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Vision set on a better tomorrow

being the daughter of the late G.K. Saraf — mayor of Calcutta, Padmashri and winner of the B.C. Roy award — has not weighed Rajni Rampuria down. The soft-spoken mother of two boys is an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon, with her own practice, Eye Pavilion, on Little Russell Street. Every morning, from 10 am to 12 noon is free-clinic time, and even otherwise, only patients who have the power to pay are asked to do so.

The graduate of Calcutta Medical College went into practice with her illustrious father after completing her studies, and started off independently in 1992, after his death. “I wanted to be a psychiatrist once,” she smiles. “But ever since I was a child, I used to go to the clinic with my father. I loved watching him work. I decided I wanted to be an eye surgeon when I was very little, and I have never been unhappy with it.”

The numerous free eye-check up camps she conducts every year keeps her going, from city slums to remote villages, from Kalighat to Kidderpore, from Burdwan to Bihar. About 100 cataract patients have microsurgery performed on them in each camp, since 95 per cent of those who turn up are cataract victims, says Rampuria.

The camps are funded by Rotaries, individuals and organisations, anyone that Rampuria can motivate. If not, then the money comes from the G.K. Saraf fund, set up in honour of her father. The same goes for complicated surgeries on patients who cannot afford it. On the cards for January 12, her father’s birthday, is a free camp for over 150 patients coming from remote areas to her clinic.

“Blindness and cataract, due to a variety of reasons, from malnourishment to unhygienic lifestyles, are rampant in the villages. These diseases are on the rise, and not enough is being done to check the problem. I am doing my bit, but it’s just a drop in the ocean,” she explains. “In fact, this year, due to a spread of some infectious disease, the government has not allowed us to go to the villages. So, we had to get people from there and conduct camps here. Hopefully, this will change next year.”

Another project close to Rampuria’s heart is check-up camps in schools. “We conduct a lot of camps in schools, including Loreto House, Don Bosco and Assembly of God Church. The authorities are very supportive. We nearly always find some children with eye power, who have no idea about it and neither do their parents,” she says.

Juggling work and family is not hard, Rampuria points out, because “they understand”. Besides, she is “not very social” and so all her free time is spent with the family. “But neither of my sons (one of whom is a squash champ at 16) wants to be a doctor. They see how hard we work all the time,” she concludes.

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