Monday, November 8, 2010
A Perfect Heart
By Manuwant Choudhary
Last night at 11 p.m. a perfect heart stopped beating after 90 years.
Dr. Shreenivas - a veteran cardiologist - passed away at a Heart Hospital in Patna after being in a state of coma for the past month.
He was a maternal uncle of mine and an amazing man so I write this tribute to him.
Humble origins and born in a marginal farming family at Garhsisai..he studied medicine at the Darbhanga Medical College and
went to train in Cardiology in Boston (at Massachusetts General Hospital) in the United States in the 1940s in addition to other countries like England.
A brilliant student who did not stop learning even till his end.
On his return he worked in Bihar all his life...being the personal cardiologist to many Governors and chief ministers and even to the late Swatantra Party leader the Raja of Ramgarh Kamakhya Narain Singh.
He had a small clinic where he could be consulted by anyone and usually the poor came to him from all parts of the state.
When he realised that Bihar lacked a proper heart care institute he pleaded with the Bihar chief minister to set up a heart speciality centre in Bihar. He said he did not care what the name of the centre would be..his main aim was that people in Bihar would not need to go to other parts of India for something they could get at a fraction of the price in Bihar itself. This request led to the formation of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Cardiology at the Patna Medical College Hospital.
This was in the heydays of the Congress rule when everything was named after Indira.
But Dr. Shreenivas did not stop at that. When he retired and found that socialism had destroyed the quality of health services offered to people he pleaded with a fellow cardiologist DrA.K. Thakur to start a private Heart Hospital in Bihar.
Dr. Thakur considered Dr. Shreenivas as his Guruji. Every new year he would arrive on the lawns of Dr. Shreenivas's home in Patna only to touch his feet and seek his blessings.
Dr. Thakur's Heart Hospital is a dream come true and thousands of people in Bihar benefit.
An allopath by training...Dr. Shreenivas claimed he was the founder of a new system of medicine - Polypathy.
In an age where loyalty to a particular system of medicine was the norm..Dr. Shreenivas chose to take another path. He said medicine is that which cures. Its not important whether it is allopathy, homoeopathy or even ayurveda. He even recommended all three medicines to his patients.
And he wrote books..hundreds of them...and he was a poet.
People considered him mad...he named his sons after Einstein and after some ancient Vedic scientists....I still can't remember my cousins full names.
He did this in a state where caste and surnames matter most.
But he was different - even funny. In his books out of nowhere he would mention the names of all his family members.
I remember when my father would visit him he always had a new book to present my father and it used to contain our names.
My father was a homeopath after his arthritis was cured - not by training - but he read so many books that he could dispose a hundred patients in one hour. Every morning he would give free medicines to the poor for two hours.
So Dr. Shreenivas was always interested in what my father had to say on homoeopathy. They exchanged notes and books often...
This morning when I went to their home a young lady came out to look after my aunt. My cousins pointed out that she is the same girl who had a speech disability. She could not speak at all.
Memories came flooding back. I recall my father taking out his medicine kit and giving some medicine to the girl. After several months of taking the homoepathy pills she suddenly found her voice.
Dr. Shreenivas was not the routine doctor. I recall how when during the Laloo era in Bihar when the law and order situation reached its nadir..even Dr.A.K. Thakur was attacked and robbed. Dr. Shreenivas sat on a fast unto death till Laloo Yadav himself promised him that the dacoits would be dealth with.
But the Indian government did not give him the national award Padmbhushan. Lesser doctors in Patna get that award every year.
Five years ago Dr. Shreenivas suffered a brain haemorrhage and went into a coma. I recall visiting him them and everyone gave up.
But not him.
He recovered after 6 months in hospital. Doctors observing the monitor said that even in that state his heart was perfect like that of a young man.
He had an unfulfilled mission. He felt he had neglected his home in his village so he wanted to build a temple to his family god.
His son did build the temple and Dr. Shreenivas visited his village to pray.
My father would often regale us with stories and one of them was when on an occasion a panditji from my hometown refused to eat dinner. When asked why he was not eating anything the pandit replied angrily, "How can I eat food when a Muslim is seated next to me?"
When my father looked he found the man sitting next to him was wearing a flowing white beard, dark glasses and a smile to pass him off as a Maulana - Dr. Shreenivas.
Was there a method in his madness?
Even as I write, this Maulana is being cremated on the holy banks of the river Ganga at Benares now.