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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dr Ahmed Ali

This blog is about one of my revered teachers ,it is about one of the persons who had directed my life to a certain extent and about a person I have admired a lot .
Even before I joined medical college ,in my preuniversity days when I was at Secretariat colony ,Kilpauk ,Chennai ,Dr Ali was our family doctor .
He was then an young surgeon in Kilpauk Medical College ,with a healthy practice in family medicine and I remember occasions when I was one of the patients who lined up in his waiting room with trivial complaints of a fever or a pain here or there ,

one never grudged the long wait as Dr Ali was a busy person ,

I still remember his baritone voice giving instructions to patients in his chamber as we waited for our turn ,seeing him would melt away most of our troubles as he made small of our complaints and with his characteristic light hearted banter making us at home .
He probably was one of my many inspirations to become a doctor ,I longed to dismiss patients like him with a hearty laugh ,
but behind this his keen clinical acumen never ever missed anything and he would arrive at the diagnosis unerringly .
and then the day came when I too got into medical college and that too in the very same medical college where he was the teacher the Kilpauk Medical college Chennai .
He had a soft corner for me then as he knew I was a father less boy staying with my mother .
In college I came to know more of Dr.Ali ,he was far from a humble general practioner we thought he was ,he was a surgeon known for his excellence and a great teacher .
It was only from our third year when we had our clinical postings that we started attending
Dr Alis classes ,huge crowds of students flocked to listen in his OP days ,
here too he was brilliant in teaching with excemplary skill and in a very intresting manner ,he was quick ,agile and smart in all his actions .
One never missed an occasion to be in the theatre when he operated as his skills were superb and a delight to watch ,cracking jokes he would go about the most complicated ones with practised ease ,
so time flew ,and I had the luck to be in his unit for surgical postings in my internship too ,at these times he would occasionaly take me home in his car enquiring about me and my mother on the way .
On call days we usually had a makeshift dinner in the unit with one of us bringing dinner for all and we used to have fun late in the night over the exotic fare .
Once it was the turn of my friend who today is a leading surgeon owning his own hospital in the south of India , 'J' i would call him was a hostelite those days and had arranged for an excellent biriyani prepared specially by his hostel mess ,it was all ready and we were all waiting with bated breath in the small room waiting to begin ,
Dr Ali came and sternly looked at' J ' and said ," I find you didnt do the postoperative dressing for that patient in bed three "
'J ' trembeled ,he hadnt ,he had forgotten it in the confusion of arranging food .
Dr Ali was all fun except when it came to shirking your work and then he was a terror ,
"You go now and do it ,we shall wait for you ",
poor J ran and came back after his job and then it was Dr Ali back to his happy self .
Once my internship was over he called me and said " Hari you look after my clinic for a few days as Iam going out of station ,and also ,do give insulin injections to my mother everyday ",
a budding me was wary of the big responsibility then ,and I hesistated

"Sir clinic Iam not very confident ,and your mother is it OK ? "

"of course you have to learn havent you ? "
Well that was the trust he bestowed on me ,

I took the challenge and finally I sat in his hallowed seat and saw his patients and unerringly gave the injections too !
It was Dr Ali who made me take up radiotherapy ,he told me oncology is a good field and you could go into that ,somehow whatever he told I felt was sacrosanct and I have never regretted the descision till day .
Dr Ali never stopped studying as he rose up ,he joined for Mch gastrosurgery at an age any other senior consultant in his position would have laid back and enjoyed life ,he did it in Madras medical college at the same time I did my DMRT and came out in flying colours which was expected with his skills and experience and immense academic knowledge .
The best part of him like all great persons was , how he could relate to every patient rich or poor ,old or young and we all had a lot to learn from him .
I moved to Kochi in kerala but kept him abreast of all the happenings in my life good and bad ,to me he was always a mentor .
Dr Ali rose to become Director of Gastroenterology Dept in MMC a coveted post before he retired .
I went to meet him in Chennai recently before I came to UAE to get his blessings ,and he was still the same jolly person with a warm smile on his face ,he was in Mehta hospital in his chambers and he welcomed me profusely ,he was as active in his profession as ever .
Today he keeps in touch with many of his students with his enlivening e mails and forwards ,
Dr Ali never ages he becomes younger at heart and mind day by day and keeps others too the same with his positive attitude .
May I wish him and his family long years of prosperity and health .

Saturday, February 09, 2008


This post came about after I watched amrita TV programme on temples and tradition called pradakshinam .

An excellent very watchable one indeed .
this one was specially intresting as it was about my most favourite temple that of navamukundan in tirunavaya near tirur my fathers place.

About the temple

Navamukundan temple of Tirunavaya is located on the banks of Bharatapuzha river. The presiding deity here is Navamukundan and Malarmangai Naachiyaar thayar. It is one among the Malai Naadu Divyadesam of SriVaishnavas in Kerala state.

Tirunavaya is located in the Chennai-Calicut route of Malappuram district of Kerala, close to Trissur. Edakkulam station is the nearest station to the temple and is located on the Palakkad-Mangalore rail route. The temple is 8 kms from tirur which is 43 kms from Kozhikode. By bus, one can reach Kuttipuram and take another bus to Tirunavaai.Nearest railway station: EdakkulamNearest Airport: Calicut

Specialty of this temple is that thayar has a separate sannadhi as compared to other malai naadu divyadesam in Kerala. Lord Navamukudan can be seen only from the portion above knees. The lord is also called Nava narayanan since it is believed that nine sadhus prayed to Lord Vishnu here and attained moksha. It is considered equal to Varanasi since temples of the three lords- Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva are present here. Maasi Makam is an important festival here.Pushkarni and VimanamThe pushkarni here is full of lotus flowers and hence known as sengamala saras, sengamala meaning lotus.The vimanam here is known as veda vimanam, derived from the vedic knowledge of the nine sadhus who worshipped here.
SannadhisNavamukundan in ninra thirukolamMalarmangai Naachiyaar (Periya Pirattiyar Laxmi)GaneshaBhagavatiSearch TermsTirunavaya, Thirunavaya, Tirunavai, Thirunavai, Tirunavaai, Thirunavaai, Navamukundan, Nava narayan

Though often associated with the emotion of grief as I have visited the temple many times mostly for doing rituals after the death of someone close but even in these occasions when our vision is blurred by remembrance of the departed loved ones one could but not escape from the serenity and beauty of the temple .
The Bharatapuzha curves sinously and laps on gently on the ghat steps which in the mornings are filled with people wet in thier dress and thier hearts doing thier duty for thier lost .
there are several priests and one can buy recipts giving ones preference or by precedence but unlike in benares in the north the priests dont knaw at you for lucre and custom .
after the customary dip and letting go of the physical remains one goes into the temple with a heartful of only memories .
kerala temples have a unique style entirely different from thier southern counterparts they blend so well with the surroundings .
simple in design they give a sense of peace and serenity ,the shantis ,ambalavasis who string the flowers go about thier job in studied silence and sincerity .
an air of cleanliness pervades most of the temples and there is no tinge of commercialism polluting the atmosphere .
in the evenings as temples light up the glow is etheral and divine .
navamukundan temple has a huge banyan tree in front of it facing the river and one could sit here for hours far from the maddening crowd caressed by the winds that sail across the river .
the movie by jayaraj desadanam has lovely composition by kaithaparam damodaran nampoothiri and the song navamukunda hare by manju is a treat to listen .
one can find this in ,malayalam song section ,desadanam.( tried to give a link but not working )

The temple is supposed to have five mystery questions which are enigmas without answers ,

they are

1 which direction does the water in the river nearby flow ,it appears in one direction but it isnt in that .

2 the pazhuppu mandapam is a part of all vaishanvite temples and this is for the utsava moorthy to be placed during ritual processions so that devotees can pray to him ,but the pazhuppu mandapam here looks as if it is outside the wall from inside and inside the wall from outside

3 a particular family has been given rights as kolathiri for ages ,the kolathiri is always the senior member be it a woman or man ,the question is who is the kolathiri now a women or a man ?

4 the banyan tree in front does not have a half where did it disappear ?

5 the idol is only from the knee ,the rest of it is below the ground .

most of the priests in the area have all built good houses in the road leading to the temple ,as huge crowds throng to the temple every day in the mornings .

good for them as many of the temples in kerala and the employees are ill paid by the government which strangely continues to have a stronghold on hindu temples and dare not try it with churches or mosques ,this is the reason for the dilapidated state of many heritage sites and lack of facilities for devotess though millions of rupees fill the government coffers from temples like sabarimala and guruvayoor ,one really wishes the kings were still ruling us instead of theses selfish politicians .

legend has it that Markandeyan escaped from Yama and came to Navamukundan for protection ,the lord opened his backdoor and asked him to run to Shiva across the bank as only he could sabe him and also promptly closed the door after markandeya left so yama could not follow him .
The mammankam of the Samoothiri took place once in 12 years very close to this temple ,it was where a chance was given to the velathirs who was given the right to rule when the perumals departed but usurped by the samoothiri,the samoothiri would give a nilapadu once in twelve years to the velathiris to avenge him if possible a band of marital panikker families well versed in kalaripayyitu called chevers like our present suicide bombers would make thier way through the huge army of the samorin ,
one uncle and his young nephew manged to cut thier way to the samorin almost ,at that time the uncle fell to a sword attack by the samoothiris men and called out to his nephew

" thavazhide mannathe katholanne monne ! "

" njan nokkikolam ammama "said the brave young man as he swished his sword on the samorin ,who cried out "narayana ! ",the nephew hesitated hearing the name of the lord which gave enough time for the samorins men to cut him into pieces and thus the samorin escaped death that day .

after this in 1775 the samorin never tried out mamankam .
there is an excellent book on kerala temples called thulasimala written by the trivandrum maharani which goes on to describe each temple so intrestingly .
my dream is to visit all those temples one day .

Saturday, February 02, 2008

samosas with Shanmugam

I caught the Trichy express from Cochin that saturday night at 9pm as I had been regularly doing every fortnight to travel to Vellore CMC as my wife was there with my child for her training .( this was some 14 years back )

I would get down in the wee hours at 3 am in Erode and wait there till 7 am to catch the West coast express to get down Katpadi and then on to vellore .
All this so I could finish my clinic on saturday evening which I would miss if I travelled by cochin Express which left at 4.30pm .
I would spend my time in Erode chatting to the cofee shop vendors in Erode platform and I became a familiar figure to them .

That day also I caught the west coast Express from Erode and got into an empty sleeper coach and got a berth ,slept for some time and woke up at Salem ,there was some commotion in the platform and I saw a rotund dhoti clad figure getting into my compartment ,he seemed to be an important man as a retinue of servants followed him with some big bags full of vessels .
He ordered some of them to get back and told his driver

" Thambi vandiyya nera viddu ,madrasla pakkalam enna "

strange I thought .".(.which meant go straight to madras I will meet you there ),
then why cant he too go in that ,shortly I had the answer for this question as he plonked right opposite me even though the whole compartment was empty .
His man friday came along and arranged the luggage and sat on a corner .
I stepped out before the train left and bought some samosas as nothing else was availabe and I was feeling hungry ,and came back and sat in time for the train to chug out of the platform .

Dhoti looked at me and the packet in my hand ," enna thambi sappadu ivilo thana ? "( is this ur lunch ?)

"well what to do nothing else here "I answered
he laughed heartily

" ayyo enna pa nee ,nariya irukku namma sapidalam va ,"
(I have lots lets eat )
and looking at his side kick he bellowed
"dey elaya poduda !!!"
that meant put the leaf for serving food ,

I was riled "oh no please have your food ,iam happy with this ,"

"ha ha thambi naan yaru theriyuma ?
( do u know who i am ? )

such questions are difficult to answer if one didnt now the answer !

i just smiled

"naan than shanmugam ( name changed of course )

" kali paal theriyuma kaali paal ? "

( name changed again ,yes I knew it was a famous brand of milk whcih was competing with the state owned one called AAvin ,I knew it came from Salem too ,o this was the owner .ok .)

" hmm theriyum "I murmured .

"ama adhe shanmugam salem shanmugam ,"that sounded like Rajinikanth

"thambi en wife nallla cook ,
neriya samaipaa ,
neriya irukku nammaku sappadlam vaa
antha samosa thuki eri "

( my wife cooks well throw away those samosa and eat with me )

"vendanka " I told

"summa iru nee "
( keep quite )

he also told me he was suffering from a spinal problem and he couldnt travel in a car for a long distance and so he would go in a train while his car drove to madras !

my luck !

"Salem vandha vitukku vaa ,periya panna ,elaam newzealand maddu nanne vanginathu ."

( when in salem come to my house I have all new zealand cows bought by myself from there )

"Salem erangina udene kali shanmugam apiidinu sholu ,onne thukittu varuvanga " ( tell my name and they will carry you home )

God save me !

"dey ennada paathukeite nikkira thambikku pasikkudu da '
( hey you idiot what are u waiting for serve the food ,this to his servant )

And so the servant cleaned the seat in front of me kept a neat paper and spread a green plantain leaf
He put portions of so many items like in a marriage feast in both our leafs ,and for the grand finale took the big vessel which I presumed was for the rice .

I was right there but I was wrong too as no rice came and the servant blinked hard ,

" iyya ,iyya ,manichunga iyya ,amma shoru vekka maranthutanga polirukku "
( sorry sir i think mistress forgot to keep rice )

disaster indeed !!!!

Shanmugam went into an apoplexy of rage ,
"ennmanatha vangitye daa thambi enna ninakkum "
( my honour is lost what will this boy think of me now ? )

that was vintage Sivaji here

"paravallanga " ( it is ok i said )
"phone podren paa adutha stationle "
( i will phone next station )
this was the pre mobile era ,
"dont worry "I said ,
"I have an idea let us crush the samosas and eat it with all these side dishes ",

"appidiya ok "said shanmugam by now having lost his demanour .

and so we had a delicious samosa mixed lunch and strangely shanmugam relished it

"nallathanmpa irukku ! '
( it is good indeed )

thus ended my samosa with Shanmugam

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