WELCOME TO PADHAR
The following are some notes that may help you orientate, settle into Padhar more quickly and easily, and to find your way round.
Padhar is a small village on National Highway 69, which runs through Betul District in MP. It lies approximately 20 km from Betul town, the administrative centre of the district. In Betul, there is a small railway station, a government hospital, administrative offices and many small shops in 2 main areas, known as Bazaars. It is a very busy, crowded town.
Padhar village lies half a kilometre from the hospital. There is a market every Saturday and some small shops along the road between the village and the hospital. The road past the hospital is busy with many trucks, buses, motorbikes, cycles, bullock carts, and pedestrians. Padhar lies in the centre of India in a range of low hills, called the Satpura ranges, covered by teak jungle. Many Gond tribal villages are found in the surrounding area, not usually seen from the road. ‘Jungle’ is the Indian word for forest and there are many, rapidly dwindling forested areas along the road.
2. TRAVEL TO PADHAR FROM ABROAD
From Europe to Padhar is quite a long journey! There are many choices of how to get there, but most people fly in to either Mumbai or Delhi. You can then choose to fly by one of the Domestic Airlines (Jet Airways, Indian Airlines, Kingfisher) to Bhopal or Nagpur, and request to be met by car as it is another 200 or so kilometres to go by road.
Alternatively, you can take the train (2nd or first class air-conditioned – takes about 12 hours overnight) from Bombay to Itarsi (70 km from Padhar) or Delhi to Betul (20 km from Padhar). The hospital will usually arrange transport from any one of these places if requested.
IMMUNISATIONS AND MALARIA PROPHYLAXIS
Before you leave home, do ensure that you have had all the routine immunisations. These should include Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B, Meningococcal C, and Rabies (pre-exposure) vaccine. You should also check that you have had a tetanus and polio up-date in the past ten years.
Malaria is on the increase in the area, so it is advisable to take an anti-malarial tablet, such as Malarone, throughout your stay. Spray yourself with insect repellant spray, especially in the evenings as the mosquitoes become busy and start biting at dusk! This is especially important in the malaria season, usually July –September (the rainy season) and October – January (the cooler season).
WHO’S WHO AT PADHAR
Dr. Rajiv Choudhrie is the Medical Superintendent/Chief Executive Officer. His office is in the central block of the hospital. He is a skilled surgeon, responsible for the reconstructive surgery that PH does, for example on children with cleft lip and palate.
His e-mail address is
Dr. Deepa Choudhrie is his wife, who is in charge of visitors’ accommodation etc. She is a Radiologist. Her e-mail address is
Mr. Vikas Sonwani is the Administrator, and most people will have been in touch with him regarding the practical details of their visit. He is very helpful in advising or sorting out any practical problems there may be. His office is opposite Dr. Choudhrie’s. His e-mail address is
Dr. Prafulla Parmarth is the Physician in charge of the medical departments. Her e-mail address is
AIMS OR OBJECTIVES OF YOUR VISIT
It is helpful to those who are arranging your visit to know the purpose of it. This could be simply ‘to see everything, and report back to my church or others’; or, if you are a medical or dental student, or a doctor, you should state in which departments or subjects you have a special interest e.g. surgery, medicine, paediatrics, gynae and obstetrics, or cancer diagnosis and treatment. You may have a special interest in the community around Padhar Hospital, the schools, or in aspects of the church work.
WHAT TO WEAR AT PADHAR
The local people are not used to Westerners, although the hospital has many visitors. White women will usually experience being stared at by all, especially the men! This is not rudeness, simply curiosity and wanting to examine the unfamiliar! However, what you wear can make a very big difference to the staring, but also to their opinion of the visitor!
Any woman who wears very tight fitting trousers, or miniskirts (any skirt which shows the knees), with small tops, especially if they are low at the front and have thin straps, will be stared at and considered to be a possible ‘target’ as a ‘woman of low repute’. They are unlikely to be treated with respect by shop- keepers, or the local populace.
Most Indian women in the area wear traditional dress – this could be a sari with a sleeved blouse, but bare mid-riff!, usually kept for ‘best’, or a Punjabi outfit (‘salwar kurta’ or ‘salwar kameez’ – salwar is loose trousers and kurta or kameez is a long tunic worn over the trousers, together with a ‘chunni’ or ‘dupatta’, both words meaning a long scarf ); this outfit is very comfortable. The local tribal dress consists of a long cloth which is wound round the lower body, then pulled up loosely between the legs to make loose ‘trousers’, and a long end piece that is pulled up to cover the head.
For a visiting woman, it is best to wear loose trousers with a long tunic or T-shirt, or a mid-to-long skirt and blouse, or dress which could be sleeveless, but most prefer a short sleeve. You can also buy material in Betul and have a local ‘darzi’ or tailor make it up into a Punjabi outfit, with ‘salwar/ kameez’. Ask Dr. Deepa to advise you. You can wear sandals as it is too hot to wear closed shoes.
Male visitors: it is OK to use shorts when not in the hospital, but in the hospital, it is best to wear long pants and a shirt or t-shirt with short sleeves. Again, sandals are OK, as it gets very hot otherwise.
The sun gets very hot in this part of India, especially during February to June or July, so make sure you have sunscreen with high protection factor to suit your skin. Most visitors cannot spend more than ten minutes or so in direct sunlight, and will usually seek out the shade. The rainy season usually takes place from July to September, and everything becomes green and beautiful, and it is a bit cooler, but difficult to travel around as roads and railways may became impassable. The most comfortable months are October to January, when the temperatures are around 25-30’C. In the hot months, temperatures may go up to 45-50’C.
WHERE YOU WILL STAY
You will be staying either in the Big Bungalow or in the Bungalia next to it. You may have to share your room with one or more other people, unless you specifically request not to do so.
The accommodation is simple, but there are Western toilets and showers, with hot running water. There is no TV, DVD or Video player, or a music system in the Bungalow. You may like to bring books to read, and simple games to play in the evenings. If you leave them behind as a donation other people who visit will benefit!
There are plans to install broadband/wireless internet access in the Big Bungalow and in the Bungalia.
The buildings look like traditional colonial bungalows with big verandas where you can sit and cool off with a (non-alcoholic) drink. Mostly, there is cold water, coffee or tea! The hospital Generator ensures 24hr electricity supply to the residential campus.
Mosquito nets are provided during your stay – do use it as it protects not only from mosquitoes but also from other insects during the night!
You may like to bring insect killing spray as well, as there are cockroaches, ants and a few other insects around! There are also geckos, friendly little lizards that live mostly on the walls and eat the insects!
Rekha Bai is the housekeeper and will look after you, sometimes with help from others. She is friendly and wants you to have what you like to eat and will try to teach you some Hindi words and expressions if you are interested. At the end you will find a list of useful Hindi words. You may find it helps to learn a few Hindi words before you come, to ease communication!
Chlorinated water is available in the Hospital campus which can be used safely for drinking etc. However, outside the campus, you should always stick to bottled water, and ensure that the bottle has not been previously opened!
PAYING FOR YOUR STAY
If you have requested to come to see a project, or as a medical or dental student for an elective, you will be expected to pay for your stay to cover the cost of food, washing, cleaning, linen and towels, and for the housekeeper’s salary.
If you have been invited by Padhar Hospital to teach or in other ways to contribute to the work, then there may be no charge, but it is courteous to ask or at least offer to make a donation.
The food served in the Bungalow will be mainly Indian food with plain rice and chapattis (roti). For breakfast, you will be offered fried eggs, omelette, or scrambled eggs with onions, tomato and spices (unless you request no spices) and white bread/toast. You could also have chapattis, puris (deep fried small chapatti) or parathas (large, folded and fried chapattis, sometimes filled) with a potato curry. You can also eat the chapattis or puris with jam – delicious! If you find the spices too much, ask Rekha Bai to cook with less or no chillies (‘ kam mirchi’ means less chilli, and ‘bina mirchi’ means without chillies!). If you do not like very sweet jam then you should consider bringing your own with you.
You are likely to be invited to have a meal with someone from the hospital – if they invite you, do say yes, and ask when! They are serious about asking you, but may be diffident about pressing you to come in case you do not like Indian food. A few such visits will give you a different experience and perspective.
There are no local restaurants. However there are roadside eateries called “Dhabhas” in and around Padhar, but ensure that you only eat what you have seen being prepared and cooked in front of you!
Rekha Bai will do your washing for you. She does no ironing, but there is someone to whom she can send things for ironing if you ask, or if you like to do your own, there is a table and an iron in one of the rooms.
It is a good idea to bring cash with you, and change it at the main airport if possible. There are now ATMs in all the big cities, and even some smaller towns such as Betul, but none in Padhar (as yet).
Internet access is available at Padhar. If you have a laptop with you that has a wireless facility, you may be able to link via someone’s wireless broadband in the vicinity.
The Big Bungalow has a number of old book cases with many very old books, left by the Moss family when they left India in 1980, and by subsequent visitors. There are books in English, Swedish and German! Others will bless you if you leave the books you brought with you for leisure reading as a gift for those who visit!
WHAT YOU CAN BRING
If you are a doctor or medical student, it is a good idea to bring your own stethoscope.
You may also ask in advance of your coming if there is some small item of equipment that you could bring with you as a donation, such as a finger oximeter, for example. Do not attempt to bring any large items through customs – unless you have someone to help you take it through and have the appropriate documentation as this could prove expensive and frustrating!
A mission church, small school and a dispensary were established at the end of the 1800’s by Swedish missionaries who were working with the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Mission. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Madhya Pradesh (ELC in MP) became established as a result of this same mission in many areas of MP. The headquarters of the church as a whole is in Chhindwara, about 150 miles to the east of Padhar.
The church at Padhar holds regular Sunday morning services in Hindi, usually starting around 8.30 – 9 am! The English “praise and worship” service starts at 6.30pm and lasts about an hour and a half. Church bells ring half an hour before the service so people can start assembling, and the service starts soon after the second bell rings! The services have a similar format to Evangelical Lutheran church services (or Church of England) in Europe. If you want to attend the Hindi service, do ask someone who speaks English to translate for you. Other services and meetings are also held during the week. The Pastor-in-charge is Rev. Biswas.
Rev. Dr. Clement Moss, an Englishman working with the Swedish Mission in MP, married a Swedish missionary, Ingegerd and arrived in Padhar in 1958 with their four daughters. Clement felt called by God to develop a hospital for the Gond tribal people, and had already done a considerable amount of work in scripting their language into Hindi, and in pastoring a church in Condar, Chicholi, some 30 kilometres from Betul. He had then undertaken training to become a doctor at Ludhiana Christian Medical College.
There is a pictorial ‘History Trail’ on the walls in the Big Bungalow, for those who are interested to learn more about the history of Padhar Hospital.
The Hospital archives and Mr. Bajirao’s office have CDs on which a power point presentation can be seen, together with some early films, on DVD’s, from the years gone by.
SCHOOL FOR BLIND AND DISABLED CHILDREN
This was set up by Dr. Clement Moss in the 1970’s, with support from the Christoffel Blinden Mission. It moved into larger, purpose built accommodation in the ‘80’s. It is situated a short distance from the hospital, and it is possible to visit it by arrangement with the Director. Mr. Bajirao Gawai will help.
· The Gond village:There are some 30 villages within a six kilometre radius around Padhar Hospital. If you want to visit and see for yourself something of life in these villages, do request for someone to take you there.
· Padhar village and market – this is situated just a short walk up the road from the hospital, but do take care and look out for the traffic! There is a market that takes place every Saturday and the road and the market is always very busy and crowded at this time. It is also very colourful, and worth the walk. However, try to go with a Hindi speaker who can translate for you if you wish to buy anything as this will also prevent you from being ‘fleeced’ ie paying outrageous prices!
Shopping and Betul – there are two main Bazaars in Betul, and shops where you can buy materials or jewellery. Again, you will need to have a Hindi speaking guide with you. It takes approximately half an hour to travel in to Betul by car.
Places to visit: This is not on the tourist trail, so it has little in the way of tourist attractions. However, you will get an experience of the real rural India, even though the hospital has some high tech equipment!
Madai, about 80 kilometres from Padhar has a National Park with
some wildlife. You can travel there to arrive in time for an evening run, stay
the night and go for another run in the morning, with local guides who are
quick to spot animals and birds lurking in the forest and will know their English
names, but will not be able to tell you much about them unless you speak
Hindi or can be accompanied by someone who does. There are bison,
various types of deer , Langur monkeys in large numbers, wild boar, snakes,
giant squirrels and many beautiful birds, including wild peacocks. There are
also tigers and panther, but these animals are very elusive. If you are lucky
you will see fresh pug-marks (tiger foot prints) but you would have to be very
lucky to see an actual tiger!
The accommodation is clean and there are Western toilets, and Indian food is available. However, it is ‘in the middle of nowhere’ and so the facilities are very limited and have not really been developed with the Western tourist in mind. The water that you are offered may be from a tube well and filtered, but it would be best to stick to bottled water. Mr. Dubey, the owner and proprietor, speaks English, but he is the only one who does! The cost of accommodation ranges from Rs. 1000 to 1500 per room per night in double bed or twin bed rooms. All have a beautiful view across the river towards the forest. In 2009 the tour costs Rs 2000 per person in a group of 4 plus some extras for the river crossing (Rs 100), an entry fee (Rs 100) and a guide (Rs 600).
There is a church-run Hindi medium Mission school and the English medium Happy Valley, which is run by the Hospital. The schools are always pleased to have visitors, and Happy Valley School would especially welcome native English speakers who would be willing to have a ‘conversation class’ with the teachers or the children.
Don’t jump in with immediate reactions to something you see. Take time to learn and watch, listen, then begin to ask questions to the appropriate personnel.
Be aware of local culture and attitudes, especially regarding clothes and behaviour, and be respectful of them, even when you cannot understand them.
Always use your right hand for greeting, receiving or giving an item or food.
It is not acceptable in Indian communities for couples, married or otherwise, to hold hands, hug or kiss in public. If you are meeting someone you already know and you know that they are comfortable to being greeted with a Western style hug or kiss on the cheek, then that is fine.
Do not put your feet up in such a way as to show the soles of your feet to anyone – this can cause offence.
Friends of Padhar Hospital, Germany is run by Prof. Dr. Thomas Kreusch. He can be reached on
Friends of Padhar Hospital, UK is run by Dr. Veronica Moss. Her e-mail address is
Any donation, however small, will always be appreciated.
You can donate directly to the hospital during your visit, or send money to either of the two organisations above, stating what your donation should be used for.
E-MAIL ADDRESSES OF THOSE WHO VISIT PADHAR
Do leave your e-mail address with Mr. Bajirao Gawai, and also send it to the Friends of Padhar Hospital in whichever country is appropriate to you, so that we can contact you with information, or put you on the mailing list, if this is your wish.
COMMENTS ON STAY
If you have comments to make on your stay, and especially if you have some constructive suggestions to make about your experiences, please do so to Dr. Rajiv Choudhrie. An ‘exit interview’ is a good idea for a medical student or anyone who has been at Padhar for a longer period of time.
Also, if you have suggestions for specific pieces of information that it would be useful to include in this ‘welcome pack’, please let Dr. Deepa know, and also Dr. Rajiv and Mr. Bajirao so that these can be included on the website.
USEFUL WORDS IN HINDI
Hello, Good Morning/ Evening : Namaste, Namaskar or Salaam
Enough or That is enoug : Bus! Bus Hai!
Thank you : Dhanyewad (Hindi); Shukria (Urdu)
Water : Pani
Cold water : Tanda pani
Hot water : Garam pani
Milk : Dood
Cold milk : Tanda dood
Hot milk : Garam dood
Tea : Chai
Banana : Kela
Orange : Santra
Flat unleavened Indian bread : Chapati
Fried “ “ “ : Poori
Sweet Indian rice pudding : Kheer
A bit : Thoda
Bugs : Keeda
Rat : Chua
One, two, three : ekh, do, theen
Four, five, six : char, panch, che
Ten : dus
Twenty : bees
One hundred : ekh sow