Don’t be surprised if you are asked to donate blood at a friend’s wedding in lieu of a gift!

Don’t be surprised if you are asked to donate blood at a friend’s wedding in lieu of a gift. The hosts may be heeding a noble trend — organising a blood-donation camp during the wedding ceremony. Thanks to an initiative launched by a city-based doctor three years back, families across the state have now started organising blood-donation camps at weddings and even at condolence meetings.

Dr Ravji Bhesania, 48, has pioneered the idea. The ENT specialist also espouses the cause of saving the girl child by asking newly married couples to take an oath of not indulging in female foeticide.

It was after the death of a relative in 2004 that the blood-donation idea struck Bhesania. “I asked my son to accompany me to the condolence meeting,” Bhesania said. “He said that people attending such meetings mostly engage in gossip or talk on mobile phones and don’t make any social contribution. He said that he would accompany me if there was a blood-donation camp.”

Spurred by his son’s sentiments, Bhesania started approaching people from his community to persuade them to organise blood-donation camps. “The idea was to ask the guests to donate some blood to express solidarity during condolence meetings and as a gift at weddings,” says Bhesania.

However, the road ahead wasn’t very smooth as people initially seemed unconvinced. Many even told Bhesania that guests wouldn’t turn up if they heard of the blood-donation idea.

“But I pressed on, and finally two years later in 2006, we organised the first blood-donation camp at a condolence meeting of a social worker based in Savli,” Bhesania says. “Soon after, I organised a similar camp at the wedding of my relative, where both the bride and the groom donated blood. The guests liked my idea and our movement took off,” recalls Bhesania.

The doctor has organised blood-donation camps at over 150 condolence meetings across the state — mostly in Saurashtra and Vadodara — and at about 30 wedding ceremonies.

“I encourage such camps in the Patel community in Saurashtra where the dowry system is rampant. The idea is to persuade people to donate blood instead of giving costly gifts,” says Bhesania. The donors range from anywhere between 50 and 1,000 during such functions.

“I decided to organise a blood-donation camp at my wedding as it is a noble cause. My husband and I donated blood during the ceremony,” says Sangita Vadodaria, who married in 2006 in Junagadh. Her husband Yogesh, a Leuva Patel, also took the oath of not consuming tobacco products.

The couple also took an oath of not committing female foeticide. Yogesh, in fact, flashed a placard inscribed with the words ‘Save the girl child, they are precious’ while receiving guests on the stage. Keyur Patel, a chartered accountant, too had displayed banners displaying the message ‘We will never commit female foeticide’ at his wedding three years ago, thanks to the insistence of Bhesania.

“Given the skewed sex ratio in Gujarat, I decided to involve young couples in the campaign,” Bhesania said. “Weddings and condolence meets are very emotional moments for people and it is the best occasion to persuade them to donate blood for a noble cause.” Bhesania runs a blood bank too; his Suraktam Blood Bank opened in 1999.

“SK Nanda, principal secretary, forests and environment, also organises a blood-donation camp every year on his father’s death anniversary,” Bhesania said. “We all are working for the same cause and I will ensure that more families in Gujarat organise such camps.”

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