“Our home was heaven on earth - a teacher mom and a working dad, both philanthropic. I loved reading, listened to music and also briefly ventured into Kathak. I left studies after Class 12 because I disliked academics. My parents were aghast but they accepted my decision and suggested that I join my father in his social causes. I agreed. Our organization was mainly involved with creating an eye bank in Mumbai along with some other causes.
In those days, there were no eye banks between Santacruz and Dahisar in Mumbai. Bereaved relatives had to wait to donate the deceased person’s eyes until the Cooper hospital team arrived. Often it was too late; the cornea had dried up and a healthy organ which could have been used to give light to a needy person was wasted. Doctors around the area supported the cause, but their commitments did not allow them to leave a patient waiting while they performed an eye enucleation. Often we failed to do timely enucleation. Then, a doctor suggested – ‘Try doing it yourself. It’s a simple procedure; you can certainly learn it. Don’t depend on somebody else’s help for a task which brightens lives!’ I was stunned. I had no medical background. The doctor said, ‘I will teach you how to do it. I will enucleate one eye, you observe and then you have to enucleate the second one.’
For the first time in my life I was standing beside a dead body and the doctor was performing enucleation. Strangely, I was unfazed. I carefully watched the doctor and followed his instructions exactly. I successfully performed the enucleation. After that there was no looking back.
I visited families of deceased people, asked them to wait outside for some time and performed the enucleation. I was a different person when I wore those gloves and opened my kit. Weeping kin and gloomy surroundings didn’t deter me. My endeavor was much bigger than the sadness and fear that life offers. Those days completely changed me as a person.
The procedure used to take 10 to 15 minutes of intense concentration with the understanding and compassion that the now-lifeless body lying in front of me had been loved by many, and many people had lost the love, care and affection offered by the dead person. It was not mere enucleation, but the internal journey I used to go through, which always made me more sensitive and responsible during the act itself.
I have enucleated 600 eyes and have witnessed all of life’s shades while doing it. Life goes on with all its ups and downs and I always remember my mother’s last words – ‘let go of a prized possession for the other person, if it is more important to him/her’. I saw people doing it very often. How can I stop believing in human compassion? ”