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Visit to AMDA Nepal and AMDA India (5): Activities in Bodhgaya

Publication date:2020-04-08
 
By Dr. Shigeru Suganami
President, AMDA International

On 8th September 2019, I left Goa in the southern part of India for Udupi in the State of Karnataka to see AMDA India Chairperson Dr. Kamath who is an expert in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicine.

It was a six-hour cab ride which cost me 7,200 Indian rupees. Putting aside airplanes or trains, my choice of using a taxi was an intentional one so as to observe the lives of local people in the region. (I even came across a restaurant which was named after his surname “Kamath” where I had lunch.)

Dr. Kamath is from a tribal community of Konkani, a tribe of Brahmin descent. The city of Udupi is where the Lord Krishna was born and it is well-known for vegetarian cuisine, not to mention Dr. Kamath being a devout pursuant of vegetarianism himself.

What I saw from the car window was many Hindu temples in different sizes, with some Christian churches seen occasionally, while Islamic mosques rarely came in sight. Compared to the northern region, I have to say that southern states such as Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are deeply Hindu-rooted conservative regions.

In Udupi, Dr. Kamath and I had a talk on recent news around AMDA India. The next day, I met AMDA India Board Member Dr. Ramachandra Kamath to talk about our further initiatives. At the end, we came to the conclusion that we would launch training programs on disaster medicine at 20 institutions in Karnataka. We also decided to sign a partnership agreement in the realm of disaster relief cooperation with a university to which he belongs. In the long-term perspective, I would like to relate this initiative to UNESCO’s disaster prevention education.

After my appointments were over, I again took a two-hour taxi ride to Manipal Airport to fly to Kolkata. My final destination was Bodhgaya where AMDA runs AMDA Peace Clinic (APC). The next day, I was picked up at Gaya Airport by our local staff after a 30-minute flight from Kolkata. Thanks to the improvement of the roads, it only took me 20 minutes to get to Bodhgaya from the airport.

The trend in this Buddhist sanctuary seems that there is a construction boom taking place where accommodation and housing facilities have been built one after the other. Not only hotels but also Buddhist monasteries have been trying to prepare accommodations for pilgrims. One surprising example was the Thai temple which had just completed a facility that can house 500 people. Even with the hotel at which I usually stay, it only has 30 rooms. Since an increasing number of monasteries are offering accommodations that are reasonably priced and clean, it is no wonder the hotels are suing temples for conflicting interests.

My immediate appointment was to attend a meeting held by Bodhgaya Rotary Club which we supported last year. In 2018, we donated helmets to local motorbike riders to improve their safety. And now that more stringent road rules have been put in place, riders without helmets are fined up to a few hundred dollars. Needless to say, the amount is as much as the cost of a used motorcycle. And this is why we decided to launch another helmet donation campaign in November 2020. We also sought ways to have the Rotary Club deepen a relationship with its counterpart in Nara, Japan as the state governor of Bihar paid a courtesy visit to the ancient Japanese city a few years ago.

While sweltering hot weather continues in Bihar, the authority is making efforts in order not to lower the water level in a well from excessive ground water collection. Danpur, a village in the suburb, is no exception. A water pump which we donated a couple of years ago was up and running, however, there is always a limit to its capacity in providing water for an agricultural use. The reason why we see rice paddies in a good condition is that extra money has been poured into securing enough water. To keep the agriculture afloat, we have to acknowledge the fact that money is what counts at the end of the day.

My original purpose of visiting the village was to discuss the final blueprint of Japan India Friendship Medical Center which will be built in the vicinity. A son of the architect who has been working with us corresponded with me on his father’s behalf who had been sick that day. According to our local staff at APC, the number of patients with high fever tends to surge during the rainy season although they do not know what causes the symptom. I have to admit that the living environment of local people is far from pleasant compared to ours, and it is for this reason that their immune system gets weakened, which makes them more susceptible to the common cold.

In Bodhgaya, two young Japanese Buddhist monks are being trained in a small monastery. The truth of the matter is, compared to other Asian countries, the number of Japanese tourists and pilgrims to Bodhgaya has been dwindling in the last few years. Japanese tourist agencies usually charge about 4,000 dollars for a 10-14 day pilgrimage. If I could lower the expense to about 2,000 dollars for a seven-day trip, I am confident that more Japanese people will visit this holy place. I must say this is going to be my next challenge. And of course, my organization will look after the medical side of the business.

Why is it that so many Japanese people never pay a pilgrimage to this Buddhist sanctuary despite the fact that their lives are deeply rooted in Buddhism? If you see Muslims, they are all heading to Mecca. It is an utter mystery which has struck my mind for quite some time.
 
    •  President's Message
    •  India
    •  2019
    •  2020

 
 
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