Another All India Friends of Max meeting came to a stupendous conclusion last week. I say this because indeed this gathering of literally hundreds of survivors and caregivers is not restricted to just the one day on which it is held . it is a culmination of months of effort and at least three days of frenetic and focused activity totally devoted to giving the participants all they need in terms of Sharing and Learning from each other .
It is as grand and as meticulously planned as the Great Indian Wedding with the venue booked months in advance, the theme and colour as well as the logo and slogan of the year painstakingly chosen and created and invitations sent to all the family members all over the country !
Attractive and inviting posters are put up at all the hospitals and clinics , at the stockists where the medication is dispensed and phone calls made to each and every individual in the districts of the home state that is hosting the Meet. As one last measure , post cards are mailed to everyone from the M I office with RSVP requested so that we can have an estimated number of participants to cater t While the host city begins work on arranging for the catering and for raising funds , ( FOM from all over the country contribute towards the cost of hosting the Meet) the MI team work on their responsibilities . Tees and Kit Bags, contents of the kit bags and educational material with the new logo and slogan of the year are designed and organised well ahead in time . Physicians are approached and the Medical Session is planned and worked out. Most importantly the day’s agenda is planned keeping the most vital thing in mind – how best to showcase the Friends of Max and their activities!
We have had over the years, Testimonials, Power Point presentations, a Play performed by FOM and a stage show in their regional costumes amongst other presentations. This year had to be something unique and special AND different. There were many City Chapters now and all of them had been very active over the last eighteen months since the last All India Meeting.
Not really sure of what their response would be like , I wrote to the City Chapters’ core group leaders asking them if this year they would like to do something different and mooted the idea of setting up stalls at the meeting venue. The idea was that they bring to the meeting a little bit of their region in terms of their outreach programmes in the community of cancer care and a flavour of their vivid and various culture and history .
It took a while for them to get into top gear and begin planning and working on their assignment and I was almost beginning to have my doubts about the success of the plan . But I need not have worried at all for despite their busy schedules and challenges of being able to meet each other enough times to put stuff together , each one of the cities had an amazing story to tell and the stalls spoke so much more than what was there for all to see.
Their awesome efforts spoke of their willingness to put aside their personal responsibilities and take time out for this group activity; it spoke of their eagerness to “show and tell” to the best of their capabilities their current and their future goals; it spoke volumes of their willingness to distribute responsibilities amongst themselves and stand up and deliver and finally it showed everyone how much they enjoyed doing this project together .
The “stall” area was a beehive of activity all morning as the groups vied with each other for the most strategically placed display boards to put up their posters and pictures and other material. By Lunch it was “Show Time” and I swear my eyes misted over as I saw the teams lead their physicians proudly to take a look at their handiwork. And not just the physicians, these stalls were a hit with all the people who had come and soon there were interested little groups huddled together in front of one stall or another with a team member waxing eloquent over the displays. There could really have been better team building exercise than this ! Whether it was a team that was 15 strong or just with one or two representatives , their work was there for all to see; From Delhi in the North to Kerala in the South; Bombay , Ahmedabad and Pune in the West to Bhubaneswar in the East – Chennai and Hyderabad in the South missed the presence of Bangalore who could not make it due to unavoidable reasons but more than made up for their regional peer’s absence – we missed the team from Kanpur too who , due to sudden illness in the family had to stay away.
And despite the fact that the whole of the Kolkota team had to stay away because the date of the event coincided with the annual Puja season that is sacrosanct to every Bengali they won everyone’s hearts by sending with their lone representative material for their stall that was the most adored and visited of them all ! The image of the beautiful Goddess Durga in whose honour the 10 day Puja was being celebrated in all of Bengal .
Every one was convinced it was her benign presence and blessings that made the day the wonderful celebration of life and love that it turned out to be.
Report by Viji Venkatesh