Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dr Jamshed C. Taraporvala

I have just returned from the funeral of our beloved teacher Dr. Jamshed Taraporvala. He appeared a pale fragile figure a shadow of the ever smiling, young "buddha" that we fondly called him in our JJ days. 

I have known him and learnt from him from my undergraduate  days where his anecdotal description of conditions like frozen shoulder remained etched in our memories. Then when fate destined that I specialize in Orthopedics, my colleague chose unit II over unit I in JJ enabling me to work under JCT directly. Grand rounds were an event lasting 4 hours on Wednesdays, with every patients problems discussed threadbare, the levels of academic discussion reaching high academic levels meant for exam going students and also catering to fresh housemen like me. The importance of treating patients ethically and giving the correct management without succumbing to the temptation of operating just to learn was firmly imparted to young knife happy youngsters. Conservative treatment in the days when operations were not entirely safe was emphasized. However, progress and change was allowed only if it benefited the patient. Sir backed his residents at all times and fought tooth and nail with authorities in case of any conflict. He would admonish us and point out our faults, but made sure that he never pulled up a senior before a junior. He exerted authority but in a manner that never made his subordinates feel bad.  I can cite numerous examples where JCT as teacher towered above his peers. For instance, when a few elective cases  had unexplained infection, he chose to systematically go to the root of the problem and stopped surgeries till the problem was identified. The importance given to documentation and follow-up  was reflected in his unfailing presence in every follow-up OPD. His surgeries were neat meticulous and every step in the book was neatly demonstrated to all of us. The marathon Saturday PG clinics which he held before the exams with special cases which came from his private case collection, showed a rare and dedicated commitment to teaching, seldom seen in PG teachers.

All these qualities were combined with wit and humor,  good natured sarcasm and a smiling demeanor, which made us all love and idolize the great man and teacher.  Every six months Sir with his gracious wife hosted us residents for a term ending party and served us rare cock-tails made by himself. While there were issues where he had problems in JJ due to ungrateful subordinates and officialdom, he remained committed to teaching and molded many a student. He had a great second innings as PG teacher in Bombay Hospital after retiring from JJH. As an examiner in PG exams he tested knowledge with common sense and I remember his words about his responsibility as an examiner. "My duty as an examiner is to not loose upon an unsuspecting population a man who is  dangerous to the community and patients in general." I think every examiner must learn from his example. 

In 1989, when Sir was President of IOA, an honor he richly deserved, he graciously accepted my invitation to inaugurate my Nursing Home in Baroda. That day was truly a red letter day in my life and I will be eternally grateful  to Sir for giving me more than I deserve.

Life moves on and the old must give way to the new, but for me I can say that Sir was responsible for laying a sound foundation on which I built my career and life as an Orthopod.  I regret not having been in touch with him, due to our busy life and schedules. I feel it is my duty and the duty of the many Orthpods he taught to honor his memory and continue his legacy of importing knowledge to one and all. In these times of materialistic greed and crass commercialism, I can say with conviction that  teachers and persons like JCT are not going to be seen, at least in our lifetime.  JCT sir we salute you and we will miss you.

Dr. Vispi Jokhi

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rajesh Khanna Unexplainable yet Explained!!!

All cliche ridden superlatives can fit the man who passed away and while he was there he was fondly remembered by  the generation which grew up seeing him, but in his death the magnitude of media coverage has left many youngsters dumb struck. Recently we have lost quite a few actors, but their death got the usual stories and a few movies, but i think the way Rajesh Khanna is being relived on screen is certainly more than our wildest imagination. By today's requirements, Kaka was a mis fit. He had no great physique, height or dancing ability, but he had expression and emoting capability which none of the contemporary  Khans, Kapoors or Roshans or Hashmis have. His style, mannerisms and looks spawned a generation which lived and died with each nuance and expression he immortalized on screen. While many thought that he had limited acting ability and a stereo typed acting style, i beg to differ cause his range of movies covered the masala romantic magic along with really meaningful cinema. While all have their eternal favorites, for me one unsung movie which stood out for its value systems and lessons in life was Bawarchi, where a simple cook held a mirror to society. Kati Patang, on widow remarriage, Khamoshi about mental illness, Amar Prem about prostitution, Anand about conquering death, Dushman about jail reform were all meaningful movies which redefined movies from run of the mill roles to sublime cinema.

The man was human, fallible and unable to keep a level head in the midst of adulation. His weakness for alcohol, slowly but surely spelled his fall from grace. He became known for his big ego and his career started going down hill. His inability to digest  his  success ruined his career and his family life. However, he was unable to make a transition from hero to character roles and i feel that was good since for our generation we were spared from a image of kaka which we had never seen.

The man is no more, but we are in for a feast for the next month as i am sure we can sit back and watch a few of his great movies and repeat the famous lines which have been etched into our memories like deep lines etched on our consciousness. Rajesh Khanna will continue to live for generations to come.
Dr. Vispi Jokhi

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Greatest Indian After Gandhi

Well this attempt by CNN-IBN to select/elect the greatest Indian after Gandhi has been on my mind for a while. A tacit acknowledgement that Gandhi was the greatest Indian, itself has been a bone of contention for some in this country. Since a bench mark has been set we are obliged to  compare the contenders with the standards set by the Mahatma. For me the greatness of the Mahatma was in the complete harmony in thought word and deed. The steadfast adherence to the values of truth and non-violence along with the basic principle of giving more importance to the means adopted to reach the goals over the goals itself. Coupled with all this, he was a shrewd tactician and a street smart politician who out witted seasoned opponents. He had the humility to listen to his bitterest critics and accommodate their views and even admit his own mistakes. And in the context of our times, Gandhi's concept of wealth accumulation for the cause and holding it as trustee is extremely important to me. Since we are defining the greatest Indian, we need to define the greatness in terms of impact on Indians and the legacy left behind by their life and body of work.

After shortlisting 50 Indians chosen by a selected jury and putting them to vote the last 10 have been decided.. Analyzing each one and the reasons for agreement or disagreement with the choices will be my brief in the next few paragraphs.

APJ Abdul Kalam, was a great scientist but certainly not the greatest in the post independence era. His team at ISRO made a major contribution to his achievements. However as a people's President with a hand on proactive approach and his ability to connect to the youth make him a popular choice. His support for nuclear energy and legacy of Pokharan are certainly issues which make me more than uncomfortable with his choice among the top 10.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee for me fails on the test of harmony in thought word and deed. His inability to seize the moment and listen to his conscience at the time of the Gujarat genocide, for me negates most of what he did before. If people say he was a right man in the wrong party, I disagree with that too, for he was a mask used by the communal elements to get power. And Vajpayee allowed himself to be used as such. Flowery speech and oratorical skills, not backed by action when required to my mind disqualifies Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Jawaharlal Nehru was an architect of modern India and a true democrat. His nurturing of scientific temper and creation of institutes of excellence in education and public sector enterprises, were required in his time and no one can deny Nehru's immense contribution to India. However, as a leader he negated most of Gandhi's vision. While I grant that his intentions were always good, he outlived his utility and left behind a legacy which has harmed the nation more than benefited it. Dynastic rule has become the bane of Indian politics, the green revolution effect of poisoning our land and water bodies and his inability to stamp out corruption when it started and his mishandling of Kashmir and war against China make him to my mind not a contender for the greatest after Gandhi. Still he deserves a place in the top 10.

Lata Mangeshkar for sheer longevity and the joy she has given to Indians with her voice and inspiration makes her a very good choice. While she has her flaws in terms of  not nurturing talent and crushing her opponents by means fair and foul, her impact is undisputed. Her record of lending her voice to social causes and fund raising efforts has been excellent and she certainly deserves a place in the top 10.

Sachin Tendulkar is certainly a great, an achiever, with immense talent and ability coupled with determination and single minded pursuit of excellence. While many say that cricket is not a global sport as compared to football or even hockey, I do not think that this fact disqualifies Sachin from being called the greatest Indian. His conduct on and off the field has been above average but not without blemish (the Ferrari episode and slowing before landmarks are what immediately come to mind). He has lent himself to social causes and silently contributed beyond his sport. He has given unparallelled joy to millions of Indians in a game which is a national obsession. However, real greatness is defined by rising to the occasion when all around you is falling apart. In this respect Sachin's record in finals and on the big occasion has been found wanting. While success and failure in a game is often a matter of luck the greatest show more consistency than Sachin. He deserves a place in top 10 but not my choice for greatest.

Mother Teresa's impact and social reach in this country and internationally is immense and her legacy is truly inspiring. While accusations of conversion have arisen from time to time I feel she has answered this accusation well. They have just used prayer and religion to ease the pain and trauma of death. She cared for the destitute and inspired her Missionaries of Charity to live in poverty and render selfless service. Sometimes she has received funds from dubious sources, but to use that excuse to detract from her greatness would amount to nit picking. I think she deserves to be in the top 10 and even be considered as a contender for the top slot in my humble opinion.

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar certainly deserves to be on the list of top 10 Indians. However his contribution in framing our constitution has been exaggerated to some extent. His empowerment of Dalits have made Dalits deify him and his deification has been so excessive that many have felt suffocated by the phenomenon. However, these issues cannot take anything away from his greatness. For me the real blemish on his record comes from his willingness to compromise on the issue of India's independence to gain rights for his bretheren. His inability to trust and work with Mahatma Gandhi too was something I am uncomfortable with. He is therefor not my choice for the greatest Indian.

Sardar Vallabhai Patel has to be an automatic choice for greatest Indian after Gandhi. A man who was wedded to Gandhian principle and ideology and whose transformation from a brown sahib to a homespun mass leader, who could independently command a following of his own, even during Gandhi's lifetime has to be in the top 10. He was essentially a worker willing to put his ego and self interest below the greater common good. His contribution in saving and nurturing the nation in its infancy has not been adequately acknowledged. All the princely states to this day have been integrated seamlessly into India except Kashmir, where he was not allowed a free hand. His integration of the Civil services making it serve the nation gives India a backbone even today. Sardar Patel's only blemish was acceptance of Partition where he for the first time fell apart from his mentor. However, he is a contender for the top slot without any doubt.

JRD Tata's achievements and legacy make him a certain top 10 contender. He was a giant achiever in more fields than one. Leader of an industrial house, his strength was his integrity and value systems bequeathed to his subordinates. His ability to delegate responsibility to others and trust them was his strength. Even when some of his judgements proved wrong he was able to take strong corrective measures and control the damage. He is the father of Indian aviation and Air-India was a model of efficiency till he managed it. His vision and ability to see that government regulations were stifling India's growth story made him a visionary ahead of his times. It is a failure of Nehru and Indira to listen to his advise which was responsible for India's dismal growth rates in the first four decades of India's independence. His policies of worker welfare, respect for all his subordinates and holding wealth as a trustee for the greater common good makes him a contender for the top slot in my humble opinion.

Indira Gandhi making it to the top 10 is certainly a mistake and her selection reflects the present disgust with weak political leadership provided by our present political class. Her rise to the top is by accident of birth, and her achievement is in staying on top by hook or by crook and more often crook. Her strong leadership coupled with a disciplined armed forces resulted in the victory over Pakistan in 1971. However, she can be be credited with the decay and destruction of all that Nehru and Patel left behind. Her selfish pursuit of power and inability to reign in her spoilt son were unpardonable flaws. The bureaucracy, judiciary and armed forces largely retained their integrity not because of her but in spite of her. I do not think she deserves a place in the top 10.

So finally, which are the omissions which I feel are glaring. Three names come to my mind, Vinoba Bhave , C. Rajgopalachari and Vishwanathan Anand. Vinoba tried to usher in a revolution of land reform, which if had been taken to its logical conclusion had the potential to transform India. Rajaji an original thinker and India's first reformist wedded to ideas of free enterprise was pushed into oblivion by banishing him to TN. However he deserves to be contender for the top slot. Vishwanath Anand achievements in a taxing sport and sheer consistency puts him above any other sporting icon.

In conclusion, my choice for the top slot will first narrow down to Mother Teresa, Sardar Patel, JRD Tata, Vinoba Bhave and Rajaji and my final vote goes to Sardar Patel.

These are my honest views, will appreciate comments on the same.

Dr. Vispi Jokhi