THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?” When Wilfred Owen raised this question to the world, glorified status attributed to deadly wars until then got shattered, unveiling a new front of dreadful realities and the futility of war. The lines written against the backdrop of the First World War, calls our attention once again, as doctor Santhoshkumar S S has brought out a set of pictures captured from the Libyan war-front in the exhibition titled ‘Stories from the War Front’.
The doctor was on a mission to serve the strife-torn Libya for three months, from July to October in 2011. He, along with a team of members from ResQ - a network of charity workers-healed the war-caused wounds and brought back many to lives.
Explaining the rationale behind his mission, doctor Santhosh says, “We were ready to provide treatment to anyone who fell on the battlefield sans arms and ammunition. We always remained neutral, without showing any bias towards either side. This has been the principle followed by ResQ throughout our service out there.”
Being an orthopaedic surgeon,many of the snaps talk of the trauma of those who bear the brunt of the war, either physically or mentally. In some pictures, we see people standing with the doctor. Only on deeper analysis could it be realised who they are and what made them appear before the lens. Many are losers in one way or the other. For instance, in one of the snaps, we see a man with a plastered leg lying on the bed and an innocent boy playing near him. This father and child are the only ones who survived in a family of eight, while six others were killed in an attack. The man’s wife, three children and father-in-law and mother-in-law lost their lives in the combat, the doctor says.
Another snap has a smiling young man who suffered the life inside the prison of Zliten. Mahamoud, a physiotherapist, who treated the wounded during the war was received by Gaddafi’s army with manacles for the noble cause he worked for. But Dr Santhosh and the ResQ team were spared from these punishments as they worked on behalf of an organisation. If one has to stay near each picture and explain, umpteen stories would then be unfurled.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the affairs were entirely different. It was of course a daunting task to set up a medical facility to provide treatment. “Initially, we went on with an exploratory mission in Tripoli to study the area to open a medical centre. Though we found a centre, the availability of infrastructure and personnel were low,” he says. The day when Gaddafi’s Bab El Azizia was captured, some 573 people were brought to the hospital. As the availability of oxygen, anaesthesia, and surgical equipment touched rock-bottom, the team really struggled to provide treatment for all.
So when we ask how he managed all these circumstances, he would reply with a smile, “Of course with the experience of dealing with the traumas of common people in the Medical College hospital here.” For a doctor who attends some 40 surgeries per day, all these efforts might not appear a Herculean task. The exhibition at the VJT Hall here will conclude on Thursday.