Chali Chennai.. Chuli Asman


Up at 5 am and out at 6.30, driving towards the venue of the All India FOM Meet Chennai 2010.
Chennai is the capital city of Tamil Nadu, a Southern State of India, boasting one of the oldest cultures in the world, with their language Tamil pre-dating Sanskrit.

All of us were pumped up for the BIG EVENT….already chanting “CHALO CHENNAI”. Dressed in blue, we looked cool and all ready to touch the sky “Chulo Asman” and race “ Towards a New dawn”.  

The entrance was beautifully decorated – with a carpet of natural flowers laid out, and the auditorium looked so full of life with the back drop and the side posters, and the people.

There were tons of work relating to getting set – Each of us took on a responsibility: Beena / Gita- Registration, Sharon – Stage, Ashok / Philip – Unpacking, settling the kits, and organizing the counters for registration. Pramod Agarwal assisted with the setting up, while Vidya ji and Volunteers helped at the registration counter.
 Registration started at 8.30 – People had started pouring in well before that.
After registering, the attendees went on to collecting their kits, which comprised of a bag, FAQ, BOS, play booklets, pill boxes, note pad, key chain , calendar and a T-shirt/Saree.

As is the tradition, the participants were asked to sign the map – this job-desk was manned by Appa (Viji’s husband) and Appu (my son).

Breakfast was in traditional Tamil Nadu style.

There was Pat, her blue eyes flashing, resplendent in  a Kurti with dupatta, looking lovely as ever, and Lucy (disarmingly charming, and making it clear she felt as one of us), and the team from Novartis.

The Meet  was called to order at 9.50 by Sriram and Nagendran – We had the Tam il Thai Vazhthu (an Anthem for Tamil) sung by the volunteers, and India’s National Anthem “Jana Gana Mana” – beautifully rendered by the artists on a Nadaswaram (reed instrument).
After the initial housekeeping announcements, Sriram and Nag welcomed the guests – Towards a New Dawn – (this is our theme) The physicians present were Dr Raghunadharao, Dr Lakshmaiah, Dr Ganapathy Ramanan, the whole team from Cancer Institute- (Dr Shanta, Dr T Sagar, Dr Rejiv Rajendranath, Dr Prashant, Dr David) – Dr N K Warrier, and Dr Revathy Raj.

We had the Bhais from Mumbai (Nirmesh and Pramod) with their unique skit, which they enacted on stage and through which they imparted in a funny and informal but very clear manner  information about the agenda for the day, a background of the important guests , some housekeeping announcements and most importantly some tips on compliance and side effects .

Viji took us down memory lane, touching on past meetings in Mumbai (2005), Delhi (2006) , Bangalore (2008) and Kolkata (2009). She paid a glowing tribute to the core leaders who passed away during the year and said even though we are at grief, we are celebrating their lives. She then introduced the men and women in blue (volunteers), and went on to a little introduction to Dr Dan Va sella – father of GIPAP – a force behind the program.

Dr Dan Vasella made his entry at 10.30 along with Mr Shahani and Svetlana – and was welcomed with an aarti (auspicious lamp) and sandalwood garland by Sriram’s parents. Pat, Viji and FOM escorted him insid e the hall. Once inside, he was welcomed with “Chalo Chennai”, song by Nikhil & Anu ( son and wife of recipient  Venkatesh), and our very own Venky. The tune was that of the famous Oscar winning song “Jai Ho” by A R Rahman.
Sriram and Nag continued the  welcome and invited Dr Dan Vasella, Dr Shanta (the Chairperson of cancer Institute), Pat, Lucy, Mr Shahani and all the physicians present, on to the stage to light the  lamp and declare the meet open – they were escorted by the volunteers.
There was a spectacular dance recital by Swaralaya, a Bharatanatyam group ,who enthralled the audience with their grace and elegance – Bharatanatyam is a classical and traditional dance of Tamil nadu.

Dr Shanta – she is the chairperson of Cancer Institute Adayar and has received many awards like the Ramon Magsaysay Award, and Padma Shri – was introduced by Nagendran and requested to welcome the guests. Sriram then introduced Mr Shahani – Mr Shahani introduced Dr Dan Vasella and w elcomed him on to the stage – He was welcomed with a Ponnada (golden hued silken shawl) by Vedamuthu – Nagendran explained the significance and importance of this, saying that it is the traditional and respectful welcome in Tamil Nadu.
Dr Dan Vasella spoke about Glivec and Tasigna, and on further improving CML therapy. His presentation was informative and educational.  

Viji then came along with a young recipient Karthik Selvam, and presented a painting depicting Govardhan mountain to Dr Vasella– she explained the significance of the mountain in Hindu mythology.

Sriram introduced and welcomed Pat. Pat’s video on celebration of life was fantastic.

Nag called Viji V on stage. She called out the city chapter FOM group, who walked on  to stage in their regional costumes and spoke a few words. Viji V then introduced the MaxIndia team.

This was the time chosen for a group photo and Pat, Dr Dan Vasella, and Lucy came on to the stage to join in it.

Dr Dan Vasella had a separate meeting with both the FOM core group and the physicians, arranged in the green room, that lasted for over an hour.

He was presented a collage of pictures of FOM and TMF – by Rajiv of Bangalore  FOM. Pat was also presented the same.

Vote of thanks was by Anu (Wife of recipient Venkatesh) on behalf of FOM and by me on behalf of TMF.

There were many heartwarming testimonials. Some of them made us squirm at the praise they showered on us. After all we are equally the beneficiaries, enriching our lives by touching theirs.
Dan Vasella then took leave – he had come to spend those two-three hours in India only for the meet – and went back to Switzerland – am sure with a heart full of joy and happiness at what he could see and feel.
Lunch break was at 2.00 pm – We were treated to a delicious meal of Pulav, Bisi Balle Bath, Roties and a variety of vegetarian curries, followed by desserts.
Krithika welcomed everyone back from lunch and announced the next item on the agenda – medical session. She introduced Sharon and Gita – who thereafter welcomed the physicians on to the stage for discussions. The moderators for the panel discussion were Dr Prashant and Dr David. As always, the panel discussion was a hit, and the physicians fielded each and every question with ease.
Tea and snacks were served. Venky took over the stage and put on music for us to shake a leg or two.
Finally, the Meeting was called to a close by Viji V around 5.30 pm.
As usual, the FOM dinner was a great way to look in to all that happened and to congratulate the Chennai FOM for the fabulous day they gave us. Altogether, the entire meet had the look and feel of a Grand Indian Wedding.
This time too, I felt this was the best meet we had ever had. Seems to keep getting better and better all the time. Or is it that we are getting closer and closer..? I think so… 😉
Whatever, I have already started missing everyone else already.
By the way, It is now Bye Bye Chennai, and “Hello Hyderabad” for 2011.



Report by Beena Narayan