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The Knuckles Range

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by Dishana H. Uragoda

My first jungle trips were made with the family. The very first, as far as my memory goes, was in the mid 1970s, when we travelled in an Austin A 60 car to Lahugala, Ampara, Batticaloa, Polonnaruva and Sigiriya. I was probably five years old at the time. Since then there were a number of such long trips we made as a family, until 1984 when we joined Mr. Meryl Fernando and his traveling companions on a trip to Rakwana.

It was on this trip that I made my first memorable jungle hike, which was to the famous Waulpane cave. Since that trip, we made a number of trips to Yala where we based ourselves at the Palatupana bungalow run by the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society. We used to make those trips in Uncle Meryl’s Mitsubishi J40 jeep and trailer, driven by the dear driver Simon, whose nephew Wimaladasa was in charge of the bungalow at Palatupana.

During this period, another anchorman to our trips stepped into our lives. He was Senath Abeygunawardena, who was a close friend of my brother. In subsequent years, we made many trips with a group of friends whom he introduced to our family, such as Bimal Perera, Niranjan Perera and Imaran Seneviratne. In fact, we still continue to go on trips with them, together with my sister’s father-in-law, Dr. Walter Gooneratne, Air Vice Marshall Paddy Mendis and the Vernon Edirisinghe family. In between, there was another group with whom I made a number of trips during the early 1990s, and it is one of these that I wish to elaborate on.

It all began when I joined an institute in Colombo to read for a degree in computer science in August 1990 shortly after leaving school. Here I came across a bunch of boys who developed a keen interest in sharing the thrills of traveling in Sri Lanka. Their interest may have been partly created by their seeing my photographs and listening to my narrations of interesting incidents of trips undertaken with my family. The interest so created resulted in altogether five trips being made during end-of-semester holidays to interesting places, namely Adam’s Peak, Horton Plains, Namunukula, Anuradhapura and the Knuckles. These trips were filled with laughter, gossip, bullying and idle talk. They were all budget trips leading a frugal existence, and that made them all the more interesting. After our three years at the institute, almost all of us joined universities in the USA and are now dispersed round the world, yet most of our links and friendships remain as before.

Planning the trip

At the institute we had two weeks holidays in between semesters, and had to squeeze in all the action and relaxation we could think of within that period. On this particular occasion, we decided on the Knuckles region as our destination. I had some experience of the area, having been there twice before on family trips, one of which was a successful attempt at reaching the famous Nitre Cave. The other trip was a total disaster, with heavy rains, strong winds, earthslips, floods and leeches. We planned the present trip in order to avoid the rainy season.

On one of these earlier visits, I happened to obtain the address of the Village Headman of Kumbukgolle off Meemure. He was Heenbanda alias Polgas Seeman Aiya, who was a respectable-looking, small built, lively man in his 50s. My brother and his friends had spent a few nights with him some years earlier on one of their trips; hence I knew we had a chance of spending a few nights with him. After a letter or two of correspondence, we were assured of a place to spend the nights. Our targets were the Nitro Cave and Lakegala Peak of the Knuckles range.

The former could be reached by using Heenbanda’s home as the base, but to get to Lakegala, we had to find accommodation in the more famous village of Meemure. Since we did not have any contacts there, we were considering either the school or the temple as our base. As a backup plan, we were contemplating the possibility of camping out. We had no idea where to camp, but we knew the river Heen Ganga wound through Mimure and it would be practical to camp on its bank.

Six persons agreed to make the trip, and they were Azard Barie, Chandima Wimalasena, Nishantha Nawalage, Tharaka de Silva, Udara Gunawardena and myself. We tried very hard to convince a regular member of our team, Lakshita Surasinghe as well, but he opted out with a trivial excuse. Looking at this list of names today, they have all turned out to be Information Technology professionals of different flavours based around the globe. One sad fact is that our dear friend Azard Barie is no more. He passed away in the UK in January 2003. As would be expected, we were all bachelors then, but now are either fathers, fathers-to-be, separated, fiances, singletons or playboys.

We planned to be out for three nights and hence the food had to be anything that lasted without refrigeration for a few days. We knew we would be provided with food at Heenbanda’s, but we had to stock ourselves with some for the balance period, the easiest being instant noodles, sliced bread, tinned fish, butter, jam and some biscuit packets. We expected to obtain water of pristine purity from the streams found in the Knuckles. While this settled the food problem for me, there were protests from the rest of the boys, who were all heavy eaters and seekers of comfort. They had a notion that I knew somewhat better than they regarding trips and went on with my recommendations, but now I feel they made a mistake!

Backup plan of camping was a favourable option to putting up at a school or temple, and we decided to prepare ourselves for it. We required two tents, a portable kerosene cooker, and at least one kerosene lantern. I had two tents which we regularly used on our family trips. We bought a kerosene cooker, and a few of us obtained lanterns from home.

The next step was to figure out the route to be taken. I obtained some help from my father who knew these areas better than we did. We decided to go to Kandy, and then to Hunasgiriya, where we were to turn towards Looloowatta Estate and reach the beautiful Corbet’s Gap, where the road branched off west to Mimure (3 km) and east to Kumbukgolla (3 km). The next major hurdle was organising transport. In all our previous college trips we used public transport, but this trip required a vehicle. For our good fortune, Chandi’s father allowed us the use of his Toyota Lightace van, and all was set to go.

Trip at last

Departure was set for Wednesday, August 12, 1992, and return was three nights later, on Sunday 15th. The dates were selected to take advantage of the full moon of Nikini poya, which fell on the 13th. All food items, provisions, tents, a large haversack, kettle, kerosene cooker, lamps and other paraphernalia were packed in Chandi’s van the previous night. Early next morning, along with our personal items, we left Colombo. It was a great start despite the short delay and the rather harsh rock music that blared into my ears at the back of the vehicle. The two experts who provided the music were Chandi and Nish. Their preferences were a far cry from the peaceful pop or country music that I appreciated, but for my luck Nish had brought a few cassettes of my flavour.

Many of us had brought sandwiches for breakfast, which we had whilst on the move. The idea was to lose as little time as possible by way of wayside stops. As expected, the van was in an explosive atmosphere with much chattering and laughter. After a while, we began trying out our singing skills. Tharaka knew much of the “Big match” style of Sinhala songs, while Azard and I were somewhat proficient in regular baila songs. Nish was an expert of English pop songs to which we would listen with admiration.

The drive was rather slow and comfortable with Chandi at the wheel. We reached Kandy around 10 am, and we decided to wander around the town and eventually break journey by going to the house of Nish’s aunt for snacks and drinks. After delaying a short time in Kandy, we again took the road. Though the road conditions were not at their best, it was quite a scenic route. We passed the Victoria reservoir, where the water level was low at the time, and reached Hunnasgiriya around 2.30 pm. There, with the help of directions from a wayside villager, we proceeded north towards Looloowatta Estate.

Road conditions became less comfortable and we had to proceed quite slowly, with the van bouncing along. For our luck, there was no rain although it was pretty overcast. By 3.45 pm or so we reached Looloowatta Estate, and though all were now hungry, there was no time to waste as our overall plan of reaching Kumbukgolla in time was of higher priority. With the cloudy sky, it turned out to be slightly chilly.

At the small town of Looloowatta, we stopped for directions once again, and there we were asked if we could give three hefty men a lift to Mimure. We did not think it was a good idea to overload the vehicle. Then two of them explained to us that the third member was the officer in charge of the Police Station at Mimure, and requested us to oblige by giving only him a lift. We agreed and put him in the front seat. Chandi wanted me to take the wheel. One reason was his being tired, and the other was his thinking that I was better at keeping the guest company.

Knuckles

This was the first time I was driving a van, and I took off in the manner of driving the Land Rover back home. However, it did not take long to figure out that the van had much softer suspension as it bounced and oscillated frightfully. I proceeded slowly on the road going northwards towards Corbet’s Gap and admiring the beautiful mountain scenery amidst the coolness of the evening. The vegetation around and the long grass that covered the sides of the road were added attractions. I kept on chatting with the policeman, who gave relevant details of the area and pointed out the various mountain peaks, but the others at the back of the van observed silence, probably induced by hunger. We had proceeded a few kilometres down the road and I was keeping slightly to the left, as there was a deep drop into the ravine below on the right. There was plenty of grass on the roadside to the left. I enjoyed the beautiful view while driving.

Suddenly there was a loud explosion which shook the whole vehicle. I felt it strongly on the steering. There was an eerie rumble as I slowed down the vehicle to a stop. We were in a state of shock and surprise. We got down in a hurry and rushed to check what was wrong. We found the left front tyre deflated with a two-inch gash on it. It was a huge blow to us since we had a long way to go and we could not proceed without a spare wheel. I was upset as it was I who was driving Chandi’s van. We were wondering what caused the gash in the tyre as there was apparently nothing on the surface of the road to account for it. However, on closer inspection, we discovered rocks with jagged edges under the soft carpet of beautiful grass on the roadside. One of them was likely to be responsible for the damage.

It was a rude introduction to the new terrain we were in. The policeman, who was rather calm, had a look at the tyre and declared he would get it repaired so that we could collect it when we visited Mimure a day later. He sounded rather confident, and that gave us some relief. It also made us realise how lucky we were to have given him the lift. He also gave us permission to camp next to the bridge over the river Heen Ganga, a tributary of Mahaweli, that went through Meemure.

I let Chandi take over the wheel since I was feeling rather bad at what had happened. We passed the beautiful Corbet’s Gap and eventually came to the fork on the road. The road up to this point was tarred and very much motorable. But now, both branches of the fork were typical jeep tracks with large rocks on the gravel surface. The time was around 4.30 pm and it was getting late. We took the left branch going to Mimure to drop the policeman. A few of us had to literally walk with the vehicle, moving aside rocks on the road that could damage the tyres and the suspension. Driving was not getting any easier, with the eyes straining to watch out for danger spots.

We proceeded a good two km before we came to the police station, at which point the policeman got down with the damaged wheel in his care. We came back on the same route, and then went down the other branch of the fork, going west to the Kumbukgolla village. The road was no better, and we eventually came to Kumbukgolla around 6 pm.

Heenbanda’s house was only about 100 metres away, yet we had to take the van across a dry tributary of Heen Ganga that was studded with boulders. By this time, word had got round of our arrival and Heenbanda, accompanied by many villagers, was there to greet us. We were accorded a warm welcome and Heenbanda was happy to see me. We talked of our previous trips there, as well as my brother’s. Heenbanda wanted us to take the vehicle to his house and taking command of the operation, he ordered and directed the villagers around who virtually lifted the van across the difficult, large rocks.

The sun had set a good half an hour earlier, yet there was some daylight available. So we rushed into unloading only our bags and a few other essential items, as we knew we had to take off to Mimure the next day. We were getting accommodation in one huge room, which was a good portion of Heenbanda’s house. It had a neatly tiled roof, a cemented unpolished floor, white plastered walls and sufficient furniture for us to sit and make ourselves comfortable.

We were all eagerly waiting to have a wash, when we were informed that it would have to be at the river that we crossed. Since we were all dog-tired, a bathroom would have been most welcome. Now that we had to walk upstream searching for water in the dark and in cold weather, the eagerness to have a bath was somewhat diluted. Heenbanda was sending a guide with us to take us to the bathing spot, and we motivated ourselves to rush with the wash as there was still some light outside. We walked upstream about 100 metres from where we crossed the river, and there it was, water being channeled along strips of banana stems acting as a gutter. The water was quite cold, but after completing the wash with the help of kerosene lamps, it was indeed quite refreshing. We rushed back to our abode shivering and got into warmer clothes.

Heenbanda and his wife, a nice quiet and elderly lady served us with an early dinner and we were once again rejuvenated. There was no electricity but a number of kerosene oil lamps were lit, and we were provided with woven mats, one each for the six of us to sleep on. Once bedding was arranged, we had Heenbanda’s permission to take a walk in the night. We stepped out with our torches, and it was a beautiful night with plenty of moonlight. I proudly took a branded American 3-cell torch, which was very effective and not very common at the time. We decided to walk to the riverbed to relax, and then as the ever-so-hungry or thirsty lot wanted to have coffee, I thought it best to test the new kerosene cooker. We took it out of the van with the kettle, cups, coffee, milk and sugar, and took a cool walk to the riverbed.

(To be continued)



Features

Scarcity, prices, hoarding and queuing

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By Usvatte-aratchi

We live in a scarcity economy and will do so well into 2024, past the next Presidential elections if it comes then; it may not. (The new minister may open bets.) All economies are scarcity economies; otherwise, there would be no prices. We also live in plentiful economies; look at the streets of Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Paris or San Francisco during day or night. Scarcity is a relative term, as most terms are. A scarcity economy is one where prices rise relentlessly, where cigarettes are more expensive in the evening than they were the same morning. Scarcity economies will have two or more sets of prices: one official, others in markets in varying shades of grey until black. Scarcity economies are where everyone (producers, traders, households) hoards commodities, hoards everything that can be hoarded, at reasonable cost. Scarcity economy is one where productivity is lower than it was earlier, where both labour and capital idle. Scarcity itself may push down productivity. Observe thousands of people standing in queues to buy all kinds of things whilst producing nothing. That is labour idling. Others hang on to dear life in crowded trains arriving in office late to leave early, to get to ill lit homes where to cook each evening they repeat what their ancestors did millions of years ago to light a fire. Money is one commodity that can be hoarded at little cost, if there was no inflation. The million rupees you had in your savings account in 2019 is now worth a mere 500,000, because prices have risen. That is how a government taxes you outside the law: debase the currency. In an inflation afflicted economy, hoarding money is a fool’s game.

The smart game to play is to borrow to the limit, a kind of dishoarding (- negative hoarding) money. You borrow ten million now and five years later you pay 500 million because the value of money has fallen. US dollars are scarce in this economy. It is hoarded where it can wait until its price in Sri Lanka rises. Some politicians who seem to have been schooled in corruption to perfection have them stored elsewhere, as we have learnt from revelations in the international press. Electricity is not hoarded in large quantities because it is expensive to hoard. Petrol is not hoarded very much in households because it evaporates fast and is highly flammable. That does not prevent vehicle owners from keeping their tanks full in contrast to the earlier practice when they had kept tanks half empty (full). Consequently, drivers now hoard twice as much fuel in their tanks as earlier. Until drivers feel relaxed as to when they get the next fill, there will be queues. That should also answer the conundrum of the minister for energy who daily sent out more bowser loads out than earlier, but queues did not shorten.

As an aside, it is necessary to note that the scarcity economy, which has been brought about by stupid policies 2019-2022, and massive thieving from 2005 is partly a consequence of the fall in total output (GDP) in the economy. Workers in queues do not produce. The capital they normally use in production (e.g. motor cars, machines that they would otherwise would have worked at) lie idle. Both capital and labour idle and deny their usual contribution to GDP. Agriculture, industries, wholesale and retail trade, public administration, manufacturing and construction all of which have been adversely affected in various ways contribute more than 75% of total GDP. Maha (winter crop) 2021-22, Yala (spring crop) 2022 and Maha 2022-23 and fishing are all likely to have yielded (and yield) poor harvests. Manufacturing including construction are victims of severe shortages in energy and imported inputs. Wholesale and retail trade which depend directly on imports of commodities have been hit by the sharp drop in imports. Tourism, which is more significant in providing employment and foreign exchange, collapsed dreadfully since late 2019 and has not recovered yet. About 16 percent of our labour force work in the public sector. They have failed to contribute to GDP because they did not engage in productive work due to variegated reasons. Teachers were on strike for two months in 2021. In 2022, so far government employees have worked off and on. Wages of government employees are counted as contributions to GDP, by those that make GDP estimates. However, here is an instance where labour was paid but there was no output equal to the value of those wages. Such payments are rightly counted as transfers and do not count to GDP. For these reasons estimates of GDP for 2021 must be well below the 2020 level. The 3.6 growth in official estimates is unlikely. The likely drop in 2022 will be roughly of the same magnitude as in 2021. These declines are not dissonant with misery one sees in towns and the countryside: empty supermarket shelves, scant supplies of produce in country fares, scarce fish supplies, buses idling in parks and roads empty of traffic. There have been warnings from our paediatricians as well as from international organisations of wasting and probable higher rates of child mortality. It is this sort of sharp fall in wellbeing that engenders the desperation driving young and ambitious people to obtain passports to seek a living overseas. You can see those from mezzo-America amassed on the southern border of US. Will our young men and women end up beyond the wall of China?

Of this lowered supply of goods and services, this society is expected to pay a massive accumulated foreign debt. (Remember the reparation payments in the Versailles Treaty). In real terms it will mean that we forego a part of our lower incomes. Do not miss this reality behind veils of jargon woven by financial analysts. It is not something that we have a choice about. That is where international help may kick in. Gotabaya Rajapaksa government after much senseless dilly dallying has started negotiations with the IMF. There is nobody compelling our government to seek support from IMF. They are free go elsewhere as some who recently were in their government still urge. Examine alternatives and hit upon an arrangement not because it permits the family grows richer but because it will make life for the average person a little less unbearable.

If prices are expected to rise people will seek resources to hoard: money to buy commodities, space and facilities to hoard, security services to protect the property and much more. Rice producers cannot hoard their product because animals large as elephants and small as rodents eat them up. Because of the unequal distribution of resources to hoard, the poor cannot hoard. In a scarcity economy, the poor cannot hoard and famines usually victimise the poor, first and most. If prices are expected to fall, stocks are dishoarded to the market and prices fall faster and deeper. In either direction, the rate at which prices change and the height/depth of the rise/fall depends on the speed at which expectations of change in prices take place. A largescale rice miller claims he can control the price of rice at a level that the government cannot. His success/failure will tell us the extent of his monopoly power.

When commodities are scarce, in the absence of a sensible system of coupons to regulate the distribution, consumers will form queues. A queue is rarely a straight here, nor a dog’s tail (queue, in French, is a dog’s tail which most often crooked). Assembled consumers stagnate, make puddles and sometimes spread out like the Ganges, with Meghna, disgorges itself to the Bay of Bengal. They sometimes swirl and make whirlpools and then there is trouble, occasionally serious. There is order in a queue that people make automatically. To break that order is somehow iniquitous in the human mind. That is why breaking the order in a queue is enraging. For a queue to be disobeyed by anyone is infuriating, and for a politician to do so now in this country is dangerously injurious to his physical wellbeing.

The first cause of rising prices, hoarding and queues is the scarcity of goods and services in relation to the income and savings in the hands of the people.

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Terror figuring increasingly in Russian invasion of Ukraine

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In yet another mind-numbing manifestation of the sheer savagery marking the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a shopping mall in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kremenchuk was razed to the ground recently in a Russian missile strike. Reportedly more than a hundred civilian lives were lost in the chilling attack.

If the unconscionable killing of civilians is a definition of terrorism, then the above attack is unalloyed terrorism and should be forthrightly condemned by all sections that consider themselves civilized. Will these sections condemn this most recent instance of blood-curdling barbarism by the Putin regime in the Ukrainian theatre and thereby provide proof that the collective moral conscience of the world continues to tick? Could progressive opinion be reassured on this score without further delay or prevarication?

These issues need to be addressed with the utmost urgency by the world community. May be, the UN General Assembly could meet in emergency session for the purpose and speak out loud and clear in one voice against such wanton brutality by the Putin regime which seems to be spilling the blood of Ukrainian civilians as a matter of habit. The majority of UNGA members did well to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine close on the heels of it occurring a few months back but the Putin regime seems to be continuing the civilian bloodletting in Ukraine with a degree of impunity that signals to the international community that the latter could no longer remain passive in the face of the aggravating tragedy in Ukraine.

The deafening silence, on this question, on the part of those sections the world over that very rightly condemn terror, from whichever quarter it may emanate, is itself most intriguing. There cannot be double standards on this problem. If the claiming of the lives of civilians by militant organizations fighting governments is terror, so are the Putin regime’s targeted actions in Ukraine which result in the wanton spilling of civilian blood. The international community needs to break free of its inner paralysis.

While most Western democracies are bound to decry the Russian-inspired atrocities in Ukraine, more or less unambiguously, the same does not go for the remaining democracies of the South. Increasing economic pressures, stemming from high energy and oil prices in particular, are likely to render them tongue-tied.

Such is the case with Sri Lanka, today reduced to absolute beggary. These states could be expected ‘to look the other way’, lest they be penalized on the economic front by Russia. One wonders what those quarters in Sri Lanka that have been projecting themselves as ‘progressives’ over the years have to say to the increasing atrocities against civilians in Ukraine. Aren’t these excesses instances of state terror that call for condemnation?

However, ignoring the Putin regime’s terror acts is tantamount to condoning them. Among other things, the failure on the part of the world community to condemn the Putin government’s commissioning of war crimes sends out the message that the international community is gladly accommodative of these violations of International Law. An eventual result from such international complacency could be the further aggravation of world disorder and lawlessness.

The Putin regime’s latest civilian atrocities in Ukraine are being seen by the Western media in particular as the Russian strongman’s answer to the further closing of ranks among the G7 states to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the issues growing out of it. There is a considerable amount of truth in this position but the brazen unleashing of civilian atrocities by the Russian state also points to mounting impatience on the part of the latter for more positive results from its invasion.

Right now, the invasion could be described as having reached a stalemate for Russia. Having been beaten back by the robust and spirited Ukrainian resistance in Kyiv, the Russian forces are directing their fire power at present on Eastern Ukraine. Their intentions have narrowed down to carving out the Donbas region from the rest of Ukraine; the aim being to establish the region as a Russian sphere of influence and buffer state against perceived NATO encirclement.

On the other hand, having failed to the break the back thus far of the Ukraine resistance the Putin regime seems to be intent on demoralizing the resistance by targeting Ukraine civilians and their cities. Right now, most of Eastern Ukraine has been reduced to rubble. The regime’s broad strategy seems to be to capture the region by bombing it out. This strategy was tried out by Western imperialist powers, such as the US and France, in South East Asia some decades back, quite unsuccessfully.

However, by targeting civilians the Putin regime seems to be also banking on the US and its allies committing what could come to be seen as indiscretions, such as, getting more fully militarily and physically involved in the conflict.

To be sure, Russia’s rulers know quite well that it cannot afford to get into a full-blown armed conflict with the West and it also knows that the West would doing its uttermost to avoid an international armed confrontation of this kind that could lead to a Third World War. Both sides could be banked on to be cautious about creating concrete conditions that could lead to another Europe-wide armed conflict, considering its wide-ranging dire consequences.

However, by grossly violating the norms and laws of war in Ukraine Russia could tempt the West into putting more and more of its financial and material resources into strengthening the military capability of the Ukraine resistance and thereby weaken its economies through excessive military expenditure.

That is, the Western military-industrial complex would be further bolstered at the expense of the relevant civilian publics, who would be deprived of much needed welfare expenditure. This is a prospect no Western government could afford to countenance at the present juncture when the West too is beginning to weaken in economic terms. Discontented publics, growing out of shrinking welfare budgets, could only aggravate the worries of Western governments.

Accordingly, Putin’s game plan could very well be to subject the West to a ‘slow death’ through his merciless onslaught on the Ukraine. At the time of writing US President Joe Biden is emphatic about the need for united and firm ‘Transatlantic’ security in the face of the Russian invasion but it is open to question whether Western military muscle could be consistently bolstered amid rising, wide-ranging economic pressures.

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At 80, now serving humanity

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Thaku Chugani! Does this name ring a bell! It should, for those who are familiar with the local music scene, decades ago.

Thaku, in fact, was involved with the original group X-Periments, as a vocalist.

No, he is not making a comeback to the music scene!

At 80, when Engelbert and Tom Jones are still active, catering to their fans, Thaku is doing it differently. He is now serving humanity.

Says Thaku: “During my tenure as Lion District Governor 2006/2007, Dr Mosun Faderin and I visited the poor of the poorest blind school in Ijebu Ode Ogun state, in Nigeria.

“During our visit, a small boy touched me and called me a white man. I was astonished! How could a blind boy know the colour of my skin? I was then informed that he is cornea blind and his vision could be restored if a cornea could be sourced for him. This was the first time in my life that I heard of a cornea transplant. “

And that incident was the beginning of Thaku’s humanity service – the search to source for corneas to restore the vision of the cornea blind.

It was in 2007, when Dr Mosun and Thaku requested Past International President Lion Rohit Mehta, who was the Chief Guest at MD 404 Nigeria Lions convention, at Illorin, in Nigeria, to assist them in sourcing for corneas as Nigeria was facing a great challenge in getting any eye donation, even though there was an established eye bank.

“We did explain our problems and reasons of not being able to harvest corneas and Lion Rohit Metha promised to look into our plea and assured us that he will try his utmost best to assist in sourcing for corneas.”

Nigeria, at that period of time, had a wait list of over 70 cornea blind children and young adults.

“As assured by PIP Lion Rohit Mehta, we got an email from Gautam Mazumdar, and Dr. Dilip Shah, of Ahmedabad, in India, inviting us for World Blind Day

“Our trip was very fruitful as it was World Blind Day and we had to speak on the blind in Nigeria.”

“We were invited by Gautam Mazumdar to visit his eye bank and he explained the whole process of eye banking.

“We requested for corneas and also informed him about our difficulties in harvesting corneas.

“After a long deliberation, he finally agreed to give us six corneas. It was a historical moment as we were going to restore vision of six cornea blind children. To me, it was a great experience as I was privileged to witness cornea transplant in my life and what a moment it was for these children, when their vision was restored.

“Thus began my journey of sight restoration of the cornea blind, and today I have sourced over 1000 corneas and restored vision of the cornea blind in Nigeria, Kenya and India till date.

“Also, I need to mention that this includes corneas to the armed forces, and their family, all over India.

“On the 12th, August, 2018, the Eye Bank, I work with, had Launched Pre-Cut Corneas, which means with one pair of eyes, donated, four Cornea Blind persons sight will be restored.”

Thaku Chugani, who is based in India, says he is now able to get corneas regularly, but, initially, had to carry them personally – facing huge costs as well as international travel difficulties, etc.

However, he says he is so happy that his humanitarian mission has been a huge success.

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