Dr. Shirish Daftary
Past President, FOGSI
Past Chairperson, MTP Committee, FOGSI
Past President, MOGS
One July morning in the year 1982, I had a visitor waiting for me in my consulting rooms.
It was one of those days in the year when the crazy downpour had brought the city to a grinding halt. All the local trains had stopped services, a few buses were courageously proceeding along flooded streets, most sane people had decided against venturing out, even the street dogs were nowhere in sight. I had expected that very few patients would brave the weather and step out on such a wet wet wet wet day. I was myself in two minds about attending to my consulting rooms. I was looking forward to a quiet day at home, watching a movie and downing cups of hot tea and pakoras.
The telephone rang, the nurse on duty informed me that a village woman Malatibai and her daughter had been patiently waiting to see me. The nurse on duty had been trying to persuade Maltibai to come another day, but the woman stood her ground firmly and declared that she was willing to spend the whole day there, and would not leave without consulting me.
Upon my arrival, I noticed that the waiting room was empty, except for this determined woman and her daughter. They had traveled all night by bus from their remote village to reach Mumbai. From the public hospital they obtained the whereabouts about my consulting rooms, and came to my threshold with their hearts full of faith and hope.
I received them in my consulting rooms, and complimented them for travelling such a long distance in such inclement weather. Malatibai greeted me with a well bowed namaskar and began her narrative by reminding me of the day in December 1960, when as a young house officer I had attended to her in childbirth. She had been my patient at a public hospital 22 years earlier. I had attended to the birth of the daughter presently accompanying her. During that childbirth, she had had uncontrolled bleeding, hopes of survival were fast receding. In the prime of youth, I had offered to donate blood for her. An event she had not forgotten. Prompt and timely attention had saved her life. Such instances are’nt uncommon in the lives of young doctors in training, and these events lie dormant in our minds, however she had not forgotten the care she had received. For many years she had carried these memories with faith and immense gratitude.
Today she had come back to me full of faith and devotion. Her daughter Radha aged 22 had been married for 4 years, but she had been unable to bear a child. This had created a family problem, her mother-in-law and given her the ultimatum – ” If you do not conceive in the next 6 months, you will be given marching orders and my son will get married to another woman who will preserve our family line”. Distress was written large on their faces as they felt their entire world disintegrating in front of their very eyes. These two souls had come with such high expectations, I secretly prayed that I should not disappoint them.
I examined Radha and suggested a minor procedure. This was accomplished the next day. I assured them that I had done my very best for them and that we should leave the rest to providence. Reassured and filled with renewed faith, the dear souls traced their footsteps back to their hamlets. The mother was certain that since I had treated the daughter, there would be good news soon, however, I had that hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach which most medical practitioners experience from time to time – the feeling that “I hope my treatment works and that these poor dear souls who have come to me with such faith and hope do not wilt with disappointment.
In the month of December that year, the husband of the young woman came to me holding a flower-pot with a flourishing tulsi plant, he said that after going home, Malatibai and her daughter Radha had planted the tulsi plant in my name and prayed for blessings. The happy news of pregnancy brought back joy and happiness in Radha’s life, Malatibai left for her heavenly abode soon after hearing the happy tidings of her daughter’s pregnancy, but unfortunately she did not live long enough to see her grandchild. She had however instructed her daughter and son-in-law to carry the potted tulsi plant to Mumbai and present it as a mark of her devotion and faith in her doctor.
I humbly admit that the unalloyed joy and gratitude of these simple folks far outweighs the thanks that I receive from my wealthy clients who treat childbirth and the care given to the mothers purely through the crystal of a business transaction.
In the lives of medical practitioners, such events bring satisfaction and joy. The joy of participating in meaningful ways in close family events.