By Dr. B. M. Hegde
"The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease."- Sir William Osler.
It was four in the afternoon on a pleasant Delhi spring evening, decades ago, when I had to deliver a lecture on some aspect of hypertension - I do not remember the exact title now - where I met a diminutive, fatherly, kind hearted, elderly gentleman with a very broad natural smile, chairing my talk. His very presence and smile made me feel so tranquil that I immediately felt at ease although I was to lecture to the "great" Delhi doctors! Our chemistries gelled so well that we became the greatest of friends till the day Dr. Guninder Bahadur Jain met his maker in Heaven, recently at the age of 80 at his own home, Barnala House, in the comfort of his loving children and their spouses. Thanks to his physician son, Dinesh, death was made dignified for him without the usual tubes stuck in all orifices in the so called ICU which, most of the time, is the most expensive but, useless route to heaven.
I think my lecture went down well with all sections of the audience and the President, in his concluding remarks, used such superlatives about me that I was dumbfounded! I left Delhi and when I reached home I had such a sweet handwritten letter waiting for me, the like of which I never had in my life, which told me what I was. We kept meeting every time I went to Delhi and Late Dr. G.B. Jain sahib came down to my University - Manipal - in December 2000, as Chief Guest for delivering the Convocation address when I was the Vice-Chancellor. He is the other name for true philanthropy. He donated a substantial sum for scholarships in our University on that very occasion. I would like him to have a title, a longish one at that, of a true infracaninophile!
As a physician he was peerless, as a doctor he was the friend, philosopher, and guide to his ailing patients, as a father he was the best that God ever created, as a friend he was genuinely sincere, as a husband, I was told, he was an icon, as a scientist he was curious, as a teacher he was a role model, and as a citizen he was the most committed to his fellow human beings – altruistic to the core. The best part of him was as a literary man. In the year 2001 he penned his memoirs Spring Through Autumn - An Indian Physician's Reminiscences and Reflections published by the College of Physicians & Surgeons, Delhi. After this came his English poetry translation of the Bhagavad-Gita - A Timeless Melody, which stands out like the Geetanjali of Tagore. It was published by the publishing giant Rupa in 2005, and received much acclaim.
He treated me like his own son, and I addressed him as "daddyji". In 2003, he published a collection of my articles, written over the years; spending more than two hundred thousand Indian Rupees from his own pocket and donated them to all medical institutions. I don't remember a parallel to that act of kindness to date. He also wrote a beautiful foreword for that book - Ancient Wisdom, Science and Health.
He literally built a few good hospitals in Delhi nurturing them in every respect. He was the much adored Medical Trustee of the Tirath Ram Shah Charitable Hospital - one of the premier hospitals of Delhi. He walked like a medical colossus over the Delhi medical stage for more than six decades. People of all hues liked and respected him. He had no enemies as he hated none but loved all. Medical students, practitioners, teachers sought his valuable and unparalleled advice, opinion, and guidance on difficult issues and challenges. He excelled in making balanced and practical decisions quickly. His infective sense of humour was as well known as his clinical acumen and skills, and there was never a sad moment in his presence.
After graduating from the Government Medical College, Amritsar, Punjab, he had the best of medical training in Liverpool and Edinburgh in the 1950s under some of the great brains of that time and took his MRCP (Edinburgh) examinations with credit at the young age of 26! But just before that he qualified the DTM & H with the coveted Milne Medal from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. His teachers included Sir Stanley Davidson, Sir John Crofton, Professor K.L. Wig - the first Dean of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College in 1973 and was one of the most respected Fellows even by the local Fellows of the College. He kept in touch with his Scottish and English colleagues to his last days. Luckily his son, Dinesh, also became a Fellow of three Royal Colleges, which gave the old man supreme happiness. Dinesh is the true chip of the old block following on his father's footsteps like his shadow.
Dr. Jain was a homely family man enjoying the company of his children, grandchildren, and in-laws. His only sorrow was his wife's precocious death which he used to repent to his last day. While Dinesh is a physician like his father, Naresh the next son, is a medical administrator, and his only daughter Sunita, a paediatrician of repute in Jaipur. Her husband Kamal is a well-known physician there. Of his six grandchildren, four are already doctors and two are in the medical pipeline! His family garden is full of flowers that blossomed well to serve the society like the gardener himself. May Dr. G.B. Jain's soul rest in eternal peace? May he guide us, all doctors, as to how an authentic doctor could live well even in these days of medical commercialization?
The best memorial for Late Dr. Jain would be for all doctors to live like him. Rudyard Kipling would have written about him thus: "This earth belonged to him - and, More - he was a MAN."
"A few can touch the magic string, and noisy fame is proud to win them: Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!" -- Oliver Wendell Holmes.
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