FOM Meet – Alibaug

{mosimage}Visit to S M  Wadke High School, Chondi-Kihim for Cancer Awareness Programme

The date was 2nd Aug’08, for when the Cancer Awareness Lecture, an initiative of FOM Mumbai was scheduled at S M Wadke High School, Chondi, Kihim at the behest of Mr. Vasant ji Chaudhuri, who is a senior English teacher at the school and also a Friend of Max.


We started from Mumbai at 6.15 a.m. while Viji Amma picked-up Vidyaji and Sharon from the by now permanent meeting place, the Priyadarshini Signal at Chembur. Our first assembly point happened to be at the CBD Belapur junction, where we converged and continued the journey together from. We took a small break at Wadkal naka for a cup of tea and to relax our legs, stiff from sitting in the cars. After refreshing cups of tea, we continued our journey onwards..

The road conditions were good in some places while deplorable at others, but the best part of the journey was the green, serene landscape. The sight was soothing for the eyes and the soul. While we indulged in the scenic beauty on our drive, little did we realize that we had almost reached our destination. After confirming our position to check if we were on track, we finally made some course corrections to reach Chondi.

Chondi is a small village near Alibaug and Kihim, in the district of Raigad in coastal Maharashtra. This region is famous for the lovely beaches and great sea food. As we crossed the railway crossing at Chondi, we spotted a cheerful Vasant ji in spotless white shirt and black trousers, eagerly waiting for us. After exchanging greetings, Vasant ji escorted the convoy to the school. It was quite a sight to see Vasant ji leading the cars on his bicycle, peddling away with speed and energy that would put much younger males to shame.

Finally, we reached the school. We quickly pulled out the posters, illustrations and flip charts for the presentation. We were introduced to the school’s trustee, Mr. Mhatre along with the teaching and non-teaching staff of the school. The school has an impressive set-up with around 3000 students being covered in two shifts. Vasant ji broke the good news that their school, which currently had classes up to Junior College had now the permission for the Senior College also. This would give the local children the opportunity to complete their graduation without having to travel long distances for a college education. After a round of pleasantries and generous cups of ginger and cardamom tea, we proceeded to the auditorium. Sharon, Raj, Ashok and Amit quickly put-up the posters and illustrations on the walls of the auditorium. The illustration conceived and executed by Vidya ji were eye-catching and attractive. So were the posters covering subjects such as ill-effects of tobacco smoke and the beginning and propagation of cancerous cells in humans .

The senior students began trooping-in in silence, in a disciplined way. In a couple of minutes, the hall was full of girl students from the senior grades. After a brief introduction of the Max and FOM team, the proceedings for the day began.

Amma, with her charm lost no time in establishing a good rapport with her audience, gradually leading them to the subject of cancer, dexterously covering the definition of cancer, types of cancers, cancers prevalent in India and their methods of early detection. This introduction which included many slides on Tobacco related cancers was followed by causes of cancer and types of cancers mainly common in females. Amma began by talking about cancer of the Cervix, its causes and methods of detection, which included the PAP smear test. Amma discussed in detail its causes, namely early marriage, multiple pregnancies and so on. This was followed by second most prevalent cancer among females, Breast Cancer. She emphasized on the causes and early warning signs of Breast Cancer by giving accounts of her experiences with her near and dear ones who had been through the experience. The lecture was to be concluded by demonstrating to the students the method of Breast self-examination, for detecting any abnormalities in the breasts, which could develop into malignancy. During this session, the girls as well as the lady teachers showed an enormous and unexpected spontaneity. Raj was responsible for encouraging many of the young ladies to join the BSE session in the adjacent room. With his forceful yet encouraging talk he put the shy girls totally at ease and amidst great laughter volunteered to leave the hall so they would not feel shy anymore . The lecture was concluded by a word of thanks by the school authorities to the members of FOM.

We were then escorted back to the Principal’s office where once again we were offered nice hot cups of tea and snacks. It was heartening to see the students who had attended the previous year’s lecture, who instantly recognized Amma and excitedly waved-out to the group from their class rooms. It was later during the conversation with Mr. Vasant ji that we came to know that two of the lady teachers of the school, Ms. Ragini and Ms. Yugandhara were actually former students of the same school. It was such a pleasure to see the dedication they showed to their alma mater and the respect they had for Vasant ji who had taught them. Then, we left the school to go to Vasant ji’s residence, a small paradise in itself, in the middle of green fields, with swaying palm trees ; away from the hustle and bustle of the streets of the little town. After chatting for sometime and relishing the snacks made by Mrs. Vasant ji we were taken to a small cottage by the name Mauli. This place was a small cottage near the Kihim beach. After looking around the cottage and keeping our luggage in our respective rooms, we set out to explore the Kihim beach.

The ocean was a beautiful sight, the waves in full high tide but the beach left in a deplorable condition by tourists and visitors. The shore was lined by a number of different shells of various colors, sizes and shapes. We collected some of the shells and after refreshing ourselves with coconut water we headed back to the cottage. The afternoon was spent in conversations over endless cups of chai ; a lot of sharing and learning from each other’s family
stories and history. It was late in the evening when everyone freshened up to go to the town, 7 km. away from the cottage, to have dinner. We had dinner in a small yet clean Malvani restaurant by the name of Sanman. After returning from the town, everyone relaxed by remembering and humming a few tunes, some old and some new. Then we all took leave from each other to go to bed after a tiring yet, adventurous day.

The next day, Sunday was our day of leisure so everyone woke up to their ease. Mr. Satish, caretaker of the cottage, saw to it that we were provided with proper tea and snacks. Eventually, we took leave from the place to go to Kashid beach, a spot about 25 km. away from the town. On the way we met Mr. Vasant ji and his daughter, Ms. Bhagyashree, who is studying medicine and was eager to meet the FOM team. We then continued our journey to Kashid.

After riding through the beautiful narrow roads and mountains, we finally reached Kashid after an hour and a half. The beach was more beautiful than Kihim. Yet, it showed signs of despoiling by humans. How I wish we knew how to take care of our environment and Nature. We enjoyed the scenic beauty while lying in hammocks near the shore. We enjoyed a few plates of `Kanda Bhajji’ and some coconut water while resting on the hammocks. It was after an hour or so that we left the place to come back to Mumbai. On the way, we took a halt near a lake brimming with lotuses. The spot seemed another form of paradise on earth. After leaving this spot, we headed straight for Mumbai.

At last, we reached Mumbai by about 5.30 p.m. We were exhausted by the journey. But, the memories of our visit kept us fresh for the rest of the day.

{mosimage} Volunteer FOM