By Palanisamy Vijayanand
Cyclone Nilam was merely concluding its devastating dance of fury when the northeast monsoon started a fresh version of its own. The incessant rain had relentlessly battered Krishna district in the run up to the first Traveling Pain School. While it was pouring down like it was no one else’s business, it did not make the slightest dent in the preparations at Vijayawada. The Indian Society of Anaesthesiologists at Vijayawada had taken great pride in conducting the pilot project. They went ahead with the arrangements systematically. It was a team effort. Everyone’s business. The place isn’t called ‘Vidyala-wada’ for no reason.
The ultimate pilgrim, a monk and a scholar, the young Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang) in his seventeen year overland journey to India, visited Vijayawada to learn sacred texts it is believed. As faculty, we too would learn from this virgin effort, we thought. Considerable distances need to be traveled to do that. We had started from Tirupati, Nellore, Hyderabad and Guntur. The deluge which caused the cancellation of most modes of transport did not deter us. On our way, there were long discussions on how best to take forward the gains from the Traveling Pain School. The senior as well as the junior members of the faculty were excited. Getting past the Kondapalli reserve forest, we were putting together and finalising the points raised during the discussion. The iconic Prakasam Barrage could be seen from a distance and the Kanaka Durga temple at the foothills of Indrakeeladri welcomed us. There were glimpses of the massive river Krishna in spate. This was the ‘crossing the Rubicon’ moment for the fledgling programme. The die has truly been cast.
The delegates, close to a hundred of them, comprised of post-graduate students and practicing physicians have traveled from afar. A brief inaugural ceremony was followed by inspiring, informative and interactive talks. There was humour. There was passion. The talks were remarkably researched and exquisitely delivered, weaving together the great many domains of pain into a holistic understanding. The senior colleagues, not to be left out, gracefully chipped in by chairing the sessions and getting the programme flow seamlessly. The lunch break was an important opportunity for the faculty to interact with the delegates. The informal chit-chats covered a spectrum of issues. Setting up regional pain centers, recent developments in pain, training opportunities, redoubling the advocacy efforts, starting a conversation with policy makers, Global year against Visceral Pain, The Declaration of Montréal (access to pain management is a fundamental human right), and getting around the ground level difficulties in setting up pain centers – all came up for discussion. There was a closely contested multiple choice question test for the delegates. Out of the received test papers, there were more than half-a-dozen post-graduates with similar high scores. They were all awarded. Typical generosity from ISA Vijayawada.
Mark Twain in Innocents Abroad (1869) wrote ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness… Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’ As faculty, we acquired some learning too. We would like to thank many for our learning. The hospitality and cordiality of ISA Vijayawada, the generosity of sponsors, the collegiality of faculty, and the perceptivity of post-graduates – we accepted them all with humility. As faculty, we have done our homework with regards to needs assessment, but there was more to be done. The gentle suggestions from senior colleagues with a pat on the back during coffee, the honest feedback forms, and the inspired post-graduates curious about hands-on training – all made us revisit the curriculum. The post-CME evaluation was a time for reflection. ‘We cannot learn without pain,’ Aristotle said. It was him who also observed ‘Well begun is half done.’ There was a feeling that we have begun well. The programme, however, needs to be polished further. We bade adieu, with a resolve to make the next edition of Traveling Pain School at Karimnagar a shinier improvement.