Early next month, I start work with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in Jahangir Puri, a slum area in North Delhi, at their new sexual and gender based violence clinic, Umeed Ki Kiran. The contract is for a minimum of 12 months.
From the clean air and pleasant climate of South Luangwa in July, I will be moving to a city with appalling air pollution in the middle of the humid rainy season in August. There are more people crammed into the Indian capital than there are in the whole of Zambia. I remember returning to London following my first visit to India in 1978. It was just before Christmas and the shoppers were out in force. But after struggling with the masses of humanity at Connaught Circus in Delhi, London seemed bizarrely empty, even with the crowds in Oxford Street.
Instead of seeing leopards and lions in their natural habitat, the animals I am most likely to come across are rats and other vermin infesting the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Asia, which is close to the clinic. I admit that I would quite like to see some tigers, however.
So why am I doing it? This is a natural extension of my work in MSF Matsapha at the SGBV clinic but in a totally different context. Although I have all the clinical skills required, the new job will be mainly supporting, advising, training, teaching and coaching local health workers. MSF wants to demonstrate how to provide a world class service for survivors of sexual violence, raising awareness and acting as a catalyst for change. And I relish a challenge.
I will miss the direct clinical interaction with patients (though I intend to apply for a medical licence in India). I could have volunteered to work as a doctor in Northern Myanmar with MSF, but at this time in my career, I feel I need to pursue a slightly different path.
Because of the highly sensitive nature of the project, I do not intend to continue writing a blog about my work. But I may be tempted to write about everyday life in Delhi, with a few photographic illustrations. Watch this space.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my loyal readers. I think it is life affirming to write about the humour which I see in my everyday experiences, regardless of the endless frustrations and inevitable cock ups of working in developing nations. I hope I have entertained you with my quirky view of life working as a doctor overseas.