30 women ophthalmologists from Aravind Eye Care System act and dance to some peppy music to show people how to stay safe during the pandemic
An unexpected compliment from a young patient she had done an eye surgery on nearly a year ago brought a smile to Dr A Rupa’s face. The child’s mother reached out to the paediatric ophthalmologist at Aravind Eye Hospital (AEH) in Madurais aying her son wanted to talk to her. The young boy came on line and bursting with excitement told her: “Aunty, I did not know you could dance! I always thought of you as the strict doctor wearing a mask. It was fun watching you in a video!”
The video in question highlights 20 simple tips on how to stay safe from COVID-19. The messages are about the proper way to wear a mask, maintain hygiene, and the right way to wash hands. Its novelty is that 30 doctors working in nine different super-specialities at AEH in Madurai, Chennai, Puducherry and Tirupati, reinforce the messages by acting them out along with some feet-tapping to Brentcc Music’s Stayin Alive.
Ever since the 4.50-minute video was uploaded first on Facebook and later on YouTube on Mother’s Day (as 28 of them are moms), the medicos have been overwhelmed at the positive feedback not only from their colleagues but also from their patients, friends, family, neighbours, other professionals and people outside medical fraternity.
“The video has been shared extensively on various WhatsApp groups as well and has become unexpectedly popular,” laughs Chennai-based Dr Shruti Nishanth, who conceived and executed the project with her co-sister, Dr Preethika Gandhi, Cornea Consultant at AEH-Madurai. They came up with the idea as they encountered a barrage of doubts from their non-medical friends about the right health practices during the pandemic. Questions ranged from, ‘Should we switch on the air-conditioners?’, ‘Are ice creams allowed?’ and ‘How long does a home-made mask last?’. “Everybody is constantly worrying and that includes us doctors too. So we wanted to introduce some energy and positivity, a few moments of laughter and smiles,” says Dr Preethika.
It took them two days to direct, choreograph and prepare separate video clips for each doctor who agreed to participate. “We sent them the start and the end cues because it was meant to be a video in continuity. For instance, if in one frame, one doctor is throwing an apple, in the next, another doctor is catching it. We showed them some basic steps and each had to convey one message. They were free to improvise, choose their attire and props.”
None of the participants knew what the other was doing and to what music they were grooving to. “It was meant to be a surprise for all,” says Dr Shruti.
Cataract chief at AEH-Chennai, Dr Haripriya Aravind says for a person like her who does not dance, it was an unusual experience and her 14-year-old son, who shot the video, was embarrassed to see what she was doing.
“But I loved the way the digital world connected us. We are all friends and I have worked with each of the doctors and this effort reconnected us once again as one big family,” says Dr Haripriya adding, “There was camaraderie behind the spirit of enacting important messages without actually knowing the final content or outcome of the film.”
“People tend to think doctors are serious by nature. Our patients, who usually see us in gowns and masks were most surprised and thrilled to see us in a different avatar,” says Dr Kowsalya Thiruvadi, a neuro ophthalmologist in Madurai. “Our families too were involved and altogether it was an enjoyable experience during the lockdown period.”
While one doctor did a few steps of Bharatanatyam in the traditional costume, a few others power danced and jazzed up the sequence. Preethika, who did the final collating and editing using a mobile app, says directing the novice dancers was both easy and daunting, but definitely fun. “Medical professionals telling you not to fear Coronavirus in a fun way, definitely rings in positivity,” she says.
“We have already received a few requests for making more such videos. “Next, we are planning to spread cheer and lift the spirits of our child patients,” sums up Shruti.