Opt In; Opt Out

Gangtok’s sunrise welcomes Bharat Organ Yatra 2.0 with a mesmerising view! The valley is blanketed in a thick fog… But the fuchsia flowers of the rhododendrons invite Kaka for a walk in the hotel’s garden. Kaka accepts the greeting; the peace he experiences is perfect to prepare for today’s grand event!

The clock chimes the hour; Kaka and the bikers ride to the meeting’s venue – Gangtok’s Raj Bhavan!

Tshering Wangchuk Lepcha (Member of the Dirty Angles Motorcycle Club, and General Secretary of Educated Unemployed Youth of Sikkim) has ensured that Kaka and B.O.Y. 2.0’s desire sees the light of the day. His one phone call yesterday has resulted in this meeting with the Hon’ble Governor of Sikkim – Shri Ganga Prasad Chaurasia

The Governor is absolutely impressed by the work ReBirth’s Bharat Organ Yatra has achieved collectively (in both editions) till date. On behalf of the Government of Sikkim, Hon’ble Governor Shri Ganga Prasad felicitates Kaka and ReBirth with a certificate crowned with the prestigious golden State Emblem of India! 

He also proposes to Kaka (and ReBirth) to aggressively work for the cause in the state of Sikkim.

ReBirth’s President, Mr Rajesh Shetty, is on his toes with his fingertips on the phone screen; he immediately drafts and sends a formal proposal to the Govt of Sikkim with ideas for spreading mass awareness about organ donation. 

Did you know, not even one organ donation has been recorded in any of the North Eastern states of India yet!? The Sikkim government’s gesture of opting in to take measures to change the scene needs to be lauded. ReBirth continues to work in this direction to inspire other states to take drastic steps to bring awareness. And ReBirth promises to help in whatever capacity it can!

After the official formalities, Kaka and the bikers go on a photo-session spree. The Governor’s PA and Body Guard share frame with Kaka. 

The group visits the old Raj Bhavan – the office where ReBirth volunteers who had cycled across a few North Eastern states (in 2017) had met the then Governor of Sikkim, Shri Shriniwas Patil, to talk about organ donation.

After the grand event at the Raj Bhavan, Pema Choppel, the biker-host, leads Kaka to the Press Club of Sikkim for a scheduled interview. 

B.O.Y. 2.0’s arrival makes a thunderous piece in many renowned newspapers of Gangtok!

Done with lunch, the bikers decide to take Kaka for the mandatory (and famous) sightseeing tour of Gangtok. From dressing in the local attire to visiting monasteries and meeting monks, Kaka has an incredible time!

The bikers buy him a string of Prayer Flags for his bike. Though the monastery isn’t open for visitors by now, the bikers manage to spot a monk. He sits down with Kaka; the group prays together. Then, as per rituals, the monk blesses the Prayer Flags to ward off evil and attract only good vibes. Once satisfied, the bikers coronate B.O.Y. 2.0’s bike with the Prayer Flags!

Through Kaka, his bike, and B.O.Y. 2.0, ReBirth wants people to realise the importance and need of organ donation in India.

In countries like Spain, Croatia, Belgium, Austria, and others, being an organ donor is presumed. At the time of death, these countries’ citizens have ‘opted-in’ i.e. consented as a donor, by default. It is the other way round here in India. Indian citizens have to fill a form to ‘opt-in’ to be an organ donor. 

Like ReBirth, there are other NGOs that are working relentlessly to encourage people to opt-in.

While the other countries give out forms for citizens to ‘opt-out’ from being an organ donor, India is running behind citizens with forms to opt-in.

ReBirth wishes to turn the equation around in India. According to a report, the rate of donation quadrupled within 8 years of the presumed-consent policy that was introduced in Austria!

Let’s, together, strive to make organ donation a presumed consent for Indian citizens and allow them to opt out by choice. You can opt-in as an organ donor right away!

“Thank you for making us part of such a noble cause! Finally, goodbye to Kaka… We will miss him… Such a humble personality…” writes Pema Choppel to ReBirth. The DAMC bikers felicitate Kaka once again as their farewell, also hoping for a future collaboration.

Gangtok bikers and the Govt of Sikkim have taken the first step of opting in! Instead of shying away and opting out of a discussion about (brain) death and/or organ donation, we must take a lesson or two from Sikkim and our own Kaka!

Day 55
Gangtok, Sikkim
– juhi Kothari/shetty

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