Second All India Friends of Max meeting in Delhi

Oct 2 2006

{mosimage} Come October, and all roads seemed to lead to Delhi: GIPAP groups from all parts of the country headed for the capital to attend the Second Annual Conference. Groups of Friends of Max arrived from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and from Kutch to Kolkata.
Most volunteers were ensconced in hotels and lodges across Delhi by the 1st of October. On the 1st morning the indefatigable Viji Venkatesh whose skills at infusing enthusiasm into any project had been tested time after time, set the ball rolling one more time. With her two able lieutenants, Ayeshah and Dr Pallavi and Beena from Kochi we the Bombay brigade , Sujeesh Bindu Pramod Manoj Nirmesh Sangeeta Rajan Amit Kajal all gathered at the ashram hall beside a picturesque Ram Mandir at Dharm Bhavan Hsg Society in Delhi's South Extension. The rendezvous was arranged by the Delhi group spearheaded by Shyam Bhai, Seema, Anil and Rakesh. The filling up of conference paraphernalia into colourful jute bags (created by Neel Kamal of Kolkota) was begun in an atmosphere of amity and camaraderie, punctuated with jokes, jibes and cutting chai! The joy of being together, sharing and learning had already begun rather informally. "Phatrugiri" (whatever that might mean) was evident as the kits got filled and Venky (Mr Viji) kept the score to rounds of applause as the score of filled bags rose through the afternoon. Merriment filled the room when Ayesha and Viji did their "Swapna Sundari” routine. Soon the irrepressible Yogesh, Nirmesh , Rajan and Manoj were also dancing to Viji’s Beedi number and Tushar’s Jahan Teri Yeh Nazar hai ..By late afternoon, so many of the family had joined with helping hands –let me see if I can remember all the names. There was the whole of the Delhi team Seema and Yogesh, Shyam and Neel, Rajdeep, Ravi, Rakesh, Anil and Rita, Ratika and her parents, Pallavi and Pankaj , the Khannas and Sharmas – young Aditya Sharma was full of energy and led the packing team as numerous cartons were packed with kits for everyone – participants,volunteers, relatives and kids. In the afternoon we were joined by Pat who had arrived from Seattle and joined the group .In the evening the bags and volunteers were transported to the venue at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

The AIIMS was in the spotlight for a sombre and more sinister reason than the fact that it was the venue of our Together we Share and Learn conference; in point of fact it was the epicentre of an outbreak of Dengue fever which had become the talk of the town. However we were not going to let this cast a pall of gloom over our summitry.

When all the work was done small groups went across to nearby Dilli Haat to spend the evening shopping and amusing themselves.

The 2nd morning dawned: this was the Big Day we were all waiting for, an auspicious day that combined our meet with Dussehra and Gandhi Jayanti.

By 8:30 am the registration counters were set up. Kudos to Ashok and Ashok of the Bombay office and to the volunteers who managed this counter all day. Angeli Rawat , from The Max Foundation Seattle who had been working from the Bombay office for the last month and joined the brigade in Delhi also then set up her huge map of India on which each person on the programme who attended the meet marked his or her place of origin with a bindi and indicated his/her presence with a signature .Before long the map began to fill up and it was soon noticeable that the bindi-giri was densest in the northern states around Delhi , viz. Punjab,Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The map serves as a cartographic scattergram that provided a colourful backdrop as friends embraced old companions who had not met in a long while.

At 9:30 the programme commenced inside the auditorium with the national anthem and a ritual ceremony .This was followed by a welcome address by Shyam Bhai, Shashi and Ratika of the Delhi group, a keynote address by our very own icon,the indomitable Viji ,who summarised the salient events of the last year , the strides made by GIPAP and FOM.The messages of Dan Vasella ,Chairman of Novartis and Mr Shahani of Novartis,India were read together with their Hindi translations. Then came the gamine Angeli Rawat who stepped forward and spoke in (hold your breath)……impeccable Sonia Gandhi-esque Hindi .Her speech was received by a deafening silence from the audience. I think she was amusing, charming and singularly brave, and I am certain most of our countrymen from Uttar Pradesh struggled to recognise the language she uttered as Hindi, the rashtrabhasha! Well done Angeli: one small step for a lady, one giant leap for Hindi-giri!

An acrylic plaque to be presented to the participating doctors was then unveiled .It was designed by Sujeesh and Bindu of Point Blank Mumbai and the text was composed by Amit Iyer and recited by Angeli. Sujeesh and Bindu and their team in Point Blank are now an inherent part of FOM…All the giveaways in our kit bags, the Book of Stories, the Calendars, the Pads, our badges, the back drop on stage –everything is their creation …labours of love indeed .

Pat Garcia-Gonzalez, the Executive Director of the Max Foundation then took the podium and made a stirring address. We were all quite overwhelmed by the grace and tenacity of this wonderful lady and her work across so many countries.There were lumps in many throats and unshed tears in many eyes as she told us that thanks to Glivec, "we are living with CML, and not suffering from CML ".

Then came the event at the heart of the meeting, the Panel discussion ,which was chaired by Dr Shyam Aggarewal and anchored by Dr Pallavi .The participating doctors were DrV P Choudhrry,Dr_DC Doval,Dr Bharat Parikh, Dr Pankaj Malhotra, Dr Sameer Bakshi, Dr Vinod Kochupilai, Dr Senthil Rajappa, Dr Atul Sharma . For over three hours questions were fielded by this very experienced and senior team of GIPAP doctors who had come from different cities.

After lunch eight people on the program gave their personal experiences of their respective personal battles with CML .They spoke of the trauma and the triumph, the despair and the delight of living with the "best leukaemia one can have" .This part of the programme was anchored by Ayeshah and the participants were Rajan Phanse, Ratika Tandon, Pramod John George, Vir Bhatt, Joseph M Singh, Balbir Singh, Yogesh Bhasin and Param.

Variety entertainment then took centre stage with the usual suspects Param, Tushar, Anil, Manoj and Yogesh shaking a leg to Kajra re …

By evening the sun set on a very memorable day which we will all remember for a long, long time. The Delhi group had set out a dinner par excellence –chaat and tikkis and other Dilli delicacies rounded off with Jalebis and Kulfi. A day of learning, sharing, fun and laughter, music and magic. We look forward to the next time in Bangalore.

By Dr Jude Vaz