In Agra, I took a tuk-tuk to the Shanti-Mangalick Hospital that was just a mile down the same street on which I was staying at the Hotel Amar. I had come as a volunteer to do an Administrative Assessment and Report on a hospital and clinic at the request of P. C. Mangalick, the hospital’s founder and benefactor. Mr. Mangalick has an import business for which he resides half the year in Minneapolis, the city in which I live, and half of the year in Agra. He financed and organized a clinic and hospital for the benefit of poor people in and around Agra. The clinic had been open for five years, and the hospital for two years.
They were expecting me, and when I arrived I was escorted to the hospital lobby where Dr. Bansal, the administrator and surgeon, conducts daily devotions in Hindi. The small staff had assembled, and afterward it was a chance for me to be introduced to them all. I spent most of the day with Dr. Bansal who described the operation and talked of their strengths, challenges and plans. Lunch was at the Hotel Shandshaw (owned by the Mangalicks), which gave me an opportunity to visit with Sateesh Mangalick (P. C.’s son) who acts as Chairman of the Board of the Hospital.
Dr. and Mrs. Bansal hosted me for dinner at their home that evening, along with the Sateesh Mangalick family. For our vegetarian dinner we had paneer, cottage cheese and peas, a veggie similar to green beans, dal, puri, raita, and an excellent rice pudding for dessert. The power went out during dinner so we finished eating by candlelight but without the electric fan, it was hot!
The following day I again met with Dr. Bansal. I also became acquainted with Dr. Douglas Klemp, an American doctor who is volunteering here, who is a great resource, especially as it relates to the medical staff, their thoughts, concerns and operations.
The weather is very hot and that afternoon I took a few hours off as I sat by the pool at my hotel, organized my notes and thoughts, and drank Indian whiskey. The next day I continued with my interviewing, touring departments, and discussing operations with several staff members.
That afternoon Dr. Bansal took me to visit the Agra Medical College Hospital. Dr. Bansal pointed out the difficulties that the hospital has with a deteriorating facility and with the medical staff being allowed to do private practice for fees. This has resulted in the lack of availability of the medical staff for this hospital. Still, with the government paying them so little for care in the government hospital, one can scarcely blame them.
On the way we stopped in at the Mangalick Emporium where I bought a 6 X 6 foot Indian handmade rug! Later we visited the Japanese Leprosy Hospital, a very interesting institution, and very nice! Yes, leprosy is still quite common in this area. Dinner that evening was with Doug Klemp.
Agra is a fairly big town, but really a very rural town.
These are cow manure patties to be used for fuel.
Saturday was a very special day as I was invited to A. C. Mangalick’s house (A. C. is another son of P. C. Mangalick) for a religious ceremony honoring their anniversary. The furniture had been taken out of the living room and guests sat on the carpet, ‘Indian Fashion!’ The ceremony was led by a holy man in front of a picture of Lord Vishnu, and involved flowers, rose petals, leaves, and grain. Red paste was put on the foreheads of the men by the holy man, while the women put the color on themselves. More and more people came during the two hours of chanting. Eventually there were about 200 people including many of the hospital staff. For me it was excruciating to sit without a backrest for two hours but I gather these people are used to it and seemed not to mind. At the conclusion of the chanting the holy man made a loud noise by blowing into a conch shell and we circled around the feted couple, sprinkling them with rose petals, which had been handed out to each of us.
We adjourned to the backyard where a huge canopy had been set up and where brunch was served. We ate on paper plates and also used banana-leaf bowls for a soupy vegetable dish, and had dal, bread, and several sweet things, all good. Our beverage was a pink milkshake with rose water—quite different for me!
That afternoon I visited the Taj Mahal, which is located only a block from the hospital. It really is the most beautiful building in the world, I think, and I never get tired of looking at it. It’s really quite a bit bigger than I had thought before I saw it for the first time in 1989. I was told that the minarets were deliberately designed to be four degrees from vertical, leaning outward, so if there were an earthquake that caused them to fall, they wouldn’t fall on the Taj and damage it. This building was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. There are two buildings, one on either side of the Taj, a mosque and jawab. The setting on the Jamuna River is idyllic.
I returned at dusk to photograph the Taj as the sun was setting.
On Sunday Doug Klemp and I hired a car and driver to take us to see the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri forty km from Agra. This city was built of pink stone in 1571 by Emperor Akbar, but had to be abandoned in 1585 because there was not a good water supply. The city is in near-perfect condition and very beautiful.
I shall be continuing with my assessment work at the hospital. It’s very hot here, but I’m enjoying it, and the people have been so kind to me!