Thursday, September 28, 2006

Obituary- Ustaad Bismillah Khan

It was a special day in June 2003. Ustaad Bismillah Khan was to play the Shehnai at the annual SPICMACAY concert in IIT-Bombay that evening. We were awaiting his arrival in the green room. We ran about to ensure we had enough bottles of Mangola (chilled) and enough packets of Good day biscuits. Ustaad Bismillah Khan loved this treat, we were told.

We were anxious and nervous. Was the room clean enough? Was the mangola cold enough? Were the biscuits soggy from the stuffy Mumbai humidity? Were there enough chairs? We were rushing about double; triple checking whatever arrangements we could have done to make the old and empty room comfortable.

And then, there was a hush. Suddenly activity stalled. Being brought in a wheelchair was the Ustaad himself. We were shooed away as were most others. Only his core people remained around, till he was safely shifted onto a chair. His dislike and discomfort to be seen on a wheelchair was obvious.

He began sipping on the Mangola and ate a biscuit or two. He was not chatting with many. Seeing our job done, we left to find ourselves good seats in the open air auditorium. It was the first time I had heard him live. And the last.

In the middle of the concert, he suddenly got angry. He shouted at the audience for being inattentive. He thundered he would play just for fifteen minutes for the sake of Mr. Singh who had called him there. We were stunned. Some were meekly looking down, like you do when Grandpa catches you unawares. And then he began playing. He played for almost another one and a half hour.

The next day, Mr. Singh and Pooja were to meet the Ustaad at the hotel he was staying. I requested if I could go too. The request soon turned to begging. She allowed me to accompany.

Ustaad Bismillah Khan. I sat mesmerised, sitting near his feet, almost gaping at the legend. A quaint object hung from his right ear. His two front teeth which peeked out from a gap made his smile all the more endearing. The gleam in his eyes added to his mesmerising aura. It could change from being naughty, angry, sad or blunt with alarming ease.

He was in a mood to talk. And as we heard him begin his passionate diction, we found ourselves getting emotional for no fathomable reasons. On a random note, he began narrating incidents from his childhood.

‘When I was a child, I saw an old man. His skin was a shimmering like bronze. He was roasting vegetables. All kinds of vegetables. It was very hot and flies were buzzing all around. I was getting irritated. But you know what I saw? None of the flies could sit on the old man’s back. They attempted indeed, but simply slipped off his back. I went to him and asked the reason and he simply smiled…’

He too simply smiled when he didn’t want to answer some questions. Interviews were definitely not on his mind. He cracked witty jokes, made wise observations and his voice became emotional when he talked about the Ganga. After over half an hour, he started to wind up the rendezvous, ‘I have one thing to ask of you all. You all pray, don’t you? When you pray next, don’t forget to tell Him, ‘Bismillah jo chaahta hai, use de dena’

Hope admist grief- eye donation...

“Our son Atharva now recognises his toys. He constantly tries to see with his right eye which was operated for corneal transplant this February,” says Ganesh Deshpande , (30) his father.

Atharva is a year and eight months old. His parents got to know about his poor eyesight when he was three months old. He could not see much beyond five feet. They registered him as a recipient for an eye donation at Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, soon after.

Dr. Sangeeta Wagh, opthalmologist and medical director of International Eye Bank of India, Ruby Hall Clinic cooperated to inform about more eye donation cases. Each patient is operated on one eye. Thus, two persons benefit from a single donation.

Priyanka Phalke (9) can now see without difficulty. “Her eyes did not look abnormal. But she could hardly see distant things. We felt more difficulties when she started going to school. After the transplant in May 2003, things are much better,” says her father Dilip Phalke, (40). After being treated on the right eye in August 2003 in Paranjpe Netra Pedhi, Mukund Kulkarni (72), now spreads the word about eye donation himself.

Jagdish Taksale, (41) a clerk in a cooperative bank recalls: “Earlier, everything appeared foggy. My eyes strained in sunlight and it was impossible to work. Being the only earning member, it was very hard”. His left eye was operated in February 2001 and the right eye in May 2005 in Ruby Hall. “I work now and there is almost 80% improvement in my vision”, he says.

Some people who take decision amidst immense grief, enable many such patients to be treated. Like Umakant Phulzele, (29) who consented to donate his elder brother’s eyes in December 2005. Ravikant Pulzele was thirty-two when he died of a severe heart attack, leaving behind a young wife and three-year-old daughter. Umakant says, “I felt when his body was going to meet the soil anyway, atleast one part of him would stay alive and benefit someone,”

Shivroopraje Nimbalkar (38) lost his mother Sudeshnaraje (62), in January 2006. He consented for eye donation after a counsellor in Ruby Hall approached the family barely few minutes after her death. “I heard some children required a corneal transplant. Thinking of the noble cause, it hardly took us five minutes to decide”, he says.

Initially some relatives expressed discomfort but Nimbalkar says: “For the first time eye donation was done in our family and we are certain it was a right decision. Many appreciate the act now. In spite of personal grief, eye donation should be implemented”.

Trained counsellors motivate relatives to allow eye donation under the Hospital Cornea Retrieval Programme in Ruby Hall. “This has increased donations. We also get corneal tissue in good state which can increase the success rate of transplants,” informs Chaitrali Inamdar, coordinator of the eye bank.

Dr. Medha Paranjpe of Paranjpe Netra Pedhi, says friends and relatives should gently suggest eye donation as it may not occur to the immediate family due to grief. They should not feel awkward about suggesting it. “It’s unfortunate that sometimes, even well educated individuals downright reject the idea. The final decision lies with family members, who often fail to act swiftly,” she says. If such incidences are avoided, many more can benefit.

Some important things to remember:

1) Gently suggest the possibility of eye donation to a relative who is calm and poised
2) Inform your family doctor or contact Red Cross, any reputable eye donation centre
3) Switch off the fan in the room or, if advised by healthcare professionals, cover the closed eyes with a clean cloth soaked in water
4) The entire procedure takes less than half an hour once the team of doctors arrive
5) The identity of recipients or the donors is not revealed.
6) Age is immaterial, eyes of infants as well as the aged can be donated

Gauri Gharpure

First things first

So what is all this craze about blogging all about?

The other day, my friend was advocating blogs and he sure had some logical ideas to support his fascination with the world of blogging...

The brief discussion-with him camping for blogging and I unclear, rather skeptical about the entire concept, led to some brainstorming in my already stormed up (read confused) mind...
The way people put up their day to day happenings for all to see, by all i mean the entire anonymous, rather dualistic e-community is something difficult for a closed person like me to digest.

But then, on second thoughts, two simple words came to my mind... 'Why not?!!!'
I write scores of things from the bottom of my heart and would be genuinely satisfied to see some delicate matters closely read, understood by people.

Yes, the anonymous, sometimes dualistic people (by dualistic, i mean people who hold forth dual personas, thanks to the anonymity net offers) and often hypocritic net users as my readers...

I refuse to take the elaborate 'hiiiiiis' and helooooos' from net- to suddenly be a part of a large circle, when i know in truth, only a handful will stand beside me if something happens god forbid. But still, i shall attempt to write. Write what is close to me, and write what i think matters to me and all those dear to me.

Why? You are bound to ask- given my skepticism about the e-community...

Because the e-community, i believe, with all its dualistic and hypocritic behaviour, has brought to surface with total transparency what we as humans are. When someone swears on net, he's venting out his anger, all bottled up in a long frustrating day. When a person fakes a warm greeting on email, he's allowing a natural social streak to take charge...

When people read, they feel. And i would be pleased if a few selected feelings are read and felt.

In this blog, i intend to put on some articles and short stories which were held up ( and still are!) on the busy desks of TOI and some other publications...

'There's no space', 'too many ads came up', 'you know, this is too serious', 'our readership is a different class', 'can't you add some glamour to your story'...

Good bye to all the above...

I look forward to comments and discussions on the material posted.


Gauri Gharpure Chatterjee