Wednesday, January 17, 2018
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thank you doctor

I wished to remember Dr J.B.Banerji on his death anniversary falling on October 1 but Puja-Dussehra celebrations intervened. I wish to pay my tribute to him once again because  he was one of  those medicos of the city who could find time from his busy profession to take part in social activities of Allahabad and also do some real social work for the needy. 

The  Viklang Kendra, that was his gift to the city, was not built in a day. The Rotary Club of Allahabad did initially take keen interest in the venture. But such projects can last and fulfil their purpose only if some dedicated person is associated with them. His successors, Bhaskar and Neera, are leaving no stone unturned to take proper care of the Kendra.  The nursing home that he had brought up in Lukerganj will always be remembered by innumerable people who went there in a pitiable condition but came out hale and hearty.  I was   once told an interesting thing by a citizen who had gone to him for getting admission in his nursing home. He examined him but said, ‘I think it would be better if you have yourself treated elsewhere …’ and he mentioned a few places

That gentleman told me: ‘He could easily have admitted me, fleeced me and then asked me to go to Delhi and Lucknow. He did not do that but straight away told me that it would be better if I took treatment elsewhere’. This is something unimaginable today. These days, if patients are to be believed, once you step into a nursing home then all exit doors are closed for you. Whether you like it or not, you have to stay there. Your ailment may or may not be serious, but they will give you the impression that you are in the most critical condition. You will continue to be fed on the diet of fear so that in panic you may loosen your purse strings. After they have realized that you have been thoroughly fleeced, they start the real treatment which cures you of your ailment in no time. I was told by the gentleman: ‘They don’t even experiment on you. They keep on bluffing you all the time that they are taking maximum care of you. Sometimes they will call in experts – so-called experts – who will also give tutored advice’. How far this is true I cannot say. But I know one thing: Dr J.B.Banerji was not one of such doctors who would ever support such a system that is mockery in the name of treatment.

One good thing about him was that he was a keen observer. If any medicine of another system – homoeopathy, ayurved, unani- was found useful, he would   not hesitate to experiment with these in case that was needed. My father was suffering from enlargement of prostrate gland. Dr JB would frequently call on him. After the Rotary meetings on Wednesdays, he would stay back in Barnetts, sit with my dad, tell him humorous stories and anecdotes to relieve him of tension. One day he found him very cheerful. ‘What medicine have you taken ?’ he asked. He pointed towards me. I told him that a senior colleague of mine in the Patrika, (late) Shivanand Mukherji, practices homoeopathy as a hobby. He has suggested a medicine. A few drops in water are to be taken. In acute cases the dose has to be repeated. That has worked’. Dr Banerji  took down the name of the medicine and said, ‘If it works so effectively I would certainly consider it’. But then a stage came when that medicine also did not work on Dad. There was no other way to provide relief except through a  catheter that had to be put urgently. My father was in a very, very critical pain. Some one had said that at this stage even the catheter might not work, that he will not be able to bear it. Dr J.B.Banerji then came like an angel. He said, ‘I will  fix the catheter and all will be well.’ We passed through very, very anxious moments. The panic-mongers, who were allowed inside, would come out with a grim face. ‘No result. He is sinking’. There was pin-drop silence. But Dr J.B. was confident. He knew when the catheter would start its work. And soon enough there was a roar of applause. The catheter had started functioning. It took quite some time for my father to feel normal again. But within half an hour Dr J.B.Banerji had done the miracle. He had come as a messiah. He had saved my father.

What was charming about him was his friendly approach. Today you find, in most cases, a doctor keeping an impersonal distance between himself and his patients. He just wants to restrict his relationship with the patient within the professional grooves. Dr J.B.Banerji was not like that. The human angle always seemed to be the guiding force behind his medical initiatives.  My father was very impatient. At the age of 84 he would drive his car, a Hillman, on the busy Kanpur Road. How could he lie in bed like that ? He asked Dr J.B.Banerji whether he would perform surgery to provide him relief. Dr J.B.Banerji told him very honestly, ‘You are too old for that. I will not risk it. Still, if you want second opinion, consult Dr Tehilani’.  His advice was followed. Dr Tehilani  was consulted. He also said the same thing. Till then the modern technique had not developed  and the stomach had to be opened to perform the operation.

By then, the so-called fleecing nursing homes had started their functioning. A doctor of one of these nursing homes was brought by a well-wisher who examined my father and told us: ‘Shift him to my nursing home today. Tomorrow I will perform the operation’ We were amazed and started wondering: Were the other two senior doctors wrong ? Or they did not wish to take the risk. When Dr J.B.Banerji’s attention was drawn, he smiled but made no comment. We shifted father to that now reputed nursing home. The doctor himself never showed his face. He was supposed to be out of Allahabad. His junior started administering all sorts of sleep-inducing drugs. For seven days this ‘tamasha’ went on. When we would visit Dad he would say, ‘I have been over medicated, over drugged’. The main doctor, who had promised to perform the operation the next day was not to be seen. His junior, who claimed to be a class-fellow of my brother, came to us and said, ‘V.P.Singh’s father was being treated here too. But we told him: Please take him home. Let him die peacefully in bed’. This young doctor then told us: ‘I would suggest the same thing. Please take your father home and let him breathe his last peacefully in his bed’.  The bill amount ran into thousands of rupees. Today, in retrospect, I feel that all this drama was deliberately enacted to fleece money. The head doctor knew from the very first day that an operation was not possible.  Thus, what Dr J.B.Banerji had said came out to be true. But the story , ironically enough, took another twist. The young doctor( class-fellow of my brother N.S.Datta, former AU Cricket captain), who had advised us to take father home  ‘and let him die in peace in his bed’, himself suffered from a severe heart attack within a few days and died. My father lived for many more years and passed away when he had crossed  90.Today when I think of Dr J.B.Banerji, all those events pass through my mind like a vintage movie. Dr J.B.Banerji was conferred the Padma Shri Award by the President. But a bigger award was the love he received from those who came in contact with him and the high esteem in which he was held by the people of the city because of his multifarious activities that transgressed the domain of his profession.







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