In 1969, in the small village of Umbraj, in the Junnar taluka of Pune district, an eight-year-old boy, who could not yet comprehend the idea of death, stood dumbstruck at the sight of people wailing over a woman who had just died of a snakebite. It was his first brush with snakebites, a menace that kills thousands of people in India every year. This early encounter would foreshadow the course of his life.
The boy, Sadanand Raut, grew up to become a doctor. In 1992, he established a small dispensary and clinic in Junnar. One day in 1994, Raut was informed that the eight-year-old daughter of a farm labourer had been bitten by a viper in the nearby town of Narayangaon. She was rushed to his clinic, but it was too late. Almost twenty minutes of the “golden hour”—the first sixty minutes after a snakebite, during which treatment is most likely to be successful—had passed, and the girl could not be saved.
“I was haunted by that incident,” Raut told me. “I felt, as a doctor, with all my education and knowledge, if I could not save that poor girl, what use was my education?” The girl’s death spurred him to “do something concrete for the snakebite victims and save them.”
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