Early December day, 4TH December 1961 to be specified, was dull and dusky one.. The clouds were hovering over the Sky in abundance and threatening a bountiful of rains to be followed by a possible snowfall anytime. It was a cold day. The cold piercing into one’s bones suggesting to have warm cups of tea to ward off the biting cold of severe winter.
The S.P.COLLEGE Srinagar was a sprawling one with beautiful college buildings built on English architecture.
Long well ventilated corridors ,having rows of huge class rooms on either side with seat arrangement on ascending order, thus presenting a beautiful look thereby , as a matter of fact.
The college lawns were thronged with boys dressed in warm winter blazers, tweeds, and colourful high neck sweaters , darting in and out of the classrooms, corridors and thus presenting a lively spectacle.
I was soon joined by my friends , Roshan , surinder and Ali Mohammad.
we sat at our specified place in the corner of small adjacent lawn having small green hedges all along the corners.
“ Hey Brij looking pale.” Roshan said.
“ yes you do not look in your upbeat mood” Surinder said briefly.
“Today weather is dull ,he will be ok” Ali Mohammad joined the chorus .
“I am not feeling well” I replied . “ we need to have warm cups of tea” I snapped.
Ali Mohammad looked at his wrist watch and said “ we can go for tea as there is time for physics class to commence”.
We all started in the direction of Tuckshop.
Surinder was humming a song from Bollywood movie unaware of anything around him.
suddenly he declared “let us go out to a Restaurant for a small breakfast. I have not had anything in morning”
“we can make it . Still enough of time, nearly half an hour to go for class” he pleaded.
The restaurant was just at a stone’s throw from the side gate and we had a nice table on the window side.
It was cold in the restaurant and we ordered for some sandwiches bread and butter ones.
we asked for warming up the oven in the fireplace and the restaurateur asked the boy to start the fire immediately .The boy was quick to put fire in the iron oven and we felt a little comfortable.
The restaurant boy spoke only Kashmiri “ kya se pharav thoda wishnare “ — meaning did you feel some warmth. he said triumphantly.
We all nodded in assent ,smiling .
We had a hurried breakfast and quickly walked up to the classroom to attend Prof. Mamm’s physics lecture.
Prof, Mam’s class was always full to the capacity and there used to be such a silence even a pin drop could be heard.
In the midst of lecture I felt severe pain in my stomach ,tried to live up with this but could not do so.
I stood up and said in a feeble but quite audible voice.
“ Excuse me sir I am ill , feeling intense pain “
Prof looked up from his note book “yes you can go , do you want me to give some one to help you.” he said cooly.
Meanwhile Roshan volunteered to accompany me ,followed by both Ali Mohammad and Surinder all startled and shocked by unforeseen turn of the event.
I plodded on ,helped by Roshan, to the corner of the lawn on the other side of the class room. I lay down on the grass but was restless. Instantly spewed out undigested rice and green saliva intermixed with some traces of blood . Soon after I vomited blood profusely and the situation looked more contentious than we could have anticipated.
I could guess anxiety brewing up on the faces of my friends , Roshan was upset specially ,hurried to the first aid room and came with medicine and the compounder(semidoctor) available for primary medical aids.
The compounder made me to lie down comfortably and administered some medicine possibly to stop vomiting.
I pleaded to go home and Roshan put me on the back seat of his bike and started pedaling off to my home in Karananagar; a distance of at least six kms .
There were no vehicles available except tongas, but the stands were off the college beat. One had to walk down a mile or so to catch a tonga. So bikes were easy handy ones.
As we were about to move I overheard Surinder saying with the twang of his nose “ I will try to get a tonga close by.”
Roshan instructed Ali Mohammad to contact and inform my father in B.ED college en-route to my home which he did.
My father was principal ,an educationist of repute.
As soon as we reached out of college main gate Surinder was waiting with a tonga for us.
I was very weak after awful vomiting and could hardly sit on the back seat of the bike. So tonga was a boon . “ Thanks” I murmured to Surinder.
“use my bike going to your home today” Roshan yelled at Surinder who in turn nodded in affirmative.
The tonga strode in the spluttered rains on the main road with full speed towards my home. Roshan put me in a lying down position allowing me to keep my feet in his lap while seating himself in the corner with bare minimum space available. Although the pain did not subside. but somehow I did not bleat either.
“Surinder did right to get this tonga,otherwise we would have been wet in the rains.” Roshan said to himself .
The Tongawala finally pulled up his tonga outside my home ,18 karan nagar.
It was a big bungalow built up on half an acre land with plenty of trees ,both cherry and poplar, standing all along the inside boundary interspersed with flowers giving enough greenery and beauty to the whole house.
Roshan helped me to get upstairs on first floor into the main room . My mother anxiously asked me “ what is matter my son. Are you alright.” she sighed heavily and my dishevelled looks sent a shiver tingling down her spine. She stood motionless for sometime.
Roshan replied softly “ he got ill suddenly needs some rest and a glass of cold water”.
“Donot be disappointed ,he will be alright . God is great.“ Roshan said philosophically to console my mother.
The door opened ajar and my father, a tall bespectacled man,swarthy in complexion, walked in.
“I have called for the best doctor ,he is coming soon, and if necessary we will go to the hospital” my father said anxiously, the anxiety writ large on his face . “Ali Mohammad told me about your illness. Did you vomit again” he continued.
“Dr is coming soon, no worry.” He spoke nervously pacing the room several times.
Dr G.L. Hanjura, M.D from US, entered the room suddenly and started checking me ,asking for intermittent questions in between .
“did you go for motion, how was it , I mean colour”
“ black “ my father answered.
“was it in large quantity , how many times you had motions’ ” Dr asked curiously.
“ two times , but in moderate qtys. only.” I answered
The Dr advised me to be hospitalized for two days for investigations, to be admitted now without losing further time.
He wrote something on his note book ,probably prescription with clear instructions for hospitalization.
“ I will come to hospital by evening . Meanwhile you get him admitted soon” Dr spoke to my father and left.
I could see my worried uncles Babuji and Tathaji both with disapproving sad looks asking my father to hasten up to take me to the SMH Hospital ,luckily not far from our house.
For two days I was put on drugs and had been under thorough investigations . The head nun with her tight wimple darting in and out continuously for conducting essential tests. to locate the ulceration .
Dr Hanjura allowed me to be taken to home for further treatment.
Dr Hanjura explained to my father the possible mild ulceration ,a typical sore on the lining in the stomach,or oesophagus could be cause of the blood vomiting, did not warrant lengthy stay in the hospital assuring him that he would treat me at the home itself.
He further alerted us to be prepared for a long treatment . My anxious uncles peeked over the opening of the door to listen to Dr’s conversation. In fact my uncle Babuji enquired from the doctor about the actual status of the ulceration. Dr replied cooly “ we will do our best . There is no worry.”
Back at home I was put on rigorous bland diet for about six months . Sips of ice cold milk at regular intervals to be taken with a biscuit or two. slowly and steadily.
Other diets followed like boiled vegetables, and later on mildly spiced minced roasted mutton balls were given to me in small quantities. at regular intervals.
Milk was the main diet for three to four months.
I was not allowed to go to college and thus lost one academic year .
I spent time to read English authors like Thomas Hardy, Oliver Gold Smith, Charles Dickens Somerset Maughm and a host of essayists R.l.Stevenson, Thomas huxley etc.
My father insisted I should write some essays.
I learnt writing by playing sedulous ape to great writers. and thus developed my own style .
I turned to reading American authors John stein Beck, Pearl S Buck, Sinclair Lewis ,Earnest Hemmingway and host of others to get over the fatigue and also to while away the time.
I read some Indian authors as well like R.K.Narayan, Bhabani Bhattacharjee Jab Ruthwala, Anita Desai, and so on.
Some of the books — Mayor of Caster bridge, Good Earth, The old man and the Sea, Return of the Native, The Guide enthralled me very much.
Nearly after four months I was allowed to take small quantity of rice with boiled cooked potatoes sprinkled with salt and a bit of spices.
My mother in addition put a pint of turmeric powder to make it tasty.
After undergoing Barium meal test ,I was allowed to take near normal diet. The Red Kashmiri chilies were ruled out at least for time being. Interestingly enough I avoid these chilies even now.
My large family ,especially father ,mother, aunties and uncles were worried about my health.
They used to huddle around me in twos and threes to bolster my mood all the time. My aunties were very fond of me .The elder one ,Bhabhi, as all children fondly called her, would relate stories from Indian epics ,Mahabharta and Ramayana every evening religiously to all of us. The other aunty Mataji was kind affectionate beautiful lady ,always helpful.
My youngest aunty Mohanji was medical doctor at Delhi , used to send detailed precautionary notes to my father through letters. ours was a well knit family devoted to one another’s well being.
I later leant through them that my grand father ,Shri Shiv Kaul had died of duodenal ulcer soon after his retirement ,way back in 1940/41. I thus understood the reason of their extraordinary anxiety about my health .The disease was dreaded one those days with no or little treatment.
Dr G. L. Hanjura cured me fully and I did not have this trouble till date any longer. I feel he was God in disguise of a doctor.
I am pleasantly healthy now.
It was for many years I was kept away from the niceties of Kashmiri Wazwan.
Eventually I became a voracious eater of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian Kashmiri dishes.
I was invited in marriage parties by my friends only when abundance of food varieties would be available. to eat.
Now at seventy I still have taste for such niceties of dishes ,both Kashmiri or otherwise.
Chula Bathura, Dosas , Kanti kabab, Nargis koftas are some of the rarest of rare dishes I readily pounce upon without much hesitation.
I did not brood over but learnt to fight against all odds with courage and conviction. I combated the disease effectively with a smile and thus strove hard to survive to this day.