local FOM.
2.30 PM —-
FOM Hyderabad had decided that along with the informative morning session, they will keep the people entertained in the afternoon session. Professional singers were invited to perform/ sing Telugu filmi songs with soundtracks music playing. This Grand Finale saw enthused crowds have a blast of a time dancing, whistling, clapping – Even the ones who could not understand the language – members of our City Chapters – could not stop themselves from jumping onto the stage and dancing to the beats of the scintillating music. I would say this was the momentous highlight of the day!
We had a few other performances, a skit (by Satish & Subba Rao), and a guitar performance by Aradhana. It was almost 5pm by then and time to call it a day. As the saying goes – All Good Things must come to an End! After lots of hugs and goodbyes and promises to keep in touch, everybody went their way. For us – Hyderabad core-group – it was an emotional goodbye – the months of meetings and fun time have all come to an end :-(.
7 PM —-
The event culminated with the FOM core-group dinner. October 2nd – it was a coincidence the day was also the LIVESTRONG Day – a day of global, collective action in the fight against cancer. To join in the celebrations across the world, we pledged to wear yellow – so it was yellow T-shirts, sarees, dupattas – anything in yellow. The dinner spread was again lavish keeping in tune with the Hyderabadi Nawabi tradition. People reluctantly left but only after giving the “Thumbs Up” to team Hyderabad for the delicious food and hospitality.
What a day it was! We are thankful to everyone for making the Friends of Max 6th All India meet such a Grand Success!
So long… Farewell…
Report by Sailaja, FOM Hyderabad