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vendredi 3 avril 2015


Two incidents on my recent travels to the East stand out, emphasizing what my close friend the psychologist AA in La Habana said to me:
You thrive on human relationships which you have created all over the world.
I am always disappointed that many people in Asia, and India in particular, do not allow dignity to the other person. They transact symbols of their society to detriment of others and in effect themselves. One thing I find very irksome in India is that the rigid system of caste and colour, interferes in their imagination, the true worth of the person.
Repeatedly I was told of the unworthiness of the Other, poor and destitute who come from far away, such as those from Nagaland or Nepal; constantly berating Malayalee workers of not working. But I hear them all over the world, it is a sense of making yourself apart from the OTHER. 
In contrast among the American Indians, there is a concept of Mitakuye Oyasin, we are all related. I have adopted this concept and I try to be a brother to all those I meet on the road and on some occasions, go out of the way to meet. 
The rewards are enormous, human in nature, emotional in its accomplishments and to me, devoted to Humanitarian Medicine, an extremely satisfying moment in this feast of life.
Two such stories from the recent trip:
Abu Bakr was working as a receptionist in 2004 at the Ballard Bungalow Heritage Hotel, when it was one of the best places to stay in Cochin, under the direction of Densal Sany. On a monsoon day, heavy with rain, I was inivited into the reception area to protect ourselves from the rain and the gust by Abu Bakr. We chatted and on my next visit I stayed at the Hotel and at the invitation of Abu Bakr went and visited his home in Paroor, where a feast had been prepared for me, and I was able to give some health advice to his father. Years passed by, I heard from our mutual friend Densal that Abu Bakr like many young men of this spice land had gone to work in Muscat in Oman. I even made perfunctory attempts during my visits to Oman (my favourite country in the Gulf region) knowing it would be impossible to track a young moslem man from Kerala working there.
On this visit, I was sharing a cup of tea with Densal at his brother's restaurant, Top of the Town across the street from the Basilica, when he mentioned that Abu Bakr had returned from Oman, now is working in Paroor, a family man, father of three! 
I called the telephone number the next day.
Is this dr Y? he asked, forgetting nearly 10 years had passed since our last contact.
On the next day, when I was visiting the Paroor synagogue, well kempt now with the help of Archeological Survey of India, he appears in his motor cycle, having taken a few minutes off his work! What a nice reunion it was ..
This is what contributes to the spice of Life..

On my way back to the Americas, I had to stop over at Doha airport for a couple of hours. 
Few months ago, in transit from Casablanca to New York, I was enjoying the excellent facilities of the new Hamad International airport, when a young man approached me:
You were here two years ago, werent you? You sat in a corner of the old lounge and we talked a little while. Do you remember me, my name is Aksam from Colombo!
what made this young man remember me, from all the thousands of faces that passes through Doha airport Lounge, why did he choose to remember mine? I feel that I had given him the dignity of his being, genuinely interested in his life, in Doha as well as Colombo.
On this return journey, at the Airport Lounge at Doha, he rushes beaming, we talk for a while, about Colombo, Sri Lanka and his family and how glad we are to see each other. He proudly introduces me to his supervisor, another Sri Lankan, and we recall the story of our meeting and the power of such interactions.
I felt at that time that in the near future, I would be sitting at a cafe in WellaWatta in Colombo, sipping that milky tea with Aksam as my guide.

The words of Black Bird, an UmonHon Indian rang in my ears: I will forgive you if you make a medical error, but I will not fogive you if you make a human errror.As American Indians have repeatedly reminded me, being a Doctor is WHAT I do, not WHO I am, and it is important to know WHO you are!

PS I have yet another connection to Wella Watta in Colombo, of what I may call a Genetic memory of having lived well. My favourite poet, the chilean Pablo Neruda lived for two years in Wella Watta as Consul for Chile in Ceylon in 1929! He was pursued there by his lover, the Burmese Panther, Josie Bliss and his poems of love about Josie Bliss still haunt me..
"Inesperadamente, mi amor birmano, la torrencial Josie Bliss, se estableció frente a mi casa. Había viajado hasta allí desde su lejano país. Como pensaba que no existía arroz sino en Rangún, llegó con un saco de arroz a cuestas, con nuestros discos favoritos de Paul Robeson y con una larga alfombra enrollada. Desde la puerta de enfrente se dedicó a observar y luego a insultar y agredir a cuanta gente me visitaba, consumida por sus celos devoradores, al mismo tiempo que amenzaba con incendiar mi casa. Recuerdo que atacó con su largo cuchillo a una dulce muchacha inglesa que vino a visitarme.
Nuestra coexistencia era imposible y por fin un día se decidió a partir. Me pidió que la acompañara hasta el barco. Cuando éste estaba por salir y yo debía abandonarlo, se desprendió de sus acompañantes y besándome en un arrebato de dolor y amor me llenó la cara de lágrimas. Como en un rito me besaba los brazos, el traje, y, de pronto, bajó hasta mis zapatos, sin que yo pudiera evitarlo. Cuando se alzó de nuevo, su rostro estaba enharinado con la tiza de mis zapatos blancos. No podía pedirle que desistiera del viaje, que abandonara conmigo el barco que se la llevaba para siempre. La razón me lo impedía, pero mi corazón adquirió allí una cicatriz que no se ha borrado, aquel dolor turbulento, aquellas lágrimas terribles rodando sobre el rostro enharinado, continúan en mi memoria." ("Memorias")

I remember reading the poem to my brother Eliyahu as we sat by the river Irrawady in Bagan
I still know the lyrics by heart: perhaps they burned her body by the river Irrawady, the river murmurinng my words of love in her ears!