The second attractive thing, for Shiny, is the people she gets to meet.
It would have been an easy option for Dr Shiny Kaki to pursue a post-graduate degree after graduating from CMC Vellore, and eventually lead a comfortable life, like many of her peers. But Shiny let go of the path cushioned with comforts and took the most important decision of her life — to join Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres or MSF).
Recalling how the journey with MSF began, Shiny shares, “Looking back, I think the incident that actually prompted me to take this path was the death of a cousin in a car crash. It took me a long time to get out of that grief. I don’t think I have managed to do it yet. In those moments of grief, I made this instinctive decision. I didn’t know why but I applied, and here I am.”
She adds, “I was supposed to do a nine-month-long project with them, which took me to Somalia. After that I was to return and pursue my post-graduation. However, four years later, I am addicted to the job, and my post-graduation is still waiting to happen. Thinking of further studies makes me sad! I am not keen to be restricted to one place, one hospital. After being elsewhere, out in the open, I realise that corporate setup isn’t for me. The thrill of working in a dangerous situation has become such a huge part of my life, that I think normalcy will seem boring!”
Since joining MSF in September 2013, Shiny has served in high-conflict zones like Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria. And she shares that every new place leaves an impression on her along with offering a different experience. “There are a few things that are very enticing about this job. One, the travel and understanding of new cultures — meeting people of different communities and exchanging culture has become an integral part of my life. You experience the world in a whole new way and it’s so beautiful.”
The second attractive thing, for Shiny, is the people she gets to meet. “Not just the locals, but also the like-minded individuals who come together from across the world in a pursuit just like mine. I have met some amazing people and made good friends. And the third and most important thing is the difference you are making to the world. You are contributing to a healthy world. Every night as you go to bed, you know that you have saved at least one life, and nothing feels better than that,” she says
As much as Shiny makes her work sound interesting and fulfilling, there’s no undermining the level of risk her job involves — notwithstanding the constant hardships, emotional situations and death threats at every juncture. “I have seen several senior doctors who have done around 50 to 60 projects. All the pain and sorrow doesn’t affect them anymore. The conflict and suffering becomes a part of their lives. But I don’t want to reach there. I want these things to affect me and move me. I remember my experience in Africa. It destroys a part of you.”
Conflict zones do come with complex systems — and Shiny has learnt to become a tough taskmaster with time.
Amidst all this, Shiny is often reminded of her home. “The inconvenience of living in places where there are no facilities and comforts can make you do that. And then, there are times when I want to eat something as simple as dal which I crave for days together, and I think of people back home. In fact, my parents initially did resist my choice and willingness to pack my bags off to a risky zone. However, luckily for me, they are very free-willed and have come to terms with my desire to make the world a better place.”