Cancer treatment in India was improving but rural areas remain underserved and Indian-Americans could help meet that urgent need, according to Priya Dutt, the daughter of late Bollywood stars Nargis and Sunil Dutt. She now heads the Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation, and was in New York for the Oct. 29 fundraising gala held at the Marriott Hotel in Uniondale, Long Island, N.Y.
Close to 450 guests came to show their support and donate money for the cause, Peter Bheddah, president of NDMF, told Desi Talk. While it would take time to figure out the total raised at the event, Bheddah said it was a “substantial amount.”
The organization uses funds raised to purchase advanced cancer treatment equipment and donate them to selected hospitals.
Apart from its focus on cancer, the NDMF also occasionally helps with disaster relief. This year it has already donated $10,000 for the Kerala flood relief efforts.
Speaking at the event, Priya Dutt dwelt on the importance of screening, and of the importance of making it available to the poorest of the poor, and she appealed for help in reaching out to these communities.
“The Nargis Dutt Foundation New York started in 1981. It was after the death of my mother and it was her desire while she was sick here. She used to keep telling my father that ‘it is so easy for you to bring me to America for treatment because you can afford it. But there are thousands of people back in our own country who can not even think to bring their loved ones, out of the country for any sort of treatment’ and she felt very bad about it. So she expressed her desire that there should be something back in India to fulfill this and it was this desire that became my father’s obsession to start this foundation,” Priya Dutt told ITV Gold in an exclusive interview at the Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation’s annual gala in New York.
“India has progressed tremendously. In 1981 when my mother had cancer, nobody even knew what cancer was and for us it was something so absolutely new. Today, we have grown tremendously with the medical facilities in India, but yet the rate of cancer is growing everyday,” she said. “So there is a huge concern because we have not been able to penetrate into the kind of healthcare that should be in rural India and that is what the focus must be,” she asserted.
“Now our focus is on early detection of cancer because when the patient comes to the hospital it is too late as they are already in the third or fourth stage and this is why the mortality rates are so high. Therefore, we are keeping (holding) early detection camps all over India every month, wherever we can find local support,” she added.
“One important aspect about the Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation is that we do not have ownership of everything. We don’t want to build a hospital or anything similar. We support what is already existing and that is what makes it much easier for us as well as the people who are doing the good work,” she said.
Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, publisher of Desi Talk, and chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media, including ITV Gold, also spoke at the event. He has been associated with the NDMF from early days. At the event, Dr. Parikh extended the full support of his media organization to help in the work being done by NDMF.
Apart from fundraising, the event also included a fashion show, cultural dances, and an awards segment, all of which were coordinated and conducted by young NDMF members Rohini Singh and Inesha Joneja.
Several people were recognized with plaques for their contributions in the medical field, community work, as well as achievements. Telecom leader Sam Pitroda, who also spoke at the event, was honored for his achievements in telecommunications and service to India; Dr. Digpal Dharkar, president of the Indore Cancer Foundation which received $2,000 in donations from NDMF this year alone, was honored with a plaque. In his speech, Dharkar spoke of the impact of financial support to the work of the Indore Cancer Foundation; Others honored included Dr. Urmilesh Arya, a gastroenterologist in Long Island; Dr. Himanshu Pandya, incoming 2019 president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin – Queens/Long Island Chapter; businessman Kanak Golia, founder and CEO of Perfume Center of America, who is also on the board of New York Presbyterian, Queens; and Sher Singh Madra, past-president of NDMF.