“The Reluctant MD: A Gynaecologist’s Journey” : Dr Usha Mohan

Disclaimer: Writing a review of a book written by a friend is a tough one! If you praise it too much, some readers may think it was done only to boost the image of a friend. If you are too critical, there is a danger of losing a friend!! What I have said just now is true, of course, only if the reviewer declares that the author is a friend! I am cheerfully declaring that it has been a privilege for me to have known Dr Usha Mohan and her husband, Dr Mohan for over a decade.

Usha has made my job much easier by writing such an interesting and eminently readable book that it is not at all difficult to praise it. The title is intriguing : “The Reluctant MD: A Gynaecologist’s Journey”. It is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

I daresay most people have little idea of the challenges faced by a practicing gynaecologist. That you have a role in bringing someone into this world is an onerous responsibility, especially when things go wrong. That’s the time -we discover from her book- the doctor has to use all her knowledge and skills to save the lives of the mother and the child. Remember much of what she has written took place decades ago when there weren’t as many facilities as there are today. Equipment like ultrasound machines, so common place today, were a rare luxury in those days. To her credit, Dr Usha Mohan has managed to keep the medical terms and technicalities to a level that is understandable by a layman. After all, this isn’t a medical thesis.

Dr Usha Mohan’s book comes straight from the heart. Interesting, entertaining and more than anything else, honest! Her sharing of her professional experiences as a gynecologist in different parts of the world makes for absorbing reading. While all branches of medicine have their own challenges and rewards, her book describes the travails and triumphs of a gynecologist – with the richest reward being bringing a little – and sometimes a very big -one into this world. Her experiences span several continents and this is reflected in the stories of her professional life.ย 

Apart from medicine, Dr Usha Mohan speaks of her life long interest and competence in interior decor, painting, fashion, and fitness. Now it has been clearly established through this book- that she has skills as a writer as well!

The biggest take away from her book, for me, is her urging people to follow their passions and love what they do, as she has done over the decades. Highly recommended.

Salute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose!

Today we remember with reverence one of India’s greatest sons on his 125th birth anniversary. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was born in Cuttack on January 23, 1897. I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that for me, and millions like me, Netaji was the most charismatic and effective Indian leader in the period from 1935-1945. What makes his story all the more fascinating is not only what he achieved when he was alive but the speculations about his death which exists even till today!

I did a quick search in this blog and I find there are numerous blog posts about Netaji. They are summarized here for the benefit of those, especially among our youth in India, who may not know much about him and would be interested in knowing more:-

  1. In “India’s Biggest Cover Up” by Anuj That, I review this extremely interesting book which talks of what actually happened to Netaji after he was supposedly killed following an air crash in the then Formosa on August 18, 1945.
  2. In “The Indian Spy” , I review a book by Mihir Bose on Bhagat Ram Talwar, who escorted Bose out of India to Kabul in the early years of World War II.
  3. In this post on “Our Super Patriotic Hindi Sir ‘, I write about Mr B L Singh, our Hindi teacher at The Lawrence School, Lovedale, who was the first person who told me and my classmates about Netaji. He instilled in us the keen interest to know more about this hero. This post also contains links to many more books about Netaji.

I guess we will never know for sure what actually happened to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. A recent article by Kingshuk Nag suggests he may have been living or imprisoned in Siberia after he went to Russia towards the end of World War II. Mr Nag is a well-known journalist who wrote a book, “ Netaji: Living Dangerously” in 2016.

Whether he died in Russia or in Formosa or in his motherland India is still uncertain. However what is most certain is that Netaji’s leadership galvanized a section of India’s youth during the crucial years when he chose to fight for freedom.

As the leader of the Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauj he was the first to hoist the flag of an independent India on December 30, 1943 in the Andaman Islands, which he declared the first place to get freedom from the British.

Many were the memorable quotes attributed to Netaji but perhaps the most famous of his words were, ” It is blood alone that can pay the price of freedom. Give me blood and I will give you freedom.”

Let us today- and indeed everyday- remember with pride the man who was more responsible for the hasty retreat of the British from India in the post- World War II years than any other.

Jai Hind!!

On “Budda” aka “Birtish Bolaram” !

Our friend, Saraswati Narayan, is an excellent raconteur and writer. She provided me with the prompt to write this story. An earlier story from her had inspired me to write on Mr Gupta of “Steady Slap” fame. So this is the second round of thanks to you, Saraswati! I think you should start a blog to enable a wider audience to read your stories!

Recently, she wrote about a gardener called Shukra Mali, they had decades ago – in the 70s- in Ranchi. One could visualize him so clearly that it brought back memories of a cook we had around that time in Jhinkpani in present day Jharkhand.

I worked then in the ACC Cement Works there. Four of us bachelors had a “mess” in which the OC Kitchen was an old Gurkha of indeterminable age called Bolaram. He prided himself – especially when under the sauce, which was pretty often- on having served the British for decades. The rest of the small township simply called him, “Budda” or “Old Man” which he didn’t much care for. He would bristle and say his name was, ” Birtish Bolaram” ! He was slight of built but wiry for his age, though a little bent. Years of practice had perfected his navigation skills. Using his own GPS he found his way home, irrespective of where he went, how much he drank or when he returned.

We don’t know much of his early background, but he certainly served in the old British Indian Army until he was demobilized at the end of World War II. Apparently, some shelling had affected his hearing, possibly during the War. India gained Independence shortly after, but to him the pain of his losing the sheltered life in the Army and his hearing problems, were because of Mahatma Gandhi. This led him to often grumble that Gandhi had not got him ” Azaadi” (freedom) but ” barbaadi'( ruination) !

Since he was hard of hearing the door bell was of no use. The working arrangement made was that he used to sleep next to an open window with a stick alongside. To get him to open the door, the prescribed drill was to use that stick to gently prod him in the ribs! Usually he was alert to approaching footsteps and the stick being whisked away to prod him.

Bolaram was at his best when you told him there was a “party”. He would perk up immensely! After a few shots of rum ( he was at his best when slightly high) he would break out in his own style of English. He would turn out the best possible meal, compete with a spotless white table cloth, cutlery and the works. Decades have gone by but I still remember his cooking on his day! Especially his mutton chops!!

After one of our “parties” a colleague tried to get Bolaram drunk, not knowing that he could quite easily drink him under the table. A few shots made the young man quite excitable but for the seasoned Bolaram this was child’s play . He had served us a great dinner and he was lapping up all the praise everyone lavished on him. The young man thrust one more glass of drink in the old man’s hand. Bolaram looked at him with his hooded eyes, and drank it up in one go ! He then turned, pointing to him with utter contempt, and told us , ” Give it to him the one more peg.!”

Remembering Fr Ed McGrath SJ

Yesterday, January 7, 2021 happened to be the 98th birth anniversary of Father Edward H. McGrath SJ, one of the finest teachers and human beings I have come across. He passed away on August 4, 2017 aged 94 much to the sorrow of thousands who had been taught by him or interacted with him during his time at XLRI, Jamshedpur.

This venerable institution where I had the privilege of studying from 1972 to 1974 was started in 1949 and is now called XLRI: Xavier School of Management. He was one of the Founding Fathers of this institution. Over the decades, he became a legend in XLRI . I think it is fair to say that for many like me, McGrath was XLRI and XLRI was McGrath. More often than not when alumni reached the XLRI campus, the first thing they would do would be to seek out Fr McGrath wherever he was.

Roshan Dastur, who worked closely with Fr McGrath during his time in XLRI ; my classmate, Harriet Silva Vidyasagar, and I decided to have – in these days of Covid- a virtual meeting to remember Fr McGrath yesterday. About 20 people, largely from India and the US, took part in this Zoom meeting which went on for about one and half hours. Each speaker had something nice to say about Fr McGrath. The respect, regard and affection for him was so very evident. He was a great teacher and a perfect role model for being a coach and mentor.

His life and achievements have been chronicled many times. I don’t want to list all that he did during his decades in India. However, this article in his Alma Mater the Regis High School in New York published when he passed away, gives you a quick summary about his life.

I was searching for a picture of the last time I met him, which was long ago. My earlier blog, “People At Work and Play” came to the rescue and I found an old post dated February 5, 2007 titled ” A Pleasant Reunion “. I feel so bad that I couldn’t trace that picture of me holding his glass of beer while he signed Prof Joe Phillip’s book for me !

Decades ago, around 1976 or so, I was working in ACC Chaibasa, in the predominantly tribal belt of Jharkhand. At the office one day, our Peon , Darbari Ram, told me that a ” Gora Saheb” was asking for me. Showing surprise, Darbari whispered that this Saheb spoke Hindi fluently and instead of coming by car had come riding a motorbike! I laughed out aloud knowing it couldn’t be anyone other than Fr McGrath. So typical of him to come to enquire after one of his students as he happened to be in the area!

If you want to master managerial skills or know someone who wishes to do so, I would strongly recommend this classic by Fr McGrath, which has seen many a re-print. His good old : “ Basic Managerial Skills For All” available at Amazon and elsewhere.

I know that Father would have been pleased to see us yesterday at our Zoom meeting , remembering him. I hope he would have given us his approving trade mark, ” Theek Hai”!!