Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Teachers Are Like Gardeners

Getting Vibha Krishnamurthy to come to Dehradun, on any pretext, is always worth doing. She is one of the smartest, funniest, most enchanting people I have ever known and the fact that she is also a developmental pediatrician is the icing on the cake. I can get her to come here for work and I can justify going to visit her in Mumbai for the same reason.

So anyway. I got her to come this past weekend. Not only that: she brought her whip-smart colleague, the young and gorgeous Roopa Srinivasan, also a developmental pediatrician, also brilliant.

These two were to be our secret weapons, our magic wands in the battle to win over the hearts and minds of Uttarakhand's physicians and to convince them to refer babies to us at the Doon Hospital EIC. They did just that, but the magic turned out to be not only their amazing wealth of knowledge. Nope. What really astonished and moved the doctors was their amazing command of Hindi.

Vibha and Roopa are both from Chennai, a city not noted for its Hindi. So the doctors came prepared to be lectured to in English. One of them told us he liked these sort of workshops because they gave him a chance to catch up on his sleep.


Not only was their Hindi flawless, witty and entertaining (Roopa actually grew up in Jabalpur; Vibha in Delhi) but the content of their workshop was too. The doctors were mesmerized. "It wasn't us," Vibha insisted. "It's the material. I mean - child development! How could people NOT be interested?""

We all know, however, that even the most interesting material can be put in a boring big package and delivered like a lead balloon. Obviously, that's what the good docs were expecting. What they got instead was insight, wisdom, compassion and cutting edge medical information - delivered by seasoned story-tellers, show women with a sense of drama and timing and the perfect one-liners. A tour de force!

The workshop was for government doctors of Uttarakhand and they had no choice about attending. Their seniors ordered them to come and so they did - some from many hours away, in the remote areas of the state (Precisely the ones we've been so eager to get to). For us, it was almost like a miracle to walk into a doctors' workshop assured of a full house. Our previous efforts with private sector doctors have always been disappointing. Only the same faithful few keep attending and there is always a sense of preaching to the choir.

So this time, there was a special challenge: how to create an electric atmosphere, a buzz, an excitement about the topic and an eagerness to learn more. Because we want them to come the next time - even though they HAVE to - with a sense of anticipation, the knowledge that this is going to be fun.

Who better to set the tone and raise the bar than Vibha and Roopa?

A little aside, a kind of metaphor for what they did here.

They stayed in my house, where as luck would have it, a Brahma Kamal (Flower of Bethlehem) was about to bloom. I had spotted the bud a few nights before and prayed that it would do its one night performance while they were here (this flower blooms in a spectacular one-night performance and it's easy to miss).

But it was not to be. Almost as if it were taunting me, the flower stayed resolutely closed for the three nights they were with us:

opening in its show-off style the night of the very day they departed:

It struck me as I stood there looking at it, shaking my head a bit (Come ON! You couldn't have done it one night earlier?) that this was a metaphor for the life of a teacher, which is what these two are, in addition to being gifted and caring physicians.

They go all over the country, training other people to see children as they do - marvelous, incredibly interesting little beings with worlds within them to be discovered and understood. They sow seeds in the minds of their audiences - an act of faith in their students' good sense and willingness to learn and then they leave. So often, they don't get to see the flowers - the sudden and magical dawn of awareness, the click, the ah ha!

So Vibha, Roopa: I want you to know. The flower bloomed the night after you left. The fragrance still lingers. We'll make sure the seeds you planted will flourish and thrive.


shipra said...

Jo, I'm so happy that Vibha and Roopa met the sure people like them will be able to change the rigid mindsets....The Doon EIC will surely make a difference!

Jo Chopra McGowan said...

Thanks, Shipra! It's already happening: 129 kids assessed in the first month!!!!

shipra said...

That's great, Jo! I am so happy!!