I had never felt more awkward or out of place. Here I was, more than 13,000 kilometers away from home, surrounded by people at a wedding I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, and speaking about organ donation. I had come to India from the U.S. for the summer in order to participate in a great internship opportunity at MOHAN Foundation, which promotes organ donation, a noble yet all-too neglected cause, in India. Along with putting together inspiring videos of organ transplant survivor stories made possible by altruistic donors, a portion of my work also revolved around finding public opinion on the concept of organ donation.
Coincidentally, as I was given this assignment, my mom indicated that I could bring the discussion on gathering the public opinion at the wedding venue. This was the perfect opportunity for me to gauge people’s thoughts on organ donation. However, I felt nervous – what if the relatives I asked were against it and looked down upon me from then onwards? This was a sensitive topic after all; hence, my confidence slowly began to melt into discomfort. Being from a very traditional, orthodox family, organ donation was a very uncomfortable topic to discuss.
One of my aunts, Shanti*, had seen me walking around during the reception with a folder and papers which contained the survey questions. She stopped me and asked me what was in the folder. She said, “What you’re doing is quite remarkable. It’s a very noble cause that you’re supporting and I would be glad to answer the questions inside.”
With her support, I was also able to ask another aunt and my grandmother about this topic and gain their encouragement as well. Two of my mom’s aunts were gracious in explaining the traditional beliefs as to why organs couldn’t be removed and donated. They believed that the body has to go back to earth as it was and that it would lead then to a better next life. However, they helped me in spreading the message of this selfless act to others at the wedding. Both grandmothers pictured here even signed up to become donors themselves after completing the survey, expanding MOHAN Foundation’s efforts two people further.Raghul Ravindranath
* name changed