Mumbai doctor spearheading 24-hour walk to Save the Girl Child

A Mumbai gynaecologist leads a 24-hour walk to raise awareness about saving the girl child

When you are passionate for a cause, you put your heart and sole (pun intended) into it. Well, literally. Mahim based gynaecologist Dr Rajesh Shah (47) is spearheading a 24-hour walk to Save the Girl Child, beginning from Mayor’s Bungalow (Shivaji Park) on Thursday, October 2. “What Gandhiji did for salt via the Dandi March, we want to do for the girl child,” says the feisty doc, who is actually trading his stock two wheels for two heels, for this initiative. Dr Shah is a cyclist and commutes to various places on bicycle. “I am known as the doctor on the bicycle,” he states simply.

Dr Rajesh Shah
Good car-ma: Dr Rajesh Shah points to the banner on his car

All decks are cleared for the 24-hour walk supported by the Shivaji Park Marathon Club (SPMC), which aims to raise awareness and educate people about the girl child. Dr Shah and three others, Ashish Patel, Kishore Sharangul and Sunita Padvakar are walking for 24 hours. Other supporters who are expected in hundreds, are all walking for different time durations. “Some supporters are walking for 10-12 hours, others, for less, but all are welcome to show support for the cause,” says Dr Shah. The gynaecologist and his core team will be wearing t-shirts, caps and hold posters and banners about the importance of saving the girl child. Dr Shah’s car already has a banner stating his mission.

Let’s go: The group and supporters at Shivaji Park, readying for walk day. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Says Dr Shah, “We will be walking at a speed of approximately 4-km per hour, and the overall walk is of 90 km. We will explain our mission to pedestrians who evince curiosity. Even while doing so, we will not stop but continue walking. We have refueling and water stops, where we will carry our own refreshments. The plan is to make people ask us about our mission.”

The doc, who is instantly recognisable on Shivaji Park because of his cycling, “Doctor saab aa gaye,” was overheard on some tables at a Shivaji Park coffee shop as he walked in for this interview, says he was fired up for this cause because of his work.

“As you know, I deliver babies,” he said with a smile. “Even now, I notice distinct disappointment and dismay in many families, when a girl is born. This is not relegated to the lower class. The sentiment cuts like a scythe through the spectrum from Dharavi to Nepean Sea Road. People know about female foeticide, but even after the girl is born, sometimes, girl children are not breast fed resulting in death.”

Dr Shah says that this attitude stems because of monetary reasons. “In some communities, even now, families have to pay a huge amount during marriage of the daughter. Even though the boy’s family may not ask, the girl’s family thinks they must give to keep their status.” It is this main factor, but there are others, “like old attitudes and the fact that many families feel more tension bringing up a girl, because of the current climate of sexual violence, especially in our cities.”

To get back to the walk, he adds that all walkers will try to keep to the side of the roads or on footpaths when possible. Ask him about potholes and pain, the doc, dismisses it saying it would be nothing if they manage to convince people to start thinking about the necessity of saving the girl child.

Dr Shah’s wife, Dr Bindu Shah, who will be walking part of the course says that there has been a subliminal change in attitudes towards the girl child, “but much more needs to be done.” Young law student Divya R Sawant who has designed some posters for the initiative says that attitudes have not changed over the years, so even young persons need to be sensitised. In the end, Dr Shah, lapses into medical lingo when he says that this initiative will be long-term. “This is just the booster dose,” he grins.

May the force be with you.

What: 24-hour walk
Where: Shivaji Park Mayor’s Bungalow and back
When: Begins October 2, at 7 am
Why: To raise awareness to Save the Girl Child.
Who: Dr Rajesh Shah heads initiative. Expects hundreds of supporters.
How: Distribute pamphlets, wear t-shirts, caps, about the cause and raise awareness.

Route course

>> Mayor’s Bungalow
>> Worli Dairy
>> Nehru Planetarium
>> Babulnath
>> Air India
>> Gateway of India
>> CST
>> Dadar Asiad bus station
>> Shiv Sena Bhavan
>> Labour Court, Bandra (E)
>> Garware, Andheri (E)
>> Oberoi Mall, Goregaon
>> National Park, Borivali
>> Borivali (W)
>> 24 Karat Cinema, Jogeshwari
>> Shopper’s Stop, Andheri
>> Khar Police Station
>> Lucky Hotel, Bandra
>> Mayor’s Bungalow

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