Sunday, August 30, 2009

Same Sex Marriage

By Nalin Verma

Lajvanti raised Malhar with care and sacrifice. In her early 30’s Lajvanti looked more like a mother than a young woman attracting peering eyes.

The loss of husband early in life, probably, robbed her off the exuberance that is usually natural to women of her age. Moreover, the values of the high caste Brahmin family she was born and married in, coupled with the responsibility to raise her son had made her look more elderly.

A government employee, her husband died in boat mishap while rescuing the marooned people in an Indian state of Bihar village. Lajvanti fell on the ground slipping in coma as she heard about the end of her man. Life was a smooth affair so far with a caring partner and giggling toddler.

The suddenness of the event which robbed her off her spouse-the most precious thing in archetypal Indian woman’s life- blanked her. With helping neighbours around, she regained her senses to find the four year old crying. She was weighed down by the very idea of living and raising the son without her man.

But then time is a great heeler. Lajvanti who was a higher secondary passed out got teacher’s job in a school on the compassionate ground. The Indian government service code ensures the widow a job befitting to her qualification if she loses husband on duty. She lived in Patna-capital of Bihar.

Days passed into months and months into years. Lajvanti moulded herself into the role of a dutiful teacher and dedicated mother. Malhar, growing as a jolly and smart lad brought smile back on her lips. After all, Malhar symbolized a reason and also an inspiration for her to live, work and nurse rosy hopes.

It was late 1970’s and Malhar had become old enough to engage her mother in gossip and laughter. The mother too tried to be playful to the son. Usual to mother-son relationship, they broke into friendly banters at times.

“Look son, you will marry a girl of our caste when you grow old enough to become a groom”, Lajvanti radiating a winsome smile on her lips told Malhar.

Malhar retorted, “Oh mom. I am too young. What is the use of talking about my wedding? I will obey your wish when the time comes”.

And ordinary woman born and brought up in the upper caste, Lajvanti adhered to the family values she had been raised in. She wished her son scale great heights in his career but stay stuck to the ‘divine’ values.

Still in class IX, Malhar was as naughty as bright at studies. He made her mother proud by always topping in his class. But he invariably came with his toes and fingers wounded at clash with his peers. The mom shouted at him and he laughed as if the clash and bruises were just a part of life at his stage.

Lajvanti got up early in the morning to dress him up, feed him breakfast and leave him at the school bus stop. Then she would take bath, offer prayer and cover her frail frame in simple attire from head to toe to leave for her school.

            *             *                    *              *

Malhar secured over 95 per cent marks in his plus-II examinations. Sharp in science subjects, Malhar then cracked the joint entrance examination to get to the Indian Institute of Technology-the top notch engineering institution famous as IIT in India.

In next four years, Malhar cleared the IIT with flying colours to land in job with a multi national company in USA.

It was in late 1980’s when Malhar was about to leave for USA. The mother was somber at her son leaving her for far away land. But she was proud of Malhar going to what was the prime destination of the Indian techie. By doing so well, Malhar had added to her sense of achievement. After all, Lajvanti had devoted whatever she had for Malhar. She lived for Malhar.

“Malhar! You are going abroad. It is OK. But do not marry a foreign girl. You will marry only to an Indian girl”, Lajvanti commanded.

Malhar giggled. “Mom! I simply get intrigued at your silly talks. I am not going to USA in search of a bride. I am going there to do a job. I will marry according to your wishes”, he equipped, making her mom smile and mutter, “After all he is my son…the piece of my heart. My son will never go wayward”.

Despite all his naughtiness and vivacity Malhar was a doting son. Behind the veneer of boyish gusto was the awareness of how his mother had smilingly sacrificed whatever she had to raise him. He abhorred any sign of gloom on her face. He cracked jokes to smirk her.

With Malhar away in USA, Lajvanti spent time reading newspapers and watching TV channels. She was unable to comprehend how a female and can marry a female and a man can marry a man when an Indian court of law ruled that marriage in same sex was just and legal.

“What type of court it is? How can matrimony take place in same sex? How can a child be born if a female marries a female and a male marries a male? How will the generation grow? Why are the law and courts preaching something not ordained by Mother Nature?” These questions haunted her. Even-though he was thousands of miles away, Malhar always flowed through her breath and through her thought process. She did not express her anxiety about her son to others. But in the back of her mind she was worried about the son’s response to the legal promotion of the “grubby” idea of coition in same sex at the time when he was living in an alien milieu far away from her.

Gaining in glaze on his face, Malhar returned to her mom on a leave after working for a year in the US. While offering food to Malhar one day, the mom mumbled, “Malhar! I will like you to marry a female only”.

Malhar retorted, “Mom, first you asked me marry only in caste. Then you advised me to wed only an Indian girl. Now you are advising me to marry a girl only”.

“I have another idea”, the son full with pranks went on to say, “I have got a nice friend. If you agree I will marry him. You will be happy in the sense that you will get two sons instead of a son and a daughter in law who seldom goes well with mother in law”.

Lajvanti felt the earth slipping away from beneath her feat. Shocked, she fell silent, looking blankly at his son. “Did I raise you to see this day”, she feebly muttered before breaking into sobs and hiccups.

Malhar soon sensed how his pranks had a convulsed his mother.

He naughtily submitted, “First get your mind stable about my future spouse. I will marry the girl you approve. But be sure you will not change your wish next year”. Smile was back on Lajvanti’s lips. With a sigh of relief she mumbled, “My son…the piece of my heart… I know my son will never go wayward”.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sting in the tale

Sting in the tale


The scene is a rainy night in Chutupalu village in Jharkhand. Chamni, a 34-year-old tribal woman, lies sleeping on the bare floor of her hut, exhausted after a day of planting saplings in the paddy fields. Alongside her are her husband Manuwa Oraon and their small children. Enter, a snake. It crawls towards the reclining form of Chamni. As she stretches out her arm in her sleep, the alarmed reptile sinks its fangs into her fingers. Manuwa, woken by his wife’s screams, spots the snake in the dim light of an earthen lamp and quickly traps it in a jute-lined basket. Local superstition in this village 25 kilometres from Ranchi has it that a snake which has bitten someone should not be killed till its victim recovers.

Nothing new about that story, you’d say, and you’d be right. It happens all the time in rural India. What is unusual is the denouement. Chamni was not left on the ground to die an agonising death. Nor was she put through the doubtful ministrations of a witch doctor. Instead, Manuwa placed her in a three-wheeler which was plying on the Patna-Ranchi highway on which their village was happily situated, and rushed her to hospital.

It took 45 minutes to reach the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi, but Chamni got there alive, snake in tow. Her face had turned blue by then, but a quick shot of the anti-venom serum that the hospital orders from Chennai sorted that out. To the relief of her husband and two children Chamni was able to go home in a few days (the snake didn’t make the return journey — hospital staff had long released it in the wild).

Standing at the hospital gate as I was, I was happy to see them go. They represented to me the greater number of villagers who were now learning to trust science.

“Though still illiterate and mired in deep poverty, the scheduled tribes in Jharkhand are not as superstitious as they were a decade ago,” remarked an RIMS doctor. “Had a cobra bitten someone a few years ago,” he added, “the family would have called in a witch doctor rather than approach a hospital. We are aware that snakebite used to cause numerous deaths in the rural areas mainly because the people had no faith in medical treatment. In the past, they relied on the charms of sorcerers and ended up dying. Fortunately, now they are aware enough to come to the hospital.”

During the rainy season, said the director of RIMS, A.K. Dube, “the hospital treats on an average two people daily for snakebite”.

The story was quite different in the days of my childhood in the late Seventies. I remember Kalavati, who died of snakebite. That happened in my ancestral Daraily Mathia village in Siwan district of Bihar. The village, 300 kilometres from Ranchi, resembles Chutupalu in terms of backwardness, illiteracy and poverty. Only three or four families own land. The rest are poor and landless tribals who live on manual work like ploughing fields of landed people, selling datoon and firewood, or brewing and selling the local liquor hadia. Like Chamni, Kalavati too, worked hard for a living. The only difference in their lives lay in the fact that the generations that divided them had different attitudes to modern medicine and magic.

I remember Kalavati as the very young and pretty wife of middle-aged Hariprit, a farm worker. She was fair, with chiselled features and wore with pride the silver anklets her father had given her. The thought of her being wedded to the 45-year-old Hariprit, who looked much older, grizzled as he was right down to the hair on his chest, and with legs like withered stumps, frankly appalled me. Kalavati was 22 years old when her father married her off to Hariprit. She was the younger sister of his first wife by whom Hariprit had four children. “Don’t worry,” his father-in-law had consoled him at his wife’s funeral, “my younger daughter will go as your wife to take care of the kids.”

One night, Kalavati was fast asleep with the four children on a mat spread on the damp floor of her shack, when a cobra sneaked in and bit her on her toe. Her husband, who was sleeping with his cattle in the adjacent shack, heard her cries, as did other villagers who rallied forth with torches and lanterns, frantically searching for the cobra. With them was the sorcerer Phulena, known for his power of curing victims of snakebite, though I don’t personally remember anyone he saved.

I saw Phulena sketching a circle on the ground with a piece of stone around the unconscious Kalavati. He then whispered some words into her ear and blew air through his lips at the place where she had been bitten. He also tied a red cloth around her neck. Kalavati grew feebler every minute and by morning, was dead. “She had the curse of Lord Shiva on her,” said Phulena, as if in explanation. “The lord of snakes rejected my call to cure her.”

And I saw poor Hariprit, with tears rolling down his cheeks arranging the bamboo, sandal and mango wood for the final rites of his second wife. Hindus cremate their dead. Those who die of snakebite in our village are immersed in the river. If Kalavati had been born 25 years later, hers would have been a very different fate. Daraily Mathia too now has a referral hospital at Done, only at a distance of 10 kilometres from what was once her home. People suffering from snakebite now go there.

It seems the job of the witch doctor of the village is going a-begging. Phulena, who had inherited his dubious craft from his father Diljar Mia, died five years ago. His son Idris has refused to step into his shoes — he’s perfectly happy working in a men’s hairdressing salon.

And should Idris or his fellow villagers ever be bitten by a snake, it’ll be a doctor they will turn to.

(This story had first appeared in The Telegraph on August 29,2004)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Winning a wife

By Nalin Verma

I called on Nand Lal, my childhood friend, on a visit to my ancestral village recently. He is in his 40s now, showing signs of ageing with his hair graying rapidly. But he looked delightful when I met him.

“You are looking quite jovial”, I said. “Yes! I am, because, I have married my daughter to an employed boy”.

Member of a lowly caste, Nand Lal runs a small grocery shop to earn his living. “Hand to mouth’’ is the apt phrase to describe his status. Thus, finding a salaried groom in this era of dowry is no mean achievement.

Nand Lal and I had grown up together playing on the streets of our village in a remote corner of Indian state of Bihar. Kalavaty knew about our friendship ever since she became Nand Lal’s wife. Looking at her, Nand Lal quipped: “See, who has come! Bring laddoo and paani for him”.

Kalavaty wore a crumpled sari and a few stained bangles in her wrists. But she too looked joyful. Taking leave of the goat she was milking, she brought two big laddoos in a clay pot and a heavy brass tumbler full of water. “Had you forgotten us?’’ she asked.

It was a dull day with the sun missing in the grey clouds hovering lazily in the sky. But I felt refreshed in the couple’s warmth. Nand Lal and Kalavaty are made for each other. Living together for years, they have learnt the art of smiling and enjoying life even in scarcity.

Helping myself to the laddoos, I remembered how young Nand Lal had dodged his father to meet his wife after their marriage. He had married Kalavaty when he was barely 16. Kalavaty might have been even younger.

Nand Lal had wisps of thin hair on his upper lips. His father, Lekha Teli, took this as the sign of marriageable age and got desperate to get him married. He was not wrong for others in the village, rooted to pastoral lifestyle and far away from roads, towns and modernity, thought the same way. Similarly, girls were to get married before attaining puberty.

Lekha was on cloud nine when Kalavaty’s father came, offering his daughter for Nand Lal. He accepted the offer right away.

Nand Lal boarded a palanquin and we rode bullock carts, the only means of conveyance, to reach the bride’s village through muddy fields.

Nand Lal and Kalavaty were tied in nuptial knots as the baratis enjoyed the nightlong conviviality and feast. The following day, the bride was brought to Nand Lal’s home in the palanquin.

Now Nand Lal was eager to meet his wife. “I want to kiss her, taste her. I want to sleep with her”, Nand Lal told his friends.

But Nand Lal couldn’t have said so to his father who was dead against the idea of his son sleeping with the bride at such a tender age. “Marriage is fine. But coition at an early age means loss of health. Avoid sex early in life to become robust”, Lekha Teli said. Other elderly villagers had the same idea.

Lekha slept right at the bride’s door at night to prevent his son from entering the room.

Nand Lal found the separation unbearable. “My father says I shouldn’t sleep with my wife till I am 20. It’s cruel”, Nand Lal fumed before his friends. But he was not supposed to show his despair to his father.

Dying to meet her, he asked us for some clues to reach Kalavaty. A friend suggested: “It’s simple. Dig with a shovel a big hole in the rear wall of Kalavaty’s room and sneak inside when your father is asleep”.

“Wow! What an idea”, Nand Lal screamed mirthfully. It was easy to use a shovel in the thatch and mud house. Nand Lal executed the plan with perfection after it was dark. Lekha Teli, fast asleep at the door, was oblivious of his son’s juvenile antics.

Lekha saw the hole only when he woke up early next morning and went in the backyard to feed his cattle. He first thought of thieves and forced his way inside.
But to his shock, he found Nand Lal and Kalavaty sleeping in each other’s arms, oblivious of the old man’s presence. Enraged, he picked up a baton to punish the boy for “ruining” his health.

The commotion broke Nand Lal’s sleep. Sensing the danger ahead he fled, barefoot and half-naked.

Others gathered around to calm Lekha Teli. “Be normal, the heavens haven’t fallen”, I heard my father telling him. Lekha couldn’t have punished the bride for he was not supposed to beat a daughter-in-law.

Kalavaty blushed when I reminded her of how we helped Nand Lal meet her. “Does Nand Lal love you as intensely as he did when he married you”, I asked. She blushed and then covered her face with her sari.

I asked Nand Lal: “Are you sure your son-in-law’s father won’t prevent his son from meeting your daughter. “Times have changed”, Nand Lal said with a smile.

(The story had first appeared in The Statesman in 2002)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Letter from a dead snake

Dear Saloni,

You saw how your neighbours barged into your house raining batons on me. I was helpless before them. I had no clue to understand why was that six fit tall man was hitting on my frail back so cruelly. And others were chucking sticks heavy on my hood

I am no longer alive. I have turned into a soul that every mortal turns into after its death. Still, I am pondering about the sin I committed to suffer such a catastrophic assault that ended my life at your home that day.

As you watched, I had coiled myself beneath an empty cooking gas cylinder, lying in an isolated corner near your kitchen and was silently consuming a rodent. That rodent in my jaws’ pincer grip was creaking feebly while I was chewing it and trying to gulp it down to fill my hungry belly. After all, rodents are our food. And being a krait, I am fond of rodents, frogs and lizards.

While moving out in search of rodents, lizards and frogs in the dark corners of your home, the other day, I discovered that you too were scared of lizards, frogs and rodents. I heard you screaming loudly at the sight of a lizard in your reading room. You got back to normal only after your mom chased the reptile away. I noticed that you were scared of rodents and frogs too.

Your mom first heard the rodent between my jaws creaking and then peered through the hole at the bottom of the cylinder to find me quietly feasting on it. Soon, her face turned red and she jumped commanding you get on to your bed. Then she ran out on the streets crying madly as if your home was under attack of your ferocious enemies.

Scared, you stayed confined to your bed till your baton holding neighbours came in, killed me and scooped me out of your home. You were stone faced. You showed no mercy to me despite the fact that I was getting killed while eating the rodent that scared you. Do you remember me ever scaring you? Ever biting you?

I am sorry to tell you that you have relatives and friends who habitually reel of false tales about us. A krait, I do have poison in my fangs. But the false story tellers have poisoned your mind more than me. Do you know anyone around you dying of my bite? You don’t have. But think on the stories fed to you about me.

You have learnt how venomous I am and how you should keep yourself safe from my invasion. These false and fabricated stories have made you believe that I am your biggest enemy. You abhor me.

I am telling you my true story. You can verify it from your grandma. Even otherwise, I can not tell a lie for few living beings other than the human beings possess the skill to tell lies.

Your dynasty worships 13 gods and goddesses. I am one of your family gods. Your forefathers worshiped me. Your grandma still worships me. Your ancestors offered me food on an auspicious day of the year.

I am enlightening you on your great grandfather whom you have not seen.

You were born and brought up at Patna, capital of Indian state of Bihar. You live in the city with your parents and friends. Your grandpa lived with your great grandma and your grandfather in a village, far away from Patna in the same state. The state has hot and humid climatic condition.

Your great grandpa's village had only farmers, farm lands, trees, bushes and ponds. The village had no road and no buses, trucks and taxis to ply on. Your great grandpa wore wood sandals. He used to sleep on a charpoy in an open field adjacent to a big pool. There was a dense labyrinth of bushes made up of turmeric, flowers, thorns and several other green plants around the place he slept under the canopy of the heaven.

Many others of our race and I lived in the bushes fed by the dampness of the pond. The place was also rich with squirrels, frogs and rodents. We are primarily a nocturnal creature. After your great grandpa falling asleep, we roamed around eating rodents and frogs of our taste in hush and dark hours.

Your grandpa used to get up and go to urinate while holding a sick in one hand and a lighted torch in another. We silently got out of his way to the pool’s bank to attend the nature’s call. He too changed his way if he happened the encounter us. His stick was his permanent companion. But he seldom used it to hit us.

Your grandma, great grandma and several other women decorated their homes’ walls with our sketches and offered us milk and popcorn once in a year. You can verify this story even with your dad. He lived in the village when he was of your age.

This is not to tell you that your dynasty and we always lived at peace with each other. We did hurt each other at times. But it was more due to accident rather than the design. One of us dug its fangs in a man’s feet after it found itself crushed under his hobnailed shoes. The man died of the snake’s bite. But the snake which had got its back broken too died.

But such incidents took place very rarely. Your race possesses precautionary skills, defense mechanism and better protection gears which we lack in. Believe me; I am always scared of meeting you. I flee whenever I see you. I am more scared of you than you are scared of me. I am more vulnerable to you and you are to me.

You are still a kid. I have tried to tell you my true story. I will never enter your home for I am no longer alive. But I hope my story will help you grow as a woman of better understanding than the false story tellers and the cruel ones who murdered me before you.

I have a small suggestion to give you. Your race has many snake charmers who catch and confine us in their baskets. They display us door to door to earn their living. In the process, they pester us and cause us immense sufferings. You should not pay them and suggest them to opt for another vocation which does not involve hunting the snakes and making them live a taxing life.

Lastly, if you can not love us please don’t hate us. Don’t get scared of us. Your panic may eventually lead us to death. We too are the part of the nature and have right to live. I hope you will respect and protect our right.

Yours truly,

Dead Snake

Friday, August 7, 2009

About a Good Samaritan and a tough cop

Vineet Vinayak taking over as the senior superintendent of police, Patna coincides with raids on Bihar capital’s gambling dens. The state’s political establishment has its share of gamblers masquerading as leaders of the people. These dens served as the rendezvous to many of these politicos who were used to the lifestyle of wining, dining and gambling after the sunset. Needless to say that several police officials served more as the protectors to these dens housing their political masters than the guardians of law bound by the norms of duty to smash them.

Vinayak is an IPS officer of Sikkim cadre of Indian state of Bihar. I had seen his human face from very close quarters in course of my sojourn to Sikkim with family and friends about six years ago when Vinayak was posted at Gangtok, Sikkim’s capital. Then I had thought that Vinayak was fitter in the role of a Good Samaritan rather than a tough cop. It was really heartening for me to learn the police team under Vinayak’s stewardship raiding those gambling dens and catching the politicians luxuriating there by their scruff. Few people had thought that the police would ever dare to carry out raids on these high profile gambling dens and closing the liquor shop near the Patna junction railway station which stayed opened till almost whole of the night to sever these dens.

The Patna denizens have now seen their tough cop. I am reproducing here my story of how Vinayak had saved the life of Patna based woman in distress in far away Gangatok. The story had first appeared in The Statesman which I was employed with then.

Human face of the mountains
To escape the heat and humidity of the plains of Bihar, we headed for the snow-capped mountains. The cool breeze lifted our spirits as the taxi meandered past the river Teesta and took the road to Sikkim.
Dark clouds played hide and seek with the mountains and children snug in cardigans and mufflers made their way to school on a road below. Gangtok offered what we were looking for: wintry weather, liquor shops in every nook and corner of the city and friendly people ready to cooperate with visitors.
Curled under quilts in our hotel room, we chalked out plans to visit Chhangu Lake, Nathula Pass, Rumtek Monastery and other places of tourist interest. It was at this stage that tragedy struck in a land which was, for all practical purposes, unknown to us. Sushma, the wife of my Motihari-based engineer friend, Vijay Kumar, began writhing in severe stomach pain.
Initially, we thought she was suffering from journey fatigue and gave her some painkillers. We were wrong, as we were to find out later. Some of her organs had ruptured and they were bleeding. We did not know where to find adoctor or a hospital.
I took a chance and telephoned Vineet (Dhumal) Vinayak, an IPS officer from Bihar posted in Gangtok as Commandant of the Sikkim Armed Police.It was then that we realised how kind strangers could be. The officer was away at an important meeting. His father and Patna-based senior advocate, Abhay Kumar Singh, was spending his holidays with his son in Gangtok. He picked up the telephone. I panicked when I heard his son was not at home.
But Mr Singh said reassuringly: “Don’t worry, I will immediately contact my son.”Soon, the young officer rang me up, saying: “Don’t lose patience. Don’t worry. I am sending a vehicle with a local driver who knows where the hospitals and the doctors are. Take the ailing lady to hospital quickly and keep in touch with me.”
Sonam, a young Bhutiya driver in police uniform, came knocking. He helped us carry Sushma to his jeep and we sped off to a government hospital.
It was a Saturday. Most of the important departments of the hospital were closed, Saturday being a holiday in Sikkim.The very thought of a government hospital compounded our agony. The attitude of doctors in the government hospitals of Bihar and West Bengal fill us with forebodings. We thought the condition of Gangtok’s government hospital – near the taxi stand in the heart of the city – would be pretty much the same. But we had no option. Sushma’s condition was deteriorating.
We took her to the emergency ward, which was open. To our surprise, the doctor and the nurses – all local residents – were like god-sent good samaritans. The doctor realised the gravity of Sushma’s ailment and asked us to get an ultrasound done at a diagnostic centre nearby. The report showed a rupture of some organs and profuse bleeding inside her abdomen.She was required to undergo a major surgery in the next half an hour. But specialist surgeons don’t come to the hospital on Saturdays. Four bottles of blood were needed for the surgery. We were filled with anxiety.
Again, Vineet Vinayak swung into action and contacted a surgeon. The doctor on emergency duty and the nurses were constantly beside Sushma, giving her all emergency aids and at the same time asking her husband to keep his cool.
“You are like a family member, don’t worry. Nothing bad will happen...we will try our best to save the patient,” they whispered. These words of consolation in an alien land left an indelible mark on me.
We would not even expect such treatment from government hospital staff on a holiday in our part of the country.While the doctor and nurses on emergency duty were busy taking care of Sushma and her nervous husband, a surgeon was briefing the Commandant over telephone: “Sushma stands 50 per cent chance of surviving if she undergoes the operation but if she does not, she has no chance of surviving.”
In Bihar, the men in khaki are hardly known for serving the sick and those in distress. They are known more for their brutality. Mr Vinayak, with his kindness, seemed to make up for all the misdeeds of the police force back home. He asked the doctors to go ahead with the operation.Four bottles of blood! How do we arrange for that? Four people with a blood group matching the patient’s had to be found. Again, the Lepchas, Bhutiyas and Nepalese living in Gangtok came to the patient’s rescue.
Mr Vinayak had many Lepcha, Bhutiya and Nepalese youths undergoing constables’ training in his command.He requested four of them with the matching blood group to donate their blood. The trainees came running to give their blood to a stranger.
The surgeons, nurses and assistants accompanied Sushma to the operation theatre. She underwent the operation. Her life was saved.
“Sushma; be easy...don’t stretch your are alright,” these caring words of a petite Bhutiya sister nursing Sushma in the post-operation ward were music to my ears.She is well now and capable of taking care of her two children and husband, thanks to the service rendered by the IPS officer and his men, the doctor, the nurses – all unknown to her in an alien place.
Though it was a government referral hospital, its wards were clean. The doctors and nurses on duty very attentive. This hospital in Gangtok was not home to stray canines, unlike the government hospital in the Shashtrinagar area of Patna. Sweepers were keeping the place clean and dust-free.“I come all the way from Patna to get my aging teeth repaired by Dr (Mrs) Hammal,” said Abhay Kumar Singh, Mr Vinayak’s father, by way of introduction to the lady standing beside him on the hospital campus.“Can’t you find dentists in Patna to get your teeth repaired,” I asked. The advocate replied: “There are good doctors in Patna. But it is impossible to get in Patna the care with which Dr Hammal repairs my teeth so skillfully.”
We were so busy attending to Sushma in hospital that there was no time to go sight-seeing. But we saw the human face of the mountains.
“Yes, you will always find the people here more simple, friendly and helpful,” said Mr Vinayak. “I enjoy working with these people.”
Sushma sends her blessings from Patna to the lovely people of a lovely state. And officers like Vineet Vinayak are always an asset for the Pawan Chamling government in Sikkim.

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