Indian Hospital Revisited

India, with its 1.2 billion people, is astoundingly diverse in virtually every aspect of social life – ethnic, linguistic, regional, economic, religious, class and caste.

As a filmmaker, I am fascinated by my country’s ability to find harmony in so much diversity.

I wanted to tell the story of an India that belongs to each and every one of those 1.2 billion. And what better place to do that than a hospital that treats people from every section of society? A place where illness is an equaliser.

We chose Narayana Health because it is one of those Indian stories that brings the country’s differences together in one place. It is a microcosm and, for me, the hospital became not only my film set, but also a character in itself.

In 2011, we spent four months at Narayana, shooting 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and ended up producing six films – our original Indian Hospital series. We met a variety of characters from all walks of life, who told us their incredible stories.

In late 2013, we decided to revisit those characters.

But why revisit a story?

After finishing the first series, I had kept in regular touch with our characters. Over two years, many of their stories took the most unexpected turns. I waited until I felt our original series began to feel like a half-told story. And then I had no option but to continue our journey with the people we had met back in 2011.

India spends less than one percent of its GDP on healthcare. Public healthcare is almost non-existent. Indian households shoulder about 80 percent of the country’s total healthcare burden from their own pockets. This is astonishing, because seven out of 10 Indians live on less than $2 per day. For these people, Narayana offers hope.

I was born and raised in one of India’s most remote villages. People in my village have died of completely curable illnesses, because medical help was hard to reach or afford.

My own grandfather and uncle passed away, on their way to the nearest hospital, which was 50km away. These experiences make Indian Hospital an incredible journey for me.

When I saw people with threadbare clothing, who could not afford food or a home, coming to Narayana and not being treated as outcasts, it gave me hope; especially since right beside them, shoulder-to-shoulder, were some of India’s richest.

Published by Gautam Singh

Gautam Singh is an independent film-maker, writer, director and a program-maker at Al Jazeera Media Network. His films include ‘Gaon – The Village No More’, 'India's Offside Girls', ‘Daughters of Brothel’, ‘The Burning City’, ‘Indian Hospital’, and ‘My Sister Laxmi’. Currently, he lives in Doha, Qatar along with his family.

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