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Mr. Harsh Mander Delivers the 8th Dr. Ida S. Scudder Humanitarian Oration: Compassion – the Missing Link

The Vellore CMC Foundation, together with CMC Vellore, established the Dr. Ida S. Scudder Memorial oration to recognize Dr. Scudder’s immense contribution to the development and expansion of medical services in India. The annual Memorial is also intended to draw attention to the inspiring qualities of Dr. Scudder’s character and life so that members of the healthcare profession may continue to emulate and embody these in their lives and service.

This year, we were proud to have Mr. Harsh Mander deliver the Oration at CMC, Vellore on Friday, August 9th. A peace activist and writer, Mr. Mander currently serves as the Director of the Centre for Equity Studies in New Delhi and advocates for the marginalized in India. Mr. Mander spoke passionately stating “the example of public compassion which both Dr. Ida Scudder and CMC Vellore provide really represent to me the core – the missing link in finding a way out of the darkness of our times.”

The principal challenges of our time, which he described as one of the most cruel in human history, are inequality coupled with indifference, rising hatred and legitimized bigotry, and climate change. While he generally spoke of inequality globally, he focused in on India and the caste system: caste – “the accident of our birth” – complicates and deepens inequality and allows a high level of comfort with the glaring inequalities all around us, he said.

The second crisis that he spoke about was the rising hate and intolerance that is becoming more ingrained in our culture,
and this “manifests itself in an epidemic of lynchings”. Mr. Mander explained that we are seeing incidents of lynching across India, and many don’t notice. Yet, these lynchings are made public, legitimizing and valorizing hatred as evinced by their video-taping and propagation on social media.

Though Mr. Mander shared troubling statistics and tragic stories to bring awareness to the crises, he was also confident
that there is a core solution: public compassion. He spoke about the idea of social protection and our duty to care for each other. “Justice, liberty and equality can never become the natural order of things unless there is fraternity” – the brother and sisterhood that makes us feel as one.

As an example, he spoke about the 40,000 to 50,000 homeless children sleeping on the streets every night in India. While seemingly too big of an issue to tackle, Mander explained that “if you don’t look away, solutions are not that difficult”. After hearing a story about a young street girl being raped outside of a school, the principal of that school decided to open the doors after school hours to provide shelter for homeless children. Learning from this story, Mander worked with government schools across the country to convert them into safe spaces for homeless children, with the hope to
expand to even more schools so that no child has to sleep under the open sky.

Quoting Mother Theresa, Mr. Mander shared “not all of us are capable of great things, but everyone one of us is capable of doing small things with great love.” Mr. Mander reiterated that we need to nurture compassion in our society and in our own hearts. “I think if India is to be saved, the very least and the very most that we need is to nurture kindness, let us at least nurture kindness, let us at most nurture kindness” said Mr. Mander.

CMC Director, Dr. J.V. Peter, welcomed the gathering. Chair of the Vellore CMC Foundation, New York, Dr. Philip Ninan,
introduced the speaker. Local author and Foundation Board member, Ms. Usha Jesudasan read the Citation and presented it to Harsh Mander, and Dr. Anna Pulimood, Principal of the medical college proposed the vote of thanks. The oration was attended by students, community members, as well as Alumni who were on campus for their reunion weekend.

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