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Tuesday / July 16.
HomemitwocentsAs I See It: Indian’s Eye Health Challenge

As I See It: Indian’s Eye Health Challenge

In the latter half of this first decade of the 21st century the balance of world power is shifting. The good old US of A is finding itself more and more isolated from the deal breakers of world activity. The global financial crisis began in the US and lingers, with a long tail still in sight.

China and India have remained considerably less affected by the avarice of the western world. Australia’s prudent, conservative and well regulated banking system, much maligned by the risk-takers and derivative dealers has been a blessing in a thin disguise. The oriental east is rising in terms of finance, production and consumption in an increasingly western style. The eastern trend is not better illustrated in India than the complete financial domination of their favourite pastime – cricket!

The big money, and I mean BIG money in the flannelled fools sport (Indian writer Ramachandra Guha once described cricket as “an Indian game invented by the British”) resides in the sub continent, mainly the Indian sub -continent. It is believed that 85 per cent of the money produced through and by cricket is in India. The great Australian cricket production line may have a winning on-field formula, but India has the cash! And the cash means they have the power.

In March and April I had a coaching assignment in the Indian cities of Pune, Bangalore and Mumbai. The Indian Premier League (IPL) had commenced – a match every evening for 45 days, plus the occasional afternoon matinee to whet the dinner appetite. I attended half a dozen or so of these carnivals.

As a person in the middle of the cricket industry this fascination with huge money interests me. As an Optometrist the local suburbia practices also interest me.

Meanwhile in Australia, people snoozed happily and blissfully into the early hours unaware of the Diwali and Holi festivals all thrown into the air and colliding in cacophony and multicolour on the cricket fields from Cuttack to Jaipur. It is like having an AFL or NRL Grand Final every night!

The punters fill the grounds in the caps, shirts, scarves, face paint and tattoos of their teams, they pay anything from 250 rupees (about AUD$6) in the outer, to a corporate box with all food, drink and air conditioning for 27,000 rupees (AUD$650!).

The Bollywood stars, some of whom own or part-own the teams spend much of their time on camera, often in the dug-out with the players… only in India! This is not so much cricket as we know it: It is baseball, it is parody cinema and sometimes the plot is very thin… But I guess if you have paid anywhere between USD$50 to USD$110 million to own one of these teams, then you can sit where you like.

Two new teams have been announced for the 2011 season and the franchise rights have been purchased for around USD$330 million – yes there is plenty of serious wealth in India.

As a person in the middle of the cricket industry, this fascination with huge money interests me. As an Optometrist the local suburbia practices also interest me.

I took the time to visit a couple, to check their prices, their service and their products. Besides cricket, India’s other passion is education. All children must attend and often it is free for the less well-off.

Education means reading, and reading needs good vision. It should not surprise westerners that the growth of India is spurred by the enormous intellectual capabilities of its 1.3 billion inhabitants. Therefore there are an abundance of small optical practices in all areas of India’s cities.

I brought a box of six B & L soflens torics with solutions and spare case for 1000rupees (AUD$25). The practice was uncomplicated; it had a refractor head and a couple of charts. I can speak a little Hindi but can’t read Sanskrit or Maharati at all, so the chart held particular challenges. The staff were attentive and knowledgeable, especially with my career statistics! I declined a new Rx but they were insistent on a fundus exam.

The prevalence of diabetes in India is extraordinarily high and there is a significant campaign to get people in for early diagnosis. In Australia we have our own awareness campaigns which although highly successful still need to be pursued. Macular Degeneration has joined the profile list especially with the new drug treatments and dietary directions. India is a big place but health and healthy vision are considered basic requirements.

Wouldn’t it be nice to combine the wealth of the IPL with the needs of Optometry! I’m working on it.