Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
My son Saswat was born on Pahili Raja, Orissa’s unique festival of social oneness, on 13 June 1977.
The day is alive in my mind.
Prof. Dr. Sujata Mohanty, a relation, was looking after my wife. Expected Day of Delivery (EDD) was 13 June 1977. A few days before the expected day, she had left for Puttaparthi to her Guru Sathya Sai Baba, assuring me that though the EDD was 13th, the delivery would take more time and by then, she should have come back.
There was rampant private practice at that time. Unless paid in their homes or private clinics, Doctors were not even looking at the patients in the hospitals and there was massive jealousy and rivalry amongst them too in having private patients.
At the midnight of June 12, my wife got the first pang of labor pain. The Operation Theaters were tetanus infected. My wife was taken into a make-shift OT on the top floor of the Gynecology ward.
In absence of Dr. Mohanty, I approached her Unit head Prof. Dr. Nishamani Panda to take care of my wife. Dr. Panda refused to help, as my wife was Dr. Mohanty’s patient.
I approached Prof. S. Mitra, who was the Head of the Department. He not only refused to help, but also closed the door on my face with utmost contempt.
My first child, my daughter, was delivered through CS and hence, instead of giving my wife much pain, CS was the preferred option.
The day was Pahili Raja, and hence a public holiday. Doctors were enjoying their holiday. Except the Head of the Unit or the HoD, nobody was in a position to organize a team for CS. Both of them refused me help because of their internecine rivalry with Prof. Mohanty. I saw a menacing danger to my wife and my child in her womb.
At that time, I had a close friend in Mr. Durgamadhav Mishra IPS. He was a Deputy Inspector General of Police. I rushed to him and narrated everything and urged upon him to save my wife and my unborn child. He could not make out as to how he should have a role in the matter. I told him that both the Unit and Departmental heads, particularly Prof. Mitra were ignoring my wife because of their rivalry with Prof. Mohanty and that, their negligence was going to harm my wife and the unborn child; and, as the DIG of Police having necessary jurisdiction, he was entitled to step in, if thereby a crime like threat to a patient’s life could be stopped.
He got the point and immediately deputed an Inspector of Police with his message to Prof. Mitra.
By the time I reached the Hospital, Prof. Mitra himself and a great team of Doctors were already in the makeshift OT. Dr. Mitra had later begged apology to me for his (mis)conduct.
At this stage, I am inclined to dwell on a side scenario, as otherwise I will fail in my duty to the living history.
At that time, about six months ahead of confinement, nursing homes were being booked and a month ahead of the EDD, allotment of a room was being claimed by signing on the register every day. The senior most claimant was being given the allocation order. I was daily going from Bhubaneswar to Cuttack to sign the register. In this process, I had occupied a room for my wife ten days ahead of the EDD.
But on entering into the indoor to occupy the room – these rooms were charged for – to my astonishment, I found that the Gynecology ward was almost empty. I will say later as to why it was so empty.
However, when my wife had gone to the labor room, I had requested a close friend of my wife, Major Ms. Kumudini Barai to come to the hospital, if thereby she could be of any help; and she had come.
As we both were standing on the corridor attached to the makeshift OT on the top floor, we heard scary cries of a child coming from the roof top. Both of us rushed to the top and saw, to our horror, a very big dog was attacking a boy of about four years in age. Major Barai used all her military skills to save the boy from the ferocious animal.
When I queried about how a dog could play this havoc, a nurse – a person from Kerala – told me that there was nothing to be surprised, as the dog was a man-eater living on the roof top almost permanently.
Yes, she said. And the fact she revealed chilled my blood.
Earlier, as expectant mothers were overcrowding the indoors, 5 to 10 neo-natal deaths or stillborn babies were an average daily occurrence. The OT attendants called Behera and medicos were charging money from the unfortunate parents to handover the dead bodies of their babies and when most of them were obliging, some very poor parents were abandoning the dead bodies. Those bodies were being thrown into the roof top and the dogs were eating away the flesh and bones of the dead babies. But with Sanjaya Gandhi then as de facto ruler, birth control being a priority agenda, as most of the expectant mothers was shunning the medical college hospital in fear of compulsory Tubectomy, neo-natal deaths or still born babies were so meager in number that the dogs were not getting their normal supply. Hence, as the four year old boy, having come to the hospital with attendants of his mother taken to the OT, went up the stairs all alone, the dog turned man-eater must have considered him an easy prey, she said.
However, the gloom that horrific experience had brought in had evaporated instantly as the very best news of my life was delivered to me by the nursing sister.
My wife was in the recovery room after the CS with Kuma Apa (Major Barai) by her side, when the nurse of the Nursing Home came running to our room to inform me of the birth of my son.
My wife had to have operation under general anesthesia. I was worried about her recovery and was in agony, as I was not allowed into where she was recovering. After recovery, she was to be brought back to her bed in our room. As I was waiting there, I had written a poem depicting my happiness and anxiety.
That was the morning of the Pahili Raja, the festival of agro-magic, peculiar to Orissa that still retains the Buddhist outlook of Universal Brotherhood.
The year’s first rain was showering bliss upon the earth when my son was born. We decided to call him Raja, by the name of this unique Oriya festival.
Now, friends, to you the poem I had then written.