Some of you know Neerad as Po, for his impressions of Kung-Fu Panda's inner peace and other matching personality traits. :) Some know the songs he would sing to honor birthdays and anniversaries, or the bicycle pilgrimage
he recently undertook to empower rural farmers, or his anchoring of retreats like Startup Service
, or his abundant laughs and jolly nature, or his hugs. :) Some might know his history
Neerad was working at a big MNC with 300 people working under him; one fine day, he was given a mandate to layoff more than a hundred of them. “It was completely inhumane, but that somehow didn’t matter in the hierarchy.” It forced him to ask deeper questions, like “What is the DNA of an institution where ‘work is love made visible’?” “How can work environments be seen as a space for transformation?” “What are the personal practices that we can cultivate so we can be good trustees in our leadership positions?”
Our beloved Po, and my beloved husband, was diagnosed with CML (chronic myloid leukemia) a few years ago and was put on immuno-suppressant therapy. As luck would have it, we recently discovered that the medication that was to support him for next 20 years has weaned off in 4 years and now there is no medication available for the new gene mutation he developed.
Going through this process has been a crash course in understanding a lot of things about RNA’s and DNA’s and more. At one stage, a molecular biologist explained that a certain report would take 20 days since the RNA strands or cells are so sensitive that even if you whisper near the sample, its property changes! Hearing this, the insight that came in that very moment was in our body there are millions of RNA’s that are so sensitive and when we go through our emotional highs and lows at each point they may be changing their properties leading to so much more in our systems that is beyond our imagination! Phew…the mystic world that is within all of us.
After the rigmarole of reports, we understood that the only solution to the said condition was doing a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT). And through that diagnosis, the whole universal design started opening up for us.
During my Bhav Yatra
, in Kerala, I had visited Anandashram and met this couple Ramraj Appa and Sharadaamma whose son was a hemato-oncologist in Pune -- Dr. Kannan. So we connected with him to get his insights on the reports and it turned out he's at one of two hospitals in the entire country that has started doing Bone Marrow Transplants! (Other being CNC Vellore.) That was the first blessing -- to be connected to the hospital, but also to have a doctor who is grounded in values of Anandashram
. When we first met him, little did we know that this doctor knew of our connection to service and so he refuses all consulting fees from us right from day 1!! When Po asked him about naturopathic treatment, which is always his preferred route, Dr. Kannan, looks straight at him and says, "For a person like you, my suggestion is to get better in a year’s time and contribute to the world for next 20 years." He smiles with a wink. Dragon warrior Po understands and surrenders.
The next step in the unfolding was meeting another such blessed connection -- Ayurveda expert, Dr.Mahesh. When we were in middle of reports, I was feeling quite fearful and helpless, that no amount of meditation would help. So I sought help of Pavi in understanding her practices while working with Viral
. So we did a skype call and also connected us with Dr. Mahesh. It turns out that he was local to our city, Pune, had heard Nipun-bhai speak on seva
years ago and was also Geet
’s teacher at Vedika Global in the US. We meet him and discover that Po’s medication for next 2 months was already paid for!! Both the doctor and Po were sharing their surprise over the whole thing and Dr. Mahesh became curious about how things worked at ServiceSpace. :) You can imagine our smiles. :) So we connect Maheshji with one of five weekly Awakin Circles in Pune
-- at Aabha’s home in Baner. Since then, he not only attends regularly but in absence of the host, he has started to anchor the circle (with another friend Jagruti!). All these ripples, in just a couple of weeks.We were counting the blessings that were still flowing with it.
During this whole period, friends around the globe were helping us. Guri-di and Zilong
(who was in a Laddership Circle
with Po) found a very gifted Chinese herbalist -- Dr. Henry
-- to explore Chinese medication. In just a couple of days, we knew what to buy and from where (thanks to SSp friends like Victor
) ... but due to our lack of understanding of its usage, we avoided it as risky. But even in that process, Zilong’s mom, a doctor all the way in China, helped us get to this specialized information very swiftly (which, otherwise, would've taken a lot of time).
In parallel, we also got started on finding an HLA match for doing the bone marrow transplant. Siblings have the highest chance of a match, after which family members drop to something like 5% chance and everyone else is 1%. And even with matches, its progressive -- in that there are 12 HLA markers, and you could be 6 out of 12, or 7 out of 12, and it would be considered a match.
Enter Po’s sister from Kolkatta, Jhanvi
, who is another dragon warrior of the family. She came ready to serve in all ways, as if her motto is, "If my life is not useful to my brother then it’s a waste." She turns out a perfect match. 12 out of 12. We were told that is an extremely rare scenario, but it made for a strong green signal for BMT procedure. Jhanvi is a donor in all aspects of the word -- from her bone marrow to hospital costs to anything else that was required.
As we are readying for the BMT procedure that begins next week, more people are joining the "save Po" campaign through prayers, meditations, physical support, financial support. It's just endless … we truly can't keep track. One young couple with a 4 month baby offered their baby’s stem cells for Po, in case it was a match. Those moments of generous intent still overwhelm me, every time I think about it.
Oh, one more ripple to share. Through Smita-ben and Drishti foundation
, last year, I have been offering workshops (on bringing compassion to the workplace) at a Health Care NGO called Samavedana
. It happens to be an offshoot of the same hospital where Po is going to be treated! By the end of last year, Preeti -- CEO of Samavedana -- and I had become friends and so naturally she heard about Po’s treatment at Sahyadri hospital. In a couple of days, she calls me to inform that Samavedana is raising funds for him!! My first response, as a typical bad receiver, is an emphatic “NO”. But then I finally find my courage to share with Preeti that we do have an arrangement and that funds can be paid-forward for people who are not supported in any way. It was a very touching gesture.
Through all these events and experiences, one thing that became clear was the universal grand design that we were a part of! My pilgrimage leading us to the doctor, Pavi’s reference to Doctor Mahesh who is now attending Awakins at Baner, my workshops with Samavedana over the last year who are now supporting us, Po connecting with Zillong through Laddership Circles who then helped us via his mom in China. The beauty of the universal consciousness, and connectedness, unraveled itself through this testing and uncertain times. All along, we have been enveloped in grace.
On March 12th, Po walks into the hospital. The next week, Jhanvi (his bone marrow donor) is admitted, and from 17th to 20th, they'll start the stem cell transplant. For a few more weeks, Po will stay quarantined at the hospital, and then for another three months at home. If all goes well, as our doctor friend told us, he'll be back to contributing more smiles to the world. :)
We bow down in deep gratitude to every being, known and unknown, who has been our guardian angel. Love you all … love you all.