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Journey of my life
Dr. Saumik Saha

On July 26, morning, while I was getting ready for work, I started to browse through the newspaper and the news channels to check out for Kolkata traffic. I browsed my social media accounts. Surprisingly, I got a very exiting request from Chetan Sir. He asked me to write something for the school magazine. Inspite of being extremely busy with my schedule, I made up my mind to scribble something that will come straight from the heart.

Back then in my school days, Chetan Sir was like a caring elder brother to us. He was the teacher of the junior school, and was extremely popular among us. I left school in the summer of 1999 after my ICSE exam. On the last day it was late and I was not getting any vehicle to drive to town. With my trunk, suitcase, and bedding, Chetan Sir gave me a lift till Kurseong, and that was the last time I saw my school and teachers.

I took a break from my OPD and took to writing after a long time. Immediately I started to feel euphoric and nostalgic while remembering those wonderful days in school. It was kind of “bees sal baad.” Well, to talk about these 20 years is really a topsy-turvy story. After completing my Class 10, I had to answer to the call of the selfish career…. All I had was some principles that I learned in school, some manners and etiquettes, some good habits inculcated by my school, and a fire in my belly to stand out in the crowd. Needless to say, the beautiful life thatI dreamt of after school was just a mirage. I had to go through a lot of disappointments and failures in life, I was heated and beaten and molded, and sharpened too, as well as mentally tortured by life itself.

I still remember days spent under the guidance of our then principal Mr. Morris D’cruz, Ghosh Sir, Banerjee Miss, Kunal Sir, Kenneath Sir, Rumba Sir, Richard Sir, Peter Sir, and many others. They were very loving and caring to me. May be it’s because of them that God has offered me an opportunity to give back so much to the society.

Today I am lucky to work in a humble environment surrounded by intellectuals and some of the big names in the field of cardiac surgery in India. Here at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital—College Street, kolkata—which happens to be the oldest medical college in Asia, it was established in the year 1835, people from all over the eastern region also Bangladesh come to our hospital for treatment. I work as the clinical tutor plus RMO in the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery. I am also the Cardiac Transplant Coordinator of the hospital, infact the one and only in the Govt. Sector of our state. I am involved in performing open heart surgeries, lung surgeries, and surgeries involving the vessels of the body.

Unlike school, college is a totally different ball game, here u r independent to the extenct that u can excel in academics to some genius level, get recognition, be someone in life, or u can look down to life and be an addict to substances, depression, antisocial activities or even are free to be a rebel who gets nowhere in life. I faced a lot of disappointments and setbacks back in my medical college days—thousands of things to do & manage in so little time, juggling practicals and theories at the same time, enormously fat books to mug up, professors and teachers with low self-esteems who left no stones unturned to embarrass a student publicly, failing a student because they didn’t like him/her, no appreciation for hard work, no encouragement from anyone. As a medical student I faced each and every hardship possible. Then the stage of my depression started, at one point in life I thought of quitting everything because inspite of my 100% effort I was getting nowhere—failing class tests inspite of hours of daily studies—but the thought of going home empty-handed without a degree sent shivers down my spine because I knew I had to join our business with my dad. Things that cheered me up were participating in college and intercollege events and doing some administrative and union work for betterment of the college, that way I made a lot of friends and that meant lot of distractions. I completed my MBBS at Nilratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. I was the college champion in sports, for four consecutive years, participated in stage performances, painting competitions, and various inter-college events ,I also gave lectures in my college and various student undertakings in various parts of Kolkata.

Whatever be it, my father was with me always pushing me away from my comfort zone to get me going, he was the most strict teacher in my life … I was not so lucky though … my father passed away just 2 days before my final medical board examination with a massive heart attack. He died on the operation table. I was in no state of appearing for the university examination as I was the elder son and had loads of responsibilities. Some of my teachers and my mother convinced me to at least appear for the examination. So with a grief-stricken heart I did give my exam in my “Gurudasa phase” and passed eventually, my dad was a very helpful man and had taken responsibilities of a few families, one of them was getting a girl married of a poor family, after dad passed away my first work was to complete his work, I am greatful to god that my mom helped me with completing dads tasks. He couldn’t see me become a doctor, and that is the saddest part of my life. Ever since then, there was no turning back and no excuses. I joined a cardiac setup, took up the subject of cardiac sciences. The next couple of years were very difficult for me—I spent weeks and days in the hospitals, examining patients and learning more, spent sleepless nights beside my patients, slogged and slogged and slogged till I had only 4 hours of sleep in a day. When I went home, my mom used to cry seeing me work this way. Yet I was not happy, there were still disappointments, unhappy patient’s relatives, ill-mannered hospital staffs, immoral colleagues, schematic and business-minded medical representatives, politically backed so-called Dalals loitering in the hospital campuses and misguiding patients’ relatives into buying wrong medicines and doing tests from the wrong labs, irritating nurses who work just to spend their time in the hospital, enter late, go home early and stick up their egos everywhere even when it comes to saving a patient’s life. No wonder it all made me humble and a patient listener and above all a non-responder.

Those were the days, the difficult days, but it taught me how to save a human being from the deathbed, and mostly helped me discover myself. I remember, there was a 58-year-old man admitted for heart attack to one of our ICUs, he was dead when the sisters called me. I saw a straight line in the ECG monitor. While I was examining another pacemaker-implanted patient with his problems, I immediately started my own protocol of what to do best, praying to God that “he must not die in my hands,” and miraculously he came back to life and was discharged 12 days later. He walked to the elevator himself. At that time, I was examining another patient. Suddenly, a young man of around 28years said, “Dr. Saha,” I turned around and the next moment he was on my feet crying. Later, after being consoled, he sobbed to tell me that his dad is the sole earner in the family and he is unemployed. He has two sisters, both in school, mother is a homemaker, and he is preparing for UPSC examinations. His dad was supporting them all and is alive because of me. I just pray to God that no son goes through what I experienced on the night of 21stMay, Saturday, a night of heavy rainfall. I reverted innumerable straight lines in the ECG monitor throughout my life. Many a times, even old men and women touched my feet, I felt awkward, people even wished to open a hospital in their towns just for me or a OPD to see patients there, but I will always remember this particular incident of this young boy as it was another morose rainy Saturday night when I was able to help an unemployed 28-year-old student who was dependent on his father.

In school, Rumba Sir guided me and trained me with every sport I wanted to indulge in. I was in the school team for athletics, cricket, football, volleyball—I won loads of medals and cups. Back in Class 8, I was the champion in athletics in my division, I am very proud of it. Things like these make me very nostalgic and I still feel I am in the school, it still feels like yesterday, leaving school for the last time. I remember very clearly that in Class 7 mid-term, I failed in mathematics and my dad was furious. Ghosh Sir took special care of me, and after that, I started buying math exercise books when we went for outings to town; in the meanwhile, my friends bought utility items. I used to practice math every night. That same year I got second highest score in mathematics in the final exam. Sir appreciated my efforts but I felt that I could have done better, my dad was happy but said nothing.

I did my high school studies in St. Xavier’s School in science stream. I was so silly that I wanted to be In the metropolitan cities, you have to have to focus on a perticular thing and stick to it because expertise in any field requires unwavering dedication,and believe me city students are smart,it was really tough for me to cope up with even the average guy in kolkata,u have to put your head into one single thing, even a genius can not engage his brain in multiple things all at the same time and complete all of them simultaneously. In college I was elected as the sports secretary, served a year.I was even selected to be the General Secretary of N.R.S.Medical College and Hospital. I realized that I was neck deep into politics and it was hampering my studies.My friends who followed other political parties were drifting away from me. So I simply denied the GS post quit politics and for that my party colleagues made sure that I suffer. There were many scattered incidents which made me realize how bad politics is for your mental well-being. I thank god for making me aware of this before more damage could occur. But joining politics simply because I was a good speaker,more talented than the others, and had a good personality was the worst decision in my college life. However,this experience helped me when I was the Health Officer In Charge of three municipality wards in Kolkata, when I was working for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation namely, ward Nos. 40,43, and 48 located all around College Street,Bura Bazaar, and Md. Ali Park areas. I had to work with the ward councillors, doctors from WHO, several NGOs, had monthly meetings with the mayor of Kolkata and the MMIC, and had around 200 men ,100 women and health workers, nurses, and technicians working under me at one point of time. Apart from treating patients, administration was my job—I had to conduct lectures, conduct vaccination programmes, train and teach health workers, speak in public gatherings as a doctor, visit patients infected with dengue, chikungunya, malaria , tuberculosis, animal bites, PUO, and many other ailments. I learned a lot there and it really helped me to think maturely.

I remember that in Class 12 I participated in local athletic meet in Dumdum and very soon was selected for the District Athletic Meet.There people came from various clubs,in groups—senior people, professional players, etc.—I was an independent competitor, and my mother went with me holding my bag and spikes.I had already won the 100 meters dash, 200 meters, and long jump.The last event was the 400 meters, in which I was going to compete. Meanwhile, professional athletes were plotting a nasty plan and I didn’t know it.They tried to trip me midway on the tracks; my spikes opened half way from the finish line,i kicked that spike out of my running space,and it fell straight on the judges table,well,who was the judge? our then sports and youth minister of West Bengal Mr. Subhas Chakravarty. I finished the race with only one spikes on,some people laughed at me,but I was disappointed as I secured the second position in 400 meters. Later that evening, while I was away for my physics tuitions, some selectors from SAI (Sports Association of India) came looking for me in my home. To make matters worse they landed in front of my father,who told them in a straight face that my son will be appearing for IIT and JEE exam (now called NEET)so I won’t join SAI. That was it … I left home never to return. Later the police brought me back the next day and my dad cried in front of me like a baby and left me to choose whatever career I wished for.I made peace with my dad and got serious with my studies.I cracked both engineering and medical entrance examinations with a rank of 44 in West Bengal. My name never came in the papers as I didn’t study in any of the so-called reputed coaching centers. Those were the days when I used to get very less pocket money,there was no place to spend. We didn’t have mobiles ,multiplexes, easy Internet access and malls. The cost of canvas frames and other painting equipments were expensive; so being an artist was not easy for me, my parents even discouraged me to be an artist,since practically most of them are living a haggard life according to my dad.

I always need these good memories to back me up when If eel down. These provide me that extra tank of fuel that we carry when we go for a long drive,the fire in my belly made me stand the failures of life the tough phase which is inevitable in ones life,and the sweet memories and my past achievements kept me going till the bad patch was gone,bad times always passes away ,its just the decision of not giving up which matters in life. Most of my loving memories are from my school days and I know it will remain in my heart forever. My school is my inspiration and my teachers are my idols. It had molded me and made me the person I am today. My parents had a big role to play in my life. They protected me from all the evils of life during my childhood and tenage days and kept me away from all the negative influences. The real world just amplified in me what the school and my parents taught me.I believe I am just a product of St. Anthony’s who likes to follow his gut. I always desire to seethe place of my inspiration. It’s been 2 decades since I last visited school …I miss every room there was , every field, every step to go down to the dormitory dining hall and the fields, every teacher, every Daju and Didi I knew back then, and everything that reminded me of the events that made me who I am today.

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