Last week, Aravind sent Zach, Jane, and me to Pondicherry to observe the Pondicherry Aravind Hospital and meet with upper management. We went to discuss our Shared Medical Appointments project, as well as our Parameters Standardization project, with Dr. Venkatesh, a senior doctor and manager of the Glaucoma Clinic in Pondicherry. It was fascinating being able to observe another base hospital, and one that was much newer and served a much smaller patient population. The campus and facilities were huge and very neat. We were able to make good progress on our projects, and we were also able to explore Pondicherry.
We also met Dr. Tabin, a Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Director of the Division of International Ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. He is also the co-founder of the Himalayan Cataract Project, whose purpose is to eliminate all preventable and treatable blindness from the Himalayan region. He has also done fantastic work across Africa, such as in Ethiopia and Ghana. He is an extraordinary person. Dr. Tabin is the fourth person in the world to have climbed the tallest mountain peak in each of the seven continents. He has also met the Dalai Lama and was featured on the cover of the 2009 issue of National Geographic Adventure. His work and life story was truly inspirational, just like Dr. V, and it was clear why he came to Aravind.
Pondicherry is fascinating because of the French influences. There’s a French quarter to the city, where there is a lot of French cuisine, all the streets are in French, and there are French descendants who still live in the city to this day. We had some fantastic food at a French restaurant, which was a nice change of pace from the Indian food we have every day in Madurai. We also found a KFC!! It was so much better than KFC back home.
The beach was very nice. It was a rocky beach, not a sandy one, but it was still nice to sit or walk along the beach with the breeze and all. The beach road actually reminded me of Nice, which has a similar set-up with its rocky beach. Pondicherry climate was interesting. The temperature was cooler, but because of the humidity, it felt like we were sweating much more. The breeze definitely helped.
We took one afternoon to go to Auroville, which was founded by Mirra Alfassa in 1968. We wanted to go because Mirra Alfassa, also known as “The Mother”, was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. These two were spiritual leaders Dr. V admired, and their photos can be seen in almost every hallway at Aravind. Auroville, located about 30 minutes from Pondicherry, it’s a spiritual city centered on nature and meditation. At Auroville we toured the museum and watched a short film describing Auroville’s history. In addition, we were able to take a short walk to see the Matrimandir, a giant gold dome inside which people meditate. Unfortunately we were unable to enter the Matrimandir, as appointments are required for that.