Saturday, September 22, 2012

Long bus ride within a city after years...

Today I had a long commute in a BEST Bus (BEST is Mumbai's city transport system), - a ride of about 1-1/4hours. Thane to Andheri to be specific. I have done shorter rides like office to home, but a long ride like this has been after ages.

During my student days in Chennai, I was an authority on the bus-systems of the city. I simply loved the "freedom" of being able to go wherever I wanted to, thanks to what used to be an awesome public transport system, if you did not count the peak hours that were something like 8.30 am - 10 am and then again 5 pm  - 7 pm. (In the recent years I believe things have changed there too, and almost all hours of the day seem like peak hours!). Apart from my college trips, I would go visiting uncles / aunts / cousins / friends, and then my trips to the British Council Library, American Centre Library etc. Movies were a rarity for two reasons - a) Money (or the lack of it) and b) Permissions :>.  Yes, in the 1970s it was quite a task to get permission to go for a movie!

Back to bus rides, the best thing was that one almost had a vehicle at one's disposal, sans the task of maintaining it! And since I knew the frequencies and timings of most buses that I took, commuting was never a tough thing.

Today I had the advantage of getting into the bus at the starting point. And it was a Saturday. I had a choice of window seats to pick. The bus had reasonable crowds for part of the ride, but for most of it, it was pretty empty. Oh and the bus brought me pretty close to home too. If it were evening I would have walked back, but because it was noon, and a rickshaw driver actually agreed to come short distance, I grabbed that.

But in the end, the best part of today was - "reliving the sense of freedom". It seems almost silly. I am one of the lucky humans who has tons of freedom in my life. And I did not exactly have that during my student days, with a reasonably strict, orthodox grandmom at home :). And yet - the bus ride reminded me of the "special freedom" of those days. Fond memories :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 6 - last day - Part 2

After breakfast, I went to the Reseach Dept and in the next couple of hours managed a short meeting with the librarian - Ms. Rina and then spent some time with the available interns and staff in the dept. Some of them cleared doubts they had in literature searching and Mendeley. Soon it was time for goodbyes and a couple of photographs. And then I had a final meeting time with Dr Abhay Bang. Dr Yogesh, Mr Mahesh and Ms Rina joined us. Dr Bang once again asked me what I felt they should do to promote a reading culture. (I forgot to mention that in his home, I noted an array of magazines ranging from general to business titles. Later in Dr Rani's book, I figured that he was an avid reader of all topics and had introduced some to her). I deeply appreciate his passion for reading and more importantly his concern to introduce this. I suggested that since his library has books for kids, they should "start early" and have story time sessions for kids on the campus and also encourage children to tell stories - from the books they read.

For adults - I suggested that since they regularly bought books, they should circulate by email a list of "new books" and encourage a book club, where once in a month people verbally share a book review of anything they read. Since they were already doing regular journal clubs, this would be a lighter version of the same thing.

We discussed some more ideas about the library and shared some thoughts about what QMed could do for SEARCH and vice versa.

And then he said "Vasumathi, I really thank you for your visit. Very few people go anywhere 'just to explore and figure out what to do'. I appreciate your efforts. I would like you to come over anytime. And I would specially be happy if you come over to do training programs for our Nirman fellows who are doctors. Everyone here gave good feedback about your sessions. And finally I must say that you are doing excellent work as a medical librarian - it is rare to find someone like this. I wish you all the best"
It is difficult to express what I felt. To get appreciated and praised for work from someone who has made amazing social changes coupled with hard core research, was something!

A quick lunch followed. The cab to Nagpur airport was ready. Three people who had to go to Nagpur to travel further accompanied me. We reached Nagpur well in time for my flight and then it was back home.

Trip to Shodhgram - Day 6 - last day - Part 1 - Breakfast with Dr Bang and family

When I woke up on Sat (15th), I felt: "The last day of my trip is here. As it often appears to happen, it seems to have arrived before I realized it"!

I tried to catch up on emails before joining the Bang family for breakfast, but the Internet played truant again. Luckily I managed to send out one important email. At 8 am I went to Dr Bang's residence. A lovely home, with a nice balcony and a garden. Dr Rani Bang was sitting on a bamboo seat swing. We chatted for a few minutes and then went in for breakfast with Dr Bang and son Dr Anand. Amrut the younger son was out travelling on work.

Over a breakfast of "Pesarattu Dosa" (a South Indian delicay that I love and never make) and some awesome sweet sour hot mango jam to go with it, Dr Bang asked me which medical colleges in Mumbai, I felt were more open to or encouraged interest in research amongst students. Now that was tough for me to answer! So I told him that my answer would be pretty biased because I simply had lots more interactions at KEM and some at Nair. But I told him that I would try to find out slowly and steadily with interactions.

Then he made a special mention about Medicon - as he had attended Medicon 2012 (hear this INFORMER members..) - saying "I was very impressed by the conference, the interest amongst students, Dr Deo starting such an initiative and ICMR supporting it". (Earlier on the first day he asked me how I was invovled with Medicon and I told him about QMed's association with INFORMER). He then told me "I am really happy that you are so involved with the student community and doing all you can to help and guide them.

And then he and Dr.Anand needed to leave to start work. Dr Rani and I chatted for some time more and then she gifted me her book "Putting Women First" - one that she had written with two other co-authors. While we chatted we found an interesting common factor - she and I were much more "people oriented" while our respective spouses were awesome with numbers. My visit ended with an invitation from her to bring my family and visit again. (I did not tell her that I had innumerable adopted kids, lest she changed her mind) :D