love is a memory that occupies a vast space in my hard disc drive. Yet I never
had a problem sharing it as an attachment every time I sent mails.
Hi! Abraham, nice poem…Do tell me more on
life there now, more so
because you seemed to have got over your initial teething crises. June
I have not got over teething crisis, I hate every day I spend in UK.
Currently am doing locums in and around London-specifically now I am at hilling
don hospital at
Oxbridge near Heathrow will be joining at Hastings (on the coast!!) as trust
middle grade (promotion?) from 1 September u know I feel like running back
to India every day. When are u going next to Cal. Shall try to meet u.then (planning)
It’s strange, that what you cherished
forever as a dream, going to UK and
working there should turn out to be a let down. Coming to Pokhara, Nepal I had
dream and it’s nearly been realized in my day to day living here with the
students, medicine and mountains and I am glad of my choice. I really want
to meet you and have a glass of beer with you in London. I am sure
live to see that day soon. June
U can come down any time u want. Why don’t u in fact? If you want to give the
mrcp, why don’t u plan it while I am here? Or
research? Well, I am ready to sponsor your trip.
Think over it. Abraham
just want to come there to meet you and have a nice time not give MRCP or build a career in UK. I am
already happy with what I have attained in medicine (I am an internist) and my next
target is to set up a community based rural
practice somewhere in India (Gujrat? Maharashtra? …suggest some
place) and at the same time be attached to a rural medical college, have a
house with a garden and some peace and quiet (Karnataka it will have to be I
Yours Sneeringly, Cheerio, cornflakes, grits
you just described what a g p does here in Surrey, Yorkshire, or Devon, or Durham, or anywhere in this country…do u realize this? Think carefully I
am not joking. There is opportunity in this country as a g p – they have a
shortfall of 22000
G P. posts in the next 10 years. A g p
earns around 100000 pounds per year and the new contract enables opting out of
weekend on calls and stuff like sharing on calls so they are really never
overworked. You don’t need mrcp to become a g p. A g p earns more than a
consultant here. I do not understand why you should forgo easy money
there for the taking- u need to work only 3-4 years in UK to save approx
50-60 Lakhs -enough for starting something inspiring
in India -(in Goa perhaps!!!--I will surely join u for that )—I am not
exaggerating - I saved 10 lakhs+ in 7 months - it was
tough for me but its not for nothing that I have returned- after a lot of
Well its not that I am trying to hard sell something on you but I feel u
will do wonderfully in the system out here where they value research,
so very highly -( which I hate).I sense money out here and the difference with
is amazing -- you should try to earn some out here. You deserve it actually
more than some of our batch-mates who are here. Well that’s all I can say - if
nothing imagine what 50 lakhs can do for your
security in life- you will not have to worry about your financial security for
some time and what the hell where is your wanderlust gone? Don’t u want to see Wales and
Scotland and lake-district and Brighton (went there yesterday with Aasha
and Ram) not to speak of Switzerland and Paris and Naples and lovely Greece and Spain and canary-islands. What the hell i
say!!! Where is your dammed sense of adventure??
Come baby there is gold out here. I am not drunk now. Its just I feel u will do
very well here. So dammit a little trouble perhaps
for some time – a hiatus, when u give plab but u will
come flying thru. I want to see u in UK - from
there we can go to USA
Hey-hey-hey, I wont take no for an answer. Abraham
Money or comfort of security was never a
priority. If it was so I would have chosen to go to UK
instead of coming to Nepal. Believe me except for a few glitches like unavailability of a
telephone (I have only an intercom connecting 200 people, that allows me 5
minutes of email time everyday) I don't have any qualms. I want to live life
and one realization is that life keeps eluding us if we run after securities
and the more money we have the more insecure we feel. Let's hope that I can
live up to my reputation of being a jack of all trades (and one who
doesn't need to be master of any).
Dear June, All said and done I don’t believe you. I don’t believe
u think you are good enough to compete with the best in the world, work under
impossible conditions etc-I believe you are scared of fighting it out like we
doing .You have proved nothing to me or to the rest of the world - u are in a
fucking backwater even worse than Calcutta, so if you have the courage then
and prove it in UK for a start. I believe u are frightened of open
well if you have the guts come and fight and prove it-- otherwise fuck off to
your rapidly crumbling make believe world of Nepali fantasy. Yours sneeringly,
Yes! I do.
- Thanks Abraham, for all the venom I never thought my dear old friend would
hurl at me but it’s great that we be honest with each other rather than
taking recourse to the make believe. I am slightly suspicious that it may
not be you because the write up lacks your trademark uppercase but who ever
it may be I thank you for this opportunity to bring out the bigger truths we
generally avoid/are uncomfortable to discuss verbally fearing unnecessary
confrontation (something which is easier done in email rather than face to face
or even over the phone).
Yes, I think you are right. I probably will not be able to carry on doing
all the wonderful stuff I imagine I am doing here, especially because I will
not be allowed to touch all their sophisticated equipment. I am definitely
frightened of the global open competition; the very prospect of failing (which
I am bound to) is sickening to say the least. Also I have a great make believe
future to look forward to. However I have nothing to prove to this real world
or myself. I am glad that we are finally beginning
to talk and understand each other. You will always be my dear friend more so
was your love for me that gave you the necessity to sneer at me.
Peace and keep writing
Shocked eh? But did it do what it was supposed to do
? Goad you out of the hypoxic trance like security in
the heights of the Nepal Himalayas? Well if it didn’t its
too bad, cause I think I am right.
Get out of your hypoxic Himalayan stupor and realize
that life is passing you by. Where is the wanderlust and daredevilry which you
had? I am pissed of at your lack of sense of adventure. cheers
Why don’t u give
your Phone number to me please? Dear Joooon! For heaven’s sake, and this is the
second time I am asking you, Will you marry me?!
Yes! I would. Jooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon!
The last honeymoon with the mountains
The honeymoon was to be decided after the
official marriage formalities that Abraham found too bothersome now that he
couldn’t wait to be alone with his beloved June. He wanted Goa again but June was firm.
The mountains it would have to be and that to Macchapucchare for one last time
before June packed her bags for Kolkata again. Abraham had got a nursing home
attachment there and it would be convenient for him to chop-chop every day
whatever appendices, hernias, and hydrocoeles he could lay his hands on. June
had once fancied herself as a surgeon but once when she had taken her brother
complaining of chronic pain abdomen to a very impressive professor of surgery
in her medical school he immediately posted him for an appendicectomy coming
morning in his nursing home. Their father, Samsara, wouldn’t have any of it and
said the pain was just an irritable bowel and would go away on its own. Dupki did out grow the pain once he went to college but the
incident made June think that surgeons needed to be robot-like if they were to
be deemed a good hand. To keep their hands in shape, they had to cut as many
appendices they could lay their hands on, if not for the money it would bring
in. The more the merrier, the faster the better- An intellectual surgeon was a
26/10/01:Set out walking to Baglung bus-park with Abraham protesting vehemently (he
wanted to cover the city stretch on car) and then after a 2 hour bus ride
through hills and valleys finally came to Nayapul
...Verified our permits in Birethanti and took a
quick breakfast before we resumed our walk.
Met my old patient of Diabetes suddenly on one of the villages in the trail...
He treated us to the guavas and oranges freshly plucked from his own garden.
However he looked quite bad, much worse than what I had seen him in the
hospital .He had already developed End stage kidney failure due to diabetic
nephropathy and he looked all bloated. Also what was particularly worrying
was his inability to sleep at night due to the shortness of breath he had
while lying down. This meant his kidneys were not excreting water properly
and that was all clogging his lungs.
The guavas were tasty...and we sat relishing them near the Bhurundi
river where we also spotted a white capped redstart wagging its tail.
decided to halt for the night in Tikedhunga it was already late and
Abraham immediately hit his sleeping bag but again had
to arise out of politeness for two Israeli girls who had come to inspect our
rooms, whether it was as bad as theirs and then we had a lot of interesting
discussions on the Gaza strip and the rising US allergy among the Israelis.
They liked Abraham's name as it sounded Biblical and they said a Messiah would
come as a savior for all of them according to the Bible...I made them a bit
uncomfortable by asking them whether they really thought it was true.
Regardless, we continue...new or renewed track
The next day was a steep ascent to
Ghorepani with tremendous views of Annapurna from Ulleri. I met an English couple coming down from Ghorepani
whose guide's mother had been my patient. The lady introduced herself as a GP
practicing in Cambridge and at the same time teaching communication skills
to other doctors. Her husband was a dear young old man with a silver beard
and a book on birds of Nepal and looked more like a bird man although he was
a professor of architectural history. I wanted to talk more with them on
communication skills but they were going in the opposite direction.
Whatever communication skills in med I learnt was from my mother (Who
isn't a doctor).She told me what they would have expected from their own
doctors and never got. She described the number of occasions she had been
inadvertently offended by her own doctors. That provided for me an early
start in building rapport with patients, right from my third year Med school
because in effect I was avenging my mother by being good to my own
The rest of the trek to Ghorepani was steadily uphill but it was made easier
by Karen and her husband from California who discussed a variety of things
under the sun (from surface topologies to obstetrics).We had lunch
interspersed with sessions of bird watching with redstarts, minivets, orioles
and kites making their forays into our imaginations if not into the nearby
trees. That night in Ghorepani we had a feast of pizzas, rostis, chocolate
pudding and cake but that didn't make the next day's job of climbing to Pun
hill any easier although the sunrise was breathtaking. Found a few ladies
photographing themselves against the background of the Annapurna baring
their backs with ANNAPURNA 2003 written on them. Karen and
her husband set out in the other direction towards Annapurna base camp after
which they would be going to Khumbu to climb Island peak.
We soon set out for Tatopani after a quick breakfast and met Curtis and
Jean Viev on the way. Curtis was a web designer but his first love was music
and was soon going to bring out his first CD but before that he would be
taking a month's course in Tibetan Buddhism in a monastery in Nepal.
climb down to Tatopani was tough and at the same time beautiful with fields
of kodo and fapar gleaming in the afternoon sun which was
rain that caught us on the final descent from Santosh lodge...the steep
stone steps felt very slippery.
Also saw a bit of the Himalayas
The next day was a quick descent to Beni as I already knew the way
from last year's Muktinath visit. On the way I met a Norwegian family who were
working in Nepal through generations and it felt really interesting to be able to chat
all the while in fluent Nepali with people who looked European. Lunch was
dashain ko maasu and kodo ko chang(a millet beer) and after reaching Beni found there were no buses
as it was the 10th day of Dashain.
A bus did start at charging exorbitantly although we had to make do with sitting on
the roof- top, which too was crowded. After some time however the roof top was
gradually transformed into a place to be especially with the near full moon
shining on to it a fair share of its gleaming light. It was cold but then
somebody was passing around a bottle of apple brandy fresh from Marpha,
Mustang. I met Soul an Australian medical student who was a year junior to Andy
who had been doing his elective with us last year and had done the Annapurna
circuit in a fairly short time. Then there was this French painter whose medium
was oil on water and I wondered whether it was possible to paint using only
words. We lay down on the roof top watching the moon and the stars and the snow
peaks dazzling at a distance while the bus moved at its gentle pace.
I felt as if I had seen the world in these
few days, more so through the eyes of its people from various countries and off
course I also saw a bit of the Nepal Himalayas.
Fly to Kolkata then fry
June couldn’t manage a teaching post there
but got an attachment in a clinic which was attached to a nursing home. She was
still a consultant though. She didn’t have any medical students to teach but
then patients always needed teaching as ‘docere’,
the Latin derivation of the word doctor suggests. June sometimes wondered if
she would like it if her refrigerator mechanic came and delivered a lecture on
refrigeration and maintenance to her instead of fixing the damn thing.
Unfortunately physicians were far from expert mechanics and had to cover up
their ignorance on system architecture and pathology by trying to share the
diagnostic and management uncertainties with their patients whose systems they
were supposed to repair. Physicians were nothing but partners in trouble
shooting their patients systems, part of the responsibility for which lay with
the patients themselves. Like the time June used a hammer to break the ice in
her deep freezer that wasn’t frost free and hit one of the pipes containing
some liquid gas she never knew existed. The mechanic chided her for being
careless and it was obvious the whole fault was June’s due to her ignorance
about the mechanics of her freezer for which she had to pay a price. She
remembered telling her patients in the clinic day in and day out that the
anti-hypertensive drugs they were forced to gobble every day was to prevent
damage to their vital organs like kidney, heart, brain, the pipelines of which
were constantly being hammered with the high pressure inside them. They weren’t
supposed to feel any better on those drugs. It was just to take care of the
silent killer hammer inside them.
Kolkata was hotter than what it used to be
in her medical school days, possibly because she had grown so used to living in
the Himalayas but then it also provided her with an opportunity to explore her
manifold amateurish pursuits on birds, poetry, music, stars and theatre. On one
of these gatherings below the stars she met Abhay Mitra,
a software engineer who also shared her passion for the mountains, music and
poetry. She took off on a rock climbing trip with him to Sushunia, the place
that still contained her parental memories long after their death. She told
Abraham she was going with this group who needed a doctor for first aid and he
didn’t seem to mind. He had himself gone on these trips in his student life as
a student doctor looking after the group’s first aid, taking a few classes on
it as part of the rock climbing course. It was generally a good outing at low
cost. Abraham was too busy in his new avatar as a foreign returned surgeon who
had garnered a lot of experience there in cardiothoracic surgery and his
nursing home (well equipped from funds loaned by a wealthy businessman) soon
started becoming a Mecca for those wanting quality bypass surgery in their city instead of
going to other better centers in India.
Abraham was soon going to become a household name in Bengal not only for his
exceptional robotic cutting skills along with a good skin stitch to match. The
external signature of a job well done inside should be a good skin stitch he emphasized
to his house surgeons. It was natural that he shouldn’t have time for June
preferring to solemnly finish off the daily (or weekly?) sex routine as quietly
as possibly (not allowing his face to show the slightest tinge of
satisfaction). Abhay on the other hand would spout poetry while gently
caressing a rock before they began their climb in a winter chilled rock face.
He could be inside her and yet sing Indian classical with a smile on his lips
that indicated the immense pleasure he was deriving from it.
Conversations with a
The following conversations between June
and Abhay lying in that rock face (after they have wriggled on top of it
climbing up a chimney in its final leg) have been cooking on their portable red
gas cylinder. It’s been a perfect bivouac and there’s no one to watch them have
sex except perhaps the stars.
Abhay shows June how the moons of Jupiter look
through his portable electronic telescope. “There are some people who never get
to see a mountain. All they can do is simply wait. Any of these days it might just happen, flapping its wings out of
the blue would appear a shining desolate golden mountain and lift them off
their park side benches”. June stirs the chow. “In an extremely manicured city
you sometimes wish the road behind your house led to a nearby mountain. Every
day on your return from office, you’d take a walk on its steep slopes.
Everyday…in this extremely plain city
One longs for a very own dear mountain.” It
has started raining all of a sudden and Abhay carries June down the chimney
into the cave through which they had wriggled up. He bites gently into a
slithery chow from June’s spoon. He could recollect when it had rained last
“The rain stopped for you, to open that
window in the bus, for your eyes to feast on those rice fields beside the road
and at a distance a shining ivory tearing through the clouds”.
June had dropped her head on Abhay’s knees.
“I strongly believe amidst us somewhere, resides
a gigantic mountain, full of perennial snow, shining brightly in the afternoon sun,
changing colors with time, morning…a pinkish white, evening…a orange hue. We go about all our lives trying to scale our individual mountains.
Somewhere deep within them we exist…ourselves.” Abhay decides to give June a
vigorous back rub.
“Let down your hair in the wind mountain. Let it flow like a torrent through poetryswept
off false moorings. Your volcanic lips let it burn each syllable and let it
cool with your icy stare.” June sighs and buries her head deeper into Abhay’s
“This mountain is an institution. One staying here too long tends to gather roots and branchesand finally …one day…becomes a tree which nestsinnumerable eggs of countless dreams, each day we struggle to hold
on to our mountains, our roots, our dreams, losing our smiles in the process.
In the end the institute crumbles and leaves us
to fly on the wings of freedom” Abhay’s hands shift to her hair again.
“You resemble the mountain of my dreams. Is
that a running stream or your hair blowing in the wind? The day our eyes met
and clouds burst into rain I had to carry a wet heart all the way to the top”.
June fondles his cheek.
“What are those pock marked scars? Did some
one use pitons on your body? Abhay rubs his beard on her breasts.
“One day I too had longed for a climb atop
your majestic tresses. Every day I had been saving a jumar or a karabiner. All
is lost today in your flowing hair, a mountain stream that floods my dreams in
Becoming the mountain
June sits up and looks at the spotted owlet
that’s been watching them.
“One day, they show a mountain on the TV
screen, walking towards a lonely traveler.
It grows bigger and bigger and the
traveler, smaller and smaller until…the whole screen was full of the mountain.
Snow covered soft powdery white and the traveler…One of the black dots on the
tube…yet, nobody really ever moved from their individual places.”
Abhay tells him about the first girl he had
met in Shantiniketan. A beautiful slender creature in plaited braids who had walked away with a lanky goat. “Oh! Mountain she’s
not for you. She’s just a bolt from the blue. She’s a thundercloud that will
drench you from head to toe. After a time you’ll notice
the smiling sunpoint out to your cloud over another distant
mountaintop.” June decides to stretch out on their table top rock face. She
watches the water molecules slithering down into the drop below.“For me, I am sure are waitinga few playful mountains. One has to cross them on the wayto the biggest of them all. Its peak…lies invisible amidst clouds.
Its surroundings…serene, silent and yet…there’s this welling of love. Shining
mountain…do stay put I pray. For you, I shall come definitely, one day. Abhay tells
her about his childhood. “Imperceptible and yet a gradual accumulationof hatred, anger and distrust…human relationships, they form a
thundercloud of emotions from a wisp of smoke. Far down from the valley…all
within seconds, a gigantic mountain of misunderstandingsfrom mole hills of misconstrued notionsJune
tries to catch up some sleep in Abhay’s lap. “In terrible tensions sleep is
only possibleon listening…to a far off melody that emanatesfrom deep within a desolate, distant mountain. There’s a hint of the smiling sun and at the distant mountaintop
there existsnone of our dreams and wants, only sleep…deep
and restful. Abhay tells her how forlorn he used to feel after returning from
his peak climbing expeditions. “On returning from the mountains, one roams in
the city…full of visions. Giant skyscrapers resemble
Makalu…Lhotse. Vehicles ply on
disgruntled streets…remind you of hurrying Sherpas on the Khumbu ice fall. June
tells him of the time she had spent in Lahaul-Spiti a veritable Tibetan landscape.
“One day…maybe on a trip to the mountains, one might just encounter crumbled
rocks and dust, on both sides of a road which extends into a never ending
desert. A gradual wear and tear through the ages…plays of air wind and water.
Cities buried deep within them…houses that twinkled once at night, atop dense
dark mountain shapes.
They talk about city life in general. “One
day just before elections you chance upon political workers painting graffiti
on the mountain. Slowly and steadily it gets covered in slogans and speeches.
As you go near it becomes illegible…childish scribbles. You
leave and from a distance… see only a sparkling sun. Abhay tries to think how
it would be living together. “Everyday I return to you, like you are home
waiting, with a sweet smile and a cup of tea, the sea gulls fluttering in your
eye lashes, conjure incredible patterns of white. I am
sucked into them in a vortex of river rapids.” June decides finally its time to
pack up. “If one can’t go to a mountain, it comes to him. I’ve been waiting for a long time now. Molehills cover my body. The
Earth on it sprouts Trees. With the passage of time it seems I have become the
The poor old rich man
June would sometimes reluctantly accompany
Abraham to the parties his clients would invite him to. On one such occasion in
the ‘Grande’ she met Simi, Abhay’s wife who had come along with her husband.
She wasn’t as beautiful as Abhay was handsome but then her manner of
conversation immediately made June feel at home with her and she forgot about
both Abhay and Abraham. Simi knew a few interesting places in Kolkata, places
where she visited on weekends. June accompanied her once and found it was an
old age home where Simi had taken the responsibility of shaving the inmates
once a week. She watched her paint their cheeks with her deft brushstrokes
while the rest of her canvas particularly the eyes wore a weary yet peaceful
expression. One of the old men started chatting up June and after a few minutes
revealed he was from Nepal to which June quickly switched over to Nepali much to Simi’s
amusement. It was long back he said, he had left his village and he wouldn’t
even know the way now, it was quite well hidden from civilization. “Did you
experience much poverty there?” Simi managed to butt in. “Oh no! Poverty is a
disease of civilization. In the jungles there is no poverty. You can’t call
animals poor…Less powerful than us maybe, but definitely not poor.”
the drive back home Simi asked June what she thought of the poor old man’s
distorted economic world view especially as she had had the opportunity to view
them close amidst the Maoist uprising that was very much in the news.
“I think I agree with the old man’s world
view.” June said quietly. “But how could you? You know that place has one of
the lowest GDP on Earth!” Simi was surprised. “I think I need to collect my
thoughts on this and I shall mail you an article on what I think about it.”6
Poverty was a young boy of four who met me in the
streets of a busy city in India
begging for money. I nearly the same age,peered at him once and
then took a guilty look at my ice cream, all from the security of my parent’s
feathers.After that I learnt the trick of gulping ice creams
without battingan eyelid while a million such children of an
impoverished nationlooked on, eyes gleaming withdesire.
Many years have passed since then. In my medical career
poverty has been a constant observer. In a country without an NHS,I
have seen young people unable to afford a renal transplant dyingin
front of my eyes. Hospital policies in the premier institutesof India in
which I have worked dictated that only those withtransplant
prospects could have dialysis. The rest had to go elsewherefor
dialysis and not all could afford it. Some sold their propertyto
get the money. Later, when the end came, they realized thatall they
had left was the satisfaction of havingtried.
I left India and
came to a more remote hospital in Nepal,
where I learnt much about the nature of poverty.
An Oncogene named desire
Simi, Imagine a trek to a place that is completely cut off
from civilization. There are lush green forests amid steep mountains,a
self sustaining economy where people grow only as much as theyneed
for their own consumption. No doubt it is a life of hardships,what
with all the daily lugging of water, the work in the fields,the
cutting of grass for the single cow in the family, the outdoordefecation,
the abominable access to health care with the nearestcentre being a
two to three day trek away with the victim or patienton one's
shoulder. Outsiders may want to reach out to embracethese
"unfortunate people" and attempt to reform them. But thensomeone
who was happy tilling his land for his bare necessitieswill realize
how poor he is. He will become aware of many goodieswaiting for him
out there in a world full of citylights.
That is the birth of poverty, which stems from desire. Even
famines have been shown to be man made, arising from the maldistributionof food by people who start hoarding grain through fear of difficulttimes. We continue to coin abusive terms"developing
world" or"socially disadvantaged"little
realizing that it was our developmentthat resulted in the relative
In these remote villages there is education, which, unlike
ours, teaches wisdom. It teaches us to gather and grow food andto
cook it if necessary. It teaches us to live harmoniously withnature
instead of plunderingit.
In the villages there is a system of health carewitch
doctors attempt to scare diseases through various antics. Sometimesthis
works, but, if not, people embrace death with dignity andequanimity.
If by chance people from the villages reach the worldof our
hospital, which lies across steep mountain passes, theyare
subjected to a lot of investigations that can rapidly draintheirresources.
We may be proud of our cities, but are these not just
concrete jungles of human misery, where the rich live in high risesand
who couldn't make it to the topin
slums? This,for us, is development, and we want the
"developing world" toreach similarstatus.
I hope that these villages and all that they represent
still exist somewhere, replete with lush green forests and inaccessiblemountainpasses.