The heart is the shrine of love. All love stories flow from there.
The following is an account of one such…
Today, I went to a temple. But, a different type. Normally, on temple-visits, I offer a coconut, and fragrant flowers bought from the vendors crowding the lane outside. However, this time around I carried something different.
Instead of flowers and coconut, I carried – take a wild guess – chocolates for God! Yes. Chocolates.
Cute. But where is this unusual temple, and which deity presides there? Well, it is relatively new, just 2 years old, and situated in the far out suburbs of Mumbai. I was intrigued and curious about it, because it appeared, miracles happened there on a daily basis.
I was told it would take a one and half hour drive to get me there. No problem. Visits to a traditional shrine or holy place also involve a fair bit of spiritual and physical effort. The holy place may be atop a steep hill to reach which you may have to climb an arduous 100 steps or so. Or the pilgrimage spot could be in another town and considerable arrangements and travel would be required to reach your sacred destination.
We set off. The chocolate-prasad, packed into a carton was placed on the front seat of the car. This was to allow the chocolates the full benefit of the cool AC air, and keep from melting. Behind, sat my sister and I humming devotional songs, and intermittently enjoying the passing scenery. Locked down for so many months, we took pleasure in just being in a moving car.
Luckily, we didn’t get too much traffic, the dice having rolled in our favor. We reached, in good time. I peered, with curiosity, as we stepped out of the car. The ‘temple’ was different alright. To begin with it was a sprawling heart-shaped structure with two floors. It had a bright clean exterior and a neat compound and could have been a VIP guest house anywhere.
Well, you could say it was. Only, the VIPs here were not your regular ones. They were for starters, tiny tots, ranging from the age of a week old to 5 or 6 years. But the most stunning part was that they were all from the direst, most underprivileged backgrounds, with meager or no financial resources. Poor children?? VIPs?? Yes!
And these little children had a question in their hearts.
Why do I have a hole in my heart?
Why can’t I run and play?
Why does my mother cry so much?
And this soulful query of children born with Congenital Heart Disease, was being answered here, in this extraordinary place – with a lot of heart. The cry from their bruised hearts had been heard – and how. And we too wished to see with our own eyes the miracle that was happening here every single day, in this ‘temple of healing,’ where these little children were being given the highest gift of all – the gift of life.
But what was the miracle? Surely with the advanced medical treatment available today, there should be no problem in treating these kids? Yes, no problem for those who can afford the cost of treatment. But, an insurmountable one for those who cannot. And, the tragedy is that this affliction assails mostly the poorer sections of society, with little or no means.
And, this magnificent edifice of love and compassion, the Sanjeevani hospital, treats congenital heart disease in children from poor families, absolutely free of cost through all the stages! There is not a paisa charged! Also, accommodation with meals, all free of cost is provided for the parents too, in the hospital premises, for the entire duration of stay. How is this even possible… or sustainable, you ask? Right! That’s why we call it a miracle. The miracle of love.
So, how did it all work?
We would soon see for ourselves, as we were now being ushered graciously inside to be given a tour of the place.The carton of chocolates was carried in by a helpful member of the staff.
We walked into a gleaming foyer. The spanking clean atmosphere struck me right away. But more than that, the markedly cheerful ambience of the place left a deep impression. It appeared as if special care had been taken to make the lobby as pleasant and cheerful as possible. A huge painting on the wall drew my attention. In soft colors, it was of a cherubic angelic looking child on her knees in prayer, palms joined, head upturned heavenward, eyes shining with supplication and hope.
How beautiful and befitting I thought. The painting was an exquisite motif for the heartfelt feelings of every little child that entered the portals of this remarkable institution with a ‘broken heart’ and left with it healed and whole, to lead a normal and full life, with renewed energy and optimism.
After an extended tour of the premises, with its impressive state of art infrastructure, which frankly left us pretty amazed, we were finally taken to the children’s ward. I tensed at the thought of that. To see anyone in pain or discomfort due to ill health, is distressful but to see little kids like that, most of all. The tray of chocolates, in tow, we stepped inside. I needn’t have worried. The space we entered did not exude the hospital ward feeling at all.
It was a long spacious hall, clean and bright, with natural light coming in from the numerous windows to keep it from looking gloomy. There were two sections. On one side were the little ones, on whose tiny little hearts surgery had already successfully been performed, and on the other side, were those whose surgery was yet to take place.
The first impression, on walking in, was of how frail and tiny the kids were. The beds looked so large for their tiny frames. This image was quite heart wrenching. Next to each bed stood a parent, mostly the mother, with palpable concern, in her eyes, for her ‘piece of heart’ lying supine on that bed.
The urge to help ease their anxiety in whatever way we could, spontaneously surged up, and we walked to the first bed…
Our efforts did not meet with immediate success…at least not with the first kid. I smiled brightly at him, albeit from behind the mask, and in as jaunty a tone as I could muster, asked, “Kya naam hai aapka?” to initiate a response from him, but the child just stared back weakly. One can imagine the cumulative stress, physical and emotional on that slender undernourished frame. Then the eternal magic trick. I whipped up a Dairy Milk chocolate from the tray and extended my arm to offer it to him. Wonder of wonders! He stared at it for a nano second, and then, with a visible gleam in the eye, his thin arm stretched out, gingerly forward to clasp it. Magical wordless communication! How wonderfully successful I felt in that one moment I cannot describe. Not only that, I got the faintest of smiles too in response..The mother standing by looked gratefully at us for making her child smile… We handed her a chocolate too, which broadened the smile on her face.
This pattern prevailed throughout the round of the ward, as my sister and I went to each child’s bed, with smiles on our faces, and chocolates in our hands – with rising success, I may add. The children on the other beds and their mothers had been keenly following our progress through the ward, and a subtle expectation had lighted up the faces of both parent and child!
However, on the side where children were awaiting their surgeries, the anxiety of the parent was naturally more palpable. We took special care to buoy their spirits with optimistic words. Of course, the fact that many children on the other side of the ward had been successfully operated upon must’ve been their biggest stress buster and morale booster.
What stunned us most of all was the loving attentive care bestowed upon the little ones at every stage by the medical staff and personnel of this establishment. And the wonder was that this special VIP treatment and love shower was not just reserved for the children but their parents too. If love is God, and compassion, the light of the soul, there was plenty of it shining here, displaying all that is bright and beautiful in the human spirit.
I felt so moved at one point that it took my all to stop my eyes from getting teary. This was part anguish, part gratitude. To see affliction of any kind gives anguish to the heart but seeing that pain and agony being assuaged and healed with loving compassion, selflessly, makes the heart overflow with sweet gratitude.
Another very touching feature of the place was a room in the hospital, which had these charkhas or spinning wheels. These were placed in two rows, to keep the worried parents occupied spinning, to allay the anxiety! What a marvelous and thoughtful gesture. A picture of Mahatma Gandhi seated at his charkha adorned the wall. A palpable meditative vibration pervaded the room.
There was more munificence round the corner. We were taken to an adjunct portion of the premises, to a Divine Mother and Child Care Unit. This is designed to go to the root of the problem. Here pregnant mothers from rural and underprivileged areas are provided with valuable guidance and essential protein and other nutritional supplements to promote the healthy development of the child in the womb. One of the key reasons for CHD affecting the children of poor families is the lack of proper antenatal care to the mother and the unavailability of proper nutrition. This Unit ambitiously wishes to fill that gap. And, of course, it goes without saying, everything here too is absolutely free of cost. Oh yes! There is a free advanced training center too, attached to this noble institution for intensive training for medical staff, nurses etc. It is endless magnanimity.
Greatly enthused, we clicked many pictures and chatted with the friendly staff. They were all charged and motivated to a point you rarely encounter. They felt they were the blessed ones to have been picked to serve in an institution like this! Absolutely. Their passion and commitment to the cause was mind boggling.
Finally, the time to leave came. The whole experience had touched our hearts deeply and rejuvenated our spirit in a totally new way. Imagine our wonderment to learn that there are 3 such Advanced Pediatric Childcare Centres in India – Raipur in Chhattisgarh, Palwal near Delhi, and Khaargar near Mumbai, all come up in the last 7 years, conducting corrective heart surgeries, without any cost, on children from all over the country and abroad too. (From developing countries). One such centre is starting soon in far out Fiji! All these centres have become important Referrals for big hospitals which get afflicted children on a regular basis.
On the drive back to Mumbai, even though we felt a wee tired after our extensive, highly emotional tour, we couldn’t stop chatting about our experience, and the time just flew.
After all, who doesn’t love, love-stories?? Well, here was one, which we couldn’t stop recounting.
Different. Soulful. Life-changing and life-giving…
Our most precious take away from this ‘temple’ of healing??
There is no miracle like love and no passion like compassion!
Name and address of the Institution:
Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Centres for Child Heart Care