Whoever says poverty and illiteracy are barriers to civil behaviour is sadly mistaken. Day in and day out, I come across economically-deprived patients who want me to accept at least Rs 15 or Rs 10 or at least Rs 5, or, if not, at least something in kind, be it some excellent seafood or some hand-made articles, exquisitely designed, to express their gratitude. There was an illiterate man whose child, Mohan, was admitted to the Central Railway Hospital for a condition called Achalasia Cardia. I performed a very simple procedure called Oesophageal Dilatation on this child and subsequently the child having considerably improved, was duly discharged from the hospital.

Two years ago, I was very pleasantly surprised to receive a letter of thanks written in Hindi by the now grown up Mohan. In the letter he explained that it was his father's wish that he go to school, learn to read and write, and then write a letter thanking the doctor who had cured him. This letter is one of my prized possessions and it means more than a million dollars to me.

On the other hand, I have come across patients who through sheer arrogance and money power are under the false impression that they can buy or humiliate their doctors. Sometime in the year 1970 or 1971, I am not certain, I came across one such 'gentleman', perhaps a nouveau-riche man in possession of three or four imported cars in addition to an imported wife. One day, in the middle of the night, I was called to see his child in one of the more affluent of our private hospitals. The child was suffering from a condition called Paralytic Ileus. Over the next four or five days, I offered my services to the suffering child who in due course recovered fully. My modest professional charges amounted to Rs 600. Instead of  receiving a cheque for that amount, I received a rude shock when the Punjabi gentleman wrote to me that in a poor country like India, a consultation fee should be Rs 5 only, visiting fee should not exceed Rs.7 and he felt that I did not deserve one paisa more than Rs 200 only. The letter was accompanied by a crossed cheque for Rs 200 only. I replied: "Had I known earlier that you were one of those of our poorer Indians, I would have got your child admitted to one of the public hospitals". In addition, for future reference, I sent him a list of all the Public Hospitals and needless to add, I returned his cheque. Promptly came the full cheque amo of Rs 600 by the next mail.

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