“Greatest Service To God”: Muslim Man From Assam Breaks Ramzan Fast To Donate Blood To Hindu Stranger

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Panaullah Ahmed’s name has been etched permanently in people’s hearts for the blazing precedent of humanity he has set across. The young man from Mangaldoi, Assam decided to break his sacred Roza (Ramzan fast) for donating blood to a stranger and saving his life in turn, reports News18.

The incident

Ahmed, along with his friend and roommate Tapash Bhhagawati is a part of the popular Facebook group ‘Team Humanity – Blood Donors & Social Activists in India’, which is very active in arranging donors for emergency blood requests from patients across the country. Both of them are regular blood donors.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

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On May 8, Bhhagawati received a call through the group about a patient who was in urgent need of B-positive blood. Ranjan Gogoi, a Hindu man from Dhemaji district of Assam needed one unit of blood during a critical surgery at Apollo Hospitals, Guhawati.

Though Ahmed shares the same blood group, Bhhagawati chose to contact a few other donors since his friend was observing the fast of the holy month. “…I received a phone call about a patient from Dhemaji who underwent surgery for the removal of a tumour. I contacted a few donors but nobody was available,” Bhhagawati revealed to TIME8.

Ahmed chose humanity over religion

Fortunately, Ahmed overheard Bhhagawati’s conversation over the phone, searching desperately for a B-positive blood donor. More than anything, he wanted to save the man. Without delay, Ahmed contacted a few members of his community inquiring if there are any religious provisions or complications to donate blood during Roza fast.

“They said I can donate blood but might fall ill and my fast will all go in vain. It was then, I decided to break my fast and donate blood,” he shared with TIME8.  Ahmed believes that donating blood and saving a life is the greatest service to God that one can do. Though a devoutly religious man, humanity triumphs above everything for Ahmed. He also urges every healthy person to adopt the practice of donating blood to lives in need.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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