“Anil Kumar, you are going to Patna, cheer up young man, it is not a bad place, you will enjoy it”
I only heard the first part for sure, rest of the sentences were repeated multiple times later, quite comically by my 1995 batch mates in Canara Bank, still basking in the nice postings they got. Bangalore, Coimbatore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mysore, why they have been zeroed on for Patna of all the places for me. And to add insult to injury, a Bihari was posted to Kochi and he also looked equally collapsed!!! Both of us got together and met the HR guy for a quick swapping of our postings (deal sense existed then too) and HR guy simply shoed us away (HR sense too existed then – sadly though).
The dye has been cast – P R Anil Kumar, is indeed leaving my own country “Chowara” to the land beyond the unknown, the land of the Laloo and Aloo – Patna. Few of us who became friends over the three week training and were dreaming of a common posting at the most beautiful city of Bangalore, cursed our bosses, exchanged condolences, quietly packed our bags and left for our respective destinations. There were no budding romances to be broken, since all the good-looking ladies in group were married and had displayed big red headlights on their foreheads to ward off any potential Romeos.
Back home at Chowara for a five day break before my long journey to Patna. There was no phone at home and rest at home came to know about the Patna posting tragedy after I returned from Bangalore only. Neighbours and cricket team friends also offered condolences. Some of them added further insult to injury by offering help by talking to some MPs to get a transfer to Kochi, when I clearly knew that they cannot influence a Panchayat member also, forget Member of Parliament.
Neighbours and cricket team friends also offered condolences
We made a quick study of India map (No internet and Google in 1995 and life was simple), Bihar map and route maps to reach there, which left us with the one and only viable possibility –54 hours (only) by train and direct train is available only once a week……..lovely (disaster to catastrophe). Plus I had a longer route to cover, since I was scheduled to attend UPSC Indian Engineering Services interview the following week. Somehow, we could manage an Aluva – Delhi and Delhi – Patna ticket and last week of March 1995, leaving the place I grew up for 20 years – where I knew everyone and everyone knew me – to a land where I knew no one and no one knew me too. Least to say that the joys of getting the first proper job after good three years of frustration and toil had suddenly evaporated in thin air. I was quietly suspecting whether any of our nice neighbours (all of whom had eaten laddoos from me when I got the appointment letter) had given quotation to the “local chaathan god” for such a thing to happen. Anyway, all alone in the thick of action and boarding the majestic KK Express to the great -greatest “Dil walon ki Dilli”,
To say that IES interview, under the great domes of UPSC was bad – was a gross understatement, in fact in could not have been worst. Some bespectacled lady Ms.Bordia hauled me over coal and I quickly realised why Delhi has so many tandoors (only for these ladies to practice frying guys live……..). Some of the other guys around told me that she is particularly allergic to South Indians. Even with horrible marks she had given also, I got through the selection, however that is more of a side story now. Next day was the day of the medical tests at railway hospital and indeed it gave my life a larger spin……………..
“Anil, do you know anything about your body?” asks Dr.Sinha, quite soft spoken guy, with the first ever X-ray taken my life.
“Anil, do you know anything about your body?”
“Is there a problem Doctor?, Please tell me directly, I am alone in Delhi, I am travelling to Patna tomorrow and I am alone” my aggrieved situation was soon getting upgraded to panic grade. “No young man, nothing much to worry – your heart is on the right side, your liver is on the left and all your other organs and the circuit is reversed, rest everything is fine” (I could not understand what else was left now). He scribbled the medical terminology on my call letter – dextrocardia with Situs inversus. “It is like a car with left hand drive. Nothing to worry, one in a million people are born like that”. Dr.Sinha mumbled. I was only more confused why none of my doctors found it out in the last 25 years and indeed why I have been zeroed on for this and why not the remaining 999,999 from the million he spoke off. Here we go, in no time, from my own Chowara to lovely Bangalore for training, now off to Patna with my heart on the right side, alone and depressed to say the least. I decided not to call up home and inform at this stage that would only spread the panic further.
I crash landed into Canara Bank Pata Circle office. “Luv Kush tower” at “Exhibition road” possibly was the best building in Patna that time (staff there told me later that it was owned by the actor Shatrugnan Sinha). For next one year, I did try to find out why “Exhibition road” was named like that and nobody could explain. Just that it was a poor exhibition of how road should be, messed up and chaotic.
Canara Bank guys took me to the only mallu in the circle office, Mr.Seetharaman. By this time, god –the almighty thought enough is enough and decided to make a direct intervention for me. Can you guess, which place his wife belonged – YES – CHOWARA. I poured my heart out to him, including the “Right hearted” situation. He called me – “Mone (ever since he has mostly addressed me like that only), come to my house now, no need to look for a hotel” He therefore took the risk of taking a complete stranger home. I met chechi and two little sweet kids Ammu and Sanju, both of whom became my friends in a matter of minutes. I was always pally with kids and kids always found me funny and amusing!!!
Seetharaman quickly found out the best cardiologist in town, Dr.Mathur. He put me through all possible tests that time, ECG, TMT and Echo and safely concluded that the “right located heart” is pumping fine and is good enough for whatever time left for me in this planet. He only told me two things – moment I meet a doctor I should inform him about this so that he diagnose right (for example for a normal person pain on the right side of the chest could be gas related and for me it could be a heart attack) and secondly people around me also should know. Incidentally, while I was waiting for my turn for consultancy, the person who was sitting next to me had a heart attack (he survived though) and I saw him falling to the ground – it was quite scary.
…….concluded that the “right located heart” is pumping fine and is good enough for whatever time left for me in this plane
Post this, I decided to write home and inform (still there was telephone at home) and my poor parents panicked and called from some PCO. Despite my best assurances, they went around and checked whether the heart can be moved from “the right” to the “right position”. Doctors in Kerala too assured them that the heart on the “right side” is also “right”. My relative circles and neighbours spoke and gossiped for a few weeks as usual about it and the story went on.
Post that, moment I go to any doctor, I inform him, especially if there is a radio image like X ray involved. Otherwise, they call me back to inform that they had kept the X ray film “Ulta/reverse” and I joke back saying that the god himself had kept everything “ulta”. Among the first things I checked after my daughter was born was to check whether she is with heart on the “right position” or on “right” and as expected she was not dextro cardiac. I also read a lot in the net about the condition, it normally comes with some significant defect. Luckily in my case, it was just a normal functioning heart and other organs – but just the reverse circuit diagram. Most of the time, if it is in advanced country, the birth of a dextrocardia child gets reported in newspapers. So I missed my “one day of fame” way back in 1970. Still, the unsolved mystery still remains, what the doctors in Kerala has been examining me for the first 25 years of my life. All the “breathe in” “breathe out”, “cough strongly” routines, counting the heart beat on left side “where no heart existed”, remained unsolved like “Bermuda triangle”.
I spent ten months in Patna, I saw one harsh summer and even harsher winter there. I travelled quite a bit in Bihar, even to places where buses did not go – I travelled in horse driven vehicle called “Tum Tum” and sometimes travelled in goods trains too (standing outside the guard’s cabin). Patna was chaotic and unpredictable at that time. But people were very good to me and they treated me well – especially the locals. I loved the majestic river “Ganges” in its full glory and so full of water during monsoons. While she is in full force, it was indeed scary to travel on the “Patna-Hajipur” bridge. I loved the fresh vegetables, lovely bananas, night weddings (with all the “band baaja” and guys carrying petro-max lights on their head). I loved the chaos (everlasting and available on demand), peons walking in the bank premises without shirt (topless and quite hopeless too) and my nice Tamilian boss conversing in Hindi and landing in trouble every second day (what he thought, what he said and what others understood – obviously were quite different).
Meantime, in the streets of Patna, vehicles could emerge from any direction at break neck speed at any time (luckily not from bottom and top of the road) and any signal other than a “policeman with a large stick” had no meaning. I discovered so many Cul De Sacs (roads with dead ends), which I never cared to learn in the architecture paper. I stayed in “Boring road” perpendicular to “Boring Canal Road” always wondering why on earth someone would name a road as “Boring Road”. Sadly, there was nothing happening on that road back in 1995 to make it exciting too.
….in the streets of Patna, vehicles could emerge from any direction at break neck speed at any time….
Five times I travelled by train from Patna and three times, it arrived the “next day”, including the day I finally left Patna for Mumbai. Most valuable thing I learnt from Patna was “patience” due to one simple reason, if you argue with a local, my fault or his fault, I will get beaten up. Like all my fellow mallus, I learned it very early and I also could witness many of my colleagues learning it very late the hard way.
But Patna was solidly lucky for me, three other good jobs, few lifelong friends including a great Bihari friend – Mukesh and Seetharaman, lots of experiences and good people. Most of the locals then were also good people but frustrated and helpless in 1995. And I can assure you, the man on the street of Patna, work till their back break and you will wonder how their slender body can take such a size of load!!! An average Bihari on the street is never lazy.
With lots of Bihari kids in my team, I do share my Patna adventures with them now a days, like Shikari Shambhu sharing his war stories……Since kids are all my junior colleagues, they do not have much option but to laugh!!!
See you guys. With love, from Chowara, to Patna and to nowhere!!!!