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Art for a cause

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The ongoing Breaking Barriers exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery is unique for more than one reason, says Menka Shivdasani

If you visit the Jehangir Art Gallery between November 28 and December 5, you will find an exhibition that features  50 hand-painted horse head sculptures. Designed and produced by sculptor, Arzan Khambatta, these fibreglass beauties have been painted by leading artists. They are on sale for not one cause, but two, so if you buy one (or more!) you will be making a difference to the lives of underprivileged people as well.

Three organisations have got together for this event—Gallery Art and Soul, owned by Tarana Khubchandani; Passages, an NGO that works with breast cancer survivors; and Khelshala, run by Satinder Bajwa, who uses the medium of sports to transform the lives of street children. All funds raised via the show will be donated to the two NGOs.

We spoke to Tarana Khubchandani, who is not only a gallerist but also an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and a cancer survivor. She was just 37 when she was first diagnosed, and she soon realised that while she was greatly privileged, receiving treatment abroad, there were many in India who suffered from the same problem but did not have access to medical care, or even basic awareness of the risks that they might face. Tarana points out that cancer patients need medication at three levels—on a daily basis; chemotherapy; and for five years afterwards, and it is at this stage that women go back to their villages and not realise they should continue treatment.

Passages—an association for guidance, education and support—was founded in July 1998 through Tarana’s efforts with a core group of women. Joining her were Kaya Shewakramani, Valerie Singhvi and (Late) Dr. Coomi B. Singh. The organisation creates awareness on issues concerning women through workshops and forums; among other things, they work with hospitals, and also organise camps for rural and underprivileged women, teaching them the importance and technique of breast self-examination, and offering mastectomy blouses free of cost. “I’m a two-time survivor, so I’m completely invested in this,” she says. “In the US, even nurses are equipped to offer counselling, but here, NGOs need to bridge the gap between doctors and patients.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer (23% of all cancers), and more than 1,050,000 new breast cancer cases occur worldwide, annually. The incidence of breast cancer in India is expected to increase by over 200% by the year 2020. Tarana is greatly concerned over the fact that the average age of breast cancer patients has dropped by a decade, and that today, even girls of 16 and 19 are found to be affected. “That’s not an age when women go in for mammograms,” she points out.

One of her goals is to raise funds to buy iBreastExam devices that offer a simple, painless way to screen women and alert them to whether they may need further investigation. “You move it on the surface of the dress and it will tell you if there are lumps,”  she explains. The IBreastExam device assesses and identifies tissue elasticity differences between normal breast tissue and hard and stiff breast tumours.  “Each machine costs `5 lakhs,” she remarks.

In 2002, she wrote a book called Whispering Hope with Dr. Vijay V Haribhakti. It has been translated from English into several other languages, such as Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi and Hindi. The book, in simple language by someone who has ‘been there’, is available for download on the website; it discusses everything from the emotional challenges—learning to cope, what to tell your children, and much more—to the risk factors, anatomy of the breast and how to do self-examinations.

“Please learn how to do a breast exam and teach one other person,” she urges. Forty per cent of tumours are picked up by the women themselves and it takes only a minute in a month.”

For more, log on to

Cancer Helpline 86524 00000.

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