My third couchsurfing host in India was Naaz, a local Indian girl. Since the first time she replied my couch request, I was very sure that she is a very kind-hearted person as she always replied me long mails. She needed to work when I arrived her place, so she described in very small details how to head to her house from the bus stop. Her mom even pushed back her schedule and stayed behind to wait for my arrival. Not only till I reached her house, then I found out from her mom that Naaz needed to walk with crutches all these years.
Naaz is now 36, born in a doctor family. Other than her mom who is a housewife, her dad is an eye doctor, her brother is a bone surgeon, she is now doing her internship in a government hospital, and her sister is still doing her final year in the medical school.
Naaz got sick when she was 15, suffered from Spinal Cord Tumor. She used to be a very active person and she played basketball. Suddenly she had to spend one whole year in hospital, depended on people all the time. Small things like getting thing next to her or going to the washroom she also needed to ask for help. She asked herself why it happened to her. The illness affected her ego, made her understand herself more, see who she was, and find the meaning of her life.
She received treatment from the hospital for 4-5 months, then moved to a rehabilitation centre for another 8-9months. There she met a girl Judy from Bangladesh, where she came from a very poor family. The joint between Judy’s arm and shoulder was having a small problem and all she needed was to put a rod in between. However, the surgery failed, the rod touched her spine and made her paralyze from neck down. She could not get out from bed at all. After 5-6 years of treatment, her family had already given up everything. But still, Judy remained a happy and cheerful person. Naaz, on the other hand, only paralyzed one leg, considered herself very lucky.
After one year in the hospital and rehabilitation centre, Naaz spent another year at home to rest and to do physiotherapy. In order to go back to school, she needed to study at home and catch up her studies. But that was the changing time of her life, she no longer pursued materialistic stuff, she felt happy with what she got. She finally saw who she was, and became a better person.
Naaz saw all the good things her father did since she was born. Her dad always wanted to work in rural area to give service to the poor. He started his eye clinic and general clinic in a small town. When people couldn’t afford the fee, they brought along their chickens, eggs, bananas from home to pay. If her dad found that the people had more need in those food, he would rather take nothing. He also never asked for money. From 30-40 years back till now he was doing his job unconditionally. Of course, if rich people or professionals came to the clinic, he would still charge them.
From the role modeling of her dad, Naaz always thought that doctor should give service to the poor. But she realized it was not the case when she started studying at the medical college. Many medical students thought that it is a prestige, an achievement to be a doctor. Many doctors would prescribe costly drugs just to earn more commissions, or choose to go abroad to work to make more money. Doing for own benefits has become a normal thing because they have been struggled for so long for studying for 7 years. Naaz saw the corrupted system in her country, poverty is so bad here in India and there are a lot of stuff to do. Medical systems are very good in the western countries anyway.
However, Naaz saw different things after she knew her husband from USA. There are people who could not afford the medical insurance in developed countries. People need help in different ways in different countries. So Naaz had a new thought, is to work for “Doctors without Borders”. She could then work all over the world where doctors are most needed. Her plan now is to get her US passport asap, moved to USA with her husband, live and work for 5-6 years there so that her qualifications are more recognized and it will be easier for her to get in “Doctors without Borders”.
Now Naaz and her husband lived in their own countries separately, could only meet up every 3-4 months. They would spend 2 weeks and go to places together. She loves traveling. She would meet nice people, interacted and shared stories about traveling and lives. Once she was rushing to see places, checking out the sightseeings, and lost time on traveling on buses. Now she would rather settling down and staying at different places, to understand a place, hear different things from people, see different sides of things, and open her mind. Working for “Doctors without Borders” has become her dream, so she could go to the poor countries and understand the places.
Naaz studied in Zoology in her first degree, because she got sick all the time and she wanted to do things rather than just staying home. The school was the nearest one from her home. She also did clinical psychology for her post-grad to learn about people’s mind. She then got a scholarship from the government medical college to study medicine. However, other people took 7 years to finish the studies, while Naaz spent 8 years. She is now working at the government hospital where the poor people come in, be there for people who need help. She wanted to help the poor unconditionally, just like her dad did.
However, life was not always smooth for Naaz. She studied and worked in the medical school with a lot of hardworks, and she often got sick. She felt struggled and depressed sometimes, why her health and what she did could not balance. She also thought of quitting medical school. Her disability made her slow in doing stuff. Even doing the same thing, she needed to walk with crutches to get things done. Some classmates got annoyed and felt irritated, because 7 years weren’t a short time. Some classmates were more accommodated, asked her to take her time, these were all wonderful people and friends.
Her husband Ken was like her pillar in life. He has all she missed out in her life, he is patient, always reminded her what she wanted to do. Whenever she felt struggled, he stood by and told her it was just a means to an end. They travelled, took a break from all the stresses. They shared stories, so she could see things differently, knowing that it is a temporary period only. She met wonderful people and strangers who gave her support and asked her not to give up, telling her that people always struggle to get what they want.
Till now, Naaz’s condition is still unstable, especially when she didn’t have enough rest. She worked 12 hours shift, either 8am-8pm, or 8pm-8am. Sometimes she sat too long, her spinal cord got compressed and gave pain. Sometimes she even went into shock. It is so tiring but she knew she has to make it through, she is thankful for the great family support.
Naaz hope she could be a good doctor, she shared her favorite quote from Abraham Lincoln, the Ex-President of the USA,
“I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.”
Regarding pursuing dreams, Naaz said, “You need to dream, only then you know you can get there. Nothing can stop you, dream big. Be yourself, don’t be someone you are not for someone else. Be happy, you must chase dreams.”
Naaz gave me a bracelet made of plastic beads, which was from a Kenya tribe called Masai people. It is a friendship bend which keeps away the evil, and connects people with similar interest. The world is getting smaller, and people are coming together.
written in Sri Premananda Ashram volunteer quarter
夢想專訪4 - 印度女醫生的懸壺濟世夢
寫於Sri Premananda Ashram的宿舍內