Swami Dass Mehta is a renowned skin specialist of the tricity. We go back a long time when we were school buddies at Patiala. Congenial and warm, he is literally married to his profession. His sense of humour evokes confidence among his patients which primarily comprise the feminine gender in this era of ‘look beautiful’ syndrome.
I remember some years back, I had taken my niece who had developed a rather obstinate skin rash, to him at the General Hospital in Sector 16. The moment we entered his clinic, he remarked in his imitable style, a gesture meant for my niece, to indicate his closeness with me, “Fauji aate hain to sukoon laate hain, yeh pandit to ek dukhi khatoon leke aye hain (Soldiers bring solace, but this guy has brought a damsel in distress)”. My niece was cured in days, all due to his gripping humour and expert medical care.
Swami had moved on and quit the government job while at the pinnacle of his career and opened his own clinic. We often joked that he has done so to earn bucks and he would usually respond with his inimitable chuckle.
My wife and I wanted a minor skin treatment and thus called him up for an appointment on January 25. “Pandit, come tomorrow morning,” he replied. “But Swami, tomorrow is Republic Day,” I said. “All the more reason, buddy” was his response.
As we checked in with the receptionist at the clinic, we were informed that the doctor would see us in a minute. She gestured towards a waiting hall. Despite it being a holiday, the clinic was open to patients. The television at the front wall was live with the Republic Day parade, the wreath-laying by the Prime Minister at Amar Jawan Jyoti having been accomplished with elan. We got to talking to an elderly person sitting next to us at the sofa. He turned out to be an ex-serviceman.
To my question to him, Havildar Prem Singh, a veteran paratrooper, as to why they don’t avail of the entitled treatment at the military hospital or through the ex-servicemen contributory health scheme (ECHS), he drew my attention to a bold notice put up by Dr Mehta which read, “Treatment to ex-servicemen and serving armed forces personnel is free of cost”. He added, “Saab, hamaari waiting bhi alag se hai (there is a separate queue for soldiers )”. Just then, the TV was airing the Ashoka Chakra, the highest peace time award for gallantry, being confered upon to late Havildar Hangpan Dada, through his composed widow.
Just then, Dr Swami Dass Mehta walked in. I stood up in an emotional attention and hugged him twice, one for old time’s sake and the other in reverence for a noble deed. Swami gave his trademark smile and said, “This is the least I can do to pay back to the sentinels of our borders.” It is because of such compassionate citizens that the sacrifice of our brethren in uniform doesn’t go in vain.