Nepal north of India

Nepal is a small landlocked country that borders on India. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most people probably associate it with the tallest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest. In fact it is home to eight of the world’s ten highest peaks in the Himalayas. It is very hard for Nepali people to make a living in their own country because of the economic situation, so many migrate south to India (Nepalis don’t need a passport to get into India) or to other overseas countries in the Middle East or south east Asia to earn money and then send funds back home to help family members.

The reason I am writing about Nepal is because of a man called Dr. Sanduk Ruit. I have just read his story in a biography by Ali Gripper, called The Barefoot Surgeon. He was born in Nepal into a low caste family way up in the mountains in the 1950s. His family was illiterate and very poor but his father realised the importance of education and sent his son off to boarding school in Darjeeling India. They walked across the Himalayas for eleven days to reach the school. Unfortunately three of Sanduk’s brothers and sisters died tragically during childhood.

His older sister’s preventable death from tuberculosis at the age of fifteen, when the family did not have enough money for medication, set him on the road to becoming a doctor. After leaving the boarding school, he was awarded a scholarship and went on to do medical training in Lucknow and then in Delhi. He decided to specialise in opthalmology when he realised how many Nepalis couldn’t work due to cataracts or some other vision defect, all of which were treatable. He eventually became a specialist in a small incision method of cataract surgery that would take minutes instead of hours at very little cost.

He started to set up clinics all over Nepal and his medical expeditions to remote villages sometimes meant he had to ford small rivers on horseback with his team and equipment. He works an opthalmological machine using his bare feet as he finds it more comfortable and has no formal airs and graces. Nepal has one of the world’s highest rates of cataracts which may be due to the altitude that many of the population live at.

Sanduk became friends with Fred Hollows, another world renowned cataract specialist from Australia and together they worked on a plan to introduce a quicker, easier and cheaper operation process into Nepal. Initially, they met with a lot of opposition from established specialists. Sanduk also built a world class hosital of Opthalmology in the capital Khatmandu. It now has such a good reputation that specialists come to train here from all over the world.

Dr. Ruit is definitely a workaholic and never stops from the moment he gets up until he goes to bed. He is always busy planning strategies, training new staff or doing operations. He has restored the sight of more than 130,000 patients worldwide and has even been invited to North Korea to operate there. He built his hospital to withstand earthquakes, so during Nepal’s recent devastating earthquake, he was able to provide other kinds of surgical relief as well as continue to operate on cataracts. He lives very simply with his wife and children and only recently moved into a larger house.

I am captured by his spirit of enthusiasm and energy and ability to give his all to the medical profession. This simple little operation is life changing to so many in Nepal who would otherwise be unable to earn a living when they become blind or abandoned by their families as they become just an extra mouth to feed. It proves yet again that the poorest of the poor can achieve so much, given the right support and with discipline and determination.

The letter ‘n’ is easy to sound with the tongue pressed against the upper teeth and quite easy to form as it is written entirely on the line. So many negative words start with ‘n’ that I guess it has that association, no, not, none, never, nobody, nothing, non-living and no one, to name a few.

6 thoughts on “Nepal north of India

  1. This is eye-opening! (Sorry if I seem make light of something so absolutely transformative—I mean truly.) There is so much here to think about. That experts resisted the simpler surgical procedure saddens me so. I am heartened by the collaboration between Dr. Ruit and the Australian ophthalmologist. There is nothing like the gift of sight, and when it’s able to be restored, truly brings me to tears. Thanks for sharing this story. (I am going to see if my library can obtain a copy. If not, Kindle is a click away.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for choosing to share this beautiful story for your letter n entry. The photo with all the patients with one eye patched, all with huge smiles, made me cry. These individuals really make a difference and it is so good to share their stories.

    Liked by 1 person

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