(CNN)When Dr. Swaiman Singh boarded a flight to India last December, he thought he would be there for a week, tops.
Back home in New Jersey, life for the 34-year-old was "literally perfect."
His career was taking off, with just a few months left in a three-year cardiology fellowship at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and another prestigious opportunity lined up after that. He was a husband to a similarly ambitious wife and a father to a two-year-old daughter. He had the support of his parents and sister, who lived just a short car ride away.
Then, Singh got word that a close family friend from his ancestral village in Punjab, India -- someone like a grandfather to him -- had suffered a stroke at one of the sites in New Delhi where farmers had been protesting for months.
Singh figured he would get to the Indian capital of New Delhi, set up a clinic and pay some local doctors to staff it through a nonprofit he ran there. But once he arrived on the scene, he saw cases of heart attacks and cardiac arrest, of diarrhea and vomiting, of depression and fear.
"It just seemed like this is what I had trained to do," he says. "This was the reason that I became a doctor."
Singh extended his stay to 10 days, then two weeks and then three.
Months later, he's still there -- and can't imagine leaving.
How the movement started
The demonstrations first began last September.
At issue: Three new laws that intended to reshape the way farmers had long done business.
For decades, farmers had sold their produce at government-run markets, where they were guaranteed to receive at least the government-agreed minimum price for certain crops. There were restrictions on who could buy and price caps on essential commodities.
The system offered farmers security and stability in an otherwise unpredictable profession, allowing them to invest and plan ahead for the following crop cycle.
The new laws, initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and passed by the country's Parliament despite vehement and hostile opposition from some lawmakers, dismantled that system.
Now, Modi argued, farmers could sell their goods directly to buyers without a middle man. They could sell to other states or large grocery chains. That freedom, he said, was a good thing. The market-friendly laws would help spur economic growth.
In the northern state of Punjab, the bread basket of India, farmers didn't see it that way.
They feared that large corporations could eventually take over the market, driving down prices in years when there was too much supply. And with no safety net to protect them, they felt their livelihoods were at stake.
The farmers, many of whom were Sikhs and a religious minority in India, started protesting at home almost immediately af