Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Film that Knows Infinity

The Man who knew Infinity

It's tough to make biopics, tougher to be authentic and still tougher to make it engaging ,especially when your subject dabbled with higher mathematics. The Man Who Knew Infinity directed by Mathew Brown based on the life of Mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujam pulls off this task with elan. The story of this Indian Mathemetician who was honoured with a Royal Society Fellowship is well known. We already had one biopic in Tamil on him titled Ramanujam. I haven't seen it so can't offer any comparisons. The current movie portrays his life,work and passion with taste  and honesty. Dev Patel acquits himself well in the title role while Jeremy Irons lives his role as Prof. Hardy.Devika Bhise puts in a spirited performance as Janaki,the wife of the genius. The life and times of the great Indian is brought out well by the arts department and the England scenario which is most of the movie ,is also perfect to a fault. The highlight of the movie is that the subject of Mathematics is dealt with seriously ,not dumbed down. The scene where Hardy explains the " partitions " is an example and his comment " even you can understand this " is almost directed at the audience.
Today education is seen as a part of one's job application. A necessary evil that has to be suffered before one settles for a job and a high salary. Employability is a buzzword and the pursuit of  knowledge for the sake of it is considered archaic. This movie is a reminder that pursuit of pure science is a pleasure which should not be denied to our gennext in the guise of making them employable. Science for the sake of science is part of what makes man great. Let's keep it that way at least for the gifted.
For starters how many of us know the Chennai houses two world class Mathematical institutes?

Saturday, 23 April 2016

ഇടക്കുന്നി അമ്മ

ഇടക്കുന്നി അമ്മ


ഇടതടവില്ലാതെ അനുഗ്രഹം ചൊരിയും
ഇടക്കുന്നി വാഴും അമ്മേ മഹേശ്വരി
ഇടയ്ക്ക തൻ തുടി കേട്ടുണരുന്ന ദേവീ
ഇടക്കെങ്കിലും എന്നെ ഓർക്കേണമമ്മേ

കിഴക്കുള്ള കുളത്തിൽ പഴയതെല്ലാം
അഴലും കോപവും കാമവും മോഹവും
അഴിയാ ബന്ധങളഴിച്ചുവെച്ചിന്നൊരു
വഴി തേടി നിൻ മുന്നിലെത്തി നിൽപ്പൂ

പഞ്ചാരി തൻ പഞ്ചാമൃതം നുകർന്ന്
അഞ്ചാനപ്പുറത്തെഴുന്ന്ള്ളുമമ്മേ ഭഗവതി
സഞ്ചിത പാപങ്ങളൊക്കെ ഹനിക്കണം
പഞ്ചപാപങ്ങളെൻ വഴി തീണ്ടാതിരിക്കണം

സർവാഭീഷ്ടപ്രദായിനീ രാജരാജേശ്വരീ
സർവവും നിന്നിൽ സമർപ്പിക്കുന്നു ഞാൻ
സന്തതമെന്നെ നീ കാത്തുകൊള്ളീടണം
സർവശക്തിയും ചേരും അമ്മേ നാരായണ.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Friendly letter

Been waiting for a moment
Of tranquil peace
To pen a letter to you ,my pal
Since our time started

To tell with joy ,to share and to
Cry without sharing,I kept all those
Memories   in the crevices of my mind
So I can tell you all one day

And I know too that
You enjoy the things that I say


When I see,when I read
Anything and everything
Want to share all those
With you,my friend

When mind reads those golden moments
That we spent talking and knowing each other
I miss you more than ever

Wanted to write a few lines to you
Daily I struggle with words
What excuse shall I use to write
Even if you are before me every moment

Now I realize in a flash
What reason do I need to write to you
Other than the truth that
You are my best friend!

Translated from Tamil original by Srinivasa Raghavan

An Indian Summer

The air is thick with the smell of sweat
Hot winds blow your mind away
You miss the memories of showers of love
Then you realise with a start ,it's an Indian summer

The green acres that covered my morning's walk
Dry and parched as if roasted in hell
The sweet nothings that rain whispered in my ear
Are all silent as if doomsday is near

The green shoot of hope that I lovingly reared
Down to its last leaf as to mock my years
Withered,dry and lifeless lies life
Waiting needlessly for the errant gardener.

In the dusty streets of the cities and towns
Sun is in pursuit of all that's not hidden from sight
To remind us of the endless fury of hurt love
Scorching minds and souls alike with little mercy

Miles and miles of drudgery for a drop of water
The mirage of life that urges you yonder
The long trudge of life is devoid of any green
Then I wake up to the fact that it's a lonely Indian summer.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Doctor in village 4


One of the first things that you learn as you train as a Child Specialist is that the dose of medicines you prescribe is crucially dependent on the weight of the child. Nowadays for many drugs body surface area is used. It is more accurate but difficult to use since you need a ready reckoner. The reckoner will give you surface area from the weight and height of the child. When I started my Paediatric practice therefore the weighing machine was an important instrument that I purchased. By experience you learn to guess the weight from age and appearance especially in busy out-patient departments. But when you have just started to practice you are more scientific .
So when this young woman and ( apparently) her mother walked into my OPD with a toddler hanging on to their hands I understood there was trouble in store. Most parents make their young children stand on the weighing machine ,without realising that they might start crying when left alone. Simple alternative is to weigh both parent and child while the parent carries them,and then subtract the weight of the parent.
When my examination of the child was over , I turned to them and said
" We need to check his weight "
The young woman promptly tried to make the already apprehensive three year old stand on the machine . He promptly started to whimper. Before his whimper turned into a cry ,I told the older woman
" You hold the child. We can take the mothers weight first. Then we can take their weight together and find out his weight"
The young woman hesitated and said
" But doctor ,there is a problem "
" What? " I asked .
" I am not his mother " she said solemnly.
I almost fell off the chair laughing ....

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Doctor in village 3

Doctor in village 3

It was in his forties that my father decided to pursue specialisation in Child Health. When he started practising Medicine there was no need for specialisation to make a decent living. The general practitioner was well respected and derived a lot of job satisfaction. But as years rolled on, the need to specialise increased and there were lots of peer and job pressure on GPs to go in  for specialisation . Being in the Government Health services gave my father the opportunity to pursue specialisation under special rules for In-Service candidates. Admission to this "Service quota " was strictly according to seniority and therefore he was 45 by the time he completed Paediatrics PG course. When he started specialty practice he however continued to see older patients as well. This story is about a hilarious incident in Paediatric practice. It is very important to be able to examine a calm child to make a correct diagnosis . Most Paediatric texts advise that extremely young infants be examined in the lying position. However most toddlers become restless when forced to lie down,so this age group that is from about 8 or 9 months till about five years the children are best examined while they are seated in the mother's or father's lap. Many parents have the habit of placing their two or three year old in the examining chair in front of the Doctor and stand behind them. This is a sure recipe for the child to scream and make the whole interaction unpleasant. So when one afternoon a young mother made the same mistake ,my father gently chided her.
" Please ," he said " keep him on the lap".
" No doctor," the young mother hesitated " it will be inconvenient "
" What ? " he asked incredulously " to keep a child in lap is inconvenient ? "
With a lot of hesitation ,the young mother placed her one year old on the lap ...
...of the doctor!
My father did not know whether to laugh or cry ,but the infant knew. He cried and before his mother finally understood the mistake,had made the doctors lap his urinal.

My father used to say about the incident as an example of how communicating correctly to patients is important .

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Missed Call

The Missed Call

In the hazy dawn that greets you in winter
I see a missed call from a dear friend
One that tried to wake me up at three
Have I missed a call or missed a cry ?

Through the window I see our past
The long talks ,the long waits ,the pleasure
Of knowing without looking
That it was you at the other end of my cell

It was not mine to take the call you took
Of putting in your life with a love you chose
Friends we parted did we not ?
Even when you didn't call on me forever

And yes the call you made last summer
When your cries muffled the phone
With violent violations of your soul and mind
The darkness of it all snuffing out the day

But what to say my dear friend of a life
When darkness descends on your life
I stand helpless as an estranged soul
But remember this will pass soon

You will rise from the ashes of bad memories
And the future will bring not a flower but a spring
So get going ,I am there with you all the way
Whether we talk or not over a piece of cord.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

மனதில் ஒரு மழை

முகில்கள்களின் வருடாந்திர பரிசாக பருவமழை
உடைகிறது மௌனம் ,பொழிகிறது வானம்
வரண்டுவிட்ட புவியில் மகிழ்ச்சி வெள்ளம்
விரிசல்கள் ஆறுகளாக பச்சை கிளைகள் உலகமெங்கும்

ஒட்டுக்கூரைகளின் சிரிப்பும்,மண்ணின் வாசமும
அறைக்குள் ஜன்னலின் சாரலும் ,வெளியில் கொஞ்சும் அடிகளும்
மறந்ததும் மறைந்ததும் விழிகளில் மலர்வது ஏனோ
மழையினால் அழிக்க முடியாத விழிகளின் வழிகள்

உன் புன்னகை கேட்டதும் உன் பாடலை பார்த்ததும்
விழித்த கண்களை மறைத்து நான் உன்னை அணைத்ததும
கண்ணின் அசைவினால் ஒரே இசை ரசித்ததும்
வாழ்கையின் உண்மை நம் காதலின் கண்ணை துடைத்ததும்

ஞாபகங்கள் வானத்தை மறைக்கும் பருவமழையில்
வருத்தங்கள் மௌனத்தை உடைக்கும் தருணங்களில்
மனம் வழிகின்றது ஆசைகளின் பெருமழையில்
இந்த மழை அழைக்கும் வசந்தம் கனவா இல்ல நனவா

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Doctor in Village 2

Doctor in village 2

In the days when my father started practising House Calls were an important duty of the general practitioner. For the new generation let me explain that this was when the doctor went to the house of the patient and examined him or her. There were no ambulances then in rural areas and bed ridden patients used to get care by these House Calls. For the new practitioner this also represented an opportunity at better payment because house calls were always better paid. The caregivers who wanted house calls always waited with a taxi till the last patient in the doctors queue was seen. These visits also strengthened the bond between the doctor and the people. Often this meant wading through dirt and walking through fields but at the end it gave a satisfaction that's difficult to recreate in the current scenario . The essential equipments for this visit like stethoscope, BP apparatus and some medicines were always kept ready in a small briefcase earmarked for this purpose. What I about to talk about is an interesting incident in one of these house visits. My father used to be called frequently to see an octogenarian grandmother. Let's call her Mary for convenience. She was the typical devout Christian lady always clad in the chatta and mundu. While as family doctor my father was familiar with most families it was near impossible to be in the know of everything . So house visits were one opportunity to banter about the events in the family like marriages . So it happened that one evening he was called in again to  see Mrs. Mary at her house. After finishing his examination and prescribing medicines he started some chat to humour the old lady.
" So,how is your elder daughter doing? " he asked " she's in Irinjalakkuda,no ? "
Mrs. Mary looked at him and nonchalantly asked
" So you did not know it doctor ? "
My father was perplexed since he did not know what he was supposed to know.
He nodded " No".
" She died two months back doctor "the octogenarian replied stoically.
My father was shocked and said
" I am so sorry to hear that, " he said " you must be feeling terrible "
Her reply was instantaneous.
" Oh no,was she not old doctor? She was past sixty "she replied and went back to her rosary counting ..

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Doctor in Village - 1

Doctor in Village 1

Movies always begin with acknowledgements ,so let me also start by acknowledging that these write ups have been prompted by writings of my friend Srinivasa Raghavan about his legal career. But I had written some of these earlier but it did not occur to me to post it in FB. Some of this is my own,but most experiences are my father's and shared with us when he was alive.

My father Dr Rajagopal moved into Ollur then a sleepy village near a sleepier town,Trichur ,Kerala in 1970,the year I was born. He was then in his late twenties ,full of zest and the aspiration to succeed. He joined the ESI dispensary in Ollur as its Medical Officer in charge . For the uninitiated,ESI stands for Employees State Insurance , a government entity providing health services to the organised labour class. Although he was a fresh hand ,my father was given charge specially by the then Director of ESI Dr. Chitran Nambudirippad apparently to end bickering between two existing doctors. When he landed up in the village ,he was provided a quarter behind the dispensary. Years later I joined government service in the very same dispensary. I went around the quarter where I had probably crawled around. It was by then a dilapidated wreck.
Anyhow even then the quarter had its share of surprises,commonest of which were poisonous snakes! But this is not about any of those crawling creatures!
This story is about the two doctors who were then practising. I shall refrain from naming them correctly since one is very much alive. They lived and practised on two nearby streets. They were the only doctors then and competition was tough. Fees were minimal at two or five rupees ,so your survival depended on the number of patients .
The way they tried to maximise their clientele was rather stunning. They kept two youngsters at the start of the streets where they practised. Let's call them Dr Samuel and Dr John. When a family start walking towards Dr Johns clinic cum house,the youngster employed by his rival will come  forward
" Hey you are going to Dr John? Do you know he gives all the wrong medicines ? You will get cured only slowly. Turn back and go to Dr Samuel. Now, there is a fine doctor."
At this if they turn back ,at the corner,the other youngster will accost them,pretending to be an innocent passer by.
" Going to see Samuel Dr,?...do you really value the life of your child or......"
Imagine the plight of the poor family ! There were also smarter ones who escaped paying fees with one doctor by pouring abuse on the other.
When my dad started  to practise,first thing he did was to befriend one of his competitors. The other one had already left.
They remained friends till my fathers death in 2012. Their camaraderie despite competition was legendary and locals found it initially difficult to believe. Indeed many of my friends in school believed they were adversarial. To this day i remember the support given by this " adversary" when my father was unwell due to any reason.Such were the times ......

Sunday, 7 February 2016

From the Middle of Nowhere

Even though renowned as the land of reformers such as Chanakya , Buddha and like, Bihar is undoubtedly the most under developed State in India. Be it by the rampant political anarchy or by the curse of incessant floods, Bihar raises eye brows at those who seek a tad of development there. Dr.Santhosh Rajagopal depicts the vignette of one of Bihar’s remote village where he had a mission as a delegate from W.H.O.
First written 2006
The Baghmathi river was flowing surreptitiously quiet, as she had never been in spate, as if the fog that enveloped her early in the morning was perhaps the only thing dangerous about her. Her vast fertile banks, enveloping villages of Chandauli, Ganeshpur and numerous other hamlets teeming with people were separated from her fury by just a sand bund. It was about 7 in the morning and fog was omnipresent. The temperature was near freezing and no amount of warm clothes would prevent even the bravest from shivering. A convoy of vehicles appeared out of the fog. They have traveled atop the bund taking dangerous turns and swerves that sent the occupants on a macabre roller coaster ride. I was riding the first vehicle whose driver seemed to take a sadistic pleasure in rocketing through the most improbable of roads.
On a mission
We were in Bihar to help out in the Polio Eradication Drive, then hopefully in its last legs. The officer sitting behind me had been there for barely two months, but seemed to have taken in even the local dialect. The driver informed us that when the river was in spate, kilometers of water would be the only sight there. The bund then became a Noah’s ark, keeping the villagers alive till the river spent out her fury completely.
The vehicles drew up at the depot where the vaccines were then ready for distribution. One by one, the vaccinator teams took delivery of their quota of the Oral Polio Vaccine and set off on their rounds ,on foot, deep into the riverine wilderness.
A touch and go
Some hours passed and it was time to monitor the activity of the teams. We were eight doctors and an equal number of Volunteers. My area was a bit in the interior, informed my guide. I hitched a ride on a bike of one of the volunteers. As it meandered its way up the slope of the bund, one bike preceding us got caught in the quick sand and crashed-, luckily ,no injury. We traveled on the bund which was roughly twenty feet wide. In many places people were living on it, which made it even narrower. Their buffaloes mowed and bleated as we played trapeze between them and the waiting river.
We asked around for directions, occasionally consulting the map ,and the gospel of the eradication Drive – the Micro plan. The microplan lists all human habitations in a given area.While in Bihar it is as good as a Google map.
The bike jumped down from hedges, and raced through slush, as I held on for precious life. Most of the time after descending the bund, we were traveling through backyards and fields. Roads, on which the toughest of off -roaders would have a fit, were made every year, my Volunteer informed me. Every year around June, the river makes mincemeat of them. The numerous islands of treacherous river sand on the roads testified to the correctness of his statement. After about 8 kms of that ride ,we came to a small school. We parked the bike and began hunting for the vaccinator teams.
We passed a few houses covered by them already and checked their work. There were no electric poles, no telephone lines, the only link with civilization as we know it were the three bands on my cell phone which told me the nation’s oldest telecom operator was around.(Thank God for that).
We met Arvind, a supervisor. He was about 50 and lightly built, that morning he had set out on a cycle with a vaccine carrier in search of his teams, and bumped into the babus. (us).He wanted to learn from how we worked, he informed us cheerfully. We wanted to see his teams, which were working about 4 km away. The path had water bodies and slushy areas, so walking was the only option. After a bumpy bone rattling ride, I was only too eager to accept that .We waded through the fields and walked atop bridges made solely of decaying vegetation. All around were the hinterland of our great country and I was benumbed by the primitiveness of it all. I took out my cell and called home. I cheerfully informed my wife that I was calling from the middle of nowhere.
Heart of India
We met a team made up of an elderly gentleman and a kid barely out of his teens. The lad was holding geru (a type of ink), to mark the visited houses; the senior was going about giving drops to children. Children were everywhere, dressed in nothing more than rags, eating out of full but flea infested plates, crowding into single room huts set one within the other, riding the omnipresent buffaloes. I remembered a remark of one of my colleagues about a place “swarming with kids”. The team was vaccinating the kids, marking their fingers and houses as well as managing formats, which had increased in number that time around. I watched ,as the old gentleman, obviously semi-literate, fumbled with the papers. We went around colonies of what the supervisor calls the lowest caste in Bihar. These are the Mushahars- literally, ones who eat rats. Later I learnt that the female literacy among them was 0.1%.There should be no castes, I meekly suggested, he agreed readily but went on about why they were the underdogs.

As walked along he cautioned me on dangers of walking in the fields, and I politely informed him that I too came from a village and was no stranger to walking on fields and narrow bridges made of felled coconut tree trunks back home. He insisted no village can be as backward as his, and I reluctantly agreed. It was 4 PM and I suggested we could have a tea. Arvind promptly disappeared into a rather better looking house and reappeared with ginger tea of the best quality. He was the local Compounder, he informed me and the respect showered on him as we passed made it clear that he was more close to being a doctor in the locality. I had no illusions about any one  of my professional brethren setting foot there, in what the Mahatma would have called the heart of India. Somehow during my entire stay I kept remembering the Mahatma, might be because Champaran, where he began his “career” of Satyagrahas was close by.
Back through the dark

It was about 5 PM and time to wind up. Tired from the long walk, Arvind offered us seats in another courtyard. As we settled down he waxed eloquent on how things could never change there. I strongly disagreed, and said it can be changed, provided we aspired to. Which suddenly made me think, what were all those kids aspiring to? They seemed to be contented with riding buffaloes into the fields, hang around with gur made from sugarcane, and tearing up and playing with posters of the just concluded elections. No entrance exams for them, no scholarships, no pencils or sharpeners, no schoolbags either. – Just the predictable grind of a rural farming life, with the most primitive of implements.
We were offered Dahi,(curd) and I accepted. I refused the big cup, settling for half as much, only to regret later. I remembered we had skipped lunch, which explained the nectar like taste of home-made dahi.
As the sun was quickly disappearing into the enveloping fog, we made haste and I dreaded the prospect of return through the route. Luckily we could find an alternate, slightly less dangerous path. As we came in, the rest of the team was getting a bit worried about us. As I approached, my local colleague asked me how the activity was. The dahi was elixir like, I told him as we bundled on to the waiting 4 wheel drives on our way back.
As we rode into the darkness, I remembered an argument I had with my brother-in-law working for software major in Bangalore; on how much time India would take to become a developed nation. Ten, he had said. Fifty, I had wagered, fresh from a similar trip to rural UP. I called him up on my cell. “I have changed my mind on that”, I informed him. It would be hundred years…..” .The connection broke off, as if to reinforce the statement.
POST SCRIPT:
After several rounds of deployment to the capital Patna and the national capital,I finally revisited rural Bihar in 2010.By this time the government had changed .The first sign of better tidings as I entered  a rural Primary Health Centre in Madhubani district was the drone of a generator that was ensuring 24 hour electricity supply.I was in for yet another surprise- at 7 PM a delivery was happening in the PHC! This was unthinkable in Bihar where some PHCs resembled cattle sheds once.I was told by a visibly irritated doctor that the villagers have given up home delivery since the “money” came. He was referring to the Janani Suraksha Yojana which gave a sum of money for hospital deliveries .I told him we should be happy since they can have safe deliveries. He looked at me and made a statement that has me speechless. ”Sir, if some complications happen at home and the mother dies, at least we doctors will not get the blame. Now we get blamed for everything.”
We are so happy to blame politicians for everything that goes wrong. As I returned to my place of residence- a PWD guest house still with no electricity or water- I reflected on this statement .Nothing came to my mind except the proverb-“You can take a horse to water…….”

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

EXPERT WITNESS

EXPERT WITNESS

It was this sultry desolate evening that one gets used to in life in the hinterland. Nothing much to look forward to except a stream of people walking in at odd times  to get free consultation . Doing the day rota in a Tehsil or Taluk hospital in semi urban Kerala often meant this. People with Fever which was there since two days,did not report to the OPD for the excusable reason of a crowd, vague feelings of indigestion because of a heavy meal. Decently emergent one could argue. But in a small town you don't argue with your patients ,unless you want to be terribly unpopular or poor or both.
I had just had a decent meal from the only decent restaurant in town because the night rota guy was kind enough to relieve me for an hour. I was feeling sleepy and even the dull green bed of the duty room, which was essentially an old operation theatre , seemed inviting. It was then that the knock at the ageing door reminded me that my time was not at my disposal. I opened the door cursing no body in particular. Outside the room,the Nursing assistant on duty was holding a paper in his hand. Since I already noticed the khaki cap of the police officer standing respectfully behind him , I need not have guessed the content of the paper. It was a request from the Police for a post mortem examination . One of the things that I detested when I joined the Government Health service was this . With no experience in Forensic medicine one is supposed to do a post mortem examination . One learnt on the job and I had the good luck of being guided by a senior who in spite of being an internist was an expert in the field.
The prerogative of requesting a PM ,as it's called ,in a suspicious death ,lies with the investigating officer. In legal parlance ,the Station House Officer. Usually that means an officer not below the rank of Head Constable or Civil Police Officer as they are now called in Kerala. The curious thing about the request is the doctor cannot " refer" the case as it were. That liberty ends with the life of the patient. Even if the doctor believes that he should redirect the case to a specialist ,his hands are tied. Only the police can take the call. If after considering the request they vote for the same doctor ,he is bound to perform it.
It was my habit to ask more details of the case so that one does not miss crucial things . Since the district had a teaching hospital with a full complement of Forensic experts, we were generally requested to perform PM only in cases were the Police was pretty sure that it was an accident or suicide. In this case the the officer informed me that it was a case of suicide . I glanced across the request and noted the name.
Sandra Joseph it said,20 years .
I read it again .
 Surely not that Sandra. I asked about the whereabouts of the deceased. He confirmed what I had feared. It was indeed the Sandra Joseph.

Mind has this curious way of retaining memories. The first thing that I remembered about this girl was that she was wearing a high heel slipper when I first met her. It was sort of curious since I should have remembered that she was my best friend's girl friend. Wait ,not fully, since Prasad,that was my friends name,never accepted her love.

I signed and gave back the request and asked him to shift the body to the Autopsy room.
As I reluctantly prepared myself I also recollected the occasion of our first meeting.
Both of us were working in a moderate sized hospital in my home city. He had already worked there for an year while I was still in medical school. It was a breezy December morning and the morning rush was still a good hour away.

The cold stillness of the mortuary is matched only by the coldness of the lives of its occupants while they waited for the final violation of their bodies before the pyre or earth interred them.
In a mechanical but thorough manner I first identified the body by matching the marks ascribed to the deceased in the request. She was lying lifeless ,but still pretty. In death nudity takes on a certain vulgarity except for the depraved. But one had to admit that save for the ligature knot and some facial flushing she still looked full of life.

The breezy December morning that I met her ,she was wearing a pink salwar with silky white leggings. She had a decent face highlighted by big eyes and a constant smile. But for some reason that morning,Prasad was irritated with her. I found out the reason soon enough. She wanted to gift him an expensive watch. He would have none of it. Reason was quite simple. They understood their relationship differently. Prasad was pretty convinced she wanted him to marry her. He did not want that. Sandra always maintained he was just a friend .

The Nursing attendants working in the non teaching hospitals do half the job of a PM in most cases. The doctors mainly make observations. I carefully noted that the ligature knot did not fully envelop the neck. In cases of homicidal strangulation,the  mark will  extend fully around the neck. Also,in this case ,as in many others, one could make out the knot mark on the skin of the neck just above where the ligature marks ended.

Sandra was pleading with him to accept the gift.  Desperate for some support he turned to me.
" Renjith, you tell me, can I accept such an expensive gift? "
The question was rhetorical but I was in a naughty mood.
" Why not ? " was my reply ,much to his embarrassment.

The nursing assistant had begun to cut open the neck and then the body. One had to note the congestion of the blood vessels beneath the knot. Also the contents of the stomach ,condition of internal organs ,everything needed to be noted down.

" I know he's not ready to marry me. I am willing to admit I love him,Dr.Renjith" Sandra was saying. " But can't he accept a friendly gift ?"
I gave a sympathetic nod and winked at my friend. He swore and then smiled. " I am your doctor Sandra" he said without much conviction .
Strangely enough Sandra always called him doctor. Sandra smiled that bewitching smile of hers "You  were my doctor" ,she mocked .

Samples having been taken from the viscera ,the assistant was closing the body now. Next he would break open the skull, a macabre procedure since smaller hospitals did not have proper equipments.A shudder passed through me as I again touched her lifeless body and inspected it for any other injury not noticed earlier.

She had touched my hand that day pleading for Prasad's acceptance of her gift. I had felt embarrassed since she was such a pretty girl but she took away her hand swiftly to return to her vocal tantrums.

The final acts over, I nodded to the assistant and left the room. Waiting outside I could make out that her relatives were waiting. Surely not her parents, they were probably too shocked to accompany her .

Sandra had left the Rolex on the Casualty desk. She was cool and collected as she walked out. We had to later retrieve the watch and courier it back to her. Prasad was right. He was her doctor.It all started off as an emergency call to see a woman suffering from abdominal pain. I was not with him at that point. Prasad then noticed that she was coming for review once too often ,on flimsy grounds. This is not unusual since girls of that age sometimes take fancy to young doctors or teachers. What was unusual was that she then pursued him for two years and it was at that point that I first met her in that casualty ,Rolex in hand.

I sat down to write the report. Usual case of suicide by hanging . There was one extra element. The deceased was pregnant. Probably twelve weeks. Male foetus. I signed off and filed the PM report. The report ended with the usual clause. Final report pending till viscera reports are in. Daily stuff. No body even sent the viscera anywhere. In those cases when courts requested ,it was rumoured that any viscera would be sent, not necessarily of the same deceased,but I had no personal experience of that sort.
Sandra pursued Prasad in the wards ,occasionally even in the theatre,operation theatre that is. She would disappear for weeks quoting some exam or the other. Then call him again. Those were the days before cell phones. One had to second guess using ESP to avoid an unwanted call. I had often asked Prasad why he did not reciprocate her feelings. She was pretty,educated and seemed a good match. Was it religion ? I mocked him because he was a proclaimed atheist." Non sense" he would scream. " go and marry her" ,he would tell me. Not that I would have minded. She wasn't probably interested. I was convinced she was obsessed with Prasad.

*****************************************************************************

The usual course for a suicide case is for the police to " refer " it. This jargon simply said  that the case was closed due to lack of evidence as to performance of any criminal act. Which automatically meant I was saved the trip to the court to give evidence.
It was therefore surprising to  me that after about six months I received a summons to appear as Expert Witness in a case which was identified only by a crime number. I gathered from my friends in the force that this was the Sandra suicide case.
Sandra 's parents had  filed a private complaint of abetment of suicide against my friend Dr Prasad who worked now in another private hospital. They were convinced that after abusing her love he had abandoned her and led to her death.
If this was unusual enough,the next morning I got a tip off from my lawyer friends that I was also being summoned as PW, or ordinary witness by the Special prosecutor in the case.Now this is a highly problematic area. As EW,or expert witness, I should testify as to the cause of death and the fact of her illegitimate pregnancy. As PW I had to testify regarding their relationship . An EW can give an opinion as to the cause of death or in other cases the nature of presented evidences. An ordinary witness cannot give any opinion . He just states facts. It's funny how in some movies ordinary witnesses say " I think he has a violent predisposition "and so on. Any self respecting judge would disregard those statements . I was a little confused here. I could find no precedence of a person being EW and PW at the same time. Was it even legal ?

The senior judge who was in Session at the District court that  wretched morning was the Honourable  Judge Sasidharan  Nair. Aged around fifty ,he had a reputation for being stern but luckily he was also known for treating doctors with kindness.The treatment of doctors in trials is usually respectful . They are given preference in deposing and treated with dignity by both sides . This is also because the evidence is crucial and no one wants to rub him or her the wrong way. But in this case I am also a personal witness and could not expect any such mercy. I was summoned by the prosecution despite knowing our friendship. It would be impossible for me to deny their romantic liaison,given the fact that she never kept her visits secret. My lawyer friends pointed out that the prosecution was not looking for a murder conviction. It was just abetment of suicide. The bar of evidence was not that high.
The trial began ordinarily. As the EW ,I read from my post mortem report. That was procedure. I could see Prasad ,his face down ,with unfathomable  feelings. His lawyer was the redoubtable Bhanuchandra Menon,simply the best lawyer money could buy,at least in our town. The prosecution was brief in its Examination in chief. This is the first examination of a witness. Here the prosecution cannot ask leading questions. For instance ,one cannot ask the witness " Did you see Mr X stabbing Mr Y? ". You can only ask " What did you see that night ? ". In legal parlance any question that expects a yes or no answer is a leading question and is disallowed in the examination in chief. The defence lawyer has no such restrictions. He can ask leading or as is common ,even misleading questions. The prosecutor gets his chance in what is called the redirect,a chance to question the witness after the defence is done with him.
Bhanuchandra Menon was friendly, he's an acquaintance of mine. He dug around the PM report. The usual rigmarole to establish that the death was by suicide. He then entered into the area regrading sexual relations. I was wondering why the prosecution had just barely touched it.
" Doctor, was there any sign of sexual activity at all? " Menon was asking.
There was a wry smile on the judges face. The girl was pregnant, for heavens sake,his face said.
" Yes your honour" I replied. "The hymen was ruptured. "
Normally one would then expect a barrage of questions on how else hymen can rupture,but here it was superfluous.
The defence was driving at something else.
" Any sign of forced entry or abuse ? " Menon asked.
" No" I replied matter of factly.
"So it's correct to assume that whatever sexual activity that happened was consensual ?" . He was neither admitting his client had sex nor that he even knew her,it was just a factual question. I had to be careful with this one. One cannot assume consent from lack of force,I replied. She could have been drugged. The prosecutor was visibly happy with that answer.
" She was not raped by anyone,right? " it was a trapping leading question from Menon.
" One cannot assume that considering that it's also rape to have sex after drugging "I repeated.
It was a legal point,but I was an expert witness. The defence was unhappy with the answer. He said one cannot answer questions that were not asked. The judge shrugged his shoulders.
 " You asked the question" he said . The message was clear.

The defence then went on about other details of injury marks,old wounds and so on. I thought it was a waste of time since she was twelve weeks pregnant when she died. Menon was simply driving at the point that there was no evidence for any element of force in whatever relation she had. That was anyway not the prosecutions argument. I knew that the punches would come when I deposed as personal witness.
I could see that there was a frown in Prasad's face. I could not help it. Days back he had approached me with the request that I tone down my testimony about their relationship. I was non committal . Surely there were other witnesses. I could not be held for perjury.
The Prosecutors redirect was more detailed than usual.
He established firmly that the deceased was pregnant. The viscera examination ,report of which was available showed no other cause of death. There was no wedding ring, no other injury . The role of an expert witness was limited in this case. It was open and shut a suicide. The circumstances of the act was known only to Renjith ,the personal witness. He was not allowed any opinion on that. The prosecution then turned to other witnesses including the parents,the policemen,the hospital worker who had testified to her frequent visits. Her parents were apparently unaware of her obsession with Prasad till her death.
I was a little disturbed by this revelation. Could that be true ? Love can't be kept secret . One can read love from the others eyes . Were her parents that blind? Then I suddenly remembered that her parents lived in a different city and she was alone in our city.
They chanced upon some letters written by her to him and never posted. The letters were submitted as Exhibits. The defence lawyer was merciless even with the grief stricken parents.
" Apart from these letters is there any evidence with you to show that your daughter and my client had a romantic liaison ? "
The father answered with his silence. He was a forlorn man of about sixty. Sandra was his only offspring. Tragedy hang about him like an oversized dress.
The defence established that the letters were never posted and there were no letters from Dr Prasad to Sandra. It was a crucial point. No evidence of a two way true blue romance. The hospital worker had seen both of them together in cafeteria and the casualty. He had not overheard what they talked. The prosecution could not establish they had gone out anywhere together.
" Is it not strange that your daughter and my client never went out together and the only place they met was the hospital ? " Menon was asking. He was not expecting any reply. He stated matter of factly that his client was where he could be legitimately,at his place of work. The deceased had come to meet him. May be as a patient or as an acquaintance. Surely one had better places to go than the hospital if one were romantically inclined.
I was next called to the stand,this time as a personal witness. Ten minutes into the testimony I suddenly realised that I was the prosecutions star witness. No wonder he treated me as an EW with kid gloves. The special prosecutor in the case was Sridhar Das. At forty he was an energetic lawyer. His appointment had come after a lot of pressure by Sandra's parents.
I testified that I knew Prasad from my med school. He was one year my senior. I worked with him for almost six months at the hospital in question.
" Dr Renjith," Adv. Sridhar was asking" How do you know the deceased?"
It was jarring how she was always referred to as the deceased and not by name.
Prasad had told me about Sandra before I met her. He had described how she pursued her after their first,thoroughly professional encounter. How she round talk for hours over the phone. How he told her to treat him only as a friend. And then he suddenly asked the most unexpected question.
" Was or is Dr Prasad an atheist ? ". The defence lawyer sprang to his feet. Irrelevant ,he growled. Objection.
Judge stared quizzically at the Prosecutor.
" It's relevant your honour", Sridhar demurred" I want to establish something "
" Overruled" the Judge told Menon" but Mr Prosecutor, no moralising here"
" He is ,to my knowledge "  I replied truthfully.
" Did he read any philosophy ? " what a thought ! I wondered . Menon was completely flummoxed. I said I was not sure.
" Did he ever discuss philosophy or ethics of sex ,Osho for instance "
Oh my God,what was he driving at ? I said yes. He did mention Osho as a practical person.
"Was he a follower ? " the prosecutor asked
" Objection," Menon was violent this time " irrelevant,immaterial,and scurrilous "
The judge pondered a little and advised Sridhar.
" Come to the bloody point " . The expletive was almost whispered but clear.
" Your honour,the accused was an Osho fan . He has on occasion declared that it was okay to have sex with a friend without any commitment. The witness has testified how he wanted the deceased to treat him,as a friend. I think it clears up the case "
The reasoning seemed muddled to me. But the Judge was confused now. Neither side had called the accused to the stand till now. May be a deliberate strategy.

We were sitting inside the doctors room in the Operation theatre. All of us were dressed in the green OT scrubs. There were at least two other junior doctors whose names are now hazy. Prasad was in full flow. He was dwelling on Osho,free sex ,what not. " Can a man and woman be just friends ?" He was asking. Somebody said it might slip into sexual relations later. " So does that make them anything more than friends ? " Prasad was emphatic " No!, According to Osho " He winked " and me". There was a huge guffaw of the type you hear in men only gatherings. The depraved rumblings of the sexually deprived.


Out of the blue the defence made a strident demand.

" The DNA test of the foetus needs to be done"   He demanded. The procedure had then just come to the country. Available only at CCMB,Hyderabad. It was clear that Prasad was taken aback by the demand. He was gesturing wildly to his lawyer. But once he gets into the mood Menon was difficult to distract.
The prosecution readily agreed. It would take weeks if not months. Since I had preserved the foetal tissue it wasn't difficult to perform the test. After a few hectic confabulations, it was agreed upon and the court was adjourned.

By evening I received a terse call from my friend. He was upset I had not helped him in any way . I explained that it was not possible to lie . There were other witnesses. And I had only reported truthfully. I had not mentioned they were in love. Far from it. Then I asked reluctantly why he had agreed to the DNA test. He was furious. He said that his lawyer did not consult him. Now the damage was done. He could not refuse without the needle of suspicion pointing at him. Then I asked the question uppermost in my mind
" Did you actually have sex with her? "
He was silent for a long time and then replied.
" Yes buddy. Once,but..."

" Goddamnit Prasad," I shouted" it might be your child. You are screwed,well literally"
" No" he cried " it was more than six months before she died." in fact she was in her safe period"
" Oh my God, Prasad,are you even a doctor ? How can you be so sure ?" I was hysterical.
" It was her birthday,dammit " Prasad said " I regret having read those fancy theories . It was in May. She died in December. And you said she was four months pregnant. So she cannot be bearing my child. "
I made some feverish calculations and said it could be right. But I lost all confidence in him. I kept the phone down. It all depended on the blood test result now. The tissue of the foetus was being matched with Prasad's tissue. The test was near cent percent accurate,unless you had an identical twin ,that is.









It was sunny April when the result came. It was delivered in a sealed cover to the court. Judge Sasidharan Nair opened it in the presence of both lawyers and the accused. I was told of the proceedings by Prasad in an excited tone immediately after in a rushed phone call.Apparently the judge read from the report silently and simply  said
" It is not a match. Case dismissed ". I was dozing off from a particularly heavy night shift at the hospital .The Rolex told the time as Two PM.

Well I knew it would not be a match. Because they did not test my blood. Dammit,if only she had not come to me that rainy day in October wearing that damned knee length red skirt pleading with me to convince Prasad. The same dress she wore when she pleaded with me to be the father to her ,no ,our child. The same dress that she wore when she was brought to me as a case for autopsy...

அழைப்பு



தெருவுக்கு இருபுறமும் பள்ளியில் குழந்தைகள் நிற்பது போல் அக்ரஹாரத்து வீடுகள். கோவிலை நோக்கி மெல்லமாக நடந்து கொண்டிருந்தேன் . தானே வரைத்த சிவப்பு ஓவியத்தின் அழகை ரசித்து கொண்டு மாடியேறுவதரக்கு சோம்பலாக இருந்தது ஞாயிறு.
கோபுரத்தை நெருங்க ஒரு அம்பாசிடர் கார் என் பார்வைக்கு வந்தது. எங்கேயோ  பார்த்த ஞாபகம்,காரையும் அதில் உடகாந்திருந்த முகத்தையும். என்னை பார்க்கவும் அந்த முகம் மடிச்சார் புடவயும் வைரத்தோடுமாக கமலாமாமியின் உருவத்தில் அவதரித்தார்.
"எப்ப வந்தாய் ?" புன்னகையுடனான கேள்வி.
"இன்னைக்கு காலேலெ தான் மாமி," என்று நான் சொல்ல,மாமி திரும்பவும் கேட்க்கிறாள்.
"ஆத்தில யாரிருக்கா?"
தேவையற்ற கேள்வி.பல வருடங்களுக்கு முன் போன அம்மா,ஓரிரு வருடங்களுக்கு முன் மரைந்த அப்பா. தொலைவில் இருக்கும் நகரத்திலிருந்து விடுமுறைக்கு மட்டும் கிராமத்துக்கும் வீட்டிற்கும் வந்து எட்டி பார்ககிறவன் நான் என்பது மாமிக்கும் தெரிந்தது தான்.

" யாரும் இல்லை" பதில் சொல்ல மாமி அடுத்த கேள்வி எழுப்பினார் .


"அப்ப சாப்பாடெல்லாம் எப்படி?"

"அதான் நம்ம அய்யர் ஹோட்டல் இருக்கே" என்றேன் நான்.

"ஏன் ,எங்காத்துக்கு வரலாமே," மாமி சொன்னாள்."அங்க நானும் மாமாவும் மட்டும் தானே இருக்கோம்"

ஒரு முப்பது வருடங்களுக்கு முன் எனில் ,மனதை குளிர வைத்திருக்கும்,அந்த அழைப்பு.பாதி மூடியிருக்கும் கதவின் மறைவில் இருந்து புறப்படும் ராதிகாவின் கொலுசின் ஒலி.அம்மாவின் கேள்விகளுக்கு நான் பதில் சொல்ல சொல்ல,அடக்கமாக மொழியும் மழை போல அவளுடைய மூச்சு சத்தம்...யாருக்கும் தெரியாமல் கடந்த வருடம் கோவில் தேர் திருவிழா அன்று நான் கொடுத்த வளைகளின் கலகலப்பு...

"வேண்டாம் மாமி, இன்னக்கு ஒரு கல்யாண அழைப்பு இருக்கே.."என்று சொன்னேன் நான்.

வெளிநாட்டில் கணவருடனும் மகிழச்சியுடனும் வாழ்ந்து கொண்டிருக்கும் ராதிகாவை வெளியில் நிற்கவைத்து கோவிலுக்குள் நுழைந்தேன் .

Saturday, 9 January 2016

மகள்


மகள்

இரண்டாவதாக மகன் பிறந்த மகிழ்ச்சி  நான் பகிர்ந்து கொள்ள
பக்கத்து வீட்டு பாட்டி சொன்னாள் என் காதில்
பாசம் என்னவென்று தெரிய ஒரு மகள் வேண்டும்
அப்பொழுது ஓன்றும் தோன்றவில்லை

பகல்கள் இரவுகளாக பல திங்கள் ஓட
ஞாயிறும் திங்களுமாக மகன்கள் வளர
குமரன்,பிள்ளையார் போல் அவர்கள்  எங்களை
சுற்றி வந்த காலங்களும்  ஞாபகங்களாக...

இப்பொழுது தோன்றுகிறது ....


வீட்டிற்கு வந்து சேர சில நொடிகள் தாமதமானால்
கைபேசியில் அழைத்து செல்லச்சண்டை போடவும்
அவளை விட்டு விலகியிருக்கும் நேரங்களில்
கைபேசியில் அழைக்காவிட்டால டு போடவும்

வீதி வரை செலவதர்றகும்  கூட துணை கேட்கவும்
மாலை இரவாகும் பொழுது வாசல் தீண்டாவிட்டால்
ஆவலுடன் காத்திருக்கவும் வந்து விட்டால் கட்டி அணைக்கவும்
செல்லம் கொடுத்து மகிழவும் ..

ஆம் ,ஒரு மகள் வேண்டும்  தான்.