I remember, I was in 6th standard then. We used to come back from school around 4:30 PM. Immediately after dumping the school bags, removing the school uniform and changing in to a set of ‘home clothes’ we would rush out to play. The sun sets early in the hills and every minute used to be precious. In those days a Helicopter” toy had come in the market. It wasn’t a whole replica of the machine but only of the rotor blades. Though now, the exact models of the original machines, that can be remote controlled are available to give new highs to the flights of imaginations of the young brains but still, a set of blades that take off from ejecting mechanism on pressing a release button, has retained its popularity with the kids over half a century.
Even today, at every market squares and plazas in India, you can see the vendors flying them about to attract the fancy of the children. It’s cheap and it gives a high degree of excitement to the kids. Except for addition of some blinking lights, the basic design has stood the test of time. Basically, it is a hand held machine with a winding mechanism for storing energy. The set of blades that are held together by a ring encircling them, have a central latching arrangement that locks itself on the centrally placed, pointed shaft incorporated in a winding-cum- release mechanism. On pressing the release button, the shaft spins, giving rotary motion to the fan blades. The rotation gives and upward thrust to the blades which take off like a real helicopter would do. Once it takes to the air, it rides on it, till the force that caused it to spin is spent and it then slowly lands at some place near or far, depending on the winds it rides on. This was a little bit of technical jargon and, thank you very much for trudging through it.
I was playing with it at what we used to call as Kyaris (flower-beds). There were set of three flat or flattened patches of land, or what are known as terraces, cut on the hill slope, on the western side of our house. They were flattened for planting some vegetable plants for small domestic use, but for us children they were play fields which are scanty in the hills. I was standing at the edge of the top one as such positions are advantageous for flying objects which need air draught for riding on. After I ejected it, I saw it take to the wind. I ran after it. Keeping and eye on it and chasing it, I jumped down to the terrace below the one I was on. It was about two meters below. There lay a bottom half of a broken glass bottle, embedded in the soft earth. Lying in the heap of discarded refuse below, it was sitting with the jagged, broken part facing up. My right foot landed on it and because I was only wearing Hawaii chappals, it pierced through the skin, making a deep gash. Though the cut was deep, luckily the epidermis hadn’t got sliced of. It was hanging like a flap.
I screamed for help as the blood started gushing out of my wound. Children playing around, ran and informed my mom. I don’t know how I could walk back home with a badly injured foot because I was at least thirty or so meters away from home uphill, but I remember, limping with the bloodied foot in our veranda and telling, with elevated anxiety to the mother, “Mummeeeee…. mera pair kat gya hai.”
My mother, on seeing the wound, said- “Tera Beda tere”, mild admonishment which indeed is a blessing, as it means “May your fleet of ships stay afloat”. Such is the beauty of mother’s heart. Even at times, when she should yell at her child, only the blessing come out her mouth. The original Cuss words are “Tera Beda Gark”, (may your fleet of ships sink), I know because, she would use it, when very angry. I think this stay afloat bit was a version modified by her, to act as a rebuke without wishing ill to her children.
Our father was away on tour as mostly he used to be and remain so for extending periods of time. I wasn’t aware about the severity of the wound and what it could lead to, so the idea of dying hadn’t visited me and as far as I remember, I wasn’t crying. Mother, summoning all her courage and wisdom, reached for the first piece of clothing she could grab and she tightly wrapped it around the wound. Someone hailed for help from our front door. Since, the Police Lines was not more than fifty meters across our house, and the policemen not on duty, could be seen walking on the long stretch of the passage that ran along the barracks and beyond along length of the Lines. A loud cry could get the attention of the people in the Police Lines. Two young men came running to help. In those days nobody had any vehicles for transport. All heavy loads were also carried on back or head. Since, I was quite grown up, carrying me on the back up the hill was difficult, one of them put me astride on his shoulders and took me to the Kaithu Bazar. It was quite some distance away from our home and it was all the way up the steep. Dr. Suraj Parkash, the only medical practitioner had a small clinic there in the bazaar.
There was no dispensary or an “in-house” doctor for any medical emergencies in the premises of the Police Lines in those days and reflecting back, I feel surprised, because, at any given time there must be at least two hundred police personnel in the Lines itself and if the families living in the quarters be taken in to account then it was a settlement for a good one thousand people who are supposed to be provided with the medical facility by the government. We of course, were not a part of that community, but in emergencies, access to us of the medical facility had there been one, would not have been denied at least in those good days.
What to speak of the Police Lines, as far as my memory goes there was no Chemist Shop in whole of Upper Kaithu and there was no other doctor besides Dr. Suraj Parkash. The only dispensary that I remember of and always went to for remedies to all my ailments was an Ayurvedic Dispensary on the road leading to Lower Kaithu. I think the people stayed generally fit and the Ayurvedic Dispensary could take care of the whole sprawling neighbourhood of Upper and Lower Kaithu combined, including the Police Lines and Annandale, which together today might be housing at least one lakh people.
For the people of Upper Kaithu, the presence of Dr. Suraj Parkash was assurance enough to live without fear of lack of medical aid that may be required in medical emergencies. I remember his cheerful figure holding a leather bag in one hand and accompanied by a pair of dogs of mixed pedigree with parentage traceable to Golden terriers and Alsatians, till lost in the street. He was like a morning sun, the promise, the assurance that it carries with it. He was true to his name.
He was perhaps the only doctor who attended to the medical emergencies in whole of the Upper Kaithu area. Though, the old age has made deep roads of dementia in my otherwise good brain, I still can ask for proof from someone who may contradict this.
Fortunately for me, it was an evening time and he was at his clinic. He sutured my wound and, I was carried back home by the same pair of Jawans. Mr. Suraj Parkash paid two, three house visits after that. I remember, my elder sister asking him, whether, it was the vein or an artery that had got severed? “Both”, he replied with the confidence of a surgeon, and promptly asked my sister if she was pursuing medical stream. “No”, she said as she was still in the eight standard and the difficult decision of choosing the stream of education had to be tackled in the ninth standard. She had no desire to become a doctor, but from the dialogue that was exchanged on that late evening, we had inferred that, perhaps Mr. Suraj Parkash couldn’t differentiate between a vein and an artery.
We were children and our insolence of laughing at him after he left, should be overlooked. Reflecting back over the incident today, I think, he knew enough to save the lives of the people. God, Bless his soul, I certainly owe my life to him. It matters little to me whether he was an RMP (Registered Medical Professional) or a certified doctor. For me he was a saviour, god sent. RMP wasn’t a degree course but in those days, it was a kind of a Bridge Over course or not even that, but such people were perhaps licensed or maybe they worked without and legal license but the whole the system worked. In the 1950s, the nation had just earned the freedom from a blood sucking regime and there was a great shortage of Medical and Engineering Colleges and the trained professionals, so nobody cared if one was a qualified doctor, a skilled practitioner or a quack long as he/she delivered the results. Since, I was a child, the wound healed fast. Within a week, I was back on my feet, but the injury left a mark on my skin for a life time. It’s still there.
Marked for Life Time
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