Out in Delhi with the CanSupport Home Care Teams today, we saw many patients. I was moved by each story. Each patient is living in a condition of ‘breast cancer,’ or ‘bladder cancer,’ or ‘bone cancer,’ or one of the many other ways this disease invades peoples’ bodies. Today, January 22nd, is a Holy Day called Saraswati Puja, and Basant Panchami—the celebration of the Goddess of Learning, Music, and All Sciences. It is a day that people honor their teachers, and lineage systems of learning, and it is the beginning of the season of spring. People everywhere wear yellow, and, as in our visits today, Rani pink (queenly pink), which we call “hot pink”—a flashy, warm color. Actually, everyone on the Home Care Team was wearing this color.
Each patient becomes my teacher. Their particular condition reveals to me what their body can and cannot do. And I am usually surprised and then re-route the way I do things. In the case of the gentleman with brain cancer, I found out after a minute or so of trying something, that he couldn’t lift his arms higher than the shoulder. So I adapted what I was going to do, to fit his need. He liked it, and smiled. What a face! What a smile—such joy coming out of those eyes. Then his wife sat down, wearing pink! And I invited her to join in. And a smile, small and then full, spread across her worried face. She is the main caregiver, and has most of the responsibility for her husband, as other family members are not living nearby.
I explained how the Shanti Exercise—calmness with several breaths and holding our hands over our hearts—helps to bring circulation to a good rhythm. She said, “Oh, like meditation.” “Yes,” I answered.
Can You Do This?
After visiting a few more patients, we came to a home where I had been two years ago. A young man, who has knee cancer. Knee cancer—how terrible. And I remembered he had gone through a very painful operation, and has do deal with how to stand, without being able to put weight onto that knee. If you see him, he looks so fit in his upper body, like a guy who works out a lot.
finding what works
He showed me a few exercises the hospital has given him, good ones for the knee joints, and then he said he hadn’t continued with the ones we had done, because of the pain he was in for a while.
I sat down on the bed next to him, and began to find out, “Can you do this?” and “What about this?” After a few minutes I could understand the way he was navigating through the day, and then he showed me what places in his legs were “filled with stress,” as he said.
His mother came in to watch. They live in a few rooms, extended family, the bed is the couch, with some plastic chairs. I don’t notice these things after a while—it becomes about the people. I showed him a kind of ‘routing’ he can practice, and the Counselor with me learned it too. It was not our normal battery of relaxation exercises; he needed something for the muscles, and the knee itself. After finishing, we did the Shanti Exercise. I invited his mother to join us. She just loved it. The room and everyone in it became quiet, calm, and for a moment, peace arrived through us all.
When I was sitting next to this young man, I saw that inside of his strength, he is very sad. And so after the Shanti Exercise, I showed him the Thank You Exercise, as well. At first it seemed to bring out the sadness, and then after a time or two, he was filled with a kind of smile and calm, as well.
So simple, you might say, and then I would add, yes, and effective. How many times a day do we notice our own stress, and give ourselves a moment of calm? And in this moment, life and the world look a little better.
When I arrived at the Hope Project Charitable Trust this year, I was greeted by so many friends and associates. I found out from them about the amazing progress going on in the TSP/Hope Partnership Programs.
Zuleikha/TSP with Hope Project Director Samiur Rahman and TSP Facilitators
The three Facilitators I have trained are working inside of Hope’s designated areas of Education, Livelihood, and Health.
Parveen covers different neighborhoods inside and outside Nizamuddin Basti area and laughs with her women’s groups as she shows them how self-care exercises bring stress relief and joy in that very moment. She also works with women inside of the health clinic, when situations call for self-care.
Shaheen loves seeing the teenage girls find confidence and courage in their bodies after engaging every day in the self-care exercises (in what is called the Girls’ Nonformal School). She also brings the self-care program to the Kindergarten and Support classes.
Zeyba inspires the women who are working inside of the thrift and credit Self Help Groups. There are at least 80 groups with 12-15 in women in each group. She visits other women’s organizations in the area and leads the Vocational Training groups as well.
Hira is overseeing all of this, as a part of her Administrative Assistant position in the Hope Project. She brings clarity and humor. And the Director of Hope, Samiur Rahman, is always showing me something new and brainstorming with me about how to make it all work.
Hope Project facilitator Zeyba leading TSP self-care exercises
The TSP programs have been going on year after year inside this Nizamuddin Basti area. I have worked so hard learning different ways to communicate with the people of Hope and the community, doing exercises, sitting with women in burkas, hanging out with street kids, making jokes about the body in my “baby Hindi language” with teenage girls, drinking tea with everyone, and it is all coming into perspective. Now when I am out walking in the Basti often I am stopped by women and girls I don’t know, who look at me and say, “Zuleikha, Exercise?” Zeyba says she also is having this same unusual experience. This way of helping the women learn about stretching is really working. Now they know this is a real thing. Isn’t that amazing!
Hope Project Cutting and Tailoring Program
Many of the women who are in the Vocational Cutting and Tailoring Livelihood program have sore backs and necks, from bending over the cutting table or sewing machine. They actually like the Self-Care exercises, once we start, yet the idea of doing them is, like in all countries met with “I don’t have time” or “I don’t feel well today.” Somehow the teachers and TSP facilitators are taking this program so seriously that they not only encourage the young women to join, they tell them “it is time, let’s go!” And so everyone comes along to the library, and we all end up laughing and enjoying it.
I am so touched, pleased, and in awe that something I feel so strongly about is now being carried by others. Most cool and wonderful.