Imagine living in the shadows of a world that's slowly fading away. Meet Dukhlal Tharu, a 44-year-old resident of Banke District in Nepal, who has been grappling with cataract blindness for over a year now. His story serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by individuals in remote areas with limited access to healthcare.
In June 2023, our dedicated teams partnered with the Fatehbal Eye Hospital to organise a screening camp in Dukhlal's village. This event was a ray of hope for Dukhlal, who, with each passing day, saw his vision deteriorating. At the camp, his eyes were examined, revealing the cruel truth—he had cataracts and urgently needed surgery.
But there was a heartbreaking twist to this story. Dukhlal, like so many others in his position, didn't have the financial means to undergo the crucial surgery that could restore his sight. He shared his financial plight with our medical team. However, relief soon washed over him when he was informed that his treatment would be entirely free of charge.
Plans were set in motion for Dukhlal to join a group of patients from his village scheduled for surgery. However, on the appointed day, he was conspicuously absent. Concerned for his well-being, our team visited his home to uncover the reason behind his absence.
There, Dukhlal revealed the harsh dilemma he faced. His reluctance to undergo surgery stemmed from his immense responsibilities. He is not only the pillar of support for his family of four but also the provider during the monsoon season when he works tirelessly in the fields. The income he earns during this critical period is what puts food on their table. The thought of needing to rest for a few weeks after surgery was a luxury he simply could not afford.
His mother and wife echoed his sentiments, voicing their concerns about their family's survival. It was a desperate situation, one where the immediate need for sustenance clashed with the long-term prospect of regaining sight.
Mr Umer Sadiq from the Fatehbal Eye Hospital valiantly tried to counsel Dukhlal and his family. He understood their predicament but also knew the importance of Dukhlal's vision. However, despite his best efforts, they remained steadfast in their decision.
Dukhlal's mother asked a haunting question, one that encapsulates the stark choices faced by those living on the margins: "What will we eat for the whole year?"
Realising that Dukhlal was caught in an agonising predicament, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation proposed a solution. They urged him to complete his work in the fields first, which would likely be in September after the fields had been sown. It was a compromise, a delicate balance between immediate survival and the long-term hope of restoring his vision.
Dukhlal Tharu's story is not unique. It symbolises the struggles of countless individuals in similar situations. This tale calls upon us to raise awareness about the challenges faced by people like Dukhlal, to work towards solutions that bridge the gap between pressing daily needs and essential healthcare, and to ensure that no one has to make such heart-wrenching choices.
Together, we can make a difference and bring light into the lives of those living in the shadows of darkness.
Find out more about Tej Kohli: Tej Kohli the technologist investing in human triumph, Tej Kohli the philanthropist trying to cure the developing world of cataracts and Tej Kohli the London tycoon with a generous streak.