The playroom on the fourth floor of the huge APC Centre was large and airy, curtains blowingin the breeze from the wide windows and the late afternoon sun falling rosily on the walls full of the brightly coloured art work created by the little patients . Toys and the little foot pedal cars and scooters had all been set against the walls and a large space created for the reading .
We had actually done with the reading , the children were still in “excitement mode” and when i asked them if they would like to come up and enact their most favourite scene from the book , it took them less than a second to agree with great enthusiasm . The scene was of course the one of the great rescue and after some deliberation , the main characters of Maximo and the big bad orange cat were decided upon – but who was to be the baby sparrow ? The children squealed in excitement as Jitender , our loveable clinical coordinator from PGI , all 69 kg of him, volunteered to be the hapless creature .
With the whole group adding to the background score and sound effects , a loud chorus of screams ; Bachao! Bachao! Help ! Help! rent the air as “little” Jitender squirmed in fear while the cutest ever ” Big C” took menacing steps towards him.
And then the jubilant cries egging the supremely confident Maximo” on as he swooped down to take the “big little baby” bird up again to safety, had everyone in splits .
Cut now to the little Q&A session we had prepared . One of the last questions was , Why do you think Mamma Sparrow took such extra special care of little Maximo ? It was the smart and bright eyed Lalit , seven years old and intense looking , who put up his hand eager to reply .
“Because he was as precious as a diamond and his mother wanted to keep him safe and secure ” he said . And then , taking my hand , in a serious tone , added , ” as safe and secure as this diamond in your ring Aunty ji”
I will forever carry these two images with me when I think of Maximo in PGI and to think it almost never happened !!
Due to some confusion , permissions had not been secured for the readings we had planned in the Pediatric wards . To our severe disappointment Sharon and I were told that we would have to abandon the plans made. This was a big disappointment of course and more so, as one could not help noticing the many little patients waiting with their parents at the Centre while we were on our way to our Guest House in the same premises – And all those Hindi box we had brought with us for them . The Advanced Paediatric Centre , the only one of its kind in the country catering to children who needed care in the Multi disciplinary treatment centre . Here I had Maximo all ready and there were all his little friends . I had to find a way of getting him to meet them . And we had less than 24 hours .
I should not have worried for I had not factored the commitment and dedication of two of our dearest friends and staunch supporters in PGI . Dr Subhash Varma , HOD Medical Oncology and Dr Pankaj Malhotra , our very own Friend of Max and Max India . It was already past six in the evening on the day before the event and they had barely finished their OPDs and rounds when I appealed them to help out . I was not going to leave without Maximo meeting the little ones in their Advanced Pediatric Centre. That would be a crime .
The two dear doctors got down to business, tracking the Director of the Centre down at that late hour and yes, getting us the required Go Ahead . Their whole team got into action , Dr Vikas sweetly volunteering to send the book across to Dr Singhi for approval and alerting the department once he gave the green signal . By eleven on the next morning , as we were at the CML Day meeting , in the midst of almost 500 participants we were told we were on.
Not only did Dr Singhi give us the permission he personally came to attend the meeting and encouraged the children to participate.
In the last photographs you can see them both with Sharon . Sharon , thanks for the lovely pictures you took; And Fan , see how the little ones love your illustrations : )
Another goal scored for Maximo the brave and persistent .
Viji Venkatesh, MAXIndia