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Visit to India #4: From Helmet Distribution to Disaster Relief

Publication date:2021-02-10
 
By Dr. Shigeru Suganami
President, AMDA International
 

With the members of Bodhgaya Rotary Club
before the event

On the afternoon of 12 November 2019, we organized a helmet distribution campaign for local motorbike riders in Bodhgaya, Bihar. It marked the second occasion following the previous year’s success, and likewise, our partner was Bodhgaya Rotary Club that had collaborated with us. What prompted us to hold it for the second time was the media coverage we received in the previous event. After being featured in local newspapers and TV news, people seemed to have grown familiar with AMDA: an impression which was evident in the direct feedback I received from the local people.

Between the Rotary Club and us, we shared the expense for purchasing the helmets which, at first, surprised the Indians who believed the Japanese to be basically well-off. To the best of my knowledge, sharing a project budget is not very common in their culture. Previously, AMDA covered around 300 dollars of the sum for a purchase of 50 helmets, and this year, approximately 700 dollars for 100. Again, their proposal was suffice to please me.

This time, we decided to follow witty advice from Ms. Vedha, a former AMDA Peace Clinic staff who now runs an elderly nursing home. She stated that the helmet distribution would have to be held at two specific locations, namely, in front of a police box near the world-famous Mahabodhi Temple, and at the local police quarters opposite from Magadh University. It was indeed her strategy to let AMDA make a good impression on the police, bearing in mind that Japan India Friendship Medical Center (AMDA’s local partner) is within their police area.
 

At the actual event, one could never fail to recognize two leading figures that worked hard to promote our activities. One was former Bihar Police chief Mr. S.K. Bhardwaj, and the other was Mr. Abhishek Singh, the District Magistrate of Gaya City Office. Both vigorously responded to interviews by the local media, explaining how this campaign could serve the road safety of the region.

Mr. Bhardwaj getting interviewed

Mr. Singh helping a rider with a new helmet


“I would be most pleased if this helmet distribution saves the lives of those motorbike riders,” I told the camera crew. However, an awkward look appeared in the reporter’s face, which confused me. Later on, a Rotarian who happened to be there explained to me why my comment confounded them. In his explanation, what I said could have been regarded as a euphemism which points to the city government’s inability to tackle its road safety issues. ‘Even the act of good will could lead to a big misunderstanding without enough preparation and explanation’, I thought, and the fact indeed scared me. It was a painful but worthy lesson where I felt instantaneous actions or remarks may create problems if one had set foot in a place whose cultural values are different.
 
The event was also a place to get a glimpse of Indian curiosity and activeness. It was highlighted when people who had nothing to do with the event organizers swarmed in front of the TV crew. Of course, we had to push them away, but for a Japanese person like myself, without having that boldness, I felt it would be difficult to survive in India. 
 
After the event ended, I took some rest at the police box with Mr. Bhardwaj. Thanks to his presence, a young police officer kindly brought us some coconut juice. Perhaps, cladding in a suit and tie had helped increase my presence in the officer’s eyes as well, as if I were some sort of a noble figure. It was a surreal feeling to see the bustle and hustle of the streets, while sitting back in the police facility, quenching my thirst.

Dinner meeting with Bodhgaya Rotarians

AMDA signed a partnership agreement
with Bodhgaya Rotary Club in 2018


In 2018, AMDA signed a partnership agreement with Bodhgaya Rotary Club in the scope of disaster relief cooperation. Every August, Bihar is prone to flooding due to the arrival of the rainy season which usually leaves millions of people affected. As part of our regular assistance, we are hoping to launch a flood-response initiative. In addition, we are planning to ask other concerned parties to take part in it, which include students from a school run by AMDA’s local partner Mr. Rajesh Kumar, as well as a police school to which Mr. Bhardwaj is personally connected. And I am very much confident that Ms. Vedha will coordinate and direct the operation on the ground.

It is not hard to imagine at all that this project will expand in the course of time. This is because Indian people wish to increase their good deeds for their better afterlife. The reason why they did not have such a scheme until now was simply due to the fact that they did not know where to begin with. For this project, AMDA is willing to provide 3,000 dollars for the start-up. I am very much convinced that Bodhgaya Rotary Club will provide vehicles and other items besides funds for this cause. Also, asking the hotel industry, media outlets and monasteries to partake in the plan will surely be welcomed by the public. Once it takes root in this Buddhist sanctuary, it should mean a lot to the locality.
 

    •  President's Message
    •  India
    •  2019

 
 
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