“I am sorry for asking so many questions Norabhai, you must think I am quite silly” I said. “I like your questions” said Norabhai, “it broadens my mind”.
We were sitting outside in the courtyard of his home in Bhagadia, a Banni village in northern kutch. It was almost 6 in the evening and the cool breeze had just started to embrace us. Why do we have so many questions, so much noise inside of us and this need to know, I thought. And almost like if he read my mind, Norabhai continued to say “what one is asking are just queries, real questions can never be asked, they can only be observed.”
Bhagadia is a remote village located in the Banni grasslands, where the pastoral community of Norabhai live for most part of the year. Come monsoon, they pack their valuables and follow their cattle to a higher ground. Norabhai has built a “pucca” house for his family, but they continue to live in their shacks that they giggle and call “love boxes”. ” It is just easier to pack up and move” his wife added. The concrete house is used to receive their guests and store all their valuables.
Norabhai is a veterinarian and how he became one is an incredible story! A few years back, a “cow doctor” came to live and work with the cluster of villages in Banni. Inquisitive as he is by nature, Norabhai often tagged along while the doctor was “on duty”. He soon became the official driver and his motorcycle, “the ambulance”. They would be ready to go anytime, anywhere in the region. Norabhai learnt a lot by observing the cow doctor.
Kutch however, is a tough place to live in the summers, and it took the doctor not more than 2 months to “run away”! The second one who was appointed in replacement left in less than a month! In the meantime, Norabhai started filling in on “emergency calls”, he copied down the names and dosages written on the medicines and stored them neatly in his house. He later contacted an NGO, Sahjeevan in Bhuj where he expressed his desire to learn. With the help of the NGO, he soon established a veterinary unit and became the village’s official “cow doctor”!
Sahjeevan continues to assist him today with medical supplies and training programmes.
On that evening, before we sat down for tea, he took us on a visit to show his veterinary unit. Curious to see what he had set up, we followed him into his pucca house, and into a room where his motorbike stood proudly beside a 2-foot tall double door almirah, the sticker on it proudly announced ” The Veterinary Unit, Bhagadia, Kutch”.