Friday, October 05, 2007


As soon as we reached the North Rim we were craving calories! I didn't speak a word. It was real cold. But, even before I got the coat out, I got the pulihara (mixed rice) and started hogging! A banana later I was still hungry. But, I was not moving anywhere. It was cold and I felt unusually lazy or just tired. Thankfully Gaurav and Vinod were still in their senses and planned to get to a restaurant or canteen to get more food. We were desperate and had to hitch a ride. Thanks to a couple of caring girls we got a ride to the Restaurant. I had some pizza and hot chocolate. As Gaurav and Vinod got sandwhiches and packed more pizza for Padma and Ganesh, I stole a nap for few minutes. That really helped! We got a ride back to the North Rim and this time I chatted with the couple who gave us the ride. We explained how crazy we were and kind of scared them. Nevertheless they were nice people who gave us a ride as soon as we asked! We met Padma and Ganesh just in time. We didn't give them much time to rest and as they ate the pizza we started moving down. Within a mile down from the North rim, I seemed to have got some energy from somewhere! The calories probably started kicking in! All of us picked up pace and I kind of started going fast. The downhills were the steepest we would be doing and I let myself loose. This was a nice fast stretch as I passed folks who were coming up while giving me weird looks! Soon, I was running by myself and at one point I took a rather difficult turn. I stopped for breath and peeped over the edge. I realized that it was a steep fall right to the bottom of the canyon! Inspired, I started going at a steady pace and reached Cottonwood at around 2:15 PM. Arun was waiting there. He had a nice break, dipped in the creek and was chatting with our favorite ranger. The ranger was very helpful and gave food, tips and entertainment! The rest of the folks joined. We kind of had a long break here. Padma was struggling a bit and it was not her day. But, you can't expect the first Indian woman 100 miler to give up! She was smiling through all of this and I felt inspired. We left for Phantom ranch. Again, this was a downhill stretch. In my mind I knew there was just a long walk back home left. So, I wanted to fly on this one. Most of this stretch was in the shade of the Canyons and it felt very good to run. A bunch of hikers even cheered me as I mowed along to Phantom Ranch. Gaurav and Vinod were not too far away and joined me in a few minutes.

Slowly help started flowing for the Banyan. The state government recognized their effort and gave them a piece of land. The Banyan struggled to make a permanent home to guarantee the survival of its residents and the organization itself. Today the building bustles with activity. A cheerful staff handle the various tasks. There is nothing melancholy about the place. Their cheer is infectious. Communication, documentation, fund raising, house keeping, public and staff relations are all up to date arts. The brisk efficiency marks it out as a new generation service organisation. They passionately defended the system of sending medicines by post to all the rehabilitated former residents of The Banyan across the country. Deep down however, they realised that The Banyan after care system was flawed in scalability and viability. That valuable realisation matured The Banyan overnight from a service provider to a solution finder. The Community Mental Health wing of The Banyan took root. Till date they have found it impossible to say 'no' at The Banyan to people who have no other options. With The Banyan's population explosion came the realisation that growth didn't mean seeding more Banyans.The bigger picture that took shape with the various Outreach Programmes was missing the vital jigsaw bit - more people. More involvement. More responsibility. The Dial 100 Helpline - became the branch of The Banyan that showed the way ahead. The Banyan promises long term financial sustainability with a CafĂ©, Organic Spa, Crafts & Clothes Boutique and village tourism. The Spice Route is backed by Socially conscious organisational supporters of The Banyan mission and run by spunky members of Vizhuthugal - The Banyan self-help group of recovered residents. “The Zero Inventors” - eco products made from recycled waste are going to be added to the vocational products unit. Research is finally coming into its own at The Banyan Resource Centre. Physicians and therapists are on call. Banyan uses an eclectic bouquet of treatments to bring their wards --they call them 'residents'-- back to this world. They use occupational activities, performing arts, picnics, pranic healing and whatever else that shows promise. And of course loads of love and patience. Beyond all that of course looms drug therapy. Drugs may be required life long and it is Banyan's policy to reach supplies to wherever, forever. In about six months, most residents are well and raring to go home. They beseech Banyan that they be taken at the earliest.

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