What do you do if your ambition is to save lives in more ways than one? If you’re Doctor Anuradha, Anaesthetist and Army Veteran, you forge your own path.
Born in Indore, and having grown up in a Jain-Marwadi family, Anuradha had no family legacy of army service. However, from a young age, she found herself intrigued by the idea of serving her country.
She says, “I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to become a doctor. Because in our time a girl could join the Armed Forces only by becoming a doctor or a nurse. My father was a doctor, so I moved in that direction. But, I wanted to become a doctor because I wanted to join the army.”
On Following Her Dual Ambitions
She was also lucky enough to discover her other passion – serving those in rural areas in her capacity as a doctor. She says, “Before I could join the Armed Forces what I realised is that doctors are needed in villages more than they are needed in the army. So, at that point I had two dreams- one was going to the villages, and other to join the army. Very early in my medical education, I learnt that most important thing is prevention. So, now going to the villages with health education is the main agenda, prevention is the agenda.”
Deciding to pursue her ambitions, she signed up to serve a relatively short term of five years. She knew that she would need financial backing in order to achieve her dream, and the steady pay that the army could provide, along with the training offered, would prepare her for what lay ahead. She explains, “I decided not to go before the age of 35. I was more mature and understood how to deal with society; communicating with people, and then, of course, financial security.”
One of the most important aspects was financial independence. She says, “I don’t have to depend on someone and that person guiding me how to work and what to do.”
During her time in the Armed Forces, she not only picked up the necessary skills required for her future, but she excelled in many other areas. She rose to the rank of Major and was India’s first female army officer to drive and fire the Arjun Tank. An achievement indeed!
Choosing The Right Spot
The relatively unknown town of Khargone, where the Aasthagram Trust is based, suited Dr Anuradha perfectly. The trust existed before Dr Anuradha joined it, but lay dormant until she joined the team in 1998. Under her leadership, the organisation has blossomed into an industrious and socially conscious entity.
She explains why she chose it, “I joined Aasthagram Trust because in social and preventive medicine we were taught that we should not go with a pre-fixed project – you must design your project according to the need which is felt over there. Since prevention was the main motto, and treatment was also required at that time – joining this NGO, I started developing activities and now our NGO is working in 6 fields. We cover health, education, empowerment, environment, disability and rehabilitation, and we have 35 projects.”
Aasthagram Trust also works extensively in the field of inclusion. She elaborates, “Ours was the only organisation in the district, in fact in the nearby 3 districts, which had the experience of working with disabled persons. In Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, they have a program for inclusive education for the disabled. According to that program, the special schools have to phase down and the disabled children are to be incorporated into the ‘normal’ schools. They have 135 different programs, one of which is a hostel for children with special needs in every district, it begins with 50 seaters and then increases to 100 – 150.”
She adds, “Our organisation has been working with mentally challenged children since 2000. We had a special needs school but we have given up this project, and we already had our informal education centre. When those disabled children and these normal children came together, it was like an awakening – what wonders can be done If we include them!”
Giving Opportunities To Those Who Need It
The Aasthagram Trust believes that the reformist approach is the only sustainable one. They aim to create awareness in the community and ensure that the people they work with take responsibility and ownership of their issues. They believe that the collective knowledge and efforts of the community can be harnessed to solve problems and create effective solutions.
Dr Anuradha is a managing trustee of the Non-Profit, and thanks to her expertise, the Aasthagram Trust runs several important health outreach programs including a general charitable hospital with modern facilities including a physiotherapy unit; a care center for invalids; sterilization camps for men and women; nutritional programs for children; sanitation initiatives; and support groups for alcoholics.
Additionally, the trust runs skill training programs for rural women and disabled persons in the region. They also have homes for those suffering from leprosy, and for the destitute elderly and disabled population.
Each program run by the trust is carefully plotted out and designed to be relevant for the local Khargone tribal population. In an area which is often woefully neglected, Dr Anuradha’s work is crucial for the development of the region.
In Dr Anuradha’s words, “No one goes over there, no one knows about Khargone, I don’t get people over there to work and support us. I believe that these tribal children and our disabled children – if they are given proper guidance – they can create wonders. They are so good at things! I have seen achievers and I see my children – they can also become like that. The only thing is their lack of access to the facilities and opportunities.”
We can’t help but feel grateful that this wonderful woman and her team are working so tirelessly to give hope to those who require it. Warriors like Dr Anuradha are what our country needs and Team KYS can see a bright future for all the children (and adults!) that she serves today.
KnowYourStar.com (KYS) interviewed Dr Anuradha as part of the India Inclusion Summit(IIS). IIS is a platform that brings awareness and drives the inclusion of specially-abled people in corporate organisations, schools, policymaking and NGOs. KYS is the official blogging partner for IIS, and backs the event wholeheartedly. Let’s build a more Inclusive India!
Liked reading this? Then you might also like to read Puja Kohli – On Giving The Post Retirement Generation A Chance To Explore Their Passions.