A soul like no other

A soul like no other

I reached a few seconds early and there he was, waiting for me, immaculately dressed.

I had the unique and unforgettable honour and a rare privilege to interact with the grand old man of Kodagu and a gentleman of the first order, Field Marshal K M Cariappa 43 years ago.

I started my practice as a consultant Dental Surgeon in the small but beautiful town of Madikeri in 1970. Two years later, one morning, I got a call from this great soul for an appointment. Instead of him coming over to my clinic, I volunteered to call on him at his residence ‘Roshanara.’

With much reluctance, he agreed and the time was set for 4.30 pm. Knowingly full well his time consciousness, I reached his door step a few seconds early and there he was, waiting for me, immaculately dressed.

After the traditional Kodava culture of touching his feet three times, I sat down. Then he took me on a conducted tour of his house. In the drawing room, he had a couple of pictures of prime ministers and presidents which he jokingly called the ‘Rogues’ gallery’. There was a bronze statue of a soldier in the middle of the room: “I salute him every morning because of whom we are safe,” he said.

After this initial conversation, he came to the point. He brought four pairs of artificial dentures made for him by various doctors from different parts of the world with which he wasn’t comfortable, except for one set which was made by some doctor in Delhi. Unfortunately, he had dropped it while washing and it was broken to pieces.

He asked me whether I could make a similar one to which I readily agreed. After three sittings, necessary impressions were taken and on the final day, with all nervousness, I fixed his dentures and requested him to let me know if he was comfortable. There was no response from him for almost a week and I was so scared and restless.

After a week, at sharp at 8 am (when I used to start work), this noble soul arrived at my clinic along with my father Late Dr M T Aiappa, who was a medical practitioner. What he said I will remember for the rest of my life. “You have done a wonderful job young man. May god bless you” and pushed a small envelope with cash which I refused to take.

But he insisted: “You should take, since you are starting your life.”Few days later, my parents and I were invited for dinner at his place along with General B C Nanda and his wife. He told us that he was enjoying his meal after a long time.

On another occasion, three doctor fri-ends of mine were very keen to meet him and they requested me to fix an appointment. He readily agreed and invited the four of us for tea one evening. Meanwhile, these three doctors who were from Mangalore brought one more doctor along that day. So, we were five when we reached his place.

He greeted us at the door and said: “You said three of your friends and now I see one extra person. Who is leaving?” I thought he was joking. But he was serious and that extra person had to go back and sit in the car. Such was his style and his mannerisms, that serve as a great lesson to all of us. We will never see another noble and gentlemanly soul like him for generations to come.

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