By LB THAPA FOR THE ONTOTHEROAD.COM
We have heard several stories of rags to riches. But Tirtha Awasthi does not fall in that league of super rich. However, he has still enormous wealth that is worth beyond any wealth. You might be wondering what sort of wealth I am talking about!
This is the wealth of all wealth…saving a precious life…how does he do that? Ok! He and his organization are committed to help those patients who need blood in emergency. His organization is so popular that when doctors get no blood from Red Cross Society, they turn to Nepal Voluntary Blood Donor’s Society.
Tirtha Awasthi, my guest today, is the president of Nepal Voluntary Blood Donor’s Society (NVBDS).
The slogan of Nepal Voluntary Blood Donor’s Society is “Not a single patient should die in the country due to lack of blood”.
At a time when Red Cross Society has lost its credibility and plagued in corruption, NVBDS has been shining with its selfless service by providing precious blood in time and saving the lives of many people.
When Tirtha Awasthi was deeply involved in blood collection and providing it to needy patients, he took up cycling seriously. This twist in his interest made many people, who knew him closely, surprised. However, he calmed down his friends and well-wishers by giving a valid logic for turning to the cycling. Today, Tirtha Awasthi is one of the finest cyclists of Nepal. He has been successfully executing two responsibilities together: arranging blood and cycling.
Tirtha Awasthi has already completed Mechi to Mahakali journey for two times with his mountain bike.
The other day ONTOTHEROAD had conversation with Tirtha Awasthi, where he talked at length about his life, service, struggle and some personal opinion regarding blood donation and cycling. Excerpt.
How was your childhood?
I am from Kanchanpur, Amraiya. I was born in poverty and grown up in poverty. My father was the only breadwinner in the family. We had little land with a thatched roof hut where five members of the family lived. I still remember we would have difficult time during the monsoon time.
Rain water would drip in from several places of the roof. We had no electricity connection at our house. In fact it was more a hut than a house. Up to the 8 standard I used to wear slipper, a pair of shoes was a luxury for me. A large wooden cupboard was the only family property, in which my father would keep medicines. My father was a pharmacist.
You had been to Kathmandu for further education. Is not it?
Yes, it is true. Actually I did not go to Kathmandu for the study purpose. I had been to Kathmandu to collect my CMA certificate. I had to get it from CTEVT, Bhaktapur. I had to stay in Kathmandu for about 45 days. Since I did not have enough money to stay in Kathmandu, I began doing some odd jobs to survive in Kathmandu. During that time I was living on a tight budget. I would walk most of the time and eat no snacks except heavy lunch.
Many times I would also skip dinner to save money. In the meantime, I wanted to develop a career in pharmacy, and about that time an opportunity came on my way. The first batch of Diploma in pharmacy had to begin in Kathmandu in 2004. I did apply for a birth and I got selected, but when I came to know about the annual tuition fee, I was almost fainted. It was Rs.35,000. Until then I had never seen even Rs.10,000 in front of me.
I met the campus chief and described him about my situation. After listening to my story like a wise owl, he refused to give me any discount. I was adamant instead…I wanted to study at any cost. But I could not ask money from my parents because I knew they did not have that much money. However, I am thankful to the campus chief for giving me three months time. I had to clear all dues within three months. Only god knows how I paid off the dues. Eventually, I completed the diploma in first division.
How did you happen to come to Pokhara?
After completing diploma in pharmacy, I was working in Kathmandu. In the meantime there was a vacancy announcement in a national newspaper, where a pharmacist required for Manipal Teaching Hospital, Pokhara. I came to Pokhara and applied for the job. They required only one employee, but there were over two dozen applicants. I had almost no hope to be selected. I passed through written test then interview.
My happiness knew no bound when I saw my name in the notice board. I had been appointed as a new pharmacist of Manipal Teaching Hospital. It was August 2010 when I received my appointment letter from Manipal Teaching Hospital. Since 2010 I have been living in Pokhara and will live in this city till I breathe my last.
When did you begin social activities?
I have personal attachment with poor and helpless people. I have already experienced poverty in my life… I know how better it is. I feel as if my heart would come out when I see people in trouble. I have seen many children, mothers and old people breathing their last due to not getting blood in time. Otherwise their lives could be saved only if we could provide them blood in time. I immediately took a vow; I will not let them die due to shortage of blood. About that time I decided to form an organization, which should collect blood for the patients who need them.
When I was thinking of forming an organization, I came to know about Prem Sagar Karmacharya. He is the only man who has donated blood most of the time in Nepal. Until now he has donated blood over 150 times. I went to Kathmandu and met him. I discussed with him and revealed my benevolent desire. I was very happy that he showed enormous trust upon me. Under Prem Sagar Karmacharya’s guidance, the first Kaski branch of Nepal Voluntary Blood Donor’s Society (NVBDS) came into existence on 6th February 2014.
There are some senior doctors like Dr. AL Sharma, Dr. Kadir Alam, Dr. Alok Sinha, Dr. Shahishsruta Basnet, Dr. Dipak Koirala, Dr.Sarina Rajbhandari, and Dr. Rishi Kumar Sherchan are the advisors of our organization. Today NVBDS has branches in 15 districts of Nepal.
You have also achieved a remarkable feat of success in cycling. Have you taken cycling professionally?
Actually there is an interesting story to tell about the cycling. My main interest is in blood donation; cycling came later in my life. In fact the organization was formed but this was not enough. The organization alone could not solve the shortage of blood. We need to be active by increasing the members of our organization.
I wanted to meet more people in person but how? This was a big question for me. About that time I read an article about Pushkar Shah, the legendary cyclist of Nepal. After reading the article my problem was solved. The next day I purchased a bicycle and declared myself a cyclist. Today, I am very glad to say that many people contact us when they are turned away by the Red Cross Society.
I can say firmly that for blood, people have more trust in our organization than Red Cross Society. In recent time Red Cross Society has sunk neck deep in corruption and losing credibility for which once they were famous for.
For spreading the message of blood donation and increasing the members of our organization, I use bicycle. Bicycle has made it possible to travel far and wide and meeting with different people. Wherever I go I spread the message of blood donation.
Also read: Cycling for INDO-NEPAL relationship.
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Your name stands first among the Pokhara cyclists. You have travelled more on bicycle than anyone in Pokhara. Am I right?
Yes, this is true. I am not doing cycling for making any records. I have to ride more to meet the people. So, I can educate them about the importance of blood donation. Generally, what I have realized in our conservative society, many people don’t have positive attitude towards blood donation.
They think that blood donation will cause them weakness and loss of energy. This is only a myth. This is my mission to convince the people that blood donation is rather healthy practice. Look at me I have already donated my blood for 46 times. I do regular cycling. Is there any sign of weakness in my body?
I have almost reached most of the popular destinations in the country. There are still a few places of great importance; I will visit those places in days to come.
Are you involved in any cycling related association?
In the past, I was involved in Cycle City Pokhara. I had to leave that organization because I was not satisfied the way the organization was run. Right now I am an active member of Kaski District Cycle Association (KDCA). This is a professional association which is devoted to promote cycling among the youths. There is no business and no politics involved in this organization.
Thank you very much for reading this interview. I hope you liked this interview. I will be glad if you make a constructive comment about this article. Your comment is highly appreciated.
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