Saturday, December 31, 2005

An Eye Opener

Here goes another Saturday surprise. Last Wednesday morning, I got yet another chance to experience something amazing. Yes folks, this is an adventurous and don't know-what-next-in-store world of journalism. Your assignment will take you to exotic locales, you meet with strange people but at the end of the day, you are by yourself. I was in Tilganga Eye Center in Gaushala for an assignment and Dr Sanduk Ruit (hold your breath, he has been featured in Time, National Geographic, BBC and Reader's Digest) informed most of the staffs about my arrival.

No, I won't reveal the subject of my reporting. It's a job (rather top) secret. As I reached the reception desk, the man in charge was busy speaking on the line. Two staffs were talking about some Deepak Adhikari. One of them was saying, "Why the hell he is not here?" It was already 9 am and I was on the dot. Recalling my past incidents of bumping into many Deepak Adhikaris, I just ignored their conversation. But as I uttered my name, it turned out that they were eagerly waiting for me.

So, Mr. Mohan was assigned to be my guide. He took me to the operation theater, to this and that department of Tilganga Eye Center. He served me coffee, introduced me to many male doctors (he mysteriously spared female docs, I don't know why!) Dr Ruit fixed an appointment for that evening. This is only the background. The mind-boggling event is yet to come.

The Fred Hollows IOL Laboratory turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me. I would rather say a silver lining in a dark cloud. They say life is full of surprises. But, having ventured past Tilganga a number of times, I never imagined that it is home to one of the world's best lens laboratories. It produces world class eye lens and exports to first world countries. Amazing, isn't it? A third world country exporting medical instruments to first world. Australia, Europe, Mexico, you name it.

Now we are entering the lab. Laboratory's Production Manager and Engineer Chandra Khanal is another guide for the day.

First, we meet a technician in sky-blue garb that either reminds you of a surgeon or an astronaut. Chandra tells me we are going to be attired in the similar way. I hesitate a while but convince myself. Chandra tells me and our photojournalist Saligram Tiwari to follow his instructions. As I am clad in the uniform, I check myself in the mirror and soliloquize: "What? Last week new hairstyle, now new attire?" Life is like this mate, you never know what comes next! We enter a room of the lab and roam here and there, not knowing what to do. I at times was dumbfounded by Chandra's terminology-laden explanations on how lens were made. In fact, Chandra was wasting his time.

The experience, the feelings I got were more important (Apology Mr. Chandra). In the throes of describing the procedure, he skeptically questioned: "Are you a student of science?" "No, I am an art student," I retorted. But, I assured him that I was not that bad in science. He is only slightly convinced with my assurance.

As I look like one of the technicians working in the lab, I try to figure out their sex. No, I can not. But, Chandra tells me that staffs can easily identify the aliens. Oh God! In my more than half a decade career as a reporter, I've never gone to this extent; to check quality, to understand the production process.

Towards the end, Chandra asks me the question he has been asking every visitor: what is your impression of the lab and what needs to be improved? I utter few complimentary words and leave the lab.

Thanks to Fred Hollows, the philanthropist from Down Under and the dedicated staffs of Tilganga, a dream has been realized in the bank of Bagmati. The sanitary and other standard maintained by the lab is superb. Keep up the good work!

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