FOM Meet – Pune


The Pune meeting of the Friends Of Max was held on 19-July-2008. Foremost of all, a big thanks and many words of appreciation to Max Pune volunteers, the Max Mumbai volunteers and the attendees without which this meet would not have been a success in achieving the Max motto.

Friends of Max Meeting – pune
Date: 19th july 2008 



The Pune meeting of the Friends Of Max was held on 19-July-2008. Foremost of all, a big thanks and many words of appreciation to Max Pune volunteers, the Max Mumbai volunteers and the attendees without which this meet would not have been a success in achieving the Max motto. The message was mainly around compliance, awareness, life with CML, the growing Max family and its wonderful people. There is one highpoint of this meeting which I have revealed towards the end of this report.

Journey from Mumbai to Pune

The day began with our motley team from Mumbai assembling at 6:45 a.m. on 19-July-2008 at Priyadarshini Signal, Chembur. Boy, were we glad to see each other, especially Pramod, who was away in Delhi for sometime. It was with an excited heart that each hugged the other (we represented the Huggers Club of Mumbai) and with a pregnant thought in one's mind over the proceedings to happen onsite in Pune. The weather was a teaser with clouds looming overhead with just a hint of a passing shower. Without much ado and after parking Charita's car at M/s Bindu&Sujeesh, Viji Amma let out a crisp instruction to all to get into the 3 cars and keep going until the first pit stop at Kamat's, Khandala.

The early morning ride was refreshingly cool and with the ever increasing distance from the Maximum City, greenery sprouted everywhere and magical green carpets of grass covered every hill, rock and flat land. Indeed a sight for the hungry eyes so used to looking at shades of concrete gray and white trash. We soon reached Kamat's at Khandala and again were all happy to huddle together in animated discussion and loud laughter much to the chagrin of the staff and other members of the public snacking away in the quiet and pleasant morning.

We all romped inside and occupied what Dr. Jude felt was the best set of seats in the restaurant, which was a kind of semi-open property with ample views to the outside. After what seemed like a group of simians deciding on the goodies listed in the menu, we finally ordered hot piping batata-wadas and mendhu-wadas slam-dunked in sambhar. The accompaniment was delectably sweet chutney and curd. I am not detailing the loud and rowdy laughter session we had over some clearly obvious and openly disguised statements all of which had connotations as in Dada Kondke's ( movies. I added a few of them myself but have to confess it all started with an innocent statement from Viji Amma enquiring to Ayeshah if we are stocked up on water which the usual suspects aka Pramod, Nirmesh, Dr. Jude, Charita and I pounced upon. What an enforced embarrassment we caused to sweetheart Viji Amma.

We resumed for Pune once again and as luck would have it, we encountered our first navigational hurdle right from the point where the local map was printed from. The Left Turn at Hotel Sadanand that was to get us into Pune City seemed to have disappeared into a black hole and the three expressway way weary cars moved forward and reversed, with wide left and right turns, straight into an under construction building complex. The security was kind enough to allow us to get into it but only to turn around and get back on a side diversion road to Pune city. Our motorcade was intercepted at the previously decided point of rendezvous by gallant Pune FOM Abhishek in his motorcycle who was then our lead escort. Riding pillion with him was Viji Amma for apparently they have a pact that says each time they meet there has to be a motorcycle ride thrown in. Finally, with Abhishek leading, then our losing him in the mad mayhem of Pune Traffic we reached Sahayadri Hospital the venue in pretty good shape. As expected Sachin (our coordinator at the hospital) had the place ready for the meeting.

The Audience

Two gentlemen, a patient and his friend, farmers by profession, who toil away on any other day, were patiently awaiting us with looks of "we know something's gonna happen, but not sure what". It was only by 3 p.m. that we had a steady stream of attendees, who along with or without their escorts, filled in the mini hall to capacity. Everyone including the Max Mumbai team was sporting a colored badge with their names on it. Later, it was clear that these were group identifiers for the group activity sessions to be held in the hours to come.

The Show Begins

There was a projection of a slideshow with images of Max, Pat, team members from various Max stations. I think it must have helped sink in the feeling that the Max Foundation has large footprints with international presence, thus helping the hopes of newly diagnosed patients of an assured future. After the slideshow came the turn of the video presentation by Param and team, premiered at Bangalore Max meet 2008, and now the de facto theme song of our foundation. The music, the lyrics (the sub-titles helped), the composition and last but not the least, the video itself lifted everyone's spirits high. Whenever I have watched this audio-visual presentation, I have found a reassuring thought letting me know that there is life with CML too. And when you know many of those featuring in the video, the fact that they too are like me, sends a message to one and all that a bit of grit and determination goes a long way in leading normal and happy life with CML. I take this opportunity to thank, once again, all those who created this presentation. It is indeed heart-warming and reassuring.

Viji Amma did the honors of introducing core member volunteers from Mumbai and Pune. As always, with her magic words, Viji Amma set a lighter tone to the proceedings and ensured that everyone had a smile on their faces every once in a while. Rajan-ji from Pune, who has always been in the forefront of Max activities in Pune, and a regular at the All India Meetings, honored us by sharing his thoughts on stage. I remember his line quoting his mother," Son, always worship the setting Sun, for it lights the other side of the world where you have near and dear ones. Pray so that it brings another day to you." Such encouraging words only helped the attendees feel inspired.

Ayeshah and Sharon charmed all with their informative speeches. It was then the turn of the FAQ session which Dr. Sameer, of Sahayadri Hospital single-handedly spearheaded to the satisfaction of all around who had a curious question to ask. Thanks to Dr. Sameer for his continued support. I must say it is a very good concept to have local doctors present in these meetings for it gives a sense of security to the attendees.

The Max Foundation Mumbai team has within itself a self-motivated, self-driven, dynamic and spontaneous theatre group comprising of 2 gangsters…err…members. The "bhais" were at it again, pooh-poohing unwarranted concerns, building self-confidence into the patients and conveying the most important message of compliance to the dosage regimen as prescribed by the doctor. A special mention to Pramod and Nirmesh for carrying on the good "bhai-giri" work to Pune-iites.



A silent company of Max troops readied beverages and paper plates filled with snacks including the famous "bhakar-wadis", wafers, samosas and orange-flavored sweets from a popular and age-old bakery cum sweet-meat shop, Chitale Bandhu, a must purchase shop in Pune.

Show Part II

After the break, attendees and volunteers with similar colored badges were grouped into corners and were tasked with enquiring, sharing and noting experiences from patients and/or their escorts. This was followed by on-stage presentations by designated group leaders and select attendees from the respective groups. I must highlight the fact that more and more people are declaring their grit and determination to handle CML.

The loving husband, with his child who was blissfully unaware of his mother's CML, shared his inputs with teary eyes to be stronger mentally and physically to help his wife carry on the spirited march against CML, the young and spirited college boy who was a bundle of philosophy, determination and fearlessness, the man who showed his gratitude for having received so much love ever in his life, the gentleman from a rural area who came in to help the cause against CML as a chance to get even with it, the gentleman with GIST who came out stronger after the experience, the voices of inspired strength, vigor and renewed hopes assured us that this Pune meet is a success for all it had achieved.

The second group activity was to enlist 6 reasons why the attendees would like to volunteer for the activities of The Max Foundation. It was quite a revelation to find that almost all group members across groups had common reasons ranging from awareness in rural areas, awareness of the magic bullet and its availability, happy extended family to learn and share, the act of gratitude towards TMF and such.

In all this, Vidya-ji, Ayeshah, Sharon, Charita, Bindu, the Ashoks, Nirmesh, Dr. Jude, Pramod moved around quietly ensuring everything went on smoothly for all acts to follow. Shashikant, Priyanka, Vinay, Ashish and Abhishek were the enthusiastic Pune volunteers who helped pre-preparation for the event, spreading the word around for the meet, playing the perfect hosts to all attendees, the logistics of arranging the snacks and of course the experiences they shared with all.


A special mention to Rahul & Supriya, the wonderful Pune couple, who shared their experience with us and taught us all a lesson in solidarity. Also to Priyanka, who applied for an anticipatory bail(she is an accomplished lawyer with achievements galore) thinking she might end up in tears on stage but came out of her session with thunderous applause for her story filled with ambition, inner strength and promise. Mr. Piyush Roy, a GIST survivor, encouraged all with his words, before we called it a successful day. His is a story of “If you do not find light at the end of this tunnel, dig another one and you will succeed”. There is so much to learn from Rahul, Priyanka and Piyush.

The highpoint of this meet was the declaration of the Max All India meet in 2010 to be held in Pune. Congratulations Pune. Rest of India assures you of its helping hand when needed. The act that stole the thunder from down under was Dr. Jude's vote of thanks. The glib talker set about reading the vote of thanks to all in chaste Marathi.

As all events that bode well, the Pune meet too culminated in a prayer. Bindu and Viji Amma led us all to believe in ourselves with the beautiful lyrics of "Hum ko mann ki shakti dena…ki mann vijay karey…". Having saved this for the last, Viji Amma led us right from the start, seasoned general that she is, interspersing her talk with humor, conveying the message like a mother would and ensured that the proceedings went with clock-work precision. Hugs to Viji Amma. It was time for all to clear the hall and for the birds to go back to their nests.

Tequila Sunset

The Mumbai birds flew around Pune and settled for dinner at the excellent restaurant, Sheesha, and spent some hours discussing the future activities and sharing jokes. The food was excellent and Rajan-ji privileged us by introducing us to the owner of the restaurant, his cousin ,who gave us all a free extra round of desserts. We returned to our apartment accommodation and after some more hours of discussions on anything under the sun, well , actually the waning Guru Purnima moon , we all went off to sleep for we had a brunch to attend the next morning.

Morning Glory

With an unwelcome power-cut early in the morning, we all rose in a staggered manner. After peals of laughter and squinted eyes and Pramod’s nth trip to make chai, we began trooping into the waiting cars.
The brunch was in Rajan-jis sister's house. All of us loved everything about the house. The wonderful residents, the food, the apartment and the view were a treat for those from Mumbai used to living in less spacious apartments. We had a great time there with loads of laughter and photo sessions before we headed for dear Mumbai.
•    Volunteer training exercise in Pune to held in November 2008

•    FOM All India meet 2010 to be held in beautiful Pune


This trip was a success in all respects. We could see the hopes rising again in those who came in with a heart filled with trepidation. The attendees were full of promise for future TMF activities and have been positive about attending the volunteer meet in November, 2008 in Pune. The FOM teams bonded together to reach out a helping hand and kind words to the hopefuls. For those whose names I have missed when making this report, please accept my sincere apologies, for the act is unintentional.

Reported by Manoj Panicker