Dr. Shirish Daftary
Past President, FOGSI
Past Chairperson, MTP Committee, FOGSI
Past President, MOGS
Animal visitors to the Maternity Nursing Home
When I set up my private maternity hospital in the upcoming suburb of Juhu, I felt confidant that my earlier 7 year experience in clinical practice at some of our leading public hospitals had equipped me adequately to face upto all kinds of expected and unexpected challenges in the days to come.
The Juhu Vile-Parle Development Scheme was fast developing into a posh locality. The newly arrived residents comprised of successful businessmen, Bollywood and television personalities, retired bureaucrats and professionals of all shades and calling who had made a mark in their areas of expertise and of course that fringe of humanity bordering on lunacy who belong to the art world. In short, this neighborhood boasted of a mélange of intelligentsia and weirdoes.
In the earlier years of our stay, we had kuccha roads lined on both sides by stylish bungalows, the owners possessed big cars which were parked in their garages. All these Kothis were enclosed by tall compound walls. Interaction between neighbors was strictly restricted to donning a broad smile whenever we crossed paths and uttering mere salutations as was appropriate for the hour of that day. The main V.L. Mehta marg was about 150 meters away from our nursing home. Road traffic in those days was rather thin and essentially restricted to people proceeding to the Juhu beach. After 9.00 pm deafening silence prevailed – you could hear your own breath sounds. I considered the peaceful atmosphere as a blessing contributing to the patient’s recovery.
In the rainy season, the empty plots of land all around us turned into lakes, The storm water drains on either side of the inner lanes were like flowing streams, the children of the locality enjoyed crafting paper boats and floating them along these conduits of running water. Every year, the approaching monsoon was heralded by an incessant croaking of frogs that emerged from the grassy empty plots, and seemed to be hopping aimlessly around the locality. Each morning, many of them would be crushed under the wheels of moving vehicles, the crows would then descend to feast on their carcasses.
On one Monday morning, a snake which had feasted on some frogs, lay curled-up at the entrance of our nursing home. The menacing appearance of the snake had held up people from proceeding in or out of the main gate. I was summoned at 8.00 am to help resolve the issue. The servants were all excited and stood readily armed with long bamboo sticks to kill the snake. It somehow hurt my conscience to adopt such an inhuman approach. Never having contemplated such a situation even in my wildest dreams, I sought advice from our next door neighbor. He suggested that pushing it with a stick would coax it to slither away into the surrounding bushes. A feeble attempt was made, however it only resulted in the snake moving closer to us.
A call to the police station for assistance brought forth a humorous response. The voice at the other end of the line retorted in an amusing voice – “we are here to protect people and snakes is not our business”. Thereafter, my wife suggested that we put in a call to the SPCA. The voice at the other end wanted to know if the snake was wild or whether it was somebody’s pet that had escaped. I replied that I do not see any collar around it – and hence my best bet is that the snake is wild. The next question was whether the snake appeared sick or hurt – This question seemed easy to answer – I informed the learned person that although I was a qualified doctor, my expertise was restricted only to humans, I frankly admitted that I lacked the skills of assessing the health status of reptiles. Some good sense finally dawned on them. And they assured me that an ambulance would arrive in the next half hour to remove the reptile from my doorstep. Had the snake entered the house – then of course the law would have prevented them from helping out as the matter would fall beyond their jurisdiction. Two hours later, the snake was finally removed, and our day to day activities were finally restored.
In the year 1982, an injured cat took refuge in our premises. The nurses took pity on the animal. They covered it with a blanket and fed it for some days. By the time I came to know about the cat, she had given birth to a litter of four cute kittens in our stairwell. The next day, the kittens were moved under the refrigerator, on the third day, the kittens were transferred to the garage outside. On the fourth day the kittens were shifted to our neighbor’s outhouse. Our neighbor leaned over the fence to tell me that it was indeed cunning of me to have pushed the cat and her kittens into her compound. Remembering the adage that any volatile situation can be salvaged with humor – I replied that in our maternity hospital, normal delivery cases are kept only for 4 days. Thereafter they are discharged from our care. Once they step out of our gates, we do not keep a track of their activities. Thank you for the information. We both laughed heartily thereafter and left the matter at that. Somehow, the day was saved without a hint of any rancor.
Mrs. Kavita Arora, wife of a leading film director came to me for her prenatal care and delivery under my supervision. She had been progressing satisfactorily. On the July 4, 1985, She arrived at 9.00 pm complaining of pains. She was most distressed that her husband was away in Poona for a film shoot. He was of course informed about the event and ordered to return forthwith. I consoled her, and assured her that I would be by her side all the time until she delivered. At 2.26 am on July 5 she gave birth to a bonny baby boy. After ensuring that she was comfortable, I retired at the unearthly hour of 3.00 am. The husband arrived at 4.00 am to visit his wife. I had left instructions to permit the husband to visit his recently delivered wife whenever he arrived. Mr. Satish Arora arrived at the hospital in the wee hours of the morning along with his coterie of friends. Inspite of the protestations of my hospital staff, they uncorked bottles of champagne to celebrate the event and created quite a ruckkus. Bollywood leads life on its own terms. Many of them are unreasonable and wont to make strange demands. As physicians, it is not possible to keep pace with their unusual demands. These artists are also very temperamental and short tempered. As a community, Bollywood and television celebrities have a chip on their shoulders. I tell my physician friends that you should consider yourself lucky if you do not have to deal with the film and TV world. At the time of leaving, Mr. Satish Arora left behind his pet dog, as the spoilt pup would only eat if it was fed by Kavita.
Early in the morning on July 5 I was reading the news paper and preparing to sip my morning cup of tea, when I was rudely disturbed by a commotion downstairs in the nursing home. I sent for the nurse on duty to ascertain the cause of the disturbance. She promptly reported that the ayahbai on duty refused to serve breakfast to Mrs. Arora. I summoned the ayahbai and on questioning her behaviour, she admitted that she was scared of going into that room. (It is a trait of all hospital staff members to part with incomplete information). I therefore had to descend downstairs to resolve the issue. It was only after I entered the room that I realized that each time the ayah attempted to enter the room, the puppy dog would come down barking at her, naturally, the ayah was reluctant to serve breakfast to Mr. Arora. I then had to remonstrate with Mrs. Arora. She was told in no uncertain terms that keeping animals in the room was against the rules. Also, requesting for unusual permission for visitors to come late at night disturbed the hospital routines. Since Kavita was otherwise fit and fine, I was only too glad to grant her an early discharge from the nursing home.
The last animal visitor at our nursing home was a pregnant monkey. She must have escaped from her keeper, and during her wild forays, she entered the nursing home and scampered up the staircase. The wardboys tried to shoo her away with sticks, but the scared monkey scratched them in self defense. Thereafter the monkey triumphantly entered a patient’s room. Mrs.D’Souza – the occupant of the room had undergone a cesarean delivery the previous day. As she lay immobilized in her bed, with a glucose infusion attached to her right forearm, the entry of the monkey shook her out of her wits. The monkey climbed onto her bed, sat astride her chest, and started tapping her on her forehead. Mrs.D’souza let out a scream and sat upright onto her cot. The monkey ran out of the room and charged down the staircase and escaped into the compound. She climbed up onto the roof of the garage and sat smugly over there. Once again, on the basis of our past experience, we called up the SPCA. We went through the same rigmarole. We informed them that the monkey was not our pet. However, we made the mistake of mentioning that it appeared that the monkey might have escaped from the clutches of a performer of bunder ka khel. That statement sealed our hopes, because, we were promptly informed that the jurisdiction of the SPCA did not extend to pets.
Finally one of our more enterprising staff members located a monkey-man. He was bribed to take the monkey away. We paid him Rs.500 for his services, and as a bonus he got the monkey free in the bargain. Mrs. D’Souza, until this day, never fails to remind me of the monkey episode whenever we meet.