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Our monsoon is as tardy as our railways

Of all the professions, healing the sick is regarded as the noblest. But now healing has become an expensive business as healers have to undergo six years of learning how to heal and have expensive gadgets, writes Khushwant Singh.

columns Updated: Jul 11, 2010 02:12 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

Of all the professions, healing the sick is regarded as the noblest. Jesus was a healer — Isa Masih. He could heal people by the mere touch of his hand. He did not charge any fees for doing so. Since then healing has become an expensive business as healers have to undergo six years of learning how to heal and have expensive gadgets like stethoscopes, thermometers, blood pressure gadgets, blood sugar counters, X-Ray machines and much else. So to demand the fees that they do is understandable. But there are huge differences in the monies they demand. I know of two doctor brothers. One is a heart surgeon; he earns upwards of Rs 1 lakh every day. His brother is a physician. He refuses to take any fees and even travels long distances to treat sick friends without accepting a rupee. However, the majority of doctors not only charge high fees but also pass their patients on to their friends in the profession for further tests in the expectation of getting patients in return. It has become a mafia of doctors: the Hippocratic oath be damned.

I have recently come across a family which has three generation of doctors who combine ‘pay for advice’ with free healing so that they can make their living as well as serve the poor who cannot afford to pay them. They are Bengalis settled in Delhi. Dr Samir Nundy is attached to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, his wife Mita set up a society to help spastic children. Their son Surajit Nundy was schooled in Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, reckoned to be among the best schools in the capital. After finishing his school, he went to the United States to become a doctor. He studied at Manhattanville College for pre-medical, sociology and computer science. Then he went to Duke University and got a PhD in Neurobiology. He went on to the Washington University School of Medicine, Harvard School of Public Health and set up his own practice in Boston. Two years ago he returned to Delhi, married the beautiful Mandakini, daughter of Manju and Suman Dubey. They have two little girls.

Surajit Nundy is a strapping 6 feet 3 inches tall, handsome young Hindi-speaking Bengali. He did not return home to make money but to combine comfortable living with serving the poor. First, he explored prospects of doing so with Dr Binayak Sen’s colleagues in Chattisgarh. Then he returned to Delhi and through his father’s contacts met Reeta Devi Varma of the Ila Trust to see what she was doing. The first day she took him to her mobile clinic to Jama Masjid where her doctors and nurses treat hundreds of men, women and children free of charge as well as give free medicines. The next day she took him to the red light district of GB Road. Dr Nundy offered his services to the Ila Trust. He has been doing the rounds of Delhi’s slums where everyday her mobile clinics treat about a thousand people. One day Reeta brought him over to meet me. I ferreted out bits and pieces of information of his past and future plans. He was reluctant to talk about his plans. It is evident he has to earn to provide for his wife and children as well as have the satisfaction of serving the needy. He must not be forced to return to the States, but made full use of by our government. There are not many people as highly qualified and eager to do their bit for their countrymen as he is.

Monsoon Express

There are a few features that our railways share with the monsoons. Most of our trains depart on time but very few reach their destinations as printed in railway time-tables, no matter what fancy names they are given: Rajdhani, Shatabadi, Deccan Queen, Queen of the Himalayas. When I was able to travel by rail, I used to take the the Shatabadi to Chandigarh from New Delhi railway station at least four times a year to go to Kasauli. It used to pull out dot on time and gather speed as soon after it cleared the suburbs of Delhi. However, I can’t recall it ever arriving in Chandigarh on time: a delay of 15 minutes to half an hour was normal. Other trains are usually late by an hour or two. We have got used to our trains running late.

It is much the same with the summer monsoon. It was expected to hit the west coast by the last week of May or first week of June. This year it broke over the Malabar coast on May 31. Then it moved northward, drenching Mumbai a week later. Its progress further inland was preceded by dust storms and an occasional shower. Our weather forecasters assured us our first gift of rains on June 24. On the promised day, the sky was overcast by the afternoon and in the evening there was a dust storm followed by a light shower. We waited a week when the proper monsoon was supposed to break over the city. Though more cloudy days came and went, but there was no rain. As usual, the summer monsoon like our railway trains, is always late in arriving.

Why do the monsoons, both the summer and the winter mean so much to us Indians? For one, despite our network of canals, thousands of tubewells and water-harvesting devices, we remain heavily dependant on good monsoons to feed ourselves. The summer monsoon is the time of national rejoicing: flying kites, girls singing sitting on jhoolas, dancing and seeing peacocks spread out their tails and raise their cries to rain-sodden black clouds.

Yogic Miracle

My friend’s son Golu used to bite his nails. I advised my friend to send Golu to Baba Ramdev who will teach him yoga. After two months I asked my friend, “How is Golu now?” My friend said: “Now Golu can bite his toe nails also.”

(Contributed by JP Singh Kaka, Bhopal)

First Published: Jul 10, 2010 22:17 IST