A Matter of Faith (7)



Dahisar was a small village about 11 miles from Bombay-Pune Road where I used to spend my weekends and short holidays as a medical student. Janu, a small-time farmer, looked after the cottage owned by my uncle. The hoarseness of his voice and a swelling of his Adam's Apple raised sufficient suspicion for me to take him to my then surgical chief, Dr. Shantilal Mehta at the J.J. Hospital. Janu was promptly admitted and handcuffed to the bed and had radium needles inserted into his larynx, the then most advanced treatment for this disease. The immobilisation was standard practice so as not to lose the patient and, what was more important, not to lose the expensive radium needles! Janu made a remarkable recovery and was all 'love and praise' for his young doctor. About three years later, I noticed a recurrence of the tumour which seemed well-advanced. Janu very politely refused my offer to take him back to the hospital. He was most grateful for the prolongation of his life for so many years but knew that now his time was up and wished to spend the remaining days with his family and friends in the village. He showed neither fear nor sorrow, for death was a part of life and its acceptance was as natural as of birth. This was not the result of a feeling of helplessness but a part of the culture to which he belonged: a culture so alien to the West and our newly-westernised elite who will undergo endless torture of body and mind to ward off the inevitable in order to gain a few more days in a hospital if not in an Intensive Care Unit, isolated from their family and home. Science divorced from philosophy, which in itself is the science of life, can be counter-productive if not positively dangerous.

Compilation of professional reminiscences of specialists - edited by M.V.Kamath and Dr.Rekha Karmarkar.