Like many others, travel is a passion for 62-year-old Rajendrasinh Rathod. But the journey of this former Mayor of Vadodara is unique as he traverses the rural areas of the country with a clinic in tow, offering free dental treatment.
Dr. Rathod, a qualified dentist, started his 1,200-day ‘Real Rural India on Wheels’ tour from Dwarka on February 17 last and has covered nine States before reaching God’s Own Country.
His specially designed caravan has two bedrooms, a work station, and a bathroom.
A dental chair has been attached to the body of the van, says Dr. Rathod, who hails from the royal family of erstwhile Limdi.
“I have completed 218 days, treated 6,400 patients, and organised 54 camps in the rural areas of these 10 States,” Dr. Rathod, who was at Venganoor here at the fag end of his 15-day tour to Kerala, tells The Hindu.
“The place is beautiful and the people are affectionate and willing to lend a helping hand. Except the roads, everything is fine here,” Dr. Rathod says. He moved along Ernakulam and Alappuzha before reaching the State capital.
Besides examining people, he says he found time to educate children about brushing techniques and distributed toothbrushes to them.
Along with this, Dr. Rathod also conducts a survey of oral hygiene and cancer for the World Health Organisation.
“The oral hygiene of the people in Kerala is good, but not up to the high standards in Gujarat.
While people take care of their faces, they ignore their teeth,” he says.
The camps have revealed that the poor suffered from dental problems owing to fluoride and impure groundwater while the rich have problems from high-sugar diet. Tobacco habits and wrong way of brushing cause gum diseases, dental problems, and cancer, he says.
A driver, Laxman, and a cook, Darshan, accompany him on the tour, which costs him Rs.60,000 a month.
To overcome the language barrier, he ropes in a local resident wherever he camps.
Having travelled to 78 countries and to Mauritius 101 times, where he runs a dental college, the dentist says he takes inspiration from a tour that had been undertaken by his father, Suryasinh Rathod, a general surgeon by profession.
Through the journey, he hopes to see the rural side of the country and serve the people.
In Kerala, the caravan met with three accidents. The vehicle also got damaged in heavy rain and landslips in Himachal Pradesh and the tour had to be suspended for repairing the caravan.Too much politics
“There is too much politics in Kerala,” says Dr. Rathod, who was the Congress Mayor of Vadodara for two years from 1986.
He is not active in politics now. But, he prefers to see a Gujarati as the next Prime Minister of the country, after Morarji Desai.
He visited his home only three times owing to some pressing needs in the family. “My wife, Pushpakumari, is a lawyer and finds time to join me. She will be with me from here to Hyderabad,” he adds.
The tour will culminate at Dakor, near Vadodara, on February 17, 2017, adds Dr. Rathod.