Georgina Benison –
February 4th was World Cancer Awareness Day, and here in Muscat, a group of passionate volunteers within the Oman Cancer Association (OCA, a non-governmental, non-profit umbrella organisation) organised a weekend of events, awareness-raising and sheer celebration.
Many Muscateers will be aware and take part in the annual Pink Ribbon Walkathon which has taken place each October in al Qurm Park for the past seventeen years.
On Friday evening, thanks to the generosity and selfless dedication of Dr Rajyashree Kutty a charity dinner celebration under the banner-slogan, ’IAmAndIWill’ was presented in Grand Hyatt Gardens with all participants giving their time and talents free of charge.
The proceedings opened with some delightful violin duets to backing tracks, of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, Tchaikovsky’s, ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Waltz and ‘Sayyidy Qaboos’ arranged by Maestro Nasser al Kindi himself. Next up an extraordinary performance on Tamil water-pots (Jalatarangam), sounding like a gamelan, with its bell-like pentatonic tuning and syncopated rhythms, from Seetha Jayanthi from Madras, accompanied by Ullanoor on Mridhangam (South Indian dhol-drum).
A welcome to Dr Rajyashree Kutty was offered by her volunteer-daughter, Ambika, with the 2019-2021 maxim, ‘Survive Cancer-Be the Light’ of the Barakath Al Noor Clinic. Under the patronage of its chairman, Dr Wahid Ali al Kharusi, the OCA will host the Union for International Cancer Control in 2020. They are proud that from 200 countries, five thousand people will attend Congress in Muscat.
Najeem al Balushi enchanted the Hindi speakers with an acapella song, ‘Zindagi – Life’ and he gave a moving tribute to the worthy cause of the evening as, “cancer is a horrible disease and we should all fight it together”. As if to make his point clearer he sang a lively Bollywood favourite to a loud backing-track!
Thanks were extended by Ambika Kutty to the many volunteers from the Higher College of Technology al Khuwair who had done sterling work in making the event such a well-organised success.
The Chief Guest, HE Sarmila Parajuli, Ambassador of Nepal, was invited to the stage to speak. She said it was an honour and thanked Dr Rajyashree for inviting her to celebrate this cause very close to her heart. Her tireless care of Nepalese in Muscat is commendable; she is an inspirational icon with drive and perseverance, a single mother and studying for her Ph.D., along with her diplomatic role in the Sultanate!
Dr Rajyashree welcomed the special guest, Gautami Tadimalla as quite an exceptional, inspirational character – a cancer survivor, actress and mother. She spoke of her life in the film industry involved in over 130 films in five Indian languages, her career took a poignant turn when she was diagnosed with cancer. Her resolve and personality played a defining role in reclaiming her health and later she set up the “Life Again Foundation”. It aims to eradicate cancer through prevention and support, transforming education, agriculture/food and healthcare. Their motto, “One for one, we are there for everyone” works toward building a better tomorrow and better society. When she developed breast cancer Gautami began to speak openly about it in a country where the subject is almost taboo. People responded to her frankness, saying that she gave them the courage to be tested and seek appropriate medical advice. She praised the OCA for its work in the fight against cancer in Oman. It CAN be overcome; it IS treatable and one day it will be defeated.
The words were moving and reflected the work of HE Guest of Honour, Yuthar al Rawahi who did so much for women living outside Muscat. In the interior cancer is not spoken about, and so she began initiatives for OCA in 1999. Today the Pinky Promise states: “Regular check-up is the key to Early Detection; repeated regular examination gives early diagnosis, better prognosis and cure; Together we can make a difference”. OCA runs a mobile mammogram service which offers free screening to anyone who attends.
The felicitations before dinner included Maryam al Khalfan, who used to write health columns for many years in the Oman Observer.
The Late Mohsin Haider Darwish was responsible for developing a free app to detect breast cancer, for smartphones in Arabic and English. Rashida Kapasi, Director of Avon in Oman, one of the night’s sponsors, accepted the gift on his family’s behalf.
A quiet, unassuming lady, Ammu, was felicitated for her diligence in organising beach clean-ups every Friday morning and designing “re-bags” out of recycled materials. Vesak, an artist from Trivandrum held a live painting booth during the evening to share his considerable talent and raise funds for the charity.
The tributes and musical performances took centre stage during a delicious dinner buffet, with an extended Veena recital from three pink ladies: Jayanthi Ravichandran, Subha Raghuraman and Poorna Gomathisankaran, accompanied by Mridhangam.
After dinner the delightful fiddle duo, Nasser al Kindi and the talented young Fathma al Jabri continued their exhaustive repertoire with Offenbach’s, ‘Can-Can’, Best Day of My Life, Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’, ‘My Heart Will go on’ from The Titanic, ‘Despacito’, ‘Bella Ciao’ and ‘Jambo Bwana’ and so on until the dancing stopped. And because this was the World Cancer Day Celebration, not a whiff of cigarette smoke to detract from the garden’s lovely fresh air.