12 February, 2009


Sharat was a friend of mine from Netarhat. Netarhat is a residential school located in the Chotanagpur plateau about 100 miles from Ranchi. After finishing my schooling in 1967, I went to the Engineering college in Sindri (BIT, Sindri) to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. It was a five year course and as was quite usual in those days, the course took just under 6 years to get over. I was interviewed and accepted by the Tata Engineering and Locomotive company (TELCO, now known at Tata motors) and moved to Jamshedpur in 1972. 
My parents were based in Chhapra, which is about 50 miles from Patna across the Ganges. The bridge across the Ganga at Patna had not been built. To go to Chhapra from Sindri and Jamshedpur, one had to reach Patna by train, cross the Ganga by steamer at one of the ghats and then take a bus to Chapra. Every year, a significant part of the outgoing batch from Netarhat school would move to Patna. They would either study at the Patna Science College or at the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). Because of this, I had a number of friends in Patna. I made it a habit to stop at Patna for a few hours on my way to Chhapra and back. I got married in February 1978. My wife's family was based in Patna. Because of this, my links with my friends who were in Patna continued as we stayed for a part of the holidays each year in Patna. 
Sharat wanted to become a doctor. He moved to Patna after being accepted by PMCH into their MBBS program. He came from an illustrious family of Patna. His sister was married to Dr. C.P. Thakur, who was one of the most renowned doctors in Patna and a gold medallist of his batch from medical college. Sharat was a good looking young man and had a pleasing personality. His family was well established in Patna and he lived with his sister and brother-in-law on Fraser road which was quite close to the station.
Every trip home from Sindri or Jamshedpur involved meeting Sharat. I would write a letter to him to let him know of the date on which I would be crossing Patna. He would wait at home for me. He had an old scooter which would be used at the occasion. He used to ride it at about 20 kmph, which was slow for a scooter, even in those days. We would have sandwiches, then go to another one for tea and then top it up with Paan from another place. The three shops never changed and were not particularly close to each other. However, they formed part of my itinerary during every trip due to Sharat. We would go to the college hostels to meet friends. I would then get dropped off at the station. At times, he would not be able to be at home because of his classes. On such days, I would make my way to the college hostels and meet my friends before heading to the station. Sharat would unfailingly meet me at the station a few minutes before the train left. He would have a Paan for me. 
My son was born in July 1979 at the Patna Medical College & Hospital. There were not many good doctors in Bihar at that time. Every city had a few established doctors, but it was rare that such a doctor was also a good doctor. I always asked my doctor friends to refer me to a doctor. It was like using insider knowledge in the stock market. By this time, Sharat was a doctor and was working at Dr. C.P.Thakur's clinic. He wanted to study further as well. I was advised by  Sharat and a few other of my friends to ensure that my wife and child spent as little time as possible at PMCH. They warned of possible infections at the hospital. Sharat also advised me to meet Dr. Jaiswal. We left the hospital less than 24 hours after my son's birth. On our way back from the hospital, we went and met Dr. Jaiswal. He checked both of them and prescribed two shots of a gamma globulin injection for my newborn son. He also gave one to me and asked me to get the second one done after a month. Sharat offered to give the second injection. My wife and her parents were going to have a small get-together so that our friends and family could come and see the new born baby. Sharat offered to get the injection on that day itself. 
Sharat did not turn up for the party. It was unexpected and also mildly irritating. I got someone else to give the injection. I waited for him to show up for a few days. After that, I made my way to his house. 
Sharat had been missing for about a week. He had left a letter telling his family not to look for him and that he would not ever come back. Till this day, he hasn't. 
I still wonder what made him take such a step. None of our school friends who knew him then were aware of any reason why he would take such a step. He was a good person and people liked having him around. He was a doctor and would have led a comfortable life. 
Dr. Jaiswal remained my son's physician till we moved to Delhi.

This story was narrated to me by my father on the eve of his birthday. I realised that I did not know too much about my father as a person. The other thing worth remembering about his birthday this year was that four people forgot about it till 10am in the morning - my mother, my sister, yours truly and my father.
The last thing I wanted to mention here is that I have added a Suggestions box on the side. You can either leave suggestions about future posts or vote on someone else's suggestions. Have a look at the section labeled "Tell me" in the right bar

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