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People Who Climb Everest

Aug 7, 2005

How? How did you do it all? How do you keep on keeping on the way you do? And how do you persuade so many others to do the same?
Questions that Justin Huggler Asian Correspondent for the UK-based Independent newspaper asked Dr V repeatedly, after having taken a tour of the hospitals and being given an overview of the institute's work this morning.

Dr V who can sometimes be very serious during interviews was at his sunniest today. "How did you manage to do it Dr V?" asks Justin, and Dr V laughs,"You know there are people who have climbed Mount Everest," he says. (And when you have spent more time with Dr V you do begin to understand his stunningly irrelevent answers to questions that too closely refer to the grandeur of his achievements. But this is Justin's first meeting with him so he cries out in exasperated wonder-) "Yes but it takes people 4 weeks to climb Everest and then they go home and holiday. You've been doing this work day after day after day- how do you do it?" "People are good at heart, they help you " says Dr V. " Maybe but they're also lazy. How did you get this to work?" Justin is determined to get his answer- and after a few more digressions on Everest- all of a sudden unexpectedly- he does.

"You see when people need help you can't simply run away no? You say I will help you and then you do what you can. Even when we started we did good quality work. So the rich people came and paid us and we could treat the poor people with that money. The poor people brought more poor people, the rich people brought more rich people. So now we have five hospitals...."

Suchi and I have been working intensively for the last few months on a book that will explain what he has explained here in less than fifteen seconds. The man has just fit his entire life's work and the evoution of the largest eye care facility in the world into less than five sentences. And the simplicity of it stuns me. All over again.

Justin laughs and his face relaxes for the first time. This is only his second visit to South India. The first time he was here to cover the devastatation of the tsunami. Much of his other work has involved traveling to areas of political unrest. Pakistan and Nepal and before that Jerusalem, Afghanistan, Iraq. Over lunch listening to some of his experiences I say lightly, " This must be one of your more pleasant assignments." He nods vigorously, and says something he will keep repeating under his breath throughout the remainder of the day, " This is Amazing. This is just Amazing."

It is.

"But what motivates people to stay and work so hard here when they could have things so much easier somewhere else?"

"What motivates people to climb mountains?" asks Dr V in return, "It isn't easy to climb Everest- but people do it anyway- isn't it?"

It is.

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