Visiting the KLL Regional Clinics by Eliza Davis

by tuftsigl
Sep 08

I’m nearing the end of my internship with Kashmir LifeLine, and have now visited four of the five regional clinics. Sadly, I will not have time to visit the Sub District Hospital at Charar-i-Sharief, but I have been to the District Hospital at Shopian, the Trauma Hospital at Kangan, and the District Hospitals of Baramulla and Anantnag.

            Although Kashmir LifeLine is based in Srinagar, Kashmir’s capital, Monday through Thursday members of the team leave the office, traveling in pairs to different regional hospitals. Each team visits the same clinic every week and has developed relationships with doctors, hospital staff, and returning patients. The set-up changes greatly by hospital, and so visiting each one was a different experience.

            I first went to Anantnag, arriving rather late after stopping by the Srinagar office in the morning. After years of forced curfews, which made travelling past dark an often-fatal exercise, everything in Kashmir shuts down early. I had to be back in Srinagar by four, giving me only an hour or so at the clinic. As I walked through the hallways, patients, family members, and staff stared, turning their heads to follow my progress. What was a young white woman doing walking alone through their hospital? Outside the counseling room, Kashmiris sat in a line of plastic chairs. A young man in a white lab coat stood outside the door, staring at me with everyone else as I approached. “Is Farrouz here?” I asked uncertainly. He looked down, as if afraid to meet my eye. “Yes, ma’am.” He stuck his head into the door and almost immediately Farrouz, a senior member of the team, emerged.

            He and Bisma were in charge at Anatnag, and they had been given two rooms for their sessions, each one with a psychiatrist who was separated from the counseling area by a curtain. I was allowed to sit in on the sessions (after Bisma and Farrouz assured the patients I didn’t speak any Kashmiri) and observed one client with each of them. I spoke to the resident psychologist and watched Bisma hold the hand of very distraught woman who, Bisma later explained, was scared of everything from her children, to her husband, to her front yard.  

            Each hospital was different—at Kangan, Nazia and Saika had been given a building down the road from the hospital, near the maternal care area. It was one room up a staircase with a single light bulb, peeling paint, and a calendar from 2007. I thought it looked like an interrogation room, but Nazia explained that its distance from the hospital allowed more discretion for clients and gave them a greater sense of privacy.

The day I visited Shopian, there was a shoot out nearby, so the clinic had a slow day. I went with a research student from Yale, and after leaving the clinic, we were surrounded by a crowd of around 30 Kashmiris, all wondering what we were doing there. Were we journalists? Photographers?

While the conditions at each clinic differed greatly, the counselors at each hospital were equally patient, compassionate, and dedicated. It was a privilege to get to work with them.

Add new comment