Dr. Arun Gadre is a gynecologist turned Marathi novelist. With wife Dr. Jyoti, he left the glamour of city life for practice in a small drought affected rural town in India among the poor peasants, He has eleven published books in Marathi, including four award-winning novels, three educational books, and two textbooks for an open university. After a long and tiresome journey he meets his creator and redeemer Jesus Christ.
Two Great Men from Two Different Worldviews: Dr. Paul Brand and Baba Amte
Dr Paul Brand is a Christian missionary. He spent his life in leprosy patients at Vellore medical college, India. He is contemporary of great social worker of India, Baba Amte. Both are friends. Dr. George Mathai sent two of the Dr Paul Brand’s books. ‘Fearfully and wonderfully made’ is one of these. The Dr Paul Brand and co-author Philip Yancy have beautifully synthesized the body of Christ with the human body. It is the magnificent analogy. ‘In his image’ is their book. Dr Paul Brand became a father of reconstructive hand surgery, while performing tendon transfers for the diseased and shortened stubs of the fingers of leprosy patients. He is the humble character walking with Christ. He suggested in those books, ‘the world is decaying. That is the result of original sin of the human being. Christ died for them. Now, Christ is not among the world. But my hands are. If I wish, my hands can become the hands of Christ. They can wipe off the tears, they can heal the wounds.’
It was not a lecture on Moksha or on some vague conceptual Nirvana. It was not a discourse of so-called `Bliss’. Backing those words were his efforts and compassion for downtrodden and rejected leprosy patients. But most importantly, in that discourse was the hope. The hope, that though, human beings is sinner and though the man and the world is groaning in sin, there is love and plan with God for them. God has the will, the plan and the power to overcome decaying world.
Dr Paul Brand was accepting the fallen nature of the man as well as the world. He was not denying it. But at the same time, he was stressing that one should be the salt in this decaying world. Christ asked one simple question. ‘If the salt loses its saltiness, who would arrest the decay?’ Dr Paul Brand was assuring, ‘walk with Christ. Cast your burden on him. No revolution would befall. But you would be living happily. Your burden would be lessened. And he was giving this assurance out of his personal experience, and deeds. Fringe of my experience and thoughts was enlarging. The anger for the external devastating reality was not being diffused. Neither the relentless agitation was lessening. But what I started realizing, were my own inability, weakness and fallen-ness. I was becoming cognizant of my own sinfulness and resultant intractable fury within myself. It was quite an another thing to suffer for the sake of principles alone, without having any hope or strength. It was totally a new perspective to suffer for the sinners who would not change a dot. It was a different story to waste ones whole life as a weak participant in god’s grand plan. Soren Kierkegaard is one of eminent philosophers.
He writes, ‘It is possible that the man would show a great achievement and capacity. It is also possible that he might have a tremendous knowledge and information too. But it is still a possibility that he might be totally ignorant about himself. The reason being that until the man suffers a great deal, he does not understand. Suffering makes him introspective. And suffering alone teaches him the truth."Bible says, "Suffering makes man perfect."It is very easy to blame the system and others for any wrong and ill in it. It is very easy and convenient to say, "what shall I do? The system is rotten. One can’t help!"The most un-easy and offending statement in the Bible is that everybody is a sinner. It cannot be agreed upon for the simple reason that we generally measure ourselves against those who are falling short of our own ideals. We ourselves decide in a reflex manner the measurement criteria. And those generally are selected which suit us. Our spouse, our friends and colleagues, know our own moral weakness. When we ourselves acknowledge them, that is the beginning of self-realization.
And when at that junction in the life, someone like the Dr Paul Brand confronts and challenges me, and proclaims that "yes! I too am a sinner, whatever my achievements are, they are due to the Holy Spirit of Christ ", I pondered over the statement keenly. I have to.I now think reflectively. Had I followed the routine track of a city based specialist in gynecology, was it possible for me to confront these basic issues head on? I do not think so. So, I learn that the very struggle and frustrating existence I pursued was the blessing in disguise. I had been compelled to face the basic problem of the life, ‘what is this life all about?’ I was rather a God chosen one to have begun with this query. Had I been a successful businessman in a city, or a successful social worker in rural area, it was quite possible that the success would have made me self-centered. I would have lost the opportunity to seek God. I see this happening to many. And I now thank Lord that I was crushed and defeated. But the defeat is always temporary when the truth and love of God is with you. I learned this. In these all struggling years I had left the idea of becoming an author. I was just not thinking it possible. But at this crossing of my life, one more change happened.
novel Ghatachakra (The vicious cycle) reached Deshmukh and Company, Pune. It was accepted for publication after a waiting period of twelve years. Its publisher, Dr. Sulochana Deshmukh came in as a cool breeze in my life in that scathing heat. She was reorganizing Deshmukh And Company (Publishers) PVT LTD and had raised loan at her age of nearly seventy. And she was taking risk of publishing a brand new author who has been rejected by four prominent publishing houses so far. She suggested just one alteration in our first meeting. She suggested, "will you consider expanding the character of DR Shenoy? (The character is a prominent one in the novel, The psychiatrist who is concerned about the rising restlessness and suicide rate among the brilliant students of a prestigious medical college)I conceded in a moment. All other publishers have stressed the need to change the manuscript in some way or other to help making this novel excellent. ‘It is a good novel but it has a potential to become excellent’ one of the leading publishers had noted.But Auntie as I started calling her (Mrs. Dr Sulochana Deshmukh) had hit the core point in one sentence. One relevant factor needs to be noted here though. I had traveled far ahead in my life in those 10 years. I had myself metamorphosed in to Dr Shenoy from Amogh. (Amogh is the central character in the novel. Amogh is the sensitive and angry student in the novel who gives an open challenge to the boss, the great neuro-surgeon, who is dominating and ruling the college single handedly, and is the force behind the injustice done on the honest and eligible students in medical exams. Amogh as a revolt, murders the neruo-surgeon and at this point, the novel begins as a flashback. DR Shenoy takes side of Amogh and the revolting students and fights against the establishment.)
Walking with DR Paul Brand, by now I had reached to the core of the character DR Shenoy. That might be the reason I could concede to her demand rather eagerly. Now it has dawned on me that it is the empathy and compassion of DR Shenoy that is the unseen but the most elemental thread of my novel and not the hatred and selfishness of Arrogant Amogh! Hatred and violence can not be a purpose and meaning of any life lived. Yes, I had myself traveled so far, with the love and compassion of Christ of DR Paul Brand. So, may be 10 years back those editors had tried to tell me but I had not perceived their direction then. It might have been my own deficiency. In revised that part. DR Shenoy explains the students at the end of the novel. He labels Amogh and VGS as self-centered personalities. He equates them to a cell of a cancerous tissue. I had borrowed it all from Dr Paul brand’s writing.The hours I spent in rewriting of the novel with Auntie and Mr. Ravi Godbole are invaluable for me. They are part of my cherished memory.I finished rewriting of the novel.
And I remembered Baba Amte. He had by now left Anandwan and joined ‘Save Narmada’ (A river) movement. He was living on the bank of the river. I ran to him. I met him in the grand isolation and with the large bank of river Narmada as a witness. I read for the whole afternoon and in the evening too. I read the abridged novel. He was filled with tears when he heard me read DR Shenoy. He offered me his comments. While reading his comments, I got introversive. I knew that Baba Amte who has shunned God and declared that "when I seek the man, I got it all." One of the proponents of that Atheism is Nietzsche. He is the one, who declared, "God is dead." Here, though an Atheist himself, Baba was writing something antagonizing Nietzsche.
In that comment, Baba was writing something of the nature that was pitting Christ’s compassion against Nietzsche ‘s humanism. Baba was declaring that Christ’s compassion to be a victor over Nietzsche ‘s cold humanism. The same Christ, who is a Son of God for DR Paul Brand, was a human being Christ for Baba Amte. But there he was with Baba Amte too. And Baba was finding that compassion of Christ in DR Shenoy. It was all a revealing thing for me. In the course of our conversation when I refereed to DR Paul Brand, Baba was truly surprised. He knew himself DR Paul Brand in person! He immersed in DR Paul’s memories. And there was lot of them. The first one was that of an angry doctor who had been disturbed by Baba’s practice of making the leprosy patients work in the field. DR Paul was naturally worried about the effect of rigorous work on the wounds of the leprosy patients. But later he saw that the wounds were taken care. And he supported Baba.
When DR Paul Brand received the outstanding award in leprosy work, called Father Daemian Award, he publicly said at the time of reception of the award that Baba Amte deserved it more than himself. Once Dr Paul Brand had come to the city of Nagpur as a guest of the international conference in orthopedics. He refused to have a lunch in the arranged five star hotel and visited the remote place where Prakash and Vikas, Baba’s two sons were residing. It was an adjacent old room of an old temple. Both could not afford the mess and the hostel. So, they were residing in that private set up. When DR Paul Brand visited them, they were cooking their lunch. DR Paul Brand happily joined them for the lunch and had a long chat with them. I was listening to Baba stunned and awed with a realization of this great wonder. It was as if that the spirit of Christ was threading me, Baba Amte and DR Paul Brand.
My novel, the Ghatachakra, (The vicious cycle) was received well. It was a satisfying reality. I was searching myself. I was asking myself, ‘Am I an author?’ It is one thing to narrate the reality that one perceives from his near happenings. It is an another thing to write on some distant subject. That is the criteria for being a genuine author. So, I had to take up some subject that would prove me to be an author. I had to prove myself as an author.DR Paul Brand has given a quote from Margaret Meed, a social anthropologist, in one of the chapters of his book, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’.
Mark of the Beginning of a Civilization: Healed Femur Bone
When Margaret Meed was asked about the sign of the civilization of human beings at the site of excavation, and was asked about the thing she must notice to declare that the civilization had started at that place. She had declared that when she finds a healed femur bone at the site of excavation, she declares that the human civilizat
ion had started at that place!She had not answered in a routine manner by referring to the items like the utensils, irrigation and like things. I was thrilled. The meaning was quite obvious. Even today with all advances in medical technology, it takes about a month for the broken femur bone to get healed, in that period of an apemen, that must have required at least seven to eight months. So, when now the healed femur bone is found at the excavation, the meaning is obvious. It says that in that period of apemen, somebody had moved the injured person from the jungle. He had taken care of the wounded mate. He had fed the injured person. He had hunted for him. Who was this first person? Who was this first human being? How did he realize this humanness? How could he face it? Charged, I wrote the whole novel from this single sentence of Margaret Meed. The title was ‘A tale of Fengado.’
It went to Mrs. Deshmukh and Mr. Ravi Godbole. The famous work on the novel ascribed to Deshmukh And Company (Publishes) PVT LTD started. It was published. I had heard a lot of hassle regarding relationship between the author and publisher. But my experience was a different one. After having finished the work on the novel, and when it had gone to the press, Mrs. Deshmukh used to offer me a gift of RS 11 as the token of the satisfaction of having the work finished. At the time of the release of my later novels called, ‘The virus’ and ‘The cross’ Mrs. Deshmukh was no more. I missed those 11 RS!
My eyes turned moist. I doubt with my experience of English Press later, whether the English authors have this blessing of getting a devoted publisher who publishes a book in spite of knowing beforehand that the book would not sell, just because the publisher fees that it is his/her duty to publish the book!My old friend, Mrs. Neelakanti read the abridged version of ‘A tale of Fengado.’ in a grand function organized by Deshmukh And Company (Publishes) PVT LTD. In the history of publications by Deshmukh and Company (Publishes) PVT LTD, it was the only second such ceremony. The first was in 1964 when one of the greatest author in Marathi, Mr. P. L. Deshpande, read in similar ceremony, the translated version of the celebrated book by Hemingway, `The old man and the Sea’. I communicated with a Dr Paul Brand. And to my great surprise, his answer came. Now how I wished that Dr Paul Brand should read this novel! So, I started translating ‘A Tale of Fengado’ into English.One of the American publishing companies, ‘Fiction works limited’, has accepted this translated version. The E book is out. The print version is awaited. Whenever the print version would come out, the most important thing in that book for me would be the dedication. I have dedicated the novel to Mrs. Deshmukh. And of course, I would be looking forward to that sentence on the undercover. That is, ‘first published in Marathi by Deshmukh And Company (Publishes) PVT LTD in India.’The American editor commented about the novel, "this is not a novel. It is a spiritual journey of human being.
For me, ‘A tale of Fengado’ offered the proof that I am an author. But can I honestly say that the novel is written solely by imagination? I do not think so. The Fengado was not unknown to me. I had seen Baba Amte, who washed the wounds of leper. I had read about the Dr Paul Brand, who worked for hours in the workshop to produce footwear that would not harm the leprosy patient. I had seen the old tribal woman kissing Dr Prakash Amte, after the successful Cataract operation. I had experienced the thick jungle at Hemalkasa. I had known the darkness of the night in that jungle. I had been to the shores of the rivers over there. We used to take the Panther, named Negal, to the river. I knew the bank of the river and the big rock within it. I had seen Dr Prakash Amte swimming and reaching that big rock. In short, I had known the real Fengado, in flesh. That is why, I could write the novel.
The book by the Dr Paul Brand and Philip Yancy, ‘Fearfully and wonderfully made’ made a tremendous impact on me besides having inspired me for the novel, ‘A tale of Fengado’. It begot one more book from me. In that book, Dr Paul Brand has synthesized beautifully the body of Christ and the body of human being. A terrific piece of analogy it is. For any student of medical science, the book is a treat. He has beautifully explained and illuminated the sensory system as well as functions of human brain. Meanwhile, one of the magazines devoted to the criticism, in Marathi caught my attention. There was one article in it on a French philosopher called Derida. Until that moment, like any creative artist, I had been keeping a respectful distance from the subject called criticism. But that article stirred my curiosity. Rather I was quite annoyed by it.
I encountered for the first time the religion of today’s western world a philosophy termed as Post Modernism. (What I observed later is the nearness of Post Modernism with non-dualism in Hindu philosophy. Many thinkers attribute the origin of Post Modernism to the rising influence of original Hindu philosophy in the western world.) Apparently, Post Modernism is the ruling religion in the Western intellectuals. Historically, Protestant Christian movement and the Bible believers groups started the Reformation in Europe at around 15th/16th century. This movement gave following pillars to the humanity.
1 — there is God and absolute truth.
2 — one can grasp the knowledge about the world, which is a creation of the God with the help of God given gift of intelligence and rationality.
3 — ethical principles emerge out of the holy Bible.
4 — all persons are equal before God.
And hence, the democracy is the ideal institution for governing the society.On these four pillars grew the cultural and value system as that of today. Out of these four pillars, Humanism in the course of time removed absolute truth and God. Evolution replaced God, absolute truth and the ethics, which were emerging out of Bible. Science, technology and the human feelings became foundations of the truth, justice and ethics. More or less, this particular worldview was called as ‘Modernism’.
By nature, Modernism was not going work as expected. Man being fundamentally weak in morals, though science and technology achieved great Heights, without God and ethics, the democracy was converted into a license for Liberty unlimited. The questions hammering in the arena of humans’ ethics and human spirituality could not be answered in a satisfactory manner. Gradually, modernism under the pressure of these wants broke down. Existentialism of Sartre and Nitzse influenced the intellectuals and the common persons alike in desperation and dissatisfaction of the felt failure of modernism, science and technology. Existentialism decided that meaning does not precede existence. Rather existence defines meaning.
One is free to formulate one’s own meaning to one’s existence and one is free to define his/her set of ethics. So, homosexuality, addictions, pornography, and corruption faced no impedance now. Nor in the actions, neither in the principles! Everything became relative. One should decide for oneself. Derida went one step ahead. He emphasized that the words precede reality. (Derida’s prose is full of a mesh of complicated propositions. It might be offering a sort of intellectual kick for so called philosophers, but actually, in a nutshell it is a sheer confusion at the best and purposeful complexity at the worst.)I got restless. I had in front of me, the lives spent by Baba Amte, Doctor Prakash Amte, and the Dr Paul Brand. They had thrown their lives for the betterment of leprosy patients and downtrodden tribal.
In my own small way, I had rejected the routine successful life of a city gynecologist and am struggling daily the temptations in rural India. Insisting on ethical practice, in my own small way, I am fighting the decaying world around me. If I accept Post Modernism, and concede that the crooks are right in their own way and who am I to oppose them, and why should I do that, I have no answer even to the question posed by Sartre, "why should I not commit suicide?" Neither Sartre has any answer!
Bhava-cell A Hypothesis of Human Consciousness and Existence:
I discussed with my friend at Lasalgaon, professor Kachare. He is head of the department in college, of Marathi Language. Now Prof. Kachare got after me. He insisted that I must write on what I am proposing. He speculated that mine would be a thought provoking and an entirely fresh hypothesis. I succumbed to his friendly pressure. The book is ‘Bhava-cell, A Hypothesis of Human Consciousness and Existence.’ For me the book was an unusual happening. I had never imagined in my life that I would propose something as a hypothesis in province of philosophy and aesthetics. I still do not know how I synthesized the anatomy of a single biological cell and functions of human brain to come out with a model of Bhava-cell. Simply I do not know. Mrs. Deshmukh approved the hypothesis in totality. In her introduction to the book, she quoted a poem from Marathi Saint, ‘Saint Tukaram.’ He challenged the learned philosophers of his days. He declared that even though he was illiterate, he knew the true meaning of scriptures! My attitude was similar one.
In the similar vein, I am challenging postmodern philosophers in spite of illiterate in Philosophy. It is not at all extraordinary. After all Philosophy is life. It is about the very life we possess and live. It is not a monopoly of academicians who are engaged in wordy battles in their own fantasies and assertions. My model is just that. A comment on world views a common person holds and lives by. And naturally, if my model is a truth the literature must confirm the deductions derived out of the model.
The wordy jungle of Post Modern or for that matter any academic philosopher would not suffice to prove or disprove the model. And that is why I asked pointedly to the authors of great talent whether he/she approves of the logical inferences derived out of model. One of the noted dramatist and poet in Marathi, is MR V.V.Shirwadkar. He is one of the authors to whom highest literary award has been bestowed upon in India. He loved the hypothesis and agreed to the conclusions emerging out of it regarding poetry, novels and dramas. After getting his approval for my model, I got the confidence for my hypothesis for the first time. I was ready to face academicians. Naturally, very few experts over here received Bhava-cell with enthusiasm.
I presented a paper at 15th international conference in Aesthetics at Tokyo, Japan, last year. The situation was similar over there too. No body could understand what I was offering. Rather they chose not to understand it, as they are clever enough to note that if one accepts my model, the present opioid mood of Post Modernism would be challenged.One of the small publishers in Canada is publishing the English version. (MRS Rohini Sahasrabuddhe has translated it in to English) I am looking forward to that coveted statement in that English Version. ‘First published in language Marathi, by Deashmukh and Company (Publishes) PVT LTD, Pune, India. Until now, it has been a routine that English books are being translated in to Marathi as far as any new knowledge is concerned. For a change, with Bhava-cell, the process is being reversed. I am proud of it as an Indian. My language Marathi which took its breadth with the prose and poems by Saint Dyaneshwar has donated the word ‘Bhava’ to English, with the publication of this book, ‘Bhava-cell’. This very fact excites me naturally. ‘The Virus’ is my next novel. It depicts the relationship between the terrorism and hedonistic living. It seems that barring my publisher MR Ravi and me, very few liked it. Twenty years back, I wrote a small booklet. Its style is as if a mom is speaking with her little darling daughter.
It contains just 16 pages. In the booklet, before the oncoming first menstrual period, the mom is explaining h
er daughter about it. It is a small booklet that tells the mom about what and how to explain about this inevitable happening to her darling daughter tenderly and scientifically. Almost all the publishers in Marathi rejected the booklet. Mrs. Deshmukh published it happily, even though she had expected beforehand that this might not sell well. Bhava-cell is another such example of her conviction and dedication. (Even after having distributed as a gift copy, the edition of Bhava-cell is yet to be sold out) One of the noted authors wrote on the small a booklet a review in the newspaper. She titled it as the ‘Upanishad (Bible) of the modern woman.’ All my efforts of twenty long years bear fruits. One more booklet from me is on the sex education and Aids. It is for the adolescents. The last in the series is the one that is a small textbook for the neo-literate women in rural India. Deshmukh and Company published all out of social conviction without having given a thought regarding their potential for sell. My these three daughters are weak but are still my darlings. The time went ahead. I settled. Settled as a gynecologist in the rural India. I settled as a father of two daughters and of course as a husband. Years passed. The orbit of my struggle enlarged. The rural India came in to the grasp of deadly AIDS. The social decay increased still more. Many facets of it emerged.
One of the aspect was what the noted economist and Nobel laureate Mr. Amartya Sen labeled, ‘ the vanishing females.’ The females were by now being terminated before birth in millions. Ultra sound machines were sold in thousands for the same. The prenatal sex determination became the rule. It turned out to be the most lucrative business. It is easy to recover the cost of the machine within two years with sex determination and termination of the female fetus. Every section of the society is involved in this grand program. A few gynecologists murmured words of protest but when they realized that society wants it, they too joined the race. The masses are with it, firmly and without any guilt feelings.
Post Modernism- Not So New to India
In India, too the postmodern philosophy has started ruling. Or is it other way round? Some claim with pride that from non-dualism of Hindu Philosophy the post modernism has evolved. In Indian way of looking to the world, it is all Maya and nothing is real. So, naturally there is no such thing like absolute good or evil. The relativism of postmodernism has thus the origin in the non-dualism of Indian thoughts. May be, the proponents of postmodernism have not found anything original. They are just extending Indian thoughts.The Dharma (The Philosophy) of Indian Philosophy has two distinct categories. One is the Sanatan (The absolute) part and the other is Tatkalik (the changing) part. And so it is justifiable that the females should be terminated with a larger perspective of eliminating their sufferings! If given a birth, any way what is in for her? The inevitable dowry and the oppressive social system including the bride burning. So, in a way female infanticide is a solace. For the would be female and of course for the poor parents of her. It is not surprising that Hindu community as such is engaged in wiping out the females. I do not see any movements originating from Hindu believers to arrest this.
There are many which strive to save cows instead. If there is any, and I have not noticed, I sincerely beg pardon my oversight.It was and is not just a question of principles for me. For me my survival as a gynecologist too was involved along with it. I am refusing the patients who have come with the stash of cash in their hands. Having refused them, they are selecting the doctor in the next shop who would happily oblige. And I loose these clients permanently. I have to bear with this loss. ‘Belief in human beings’ rationality’ is the basis of humanism. Today 90 percent of the masses that the humanists believe in are of opinion to terminate their female fetuses. Few atheist individuals are resisting it and they are resisting on the basis of humanism. How could they do it? If the relativism is what we accept as a way of life, how can few insist that the majority should abandon the ways they feel to be the right ways? John Stuart Mills was a humanist and atheist intellectual. He was an inspiration to the social reformers over here. Mills proposed the utilitarianism. According to it the thing that is useful for majority is the proper thing to do. That is ethical. At the times of Mills, intellectuals accepted the ethical principles, which had their roots in Bible. But they had rejected the Bible and the God. Even after having rejected God and Bible, the society needed some structure and ethical code to regulate it.
There was no much deterioration because the social masses had a baggage of Christian morals with them how ever hidden they were. So, it didn’t matter then in Christian societies. But today in postmodern Christian world and in Hindu social structure it seems that pragmatism and utilitarian worldview has a majority. Relativism is ruling philosophy not because of so called apparent tolerance but for the simple reason, that relativism offers guilt-free conscious to a greedy individual. In such a scenario, naturally one does not have any answer what so ever, to the question that is asked by a majority over here, ‘why should any one oppose the female infanticide, which is so gladly accepted by the majority?’ If the majority has firm conviction that its interest lies in female infanticide, then why and who should oppose it then? Actually, and as a natural outcome of relativism, No body does.
The person who is a staunch Hindu is strictly opposed to animal killings. S/he is a strict vegetarian by faith and would not kill the chickens for food. But eagerly s/he opts to terminate human female fetus without a hitch or a pinch of guilty feelings. The doctors oblige happily too, as it is a lucrative business. In such a situation the Laws and enforcement of them is just a mockery. Why I am acting so self destructively, so adamantly and with so much loud protest and am refusing to engage in this socially accepted practice? I had to know to keep myself sane. Christ helped me at this crucial juncture. He helped me to suffer losses when I stood firmly against the tide. It is not the only issue. I have to face rising tide of another practical evil. Medical field in India is under seize by the most unscrupulous commission practice where the consultants share the fees with the referring general practitioners. Its influence has become all pervasive, and the postgraduates have literally to beg for the patients. The system is totally rotten and honest doctors are now helpless spectators. The commission is rapidly reaching the extravagant level of 50 percent. I can not escape it. And since I oppose it, I have to face the consequences. Why shall I? Why not engaging in commission practice is a virtue? Why shall I accept this tough and destructiv
e road? In simple terms why this virtue is an absolute one and can not be relative one so that I can change my ways to suite my survival? The social decay is very rapidly worsening. Including doctors, every one is getting increasingly greedy, insecure violent and hedonistic.
Every one is pointing to the inevitable and irreversible direction of degeneration. Every one is putting blame squarely on the so-called system. The helplessness that one can not do anything takes over first. But very soon, this helplessness is transformed in to a self-justification to join the rot. The result is being the double speaking game where every one is happily joining the system and blaming it too in the same breadth!There are descent honest and sincere individuals in every section of the society irrespective of nationality, education and religious worldview. I have not a slightest doubt for it. Not very back, there was a respect and an honor for these individuals among the society. Now they are being labeled as crazy and fools.
Tomorrow they would be labeled as the criminals. ‘They will hate me because they hate the light and love the darkness’ proclaimed Christ. At least as of today there is no need to hunt a proof for it. It is very easy to blame others and the system. The truth is that every one among all of us is weak to face the pressure, temptations and greed. It is only possible as far as one is not being offered the opportunity or is not facing the heat and the pressure. One is ethical only up to a certain breaking point left to himself/herself. I learned it by my own experience. There are some exceptions like Dr Prakash Amte, and he proves the rule. But they are few in numbers. All the rests are weak like me. Either it is observed that idealists are a frustrated lot in general or it is seen that what is carrying them on the path of virtues is just their arrogant self-centeredness. Most are pure hypocrites. They talk something and act otherwise without a batting an eyelid.
Rise of Fundamentalism
In India, after Gujarat episode of state sponsored violence and lynching of minority Muslims and attainment of massive majority in the election by the same government signals the last bell of the tolerance and Gandhian philosophy. All over, the world Muslim Fundamentalism is on rise. It is just a matter of time that Christian masses would also follow the suite. In India, Hindu fundamentalism is leaping in leaps and bounds. After Gujarat violence, it has become impossible for peace loving sensible intellectuals just even to appeal for the peace and harmony! They are being resisted with a very fierce and hateful violence by determined Hindu Fanatics. In the recent past, Hitler termed the wiping out of the Jews as ‘the final solution.’ I doubt that in future, as the things stand that of today, the political and organized religious outfits are going to take a single point program of silencing all those with a little bit of conscious left! The persons with a conscious will be the new Jews for all these power hungry institutes and termination of these Neo-Jews will be their most cherished agenda.
The religious orgy of violence is prevalent in every religion and section of the world. Palestine and Israel (The Muslims and the Jews), the Pakistan, Iran and Taliban (Muslims), Bosnia (Christians and Muslims), Gujarat, India (Hindus and Muslims) are the few examples. Not a single religion is an exception. The religious fanaticism has grown with dark colors, after 9/11 incidence and has become irreversible. The world is being polarized rapidly in the religious zones. The humanity in the 21st century is unfortunately not very different from the masses in the God’s beloved country of Israel 3000 years back. Following is the description in Old Testament.’Their throats are open graves. Their tongues are for deception and falsehood. Their lips contain the poison. Their feet are running after the blood. On their road is only the violence and destruction. They do not know the word ‘peace’.
‘The atheists and humanists threw their weight on the human reason. The human nature that was as shown 3000 years back is the same as that of today. It will be the same tomorrow. Including the organized Christian sects like Catholics, all religious outfits have revealed in the history the same devastating reality regarding the human nature. But the fact is that it is very difficult to accept for intellectuals that human beings are originally sinners. They are called sinners not because they act sinfully. They act sinfully because they are basically sinners. But this is proving to be the most difficult truth to acknowledge. The way out of this denial is two pronged. On one hand its is a common practice to inflate ego and to promote human being to Godhead. Or the system is being held responsible for sins and various magical cures are being offered including the various avatars and ideologies. The all-pervasive attraction and hope of the masses for the benevolent dictator or the miraculous technology as a savior are just few of these futile efforts. In this whirlwind of confusion, the common and sincere persons are feeling helpless.
In such a situation, the central character named Merriam in my novel called Vadhastambh (The Cross) flashed before me as a ray of hope. She is a simple and innocent woman who has acknowledged God as some one transcendent to this universe and as a source of our life, conscious and ethics. She is walking with person of Christ in her life and serving the Aids patients. This character met me in an article by late socialist leader of Maharashtra (A state in India) Mr. S.M. Joshi. He wrote it a few months prior to his death. Mr. S.M Joshi was a very transparent and honest individual. For life, he believed in atheist humanism. At the end of his life, he suffered from the cancer. He met two sisters in the hospital who were believers in Christ and who tended him a tender care. Their love and care touched Mr. S.M.Joshi. He ended the article in somewhat these lines. He wrote, ‘ if these sisters are believers I too am.’ The Merriam in my novel took shape in my mind when I read those words. Along with her, I perceived the character of staunch Hindu industrialist called Kaka Patel. He along with B
apat Guru are believers in Hinduism.
Joined them is Mr. Grandpa who has spent his life for uplifting tribal and who is an atheist and humanist. In my novel, these decent and honest individuals are struggling to live an honest life drawing strength from their respective belief systems. They are the soft and cool breezes in the fire of hatred and violence spurned by religious fanaticism. Thus took birth my novel Vadhastambh, (The Cross). It was my small effort to carry forward the tradition of intellectual and philosophical novel in my language Marathi, so ably started 100 years back by some giants. I was apprehensive though. With the pride of my own intelligence, I was underestimating the common readers. I was under impression that the intellectual novel, which contains so many discussions on God, Ethics and Religion, would drive the common persons away and would only attract the intellectuals. Who would read all those paragraphs of serious discussion on the hard subject of Religion? But I was wrong. I was pleasantly surprised. The college going students, the common housewives responded eagerly.
Some of these readers took pains to inform me that it was my best novel so far! Merriam, the sister in the novel who has shunned organized Catholic sect and who has turned to Person of Christ instead and who is serving the poor and Aids patients appealed to the common readers. Some intellectuals objected though. For them, it was a sort of enigma to know the Christ out side the Christian Religion. They could not accept that the distinction between the Organized Christianity and the Christ believer who is not a part of any Christian sect is existent, and possible. The common reader accepted Merriam as one of his or her own clan. This happening encouraged me. Let me quote once more Adulous Huxley. Regarding the understanding of a subject he writes,’The intellectuals have a keen ability to understand what he wants to’The common persons are not intellectuals. That is the reason they are open-minded. That is why they have accepted my novel without any hitch. My journey is now on a distinct and well-defined path. I have accepted that God created the universe and life including me. I accept that God is transcendent to this universe. I am denying the organized Christian religion that believes in baptism at birth. I believe in conscious and thoughtful baptism by the adult. I call myself as a Hindu Jesus devotee. I live to walk with the person of Christ.It is the most unimagined happening in my life. I never ever dreamt that I would one day accept the concept of God. The Christ was never ever thought of. As C. S. Lewis has said somewhere, I am the most reluctant Christ follower. I went to accept him because I was very weak to follow the idealistic path I had chosen. I could not carry on purely on my will or ego. I did not want to become a revenge-taking monster and my anger towards the evil in society was fast reaching the explosion point. It would have destroyed me.
The temptations were massive and especially powerful when one knows that people around will never change. The system is too cunning and deceptive when mere human will and yardstick is at work. I do not claim that I am that perfect Christian who just walks daily with Christ. There are no palpable miracles in my life though many unusual incidences of highest degree can be quoted. I am not always victorious, humble and loving. I get depressed often, and I get frustrated too. But I carry on. I am with Christ now since every other alternative is far short of explanation. I am with Christ because as his apostle commented, ‘where can we go?’ I am a Christ follower since no other system of thoughts and reality helps fighting evil. I know with all seriousness that by declaring myself as a Christ follower, I am laying a trap for me. I might be apparently honest and decent to the distant persons. Only the near ones know my fallacies, temptations and shortcomings. They would definitely question me, ”Where is Christ in you?" And they are correct. When compared to Christ I would always be a sinner. It is an impossible task to become Christ like. Any way I do know one thing though.
My vessel rises sometimes, drowns some times. But I know my destination and I have my savior helper. That is my hope in this vast prevailing ocean of despair all around.
Dr. Arun Gadre is a gynecologist turned Marathi novelist. With wife Dr. Jyoti, he left the glamour of city life for practice in a small drought affected rural town in India among the poor peasants, He has eleven published books in Marathi, including four award-winning novels, three educational books, and two textbooks for an open university. After a long and tiresome journey he meets his creator and redeemer Jesus Christ.
Honest Autobiography is a demanding undertaking. Neutral autobiography is a self-contradictory thing in nature. Actually, it is what we all are engaged in throughout our day. The self defense! We do it all the times since morning until night amidst our near ones and in our friends. What otherwise the quarrels are between husband and wife? Autobiography is invariably a self-defense. It cannot be otherwise. Well! It might be possible for those so called great persons to examine themselves with a neutral prospective. But in that case, the very fact of neutrality is seen being displayed too with a shining armor!
Thus, I have stumbled at the beginning! I am not any great person with a slightest halo of divinity or statesmanship. Nobody is waiting eagerly for my autobiography. I have no great extraordinary success story to tell; neither I have that authority which comes along with age. Nobody really bothers about what I have to offer. I have lived a life a little out of routine way, and there are some published books to my account. This is what I have. I am an author. And what does writing of an author comprise of? Any writing, novel included, is a sort of autobiography. My first novel — Ghatachakra, (the vicious cycle) and my another book, `Kinwat days’, (my days in place called Kinwat) were based on my own experience. The novel was on the subject that was dear to me. I am a gynecologist, a working gynecologist in small Rural Indian town. I was a student in a prestigious medical college in city Bombay, India. The education system in the medical field is rotten to the core. Many of my friends were quite frustrated when they had to face the fact that how ever they would try and how ever they would excel, the gold medal would always be given to some son or a daughter of some influential doctor around. Few were so depressed that they even tried to commit suicides. One was successful. The novel is just that. The agony that I faced took the form of a novel. The another published book is an autobiographical account. I ventured on my own, taking a loan from the bank to settle in a tribal area, the place called Kinwat. I was a total failure and had to literally sell everything and to have run away. The book is the story of my failure, the failure of a romantic revolutionary. These books were as if, I had opened the window of my life and asked the readers to peep in to it. My most recent novel is `Vadhastanbha’, (the cross). It must be a sort of my autobiography too! It has to in a way. The readers must have wondered about the exact character among all in this novel that could be my spokesperson. Many would have speculated too about it being the Christian nurse named Merriam who has rejected the organized Christian sect of Catholicism and who is walking along with a person of Christ. It was obvious for any intelligent reader that author must be speaking through her. But it could be otherwise too. After all, it is a novel. There is one magazine here in my language that reaches the intellectuals mainly. It is named as ‘Antarnad’, (Inner voice). It published a detailed review on my novel. But the editor must have been eager to know my own stand. So when the magazine was set to come out with a special issue, the editor rang me and asked for my autobiography directly. He specified that he wants me to portray my intellectual journey along with my literally and social sketch. I have to my credit ten published books and seven awards. I have settled in rural India, with a lot of struggle and hardship and am supposed to know the ground reality quite well. That is the reason he was asking my autobiography even though I am just 49 years old one.
MR Vijay Tendulkar (a well-known dramatist in language Marathi) is my beloved author. He loves my books, and that is one of my tender spot. He declared once in his interview,
"I am a mirror. As an author, it is my job to show the face of the society in the mirror."
Of course! It is the job of an author. But the stated neutrality in his statement is somewhat slippery. I asked him,"Well! Sir — the mirror too stands at the angle that the author decides. It is of the nature that the author selects. It can be a flat one — convex one — or a concave one!"
To think of it, one statement by Sartre is a famous one. He states, " any sentence containing Words is an ethical statement of some kind."
A funny reality! Is not it? See whose statement is it? It is by Sartre. He is a self-proclaimed existentialist and nihilist. And he is vouching that words do carry some meaning. What a great contradiction! It should not be so. Contradictions are nothing but the essence of any individual. Sartre is also not an exception to this rule. It is a simple reality that words including the word meaninglessness and nihilism too explain something. Meaningless-ness is also pregnant with some meaning. Meaningless-ness is not meaningless. To search for the purpose and meaning for one’s life is an inevitable and bruised journey of every person. It is an inevitable and an unavoidable reality that each one has to face point blankly at some juncture in his life. The questions must be answered are, ‘Who am I? Why do I live?’ One can never avoid
however s/he tries to, the breaking down, the frustration and the devastating isolation these questions bring on him/her. And when a person does stumble upon this reality, only two alternatives remain open for him/her. One is to get broken and to face the mirror of truth up front. The other and easy way out is to deny the breaking and to wear a mask to mock it with all of one’s might and efforts.
The apprehending of this basic fact of life does not depend on the acquired knowledge or the kind of experience of the person has had. They are necessary, but not sufficient. The basic issue here is that of will. What does the person want? Does s/he want truthfulness? Does s/he ready to accept the truth and the consequences that come along with it? Answer to this very question shapes his/her understanding of his/her own broken ness. Adulous Huxley is a humanist and atheist. But have a look at his quote.
He states, " We do not comprehend. The reason is, we do not want to understand. Our own will defines the nature and direction to which one’s intelligence is applied. Those who confer nihilism and meaninglessness in their life and reject any possibility of meaning in it actually do not want any meaning whatsoever at all. There is something in their living, which detests meaningfulness. There is some thing in their present life, which is making them content in their secure mask of meaninglessness. For them, the glamour and the thrill in the mere act of searching the truth is sufficient. No further advances please, is their motto"
It is the reason that generally one is contended in self-justification and in the muddle of words in doing so. The outcome is that one refuses to get broken down truly. And even if s/he is broken down, s/he does not seek the truth.
Quest for Truth portrays just one pre-condition. It is, ‘Seek and you would get it.’
Any autobiography is nothing but facing truth squarely.
I to had to face getting broken down in my life. Actually, in a way, I asked for it.
Childhood Days: Dream for the Society
The graph of my life was otherwise have been a straight one. I was from a middle class family. I was a scholar. I was a student of one of the prestigious school of Bombay. I was a merit holder in secondary school examination. The person who interviewed me on the radio asked me the routine question of my aim in life I asserted confidently and firmly in that live interview,
" I will become a doctor and will settle in rural India."
He pointed out sarcastically, " well! All declare this in their interview any way! It is a routine declaration. Nobody really take it seriously."
I proved to be an exception. (Are you reading it Mr.?)
When I ponder over those vernal years, I now perceive many things. The public library at my disposal in those days has been a major contributory factor in my being an author today. The librarian used to wave the rule aside to lend me two books at a time. Through these books, the great Christian Missionary Dr Albert Switzer beckoned me, since my childhood. One of the freedom fighters and Indian revolutionaries, MR Bhagat Singh captured my imagination from the biographical novel on him, titled ‘Inqualab’ (The Revolution). Jyoti, my wife too is the victim of this readers’ culture. The same book influenced her. She is of opinion today, that the reading culture is the cause of our agony. If one does not read a lot, one does not become idealist and romantic. S/he walks on the earth, in his/her own selfish cocoon. It is a fact that she alone had to endure my romantic adventurism. Any adventurism, how ever noble it is, if had been ventured with out having judged one’s potential and capabilities, hurts and recoils. We both saw a movie recently on Bhagat Singh. We both cried watching it. (We agreed completely over some issue after a long period)
"Why Bhagat Singh went to the hanging rope?’ we cried. A stab of deep depression hit us. He did die for this country? We could not believe. Did he sacrifice for those who could now make money without a morsel of guilt in the coffins of the soldiers of the War? For those who push the woman in the pyre of her dead husband even today? Bhagat Singh gladly accepted death to free India from the British Empire. It has become a norm even in rural India to enroll children in the school of English Medium. I am called a crackpot when I insist on education in vernacular language and when I act accordingly in the case of my daughters. Arrogant Selfishness rules every where today with no bars and without a ting of guilty conscious. The last poor man of rural India who had been the cornerstone of the life and thinking of great Mahatma Gandhi hooks the wires of the state electric supply without any remorse and taps the electricity without paying a rupee. And naturally, the state electricity department becomes a bankrupt one. That person has an electric stove in his house for the simple reason that he procures free supply of electricity. It has been a curse in this country nowadays to have virtues like honesty and the quality of being able to perform. Ask for that matter, any businessman. He would agree. If the things are freely available in the retail-market which have bypassed the tax net, how the truthful companies who follow the rules and pay all the taxes could compete with them in price? They can not.
If you forgive me to use the words by great Marathi poet Gadima, I would say, this democratic and free country has become a one where,
‘There is a pyre of death for the one who is ethical and truthful to her husband when the prostitute is enjoying the fruits of happiness and glamour!’
I own something (for such) a society! These were my feelings and motivations. I had been possessed by these thoughts. If Bhagat Singh died to free India from oppressive British Rule, I must become a doctor and settle in a rural India where the need is.
It was my dream. It was a first bend in my life. I opted for Medicine and not for engineering. At least twenty of my schoolmates are in USA today after having graduated from engineering colleges. In this remorse of having chosen Medicine as against engineering, I am not alone. Many of my friends who opted for Medicine are wondering about their decision. If one has the mathematical and logical aptitude, it is of no use in Medicine. Engineering would have been a far appropriate branch for us. In medicine, more than logic, the patience and dedication work. I joined College Of Bombay. And later got admission in one of the oldest medical colleges of India, The Grant Medical College of Bombay. It was an another mile stone in itself. My college and its Marathi literary society proved an asset for me. I used to write one act plays. My friend used to direct it in inters college competition. Of course, it was used to be booed by the audience! But a grand life it was! There was not a bit of bureaucracy in our college. All of teachers were themselves free to conduct their work, as they would like to. So, it was a pleasure for me to work under my teachers. I took gynecology for post graduation for the simple reason that surgical branch matters more in villages. I could not get General Surgery and hence had to accept Gynecology as the next choice. It is in long run a great mistake. A general surgeon can perform the gynecological operations and not vise versa. I am in a way quite useless to tackle other pressing needs in surgery. I would have waited and tried to get general surgery.
As I explained earlier, though my college was like a heaven, the system of examinations in medical education was rotten and oppressive. The atmosphere was suffocating. The competition was cut throat. The coveted gold medals were generally reserved for the sons and daughters of the big bosses. Top class and intelligent students opt for the medical education. They come from a cream of the society. So naturally, the depression and frustration of not getting the well deserved gold medal was unbearable for many. For these well deserving intelligent students, the indignity and demeaning defeat proved to be a harsh reality. It was a shattering realization that intelligence and efforts have no value in medical exams.
Naturally, the depression and frustration was a rule. I was touched by the suicides of some sensitive and well deserving students whom I knew. These suicides and theses bosses formed the characters in my novel called Ghatachakra. (The vicious cycle). I used a different narrative style though not out of design. It was a sort of the style of a screen play writing modified in to a story telling. It was a natural outcome. It became my own distinguishing style of story telling. My novel does not have a narrator. The story evolves through the scenes and happenings. The novel was returned with thanks from four different big publishers over the period of ten years. The main objection to it was regarding the new style. It was a thrilling fact for me that it appealed to one of the old timer critics. He himself gave the novel to one of the reputed publisher. This publishing company was known for its experimentation. But it too rejected the novel. The old chap was taken aback by this refusal. But he comforted me that one day I would surely get a good publisher. The novel hooked my friends. Publishers were rejecting it though. I was quietly circulating it from one publisher to the another one. My friend Neelakanti wrote a screenplay on it meanwhile. One dramatist wrote a three-act drama on it called ‘Close Heart surgery’. Many of the established artists of today’s Marathi Theater were new comers then and had acted in that drama. It was staged for the State Competition.
Meeting Baba Amte: An Encounter to Remember
My journey of life continued. I got my post graduate degree. By now, I was involved in the family of Dr Albert Switzer from India. On my schoolmate’s insistence, I visited Hemalkasa. His father had been in association with great social worker Baba Amte. Baba Amte is an atheist and Gandhian social worker. He is 86 years old. 50 years back when he was a successful lawyer and the president of a town’s elected council, he noticed the leprosy patient along the side of a road. He could not touch him. That reality shattered him. He along with his wife, Sadhana Amte he decided to serve the leprosy patents. He raised a colony of leprosy patients, named it as Anandwan, meaning the place of joy. Here all those who were driven out of their homes gathered and produced agricultural products to earn their lives. Later his surgeon son and anesthetist daughter in law started a project at place called Hemalkasa in thick jungle and served tribal. The leprosy patients of Anandwan support the tribal. I visited Baba Amte’s Anandwan and Hemalkasa project. Once I visited Hemalkasa, I became one of them by heart. Recently I received a letter from my friend over there. He levels me NRH like NRI. NRI means Non Resident Indian (The Indian who is not resident of India). NRH means Non Resident Hemalkasa. (The one from Hemalkasa who does not live in Hemalkasa.)
Those were the days I would never forget. The project at Hemalkasa run by DR Prakash Amte and Dr Manda Amte is a project similar to the one run by DR Albert Switzer.
Days of Atheism: Why Jesus did not kill the sinners instead?
It was my beginning to know the world. Hemalkasa taught me the value of my presence as a doctor where none is available. One thing was clear and attractive to me as an atheist myself. ‘I am involved in social service for my sake and not for God, not for any religion’ was the motto of Hemalkasa.
I remember it even today. Vilas Manohar, a worker from Hemalkasa was with me in Bombay that day. We were on a double Decker bus and were on our way back to my
home. That was twenty years back. ‘Jesus died for the sinners.’ Was the painted sentence somewhere on a side wall. We read it. Actually, Vilas Manohar, Dr Prakash Amte and Baba Amte were and are in opposition to the guns of the leftist violent groups fighting for the tribal. Still, we could not digest that sentence. Nor Vilas, neither me could agree with it. ‘Why Jesus did not kill the sinners instead?" I asked aloud and we both laughed in agreement. Merrily we made a fun of that sentence.
Marriage and Romanticism with Rural India
After passing my post-graduation, I selected tribal province called Kinwat to settle. By now, I had married with Jyoti. It was an arranged marriage. I was not getting a wife. ‘My destination is the village life’ was my loud declaration and it was driving all prospective wives away from me. That utterance was startling their parents. One of the parents was probing still more and inquiring whether the reason behind this destination of mine was actually being the lack of funds! In that case, with dowry system prevalent in Indian marriages he was ready to take care of my investment in any city. Jyoti’s uncle, was a dedicated teacher and head master of a well-known Bombay school. Her auntie, father and mother along with her uncle were in favor of an unusual doctor candidate like me. Jyoti too was thrilled by my romantic destination. And alas! She tied her knot with me. Her long journey of agony and displacement had begun.
For me, becoming an author was now a secondary objective. I shoved my manuscript of the novel in the cupboard. As of today, I can now mull over on all my mistakes committed that time. I can now pinpoint the unrealistic belief in people’s judgment, and my romantic adventurism as the most basic faults of my scheme. I had entered in the battle without any studious preparation. I lacked the necessary surgical skills to perform autonomously in most harsh conditions; I found it out to my dismay that the college experience was too inadequate, especially in the rural area where there is a shortage of every thing. No expert help was available at that place, the blood was not available, and the expectations of the patients from a private practitioner were unrealistic.
Only belief and hope would not be sufficient to support any mission of my nature. On economic front, the very project was a wishful thinking in the first place. Banks would charge the same interest on its loan, 16 percent in a city like Bombay and the same in Kinwat. Was then I in position to repay the loan at Kinwat? How economic pressure I could withstand? Was I ready to face shortage? Had I enough skill and guts to face the level of expectations one had to bear with? I did not think of any of these issues at the stake. It was my greatest shortcoming. Can I say that I was not forewarned by anybody? Sadly, I can not. None other than my wife, Jyoti, warned me. Jyoti being a woman was cautious.
She was of the opinion that we should take a government service first in that very town. We should take the judgement of the nature of the practice we have to enter. Gradually and after much deliberation we should enter in private practice. But I overruled her. It was nothing but a male chauvinism. That too in the mask of revolutionary! I tried to hit a grand shot to the very first ball I faced. A fortuneteller was not required to tell the possible outcome. I named my project ‘Biradari (Society) Project’ drawing inspiration from Lok Biradari (Peoples society) project of Dr Prakash Amte. If I had evaluated Dr Prakash Amte’s project objectively, I would have known that the primary strength of that project was in the free treatment it offered. Even now, it does not charge a cent from tribal. It is no wonder that the patients have some stake in accepting the guidance offered there. I overlooked this fact. Whether one charges 60 RS at Bombay or 3 RS at Kinwat, for the coming patient, both would be a shop merchants offering some medical advice as against their payment. Naturally, the market forces would apply, and that too without any commiseration. If the patient wants an injection as against his payment, and if you do not comply, he would not heed. He would turn to the next shop offering the service he is seeking. He does not give a damn to your sincerity, and honest intentions. I never foresaw this aspect of human nature. It was unexpected to me and it was not the fault of the patients, it was my childish belief, wishful thinking and immaturity.
‘It is not just enough to give opportunity and education. Man does not rejects his greed and beliefs just by education.’ I had to learn this reality yet. And any way, even Russia had to learn it by that time. Mikhail Garbachao was yet to arrive on the horizon. So, it was not odd that I too was ignorant. Bible was saying clearly and without any ambiguity, ‘Man is basically a sinner.’ I was not ready to listen to it. It was just a dogma, religious dogma to me.
But by inserting, one’s head in the sand like the ostrich does not prevent the storm. It was on the horizon. First, I lost my hope that a revolution would take place. After that, I lost my courage. I left Kinwat. I sold my household in an open sale. My parents supported me. My father repaid the loan. He helped me to raise the hospital here at my present place Lasalgaon.
I had narrated all my story of Kinwat in the book called ‘Kinwat Days’. Jyoti went to her parents and her college to pursue her degree in Anesthesia.I went to the government department to beg for a service. I had no resources except my degree for getting a job at Civil Hospital where my skill as a specialist would have been useful. Since the specialists get appointment at civil hospital not to serve the poor and needy at it, but to divert the patients from civil hospitals to their own private clinics, the bribe to get the appointment at Civil Hospital is in hundred thousands of Rupees. At least a recommendation from political bosses is a must. I had no recommendation nor I had money to bribe. So, the officer offered me a primary health center, which I accepted. I had no other alternative. Primary center is the tertiary center in health care pattern. It is just a sort of primary health care that is possible over it. Actually, postgraduate is useless there as it has no operation theater, anesthetist, staff and drugs. So, it was a waste to serve at that place. But I was helpless. I visited a small coastal town of Alibag, 120 km from Bombay on my way to the Primary Health center. I saw the board of
my senior friend, eight years senior and a colleague in Marathi literary society of my college. He is a pediatrician. I met him. He suggested one opening as a chief medical officer in a private hospital in Alibag. I joined it happily, as there was at least a possibility here that I might practice my specialty. And for the management of that depilated hospital on verge of its last breadth, I was the only postgraduate who was willing to join at the salary they could afford.
Meeting Yeshu Bhakta’s: DR George and DR Roy Mathai
Alibag turned out to be the second most important corner in my life. I met DR George and DR Roy Mathai and their believers group who had no Reverend, no Wooden cross, no register and who proclaimed themselves as Hindu Yeshu Bhakta. (Hindu Jesus devotee) I knew DR George as a legend when I was doing my post graduation. Every one in the medical college knows him. He is a founder member of MARD, Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors. He and the MARD are responsible for the betterment of working condition of the resident doctors. Before Mard fought courageously many years back, the resident doctors had to face slavery at the hands of the bosses. The pay was non existent. Working hours were unlimited. George and MARD changed it all for better. He is ten years senior to me. When he passed his MD, the degree was recognized abroad, especially in UK. His half of the batch mates left India to settle in UK. He thought other way. He came to the civil hospital at Alibag; a rural set up at that time, a sleepy small town at the seashore with no urban facilities.
He was the first Physician in the district. Naturally, somewhere our interests matched. Roy is a pediatric surgeon, as well as general surgeon. He was employed at an African country with a sound salary. One day he heeded to the gentle coaxing of Christ. He was more useful at Alibag for the patients and for the believers group. He left that glamour and money to join Alibag. I was lonely at Alibag. My quarters were of British age and architecture. The seashore was few meters away from it. I was wounded and was licking my wounds. I was disturbed. We had our small tea club in my lawns. I engaged myself with long fights with George. He had read a lot. One thing I realized and realized for good. The so-called principles for which sake I had fought at Kinwat were the same with George and Roy. But they were living the principled life far more smoothly and happily and easily.
While I had made a religion of my principles with a stubborn dogmatism and rigidity, they were living them far more naturally. They were not angry and frustrated with people at large in spite of their weakness. They were refusing to be defeated. They had joy. They had patience and a rare warmth and humility. One more point struck me. I was an atheist and was damn against religion and God. But it was just my own faith. It was nothing else. I was on equal footing with all others including George and Roy. While they had a faith that there is God, I too had a faith that there is none. There was no qualitative difference whatsoever in our attitudes. I had been baptized to atheism out of the conditioning at my home. I had not taken vouch of atheism after having considered all other options with the same scrutiny. I had not read on the subject. The balanced comparison was far away; I had not even had a primary knowledge of what I was preaching. I had not asked even the basic questions to my own belief system. I had been the same one that I was alleging others to be; namely an orthodox atheist. I was a staunch orthodox atheist. So, I started reading. George was more than willing. He supplied me all material. I read Bhagawat Geeta as well. I read Holy Bible.
A change had been taking place in me from within. Meanwhile, I jumped to grab a new opportunity at near place called Roha. And finally I landed at my present habitat of last 13 years, Lasalgaon. All was closely similar again at Lasalgaon. Like Kinwat, nothing more, nothing less. Once again, it was a rural set up. Over again, I was pursuing the same pipe dream. By now, Jyoti got fatigued with my wandering life. She was after just one thing. A permanent place and living. So, she surrendered to my insistence of practice at Lasalgaon. I was hitting my head against the wall again. But one thing was certain. In any case, I could not visualize myself in city-life practice.
Tentacles of Market Forces
Once more, what I confronted were the same market forces. Like Kinwat, here was the medical market similarly ruthless, greedy and unscrupulous. It was the same typecast of the patients who were not tired of their ignorance and who were happily succumbing to the lures of medical baits. The most horrifying realization was that of commission practice in medical field. I was not expecting it rural place. It was prevalent in cities.
If a postgraduate is ready to cough up some percentage of his earning out of the treatment offered to the patient, then only the general practitioner is willing to refer patient to the post-graduate. The greed had reached here too. It is a rule in city. Of course, a few exceptions prove this rule. In addition to the necessity of having to fight the corrupt commission practice one more shattering reality awaited for me in rural region. Being a gynecologist and not being a general surgeon, I had just two skills in my possession as a postgraduate. Until I settled at Lasalgaon, they were available to the patients in the city and Lasalgaon had lacked them. I had voluntarily selected Lasalgaon to offer those services specifically.
One skill was — the ability to perform Caesarian operation. Here I was stumped completely. Patients dete
sted Caesar. One reason was it was costly affair compared to normal delivery. Second was that Caesar renders the patient useless for heavy fieldwork at the farms at least for some months. The third most important point was that the Caesar restricts the number of babies to three. Here people wanted to go to any number of deliveries required until they have a boy. Many a times, until they have at least two boys. The sum was I was the most unwanted doctor. The one who must be kept at a long distance.
So, when it was required to come to me and get Caesar done, the occasion was of a great distress. The gratitude was lacking, and what I had to face instead was the curse. In the eyes of the patients and their relatives I was the criminal who had done the most unwanted job, the cesarean operation.My second skill was to remove the uterus. Here the situation was of another extreme. Near by the surgeons have shaped an altogether different milieu. They were interested in turnover as far as the hysterectomy operation was concerned. At the slightest instance of complains like white discharge these surgeons were frightening the patients with dire consequences like cancer if they dared to neglect and hence forcing the patients for hysterectomies.
So there was a fear psychosis and the same poor patients who were cursing me for an emergency life saving caesarian operation were running to the hospitals with the stacks of money in their hands to get the un-indicated operation of removal of the uterus done. And since the hospitals were functioning with the sole aim of increasing the turnover, they were charging minimum too. A great social service rendered to the poor by those capitalist surgeons! I was the culprit who was rejecting the patients bent on having uterus removed for the so-called ethics of not doing un-indicated surgeries.
So, I had to accept defeat at this end too. The final aggregate was, I really had no purpose left to be at Lasalgaon. My noble dream of offering the rural patients my service destroyed from within. The same old story was getting repeating like that of Kinwat. But my book called ‘Lasalgaon Days’ was not forthcoming. I was to write this autobiography from Lasalgaon instead. I was changing. I was changing from within, thanks to this devastating destruction. My change was subtle and gradual. I could not notice it myself when it was occurring. The fact that even though pressed with the same insurmountable problems, and social evils, I was not getting defeated. However the things were looking dim, I was holding my ground. I was shouting, groaning and was getting depressed.
But I was not opting the other easy way out. Just one simple nod. Just one simple nod to the commission practice and all was so easy. So easy that I would soon be flooded with all those patients whom I seek so desperately. One simple to the un-indicated operations and the same patients who were running with money to the unscrupulous surgeons to get uterus removed at the age of 23/24, would have been flocking my door. It was very tempting alternative. Daily I faced the struggle and how ever tired and fatigued I am, the next morning would be a fresh one with patience, hope and dedication.
I was not leaving the battle as I had at Kinwat. The books were helping me. At night when all the fight seems to have been over in a defeat, I go to my consulting room downstairs, shut the door and reach for the life-sustaining stream. One of the persons God used to nurture me was DR Paul Brand.
Accessed on 20th September 2013