Every life matters

The Asian Age.  | Nirtika Pandita

Life, More Features

The former businessman, putting his heart into the cause, quit his occupation and dedicated his life to it.

Participants of the Avayavdaan March on their Nashik-Nagpur march

Don’t be surprised if you come across a group of senior citizens walking down the road wearing messages on makeshift cardboard vests, informing one and all about the
importance of organ donation, and imparting information on the subject such as the fact that one body can save eight lives.

Ten retired Mumba-ikars — all above the age of 60 — are set for the second Avayavdaan March for the cause of organ donation, starting February 23 from KEM Hospital. The march, covering 826 km, which ends in Panjim on April 15, will cover the Konkan regions.

It was about a decade ago that 62-year-old Purushotam Pawar realised that lakhs of people die every year for the lack of a new organ at the right time. The former businessman, putting his heart into the cause, quit his occupation and dedicated his life to it.

He founded an NGO, called Federation of Organ and Body Donation, which is at the forefront of this 52-day march.

“In India every year at least 5 lakh people die due to non-availability of organs. Imagine a father witnessing his son die in front of him because he could not find replacement of one damaged organ,” sighs Purushotam, who will be spearheading the event.

Complex in their existence, organs are something that can’t be manufactured by humans, he grimly says. “We don’t burn or bury people with ornaments. We save them because they are precious. Likewise, our organs are precious too, and can be of help to someone else,” he argues.   

Having marched to Nashik and Nagpur last year, the group chose to head to the Konkan region this time, given the high concentration of myths and misconceptions in the area. Many are prone to believe that a human’s soul won’t transcend if they donate body parts. And that’s the idea that Purushotam and his friends seek to break. “People think if they donate their organs. they won’t get moksha. If they donate eyes, they will be born blind in next birth,” he sighs.

Admittedly, it will be quite the challenge to get people set in their ways to see the merits of organ donations, but the world-wise Purushotam has a plan up his sleeve.  “We plan to hold talks, and informal discussions with people. We usually tame our tone and chose our words depending on the crowd we are addressing. If we are speaking to the youth, we talk to them about Aishwarya Rai Bachchan having pledged to donate her eyes. They can relate to this well, and that encourages them,” he smiles.

The group will also be armed with flyers, booklets and other necessary material to distribute to the crowd. As word about their trip is spreading, villages have invited them to speak to their residents. “Now, we are planning to bring the residents of two or three villages together at one place so that we get to speak to a larger audience,” he says.

And while they may be a band of senior citizens, Purushotam enthusiastically info-rms us about plans to entertain while educating. “We will be indulging in some nukkad natak too,” he says. “On our way, if we come across a group of people at a bus stop we will start clapping in unison and will give out information in a
musical fashion.”

Apart from organ donation, they also hope to tell people about skin donation and donating their whole body for medical research.

Purushotam also tells us that they plan to take their walk march to other areas too. “Our next destination is going to be Gujarat. We have got in touch with various NGOs there and will plan soon,” he concludes.