memories,memorabilia & movements

Memories, memorabilia and movements               


Vivek Hande


Well, I don’t quite know about you, but I am an avid collector. I collect memories, memorabilia and experiences. Believe me, having spent four decades in the Armed forces, the first twenty growing up as an Army offspring and the next twenty in the Navy, one is eminently qualified to be a collector!

Life in the Armed forces teaches one so much. To adapt, to accommodate, to adjust ;to make the most of what is served up becomes second nature. I have such vivid memories of going to school in a Shaktiman( a military truck), with someone actually called the Dandaman, wielding the stick(danda) on the tailboard of the vehicle to signal all kids safely in! One recollects with pleasure the glorious unit picnics, shooting beer bottles and topping off a glorious Sunday with Biryani and Jalebis! As a growing child, packing your stuff every two years and moving to a new location and making new friends and seeing new places seemed the ultimate adventure. As one grew from a young boy into a career in the Services, one took for granted the vast open , relatively unpolluted spaces, the manicured lawns, the Clubs and the Institutes, the well maintained roads , the clean ,well equipped hospitals and a way of life which brought along with it dignity, discipline and a sense of decorum.

      A lot has changed over the years and a lot has got diluted and yet it remains a way of life which is quite unique. I am at a stage of life, where I have become a little introspective and reflective and I am seriously thinking of ways to deal with an obsession cultivated over years in a useful, maybe profitable manner. My family and I have upheld the rich and great services tradition of collecting stuff and material unique to a particular station; collecting memorabilia and things which have a unique knack of looking huge, ugly and are invariably useless!

I have in my possession, some priceless stuff handed down by my father after nearly four decades in the Army (my mother threatened him there was space in their post retirement home either for her or the collection). I am negotiating with Sotheby’s, the sale of some of my family heirlooms four swords (3 ,with broken handles, 2 with considerable rust) with the regimental crest ; three miniature brass cannons mounted on a splintered wooden platform; two exquisite wooden models( with paint peeled off) of rhinoceros almost knee high(presented by colleagues of Dad when posted in Assam); then there is this incomparable piece with a map of Punjab outlined by shells of expended cartridges and a brass knob stuck  in one corner(probably depicting where the unit was located). There is also an amazing collection of caps, hats and assorted headgear from every corner of the country (they have now been home to generations of spiders and cockroaches). To this very esoteric collection, I have added some of my own pieces making it a truly priceless collection. There are four Nicobari huts in different sizes (3 of them look as if struck by the Tsunami).There is an inspired piece, presented by well wishers at a previous station- a blackboard sized plywood panel on which are stuck coconut shells which proudly proclaims, “May this always remind you of our association”- you bet, I don’t think I really have a choice in the matter!

I don’t really know if I will be actually able to go through with the negotiations with the auction house. Maybe, I will hold onto these seemingly worthless pieces – maybe they are more precious than I care to believe. Maybe, I am just being sentimental, but it is difficult to part with memories of a lifetime!

a stitch in time

A stitch in time …

By Vivek Hande


Today we live in an ‘instant” world. Instant coffee, instant  relief from pains and pimples; instant fairness of skin and instant karma and nirvana. I was looking for an instant overhaul of my fraying wardrobe and walked into a series of showrooms looking for readymade trousers. After endless rounds of branded stores : ‘Latest material from Italy; Anti crease; anti wrinkle ; Anti stain ; Buy two , get half free; Buy half and get three fourths of a shirt free and so on’; I was beginning to despair. Things were not working out. Either my body was of unique contours or the companies had jointly decided to keep me out of their marketing strategy. I decided to seek out a tailor who would drape me as per my proportions. A pedigreed men’s tailor shop very close to my place was recommended and I ambled across. The master was a distinguished looking arthritic Parsi gentleman, hard of hearing with minimal vision and a touch of Parkinson’s. His trembling voice and quivering fingers did not inspire much confidence. There were sepia toned photographs of a much younger master with a young Raj Kapoor and a much younger Dev Anand – presumably his customers in much better days. The whole place carried a stale odour; a stench of better days gone by. There were deep and comfortable sofas with the upholstery clinging desperately to the woodwork. The neon sign outside had every alternate letter missing; the carpet was threadbare and the most recent magazine in the waiting area was of the 1970’s . I was on the verge of turning back to the nearest showroom, when the master called out to me with a measuring tape slung around his neck.

He was a changed man with the tools of his trade in his hand. Professional, practiced hands expertly took measurements and his movements were deft and precise. The quiver and the tremble were gone and he was confidence personified. He gave me suggestions on the current fashion trends and in an unhurried manner went on to tell me about the recession in the tailoring business thanks to the readymade cloth industry. There were no other customers and we had a leisurely cup of tea. The wizened old master regaled me with anecdotes from the past. We parted with the promise of delivery of trousers a week later. I was already looking forward to my next visit. The trousers were a perfect fit and we had another stimulating conversation over a steaming cup of tea.

I am no one to comment on instant clothing but the master from another era had struck an “instant” friendship with someone half a century younger than him and won a crusader for the art of tailoring. No instant wardrobes for me –that is for sure






Nose in the air

                                     Nose in the air…


                                        Vivek Hande


I have a bit of a sensitive nose and I am sensitive about most things nasal. I have nose which tends to be runny through most of the year. Allergies,  infections, hypersensitivities, psychosomatic, attention –seeking: these and various other terms have been used to explain my problem. But the fact of the matter is that I feel a tad vulnerable without a wad of tissues. My obsession with my nasal issues prompted a very  very close member of my immediate family to comment   rather  derisively-‘ You and your nose!”


That touched a raw nerve or should I say raw nose? It got me thinking about noses in general and my nose in particular. The nose is not something to be contemptuous about. It is a vital organ and I daresay it lends character to a man. A nose says a lot about a person. Most people with deviated noses are generally deviated in character; people with a straight nose, I have seen are usually straight. People with an aquiline nose are often quite imperious; folks with a broad bulbous nose are usually broad-minded and people who have a lot of hair jutting out of their nostrils, have often had hair – raising experiences in life. People who have runny noses are usually people on the run and are go-getters in life. People with stuffed noses on the contrary are usually quite stuck up and stuffy. People with pert noses are usually pert and petite. A nose does, say a lot about a person.


You require to walk with your nose in the air to convey that you are proud and above everything around you. You don’t take your job too seriously and you nose-dive! You are perceptive and have a good instinctive feeling about things if you have the nose for it. You go around delving into things that don’t concern you and you become a ‘nosey-parker’! You win narrowly and you have won by a nose and you lose by a whisker and you have been edged out by a nose.  You want to insult and humiliate someone – you rub his nose in the ground. However, if you wish to work hard, you better push your nose to the ground stone! You want be myopic and narrow minded, you would not see any further beyond the end of your nose. You care a damn about something or someone; you thumb your nose at him (or her)!


The nose is indeed a very versatile appendage and I am going to be a trifle hard-nosed if anyone says anything ‘nosty’/nasty about my nose.  Sensitive or runny or any other way, I am going to walk with my nose in the air!!

Nature’s Call

Nature’s Call


Vivek Hande


The victorious England team recently celebrated their Ashes victory on the pitch at Lords by answering “nature’s call” and chose to water the pitch after some feverish Beer drinking. Not quite cricket and not quite gentlemanly, one might say. But what is a leak amongst friends- when you have to go, you have to go.

Apart from some sniggers and some smirks and suppressed amusement, I doubt if this would really outrage a country like us. For us, no place is really sacrosanct. Roads, pavements, streets, buildings, garages, parking lots, gardens, parks, railway tracks and in more recent times ,even coaches in local trains – anywhere , anytime , wherever on the go :that seems to be the motto.  The truth is that in large measure, the progress of a country has to be determined by its standards of sanitation. The less we speak about the standards of sanitation and hygiene in this country , lesser is the stink raised.

It is a fact that more than fifty percent of the 1.2 billion population of the country has no access to toilets. The governments have spent more than 1250 billion rupees on creating toilets and hygiene infrastructure in the last twenty years. However, open air defecation continues to be the norm and toilets that have come up in many villages and rural areas are located unimaginatively and are used as stores for fodder and grain! These are the facts of a government conducted survey and quite literally, money seems to be going down the drain. 

There are toilets in stations and bus stops but do try using them at your own peril. It is a nightmare which may scar you for life. Roads have improved and we have some glorious highways, but there is very little appreciable difference in the standards of the loos. If you are a lady, you can be sure you won’t forget a road trip in a big hurry. Men can be men and can water plants anywhere along the road.

I don’t think we can qualify to ever be called a civilized nation or a developed one, if we can’t get the basic standards of sanitation accessible to each and everyone.  We can build satellites and nuclear reactors and be the amongst the oldest civilizations of the world, but we still cannot defecate and urinate with dignity.  That is the stinking truth!!!






live another day

Live another day …


Vivek Hande

Happy Birthday! Happy Wedding Anniversary! That was it. Life was so simple and uncomplicated in those days. Today, one has to keep track of a whole lot of unknown people to wish. One has to wish so many  people for so many things or  forget it at the risk of offending someone and being regarded as insensitive and uncaring, anti-social  and  behind- the -times! You could become a social outcast , get ostracized or become a pariah if you don’t keep track of these ever expanding lists. I  dread each new day and wonder whom I have not wished or greeted- life has become more complicated!

Did you know yesterday was Bai Day (also called Kaam-wali Day in North India)? You are in for serious trouble if you have not given a day off to your maid and given her a new cotton Saree. She may not be there in your employ till Bai- ke- Bacche day(also called Kaam-wali –ke -Bacche day in North India ) which falls on April 20 , when you have to take the maid’s kids for Ice-Cream to Baskin Robbins. Everybody is so sensitive about these “days “. One loved ones’ parents always but Fathers and Mothers become suspicious if you don’t wish them on their respective days. I actually sneak into my sons’ rooms trying to look for my surprise gift on Father’s Day eve. Guess what ? I believe very soon , there is going to be a Pot-bellied Father’s Day and another Grey –Haired Father’s Day and sometime in May ,they are going to fit in a Left- Handed- Grandfather’s Day! Things are just getting more exciting.

Not to be left behind ,there are special days for environmental and medical and health issues. No- Electricity –Day and Conserve –water –Day  are passé and old fashioned. There are exciting new days to be recognized officially  which are right round the corner.  To mention a few , No-toilet –paper day(May24); No –toothbrush –day (June 02); No –potty –day (June09) are some of the more prominent ones. Then there are these special days to honor certain professionals – you have Doctors’ Day and Nurses’ Day and Teacher’s Day .  The politicians have not taken this well and a bill is going to be tabled in Parliament shortly . They regard their position as special and hence have recommended a  Politician’s Week . A day would , quite obviously not suffice !

Then there are these ‘days ‘dedicated to create awareness about various illnesses. Of course, there is the World Health Day .There is a Hepatitis Day and a Diabetes Day and a Glaucoma Day and the World AIDS Day and so on. However, some specialties have been feeling left out and want to highlight the sterling work they are doing in respective areas of expertise. To focus on the ailments and bring suffering patients closer, tie-ups have been made with Hallmark cards . Very soon cards and posters will be available wishing “Happy Anal Incontinence  Day” and “Happy Enema Anniversary!”   To accommodate these large number of cards and gifts being exchanged on these Days , Ikea has brought out a special range of cupboards with different sized slots – they are ,unimaginatively ,being marketed as the Day Cupboards!

To avoid confusion between these various days and to avoid overlap , a Department of Days has been created under the Ministry of Human Resources  which considers applications for new entries. The waiting period for inclusion in the official Government of India Day List is several days  and understandably ,  there is intense lobbying for the dates. Some requests have been turned down at the initial stages itself.  Some of them include, “No –Corruption –Day  “ , “ No – Cellphone- Day “ , “No Television –Day” …

Because of the intense demand for the Days , the Department is unable to cope with the staggering demand and there is a suggestion to start marketing Nights soon . In the near future expect “, Happy Maternal Uncle’s Night and Happy Chemistry Professor Night!”

walking blues

Walking Blues….

By Vivek Hande

Walk your way to health, said the manual and I decided to take it seriously. I worked out my route and got my walking shoes on to ensure a decent hour of sweating.  Consistency is important, I reminded myself.

I am bit of an observer of people and their behavior. I realized, more stimulating than the exercise, were the sights and sounds of the Mumbai morning. All kinds of people and activities make the Mumbai morning special and the vibrant spirit of the city was evident in its morning walkers.

There was this geriatric foursome – absolutely inseparable and at the same spot day after day. They did not seem to be walking much and would keep stopping after a few paces. Their discussion was animated and they would discuss and analyze all current national and international problems and issues till they had found a solution. Their conversation was livelier than any panel discussion on TV and they could out- Arnab the man himself till they got an answer that the country wanted to know!!

Then there was this portly seriously old gentleman, always dressed in tight, yellow shorts who was taken for a walk by his portlier and more serious looking St. Bernard.

There was this very interesting trio who was on a daily fashion parade and walked the ramps of Mumbai roads parading the latest ,in Versace and Pierre Cardin sportswear. How they were able to fit in, leave alone walk in those ultra-tight fitting garments defied all laws of physics!

And then there was this very officious business executive type who would have probably enjoyed walking in a pinstripe but made do with the copy of Economic Times as he ambled with a grave air about him, burdened by the financial woes of the world!

 A couple walked with their chauffeur –driven Mercedes following them slowly at a respectful distance. Every now and then they would disappear into the car to emerge revitalized and charged for the next stretch.

A grizzly veteran, ramrod straight would stop at very intersection and scatter grains for hundreds of pigeons who seemed to know him rather well. Yet another lady was like the Pied Piper of Mumbai being followed by tens of stray dogs. She enjoyed feeding them biscuits every morning. Yet another lady kept handing out Sai Baba photo cards to as many people as she could while she chanted “Om sai Naam “.

Some walkers had headphones around their necks and seemed to be walking with their head swaying to some rocking music. Others could not do without their ubiquitous cell phones.  There were some who walked for the company; others definitely meant serious business and walked and sweated it out as if their lives literally depended on it. Well, there were also some, who used the morning excursion to shop for milk and bread..

I was most certainly enjoying this people –watching and daily display of personalities till I heard a bunch of girls commenting when I passed by, “He is really weird. He is quite creepy you know. He keeps staring at everyone.  He is either a nutcase or a pervert!”

In  today’s sensitive and touchy times, no more people –watching for me. It is serious walking and nothing else…



The patient is always right

The  patient is  always right!!

By Vivek Hande



Having spent more than two and a half decades in contact with patients in one capacity or the other, I am convinced of the oft repeated statement , “the Patient is always right!”. Often, one may tend to disregard the complaints of the patient, if one cannot find a straight forward clinical correlate for the symptoms. One often finds the cause of the symptoms after spending much time, money, effort and considerable agony to all concerned. I have no doubts any longer that the patient is always right even though at times, the narrative of the symptoms may be bizarre , ridiculous , far fetched or improbable.  Very often what the patient tells you may be beneficial, for reasons other than clinical! The patient is always right, that is for sure…

Many years ago , when I was appearing for my Medicine Viva Voce  for my MBBS degree,  Francis , an Anglo –Indian was my patient . It was my first major clinical exam but he was a   veteran of examinations. I was desperately trying to get my very confused thoughts about the patient in some semblance of order.  Francis was rather amused with my efforts. He told me, “I am a case of Cirrhosis of Liver with Portal Hypertension. My Liver is enlarged which is not consistent with a diagnosis of Cirrhosis.  The examiner is going to ask you about the causes of enlarged liver in a case of Cirrhosis. If you answer well, he will ask you about Drugs which can cause hepatic damage. Don’t waste your time and efforts on other issues. Just concentrate on this and you will do well.”  I took a calculated risk and focused my thoughts on the matter suggested by him and put the rest on the backburner. Well, as predicted , the examiners were consistent with their line of questioning and I did rather well. Francis was proud of me and I had the fact reconfirmed-the patient is always right!

Then , there was this patient – Jagadish. He was a tall. well built strapping Jat. He cut a very impressive figure in his uniform . He used to suffer from repeated episodes of pain abdomen. He would keep coming back to the casualty and the Medical and Surgical OPDs. Each time he was evaluated in detail. The examination was always unremarkable. The investigations were always normal. He underwent repeated Endoscopies and Ultrasonographies and CT Scans and Barium  studies , but everything was always normal. Somebody though he was malingering and trying to avoid duties. He was evaluated by the psychiatrists as well, but nothing seemed to work out. He continued to be symptomatic off and on.  During the symptom free periods, he was absolutely normal and would play in Unit games and discharge all his duties well. However,  the pain would return and a couple of times , it coincided with his detailment  on temporary duties. He was branded a poor team man and nobody took his abdominal complaints seriously any longer.  He suffered from a loss of self-esteem and went into depression.He was hospitalized yet  again with pain abdomen and he was re-evaluated in detail. Virtually, every cause of pain abdomen in the book was looked up and he was evaluated for the same. He was finally diagnosed with Acute Intermittent Porphyria, a condition which does not produce too many clinical signs and shows up normal on almost all tests except the very specific Blood tests which have to be specially asked for. Jagadish was happy that a diagnosis was finally found – he was actually happier that he would no longer be regarded as a malingerer! The patient is always right!

And then there was this very astute clinician ,  much senior to me. He had a very sharp clinical mind and was rather proud of his clinical abilities. He developed a pretty chronic cough and he diagnosed himself to be suffering from Allergic Bronchitis and treated himself for the same. His cough persisted and his colleagues pointed out to him that he was losing a little weight. He assured himself and his colleagues that it was due to his strict dietary regime that he was losing weight. He was confident about his diagnosis and refused to show himself to anyone. One day , during ward rounds, one of his patients , a grey haired veteran of several hospital admissions and the proud owner of many morbidities told him, “ Doctor  Saheb, get your blood tested and get an X -Ray. You have Diabetes and I am pretty sure you have TB!”  The Clinician scoffed at the suggestion and moved on. But later in the day , when he was having his second cup of extra sweet coffee, the words of the patient kept ringing in his ear. He thought back about his symptoms and his problems. The next morning he gave his blood samples and got an X-Ray. His Blood Sugar was 385mg/dl and he had a   cavitatory lesion on the X-Ray. He responded to Anti –Tubercular therapy and his sugars gradually came under control with medication. Yet   again , in a manner of speaking , the patient is always right!

In our clinical practice we see all kinds of cases and all kinds of patients. As clinicians, it would always do us good to remember two things-Primum Non Nocere-First do no harm !  Also ,  the patient is always right!!!



A fitting epitaph-perhaps?

                                   A fitting epitaph !!


                                    By Vivek Hande



I am a doctor or maybe I should say I was a doctor. I am a little confused and I am not sure what I should call myself. I have been in the medical business for more than twenty years. I have seen death up front and close more often than I care to remember. There are colleagues of mine who are battle hardened, so to say and take the death of a patient in their stride. I still get upset after so many years and feel helpless and inadequate. But yet, it is quite different when it is your own death you are talking about!


           It was a bright Saturday morning. I jauntily walked out of the car park and took the lift to the fifth floor to my chamber. I cheerily waved out to the intern who threw me a dazzling smile on the corridor. I was just reaching my department when I suddenly felt a sledge hammer hitting my chest and crushing me in a vice like grip. I could feel rivulets of sweat trickling down my forehead and I could feel myself falling to the ground – a boneless heap. The next few minutes were a blur. I could vaguely sense a lot of activity around me. My next recollection is of the cold steel of the trolley assaulting my back. I recollect being rushed into the lift and somebody shouting, “Get him to the ICU fast!” I really wished the medical assistant holding my hand would be gentler. I realized we were in the ICU when the blast of the air-conditioned room hit me and I heard the beep of the monitors in the background. I felt myself being propelled from the trolley onto the bed in a single synchronized movement. I felt the nurse jabbing the cannula into my vein and another one on the other forearm.  My arm was about to burst as the resident tied the blood pressure cuff around my forearm and got the mercury rising to record my Blood Pressure. Before I could protest, I could feel my blood being drained- twenty milliliters seeping away for urgent tests. I tried protesting feebly as I felt a tube going down my nose and a stream of oxygen flowing through. I was immensely nauseated as I felt a stream of pink frothy sputum coming out from my mouth and settling at the corners of my lips. I could see the horror on the resident’s face as he blurted, “His lungs are flooding. He has pulmonary edema. Get the Cardiologist stat!”


 As he prepared the injection of Morphine to relieve the flooding of the lungs, I was desperate to tell him that I was allergic to Morphine and had reacted adversely many years ago when it was administered for severe pain after a road accident.

However, no words came forth and I could feel the fluid trickling up my veins. I tried stiffening my arms in a desperate measure to stop the drug coursing through my system, but to no avail. I could feel myself get lightheaded and I could barely see the outline of the figures in a frenzy of activity all around me. I vaguely heard the Cardiologist, who had arrived on the scene by now, my friend and colleague for the past twenty years shouting, “He is going. I can’t get a pulse. We will have to shock him.” I could feel the cold slimy jelly being poured on to my chest and  then the steel of the paddles of the defibrillator and then a hot searing rod of current through my skin and penetrating my bones once and then again and yet again for the third time. I could smell my burning skin and the smell of hopelessness pervading the room.


     A montage of images crossed my mind and I could feel myself sinking away. Before I could brace myself, I felt a heavy thump on my chest and then a pair of hands pressing me down just below my ribcage. I am sure they were smooth, practiced movements and were meant to get life into what seemed like an ebbing tide, but I was sure I could feel a rib cracking. They kept at it for the better part of half hour and then I could gradually feel the intensity and the strength of the movements gradually reducing. The voices became fainter and fainter. The frenzy of activity seemed to gradually recede and abate. As my head jerked to one side, I saw a flat tracing on the cardiac monitor – I no longer existed. I had slipped away and I heard someone say, “He was a good doctor and a good man. A pity we failed to save him. We did try, as hard as he would have, to save a life”.

A fitting epitaph, perhaps!!

that tube around your neck

That tube around your neck..

By Vivek Hande


The stethoscope has evolved over the years and the origin of the stethoscope and its history is as fascinating as the history of medicine itself. The origin of the stethoscope is credited to Linnaeus in 1816, who initially devised a cone made of thick paper and used it to hear sounds!!

The stethoscope or “steth” as it is popularly referred to has come a long way. The tubing has changed in length and consistency and keeps evolving. The bell and the diaphragm keep changing to improve acoustics. The ViScope can, in addition to hearing sounds can also see the heart beating under vision.

For a medical student, the acquisition of the steth marks the transition from theoretical to practical medicine. A doctor is synonymous with a stethoscope and the point of a time when a medical student starts using it is quite a milestone in his medical career. Though, many may not really use a stethoscope for the rest of their careers!

Teachers and professors would continue to stress the fact that more important than the stethoscope on the ears is what is undoubtedly between the ears- that is the brain and its ability to make sense of what one hears!

The steth is a bit of a status symbol for someone in clinical medicine. It could set you behind by an amount ranging from Rs . 200  to Rs. 20000  and beyond.  It really depends whether you are going in for a Nano or a BMW!

The way you carry a steth is also a very individual style statement. Most sling it casually around ones’ neck. There are some who bunch it into a very ungainly mass in one’s trouser pocket. I have seen doctors affixing it on to their trouser belt loop and the steth literally marches with the doctor. There was a lady I knew who use to drape it very gracefully across one shoulder like the “pallu”of a saree and it would miraculously remain in place , defying laws of gravity inspite of her vigorous forays all over the hospital.

Doctors also vary in the ways in which they embellish their steth and look after it. Many pediatricians have small teddy bears or dolls stuck on the tubing to make them look less intimidating to kids. I knew an oncologist who had a miniature skull with a cigarette dangling from the lips affixed on the tubing –conveying the message in no uncertain terms.

There are some who very religiously clean the diaphragm every morning with spirit and dab some cologne for good measure- don’t know if it improves the acoustics but I am sure it is a pleasanter experience for the patient. One is taught to warm the diaphragm by rubbing it against one’s own skin or clothes before placing it on the chest of the patient, especially in winters. I knew of a doctor who took this rather seriously and had a woolen cap knitted by his wife to store the steth , when not in use!

The steth has functions beyond the obvious. At times, it is used to convey an air of maturity, confidence and worldly wisdom and give the impression of a veteran in business. It is sometimes used as a paper weight. Often, it is brandished and waved emphatically to make a forceful point in heated medical debates. An unusual case in point is the story of this very attractive post graduate resident in Medicine who had the habit of leaving her stethoscope all over the hospital. We, as interns, would  keep retrieving it and returning it to her and be rewarded by a dazzling smile and a cup of coffee. I think I got addicted to coffee and developed a fondness for stethoscopes during my internship and that triggered off my career in Internal Medicine!

Needless to say, a stethoscope does not a doctor make; it is the doctor who makes it the stethoscope an invaluable tool and a faithful ally!!

Hospital Rounds

Hospital Rounds!


Vivek Hande


I work in a rather busy hospital in  Mumbai. It is true that OPD figures seem to be only going up and all specialist and super-specialist OPDs seem to be bursting at their seams. Patients seem to be entering in large numbers to avail the facilities of the hospital and most of them do walk out reasonably happy and hopefully rid of their ailments.


I like to walk up to my fifth floor office rather than take the elevator. Apart from providing me some much needed exercise, it also provides me an opportunity to see the hospital in action from different floors. I also get to see patients going about the various OPDs and at times, I am even able to direct some patients to the right department. Earn some Brownie points while you burn off the Brownies, in a manner of speaking!


However, during my forays, through the hospital, I saw some people very frequently  day after day. The faces became familiar and we wished each other as we went past. I thought they were far too often in the hospital and did not seem particularly sick. Curiosity got the better of me and I ventured to ask many of my new found friends what was ailing them.


I was more than surprised by their candid admission that nothing at all was wrong with them and they were perfectly healthy and intended remaining so. I was genuinely intrigued. I asked an elderly couple whom I used to invariably cross on the sloping ramp from the ground to the sixth floor at various levels. They pointed to their track -suits and the torrential rains outside and said, ‘No better place in Colaba for a walk during the rains. This ramp is easy on our old knees, you know!” Another young man, who always seemed to be in a tearing hurry- he told me he worked in a school close to the hospital. He would rush in  for a mid morning Idli Sambhar in the cafeteria, grab a cup of steaming hot tomato soup from the vending machine in the hospital lobby and charge back to the school , refreshed and fortified to face the rowdy bunch of  boys in class eleven!


And then there was this very distinguished looking elderly gentleman who would religiously come every evening; park his car and walk across to the lush lawns behind the hospital overlooking the sea. A widower, he told me, he was staying with his son in an apartment close to the hospital and his best time of the day was the half hour he spent on the hospital   lawns. He would watch the patients and their relatives ambling and rambling gaining strength from each other; he would enjoy the bracing winds, he would watch the waves lap the rails, the birds chirping and   feel alive and vital. He told me that the half hour in the hospital in close contact with nature and the serene surroundings and in the midst of so many people whom he did not know at all would revitalize him like nothing else could!


Then there was this middle aged lady whom I saw periodically on different floors and in various OPDs , often helping people and directing them to their destinations . At times she would stand in the Dispensary queue for ladies with babes in arm. She looked animated and seemed to enjoy helping out. I asked her what her story was-she confessed to me that she was a case of severe depression for several years and was on long term medication. She said she had gradually recovered with medication and psychotherapy and was off   treatment for the past two years. Her visits to the hospital and efforts at helping out people kept her happy and gave her a sense of well being. I thought that was really touching.


I, thus realized during my hospital rounds that the hospital  was really more than a hospital. It meant several things to several people and the hospital touched lives in more ways than one could imagine. It was not only about sickness and health and caring and curing; it was and would remain a part of peoples’ lives in a million different ways.