It has been a while that I have been trying to get in touch with Jackie Shroff. He is the only one who has been officially chosen from India as the Ambassador for Thalassemia. This topic is very close to my heart. And extremely close to Jackie’s.
If via Jackie Shroff, Round Table India and Doctor Vijay Ramanan, one of the best in treating Thalassemia we can reach out to large numbers making people aware of Thalassemia, my soul will be at peace.
Thalassemia a blood disorder, unfortunately, is increasing in large numbers. Firstly people are ignorant. Secondly, the larger problem is that the illness carries a large stigma. People are reluctant to screen their blood or even accept that they could be suffering from Thalassemia.
“Why does it have to be so? It is a blood disorder. It is genetic!” said Jackie Shroff with a hint of desperation in his voice.
To once again reiterate, Thalassemia is a blood disorder that is genetic. There are 2 streams-thalassemia minor and thalassemia major. Thalassemia major needs a blood transfusion or bone marrow transplant. Both are very expensive treatments. If a Thalassemia minor marries a Thalassemia minor they give birth to a Thalassemia major”
Eventually the meeting with Jackie Shroff
So finally I met Jackie. We traveled to the airport to fetch him. It was decided we would talk in the car. However, the cosmic had other plans for the moment. Travel we did to Karve road as he had to attend a wedding there. Mr. Lalit Pittie and I traveled in Mr. Pittie’s car whilst Jackie Shroff traveled in his with a Marathi co-star in his vehicle. They had to discuss a script.
“Oh dear! Once again I am going to miss the chance of talking to him.” I muttered to myself.
But Jackie was true to his word. He attended the wedding for only 10 min and of course the rest of his time was mine. Imagine my glee.
He came in our car and we drove off to a quieter part of the city and on the roads of Pune in the car we spoke.
“Jackie, or should I call you Mr. Shroff? “
“Call me anything you like. Jackie, Jay, Jaggu, Charsi, Lambu, Kennedy ( I have no idea why Kennedy) Jaggu Dada. All saw different perspectives of me.”
Why not HERO? I kept wondering.
As we began our conversation Jackie Shroff’s eyes were focused on a bike that had a family of 4. Two children and their parents. He lovingly drew their attention. A man full of love for kids. “They are so cute.” He said.
“You love kids a lot I see. You love your son very much.” A pregnant silence.
“Which father does not love his son?”
I felt foolish for a second and so explained why I said so.
“You were in an interview with him on Coffee with Karan. You kept holding his hand. Patting his Back. You put your arm around him.”
“I wanted to tell him to be comfortable during the interview.”
Giving moral support to his boy on National TV. Jackie Shroff was oblivious of how people would interpret the gesture. He just wanted his son to feel comfortable. This is Jackie for you. Always concerned about the other person’s comfort.
This is my HERO. And I have plenty of reasons to say so
Jackie Shroff as the Ambassador for Thalassemia.
Thalassemia India has signed Jackie Shroff as their Ambassador.
“What I am doing now is talking to all the unions…rickshaw, taxi, and bus. Spreading the word about Thalassemia, and gearing them up to get their blood screened.”
Jackie Shroff has also asked them to put posters on their vehicles in order to create a visual impact, as we all know how this pattern works the best.
“Via the unions, I will be able to reach a large percentage of people. They are my workforce. After which I will work with the sex workers. They need to know that whenever they want kids they should go in for blood tests.”
Jackie is also making a song to alert the young minds because they are the target audience now.
“I am making a song on Thalassemia with a focus on the kids going to SUNBURN. The sunburn kind of crowd will soon be getting married. This is the crowd we need to focus on. 65% of the youth is where we should be reaching.”
He has a large following of 1 lack and so does his son and daughter, on Instagram. Social media is what he is going to use to awaken the multitude to get up and address Thalassemia.
Jacke Shroff also mentioned Round Table India. He is the Ambassador for Round Table India. Jackie wants to make use of this time to make a marked difference in the lives of several needy people. Round Table India a non -profit making organization works selflessly on noble causes.
Jackie will be addressing the crowd in Yerawada an area that Atul Chordia plans to refurbish.
The Courage within
I asked him a pertinent question.
“Thalassemia has a stigma attached to it. The men certainly don’t want to think they could be responsible for their child being born Thalassemia minor or major. It is conveniently blamed on the women. So how do you think they will listen to you. Is it because you are a celebrity that your voice will be heard?”
“I am going to talk about my wife. How she had to take an injection so that our second child would be safe and we would have a normal child. When it is genetic the first child could be ok. The second child could have issues. The doctor will be able to explain better if you have this disorder running in the family why does one need to take the injection and how it helps.”
“I am going to tell people that they should not be ashamed of this. That it is a genetic disorder.”
He then spoke of Ms.Majhetia an 80-year-old woman who at this age collected a crore of rupees to buy a machine to help in the screening of Thalassemia. Unfortunately, the machine lies idle in a hospital with no one to operate it. There are no technicians who know how to operate the machine. What Irony!
It is this kind old lady who actually introduced him to help people who suffer from Thalassemia. She has now told him to bring him a unit of hundred people and she will get their blood screened. People are wary to get their blood screened as the screening of the blood is costly. It is a process. The screening first starts with taking a Complete Blood Count which should be read correctly by the doctor. After which on determining the issue, further screening is done. Those tests fall expensive… in the range of Rs.1500 to Rs.2500. People from the lower strata find it challenging.
The Government can certainly help
The government needs to step in here and do something about this. Many children are dying of Thalassemia, and many are taking birth.
Doctor Vijay Ramanan has already gone to the Rajya Sabha to meet with the Health Minister. Jackie Shroff is soon going also to take this matter further ahead.
Together we can do wonders
I asked Jackie if he would be willing to meet with Dr. Vijay Ramanan and the two together could work collectively on this issue. He was only too willing and excited.
Jackie Shroff also mentioned how the association in Delhi although 17 years old has not been able to reach far on this subject. This is saddening to see such slackness on their part.
Mr. Lalit Pittie who was silent till now then asked if a press conference could help in reaching out to a larger audience. Jackie was in favor of such a move. Raising funds for a screening of the blood would be a challenge stated Mr. Pittie. Jackie Shroff was of a different opinion.
Jackie Shroff said “Take the initiative”
He stated the example of the organization PAANI. Amir Khan began all on his own and today has grown to 5000 people looking after 5000 villages. They help conserve water. According to Jackie Shroff, Round Table India could initiate the process as there are well-settled people in the organization. If each one donated a small sum, it being a national organization having tablers all around India, collectively they would be able to save the lives of a few children. He surprised me with his immediate calculation.
Say there are 300 tablers all over, and if each tabler donates Rs. 50,000, we will have collected 1 crore 50 lakhs. A bone transplant costs 15 lakhs. Imagine how many children we would have saved with this?
He has asked the PAANI organization to share the data of the villages as this would help him reach out to them.
Round Table India to screen children
Mr. Lalit Pittie once again stated that the organization would help in screening the blood of the children in the schools that they have adopted. Jackie with his brilliant ideas suggested that Round Table India should do this screening all over India on one day. It would create a larger impact.
He also suggested if this was a big challenge, the screening could be done area wise.
Jackie Shroff also stated we should get in touch with bigger names and organizations such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.
He spoke of Vipul Mitra an IAS officer who has asked him to be the face in Gujarat for Traffic. He was the one who selected Amitabh Bachan for Tourism. He said that he would align the two. Issues on Traffic and Thalassemia.
Jackie Shroff- An Idea can change your Life
His work does not stop here. He is a man who lays in front of you ideas that benefit the society. Alas, there are only a few who take recognition and implement those ideas.
One of them is teaching First Aid to school children in the 9th and 10th, and above all to people in the rural areas.
“What do you do when your father gets a heart attack?”
“What do you do when your bone is broken?”
“If you get electrocuted what do you do?”
“What do you do when you get burnt”
“If you get chocked what do you do?”
The questions just poured. There was a sudden seriousness in his voice. Apparently, he had experienced this chocking twice in his life. It is only when we experience things in our lives are we aware of the consequences.
“That is why it is necessary to remain quiet when eating.”
He has begun working on sound pollution. “It leads to the hardening of the artery.” That came as a shocker. Wish we had more time to understand better about this.
By now we had reached the highway to Mumbai. It was time to say our byes. But then again his parting lines were on the bright light that hits our face when the mobile is on or for that matter the light emanating from the computer or the studying at nights for long hours in the bright light.
He said spread the message…Wear shades. Protect the eyes from bright light. It damages the pupils. It also damages the skin, developing freckles on the face.
Are we listening?
We stepped out of the car and his response to my wanting to click a picture with him was-
“Let’s take a selfie.”
His compassionate heart did not allow him to ignore Lalit Pittie’s driver, who stood waiting silently in the hope of taking a selfie with the HERO.