Ru-Lu Bai | India

A villager makes a pinky promise with his family and Tzu Chi volunteers as he vows to quit drinking. | Photo courtesy of Pei-Ling Lu | Bodh Gaya, India | 2024/05/16 

When Tzu Chi’s medical team visited Bakraur Colony in Bodh Gaya, India, to weigh the villagers on May 15, they heard that one of the villagers, Bablu Manjhi had just passed away the day before, leaving his wife distraught and crying in the street.  This news left Kim Yan Lim, a nurse from Singapore, filled with regret as she had failed to persuade him to quit drinking just last month.

Encouraging Villagers to Drink Tea Instead of Alcohol

Early on May 16, medical volunteers Kim Yan Lim and Siew Choo Tan, along with local volunteer Ranjeet Kumar, returned to Bakraur Colony to encourage locals to join the “drink tea instead of alcohol” movement. Ranjeet carried a medical box filled with packets of masala tea. Since their first visit to Jagdishpur village on March 13, they have been revisiting to follow up.

Using pictures, Ranjeet explained to the villagers the consequences of alcohol, such as liver and oral cancer. The villagers listened intently, especially since one of their neighbors had just died as a result drinking. When a villager agreed to quit drinking, Ranjeet gave them two packets of masala tea, which they accepted with gratitude.

Before leaving the village, they encountered a 21-year-old young man. Ranjeet persuaded him to quit drinking, and after listening intently, the young man agreed. They hooked pinkies to seal the promise. Ranjeet said, "Drinking alcohol wastes money and harms health. I will do my best to inform the villagers. Before joining Tzu Chi, I didn’t know how to advise people to quit drinking. Now, I’m happy to help everyone stay healthy."

After a 21-year-old young man listened intently and decided to quit drinking, he hooked pinkies with Ranjeet (second from right), Kim Yan Lim (left), and Siew Choo Tan (right) to show his commitment. | Photo courtesy of Pei-Ling Lu | Bodh Gaya, India | 2024/05/16

Siew Choo Tan added, "Previously, we missed some households. Today, during our follow-up, only a few refused. Seeing the villagers willing to quit drinking makes me happy. The Indian government worries about people's health and has laws against brewing and drinking alcohol, but there’s no health education. Tzu Chi is here to help villagers live long and healthy lives."

Kim Yan Lim was delighted to see young people agreeing to quit drinking and not ruin their futures. She often saw quarrels and fights caused by alcohol in the village. Although she had little expectations today, she was pleasantly surprised to see the villagers’ attitudes change, giving hope for continued efforts.

Lim said, "Bakraur Colony isn’t big. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been here. Tzu Chi has put up house numbers along the road, so I know my way around. Previously, when I saw a villager drinking alcohol in Dungeshwari, I advised him to drink tea instead. Surprisingly, this time the villager told me he has now switched to drinking milk. I felt encouraged by the progress and mentioned it to Kee-Hong Sio, the deputy CEO of Tzu Chi Malaysia, who informed me that Taiwan is also promoting tea instead of alcohol."

The medical team conducts health checks for each village, identifying drinkers and visiting them repeatedly. Although some villagers say they’ll quit but don’t follow through, they keep trying, asking family and neighbors for confirmation before giving a month’s supply of tea. Last month, out of 305 drinkers in nine villages, about 140 wanted to quit.

The Guardian of Life

Since May 2023, Dr. Kim Yan Lim, 71, has been traveling back and forth between India and Singapore, tirelessly working to transform lives in India. Despite the hot weather in May, she doesn’t mind, scheduling early trips to avoid the midday heat. She said, "The Master's wish is my wish."

She clearly remembers 2004 when she visited Chinatown in Singapore with a friend looking for Tzu Chi. Seeing a picture of Master Cheng Yen in Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Books & Cafe store, she didn’t know who the Master was but joined Tzu Chi upon invitation.

In 2011, while helping at a medical station during Buddha Day Ceremony, she was moved by the dedication of Tzu Chi volunteers despite the 35.8°C heat. After witnessing this, she realized she knew little about Buddhism and felt ashamed. Later that year, she attended the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) annual conference in Taiwan, met the Master, and was inspired to become a vegetarian.

"2011 was a turning point in my life," said Lim. She used to sleep with the lights on, but since joining Tzu Chi, she felt at peace and no longer feared the dark.

Believing that helping others brings happiness, Kim Yan Lim finds joy in her work with Tzu Chi. Seeing the villagers in Bodh Gaya suffering from poverty and illness, she feels that applying her skills can relieve their pain. Known as the "Guanyin Bodhisattva," Sister Lim smiled and said, "I’m not young anymore, but I’ll keep doing what I can."


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