This was during Ramzan in 2010. My maternal grandmother had to undergo knee replacement surgeries after losing her mobility due to a combination of severe arthritis, varicose veins and bad reaction to lifelong and daily use of steroids due to debilitating asthma (which took her eventually). Her surgery for each knee was around 3 months apart, so I used this opportunity to make a career shift and the break to be with her for her surgeries and after care. This was also the point of reckoning for my grandfather’s health which took a bad turn around the same time.
During one of her knee replacement surgeries in a hospital in Baroda, Gujarat, there was an urgent requirement for three units of blood. It was sometime in the middle of the night, I was alone there in the hospital. Her blood type being B negative, was rare and difficult to arrange, and the hospital washed off their hands saying they did not have the required backup and that they were trying with the blood banks but they did not have the blood group. I started making calls and sending messages to everyone I knew in baroda – friends, family, activists I knew and to contacts sent by my parents who have better networks there, also exploring again with the blood banks, but nothing was coming up.
I was panicking by the time I got a call back from an activist friend a few hours later who told me that something was being arranged and that the blood donors would come in. In an hour, three men showed up at the hospital and enquired for me. They had come from Muslim dominated area of Tandalja. They were all observing roza and had woken up early for sehri. While we got speaking, one of them told me that he was enlisted as a blood donor but doesn’t get calls often because people won’t take Muslim blood in Baroda, he had asked if we would but was told it was not a problem so he came. I was too exhausted and couldn’t help but tear up out of gratitude and pain.
We started exchanging stories of a different Baroda before 2002, before disturbed areas and segregation. The city of their memories and imagination, the one my parents romanticise from their student and movement days, what I reminisce of childhood summers and safety in my second home. At some point I was told it was good I lived in Bombay being HM – Hindu-Muslim, because here that can only mean riots. We imagined a different future, of peace and friendship and love (if only we knew better then) and laughed on some common gujju jokes. My granny met one of them later when he returned, blessed them all and cracked some more hilarious jokes on her surgery and leg in her unique style. We went to the canteen and broke fast together with fruits and hospital chai and biscuits too.
I have never felt the value of blood more than then. The pain of that which is shed out of hate and Gratitude for that which is given out of love. When my granny died quite suddenly after a bad spell of asthma on the new years eve of 1st January 2015, for her condolence meeting in Baroda a few days later, we had a blood donation camp along with body and eye donation (following her lead) with songs of love playing in the background. Each time I donate blood I feel happy remembering my friends from Tandalja and that hopeful day. But today I remembered this story while forwarding a few appeals for blood donation and also reading some hate speech calling for the blood of Muslims that has been doing the rounds.
We are living in a world oscillating between warped priorities and stark realities. And in between a world blissfully and conveniently oblivious to both these worlds. I just hope more people actively choose love over hate. Love is the epidemic this world desperately needs. And one we don’t is Covid which really really needs to go now, it has weakened and destroyed just enough, even the strength to fight hate. It’s time for us to rebuild and heal, all of us who reject hate need to say it out loud in unison.
#DonateBlood #RejectHate #loveistheanswer #ramzanmubarak
Rohit Prajapati-Trupti Shah-Amar Jesani-Vibhuti Patel from that time
(The author is a rights advocate, feminist and secretary of the Maharashtra Unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties-PUCL; the post is from her Facebook post dated April 13, 2023 and is being published with her permission with minor edits)