A healer nonpareil

Unlike other doctors, he was available for consultation even after his clinic closed

The institution of family doctors is no modern day invention. In the days of yore, kings and emperors had them - palace doctors. In the village where I was born and grew up, we had our family doctor, Mathamangalam Vaidyan.

Mathamangalam is our village and Vaidyan stands for doctor in Malayalam. He was a diploma-holder in allopathic medicine.
Our village hardly boasted of graduate doctors then. Non-degree holder though, he was quite skillful and his very effective treatment endeared him to people. Patients from other villages too went to him, evidently making doctors there envy his popularity.

I was brought up by my grandparents. My granny took exceptional care of me, even neglecting her own daughter – my mother’s younger sister - almost my age. Whenever I fell ill with fever, not rare in my childhood and boyhood, she would get worried and all her attention would be bestowed on me. That way I was quite lucky. She would ask grandfather to send for the Vaidyan in whom she had decided faith.

Grandfather would try to assuage her fears, saying it was not unusual for children to get fever and seeking medical aid was warranted only if the temperature rose high, but granny would’ve none of his logics. So he would hesitantly send for the doctor whose clinic was a kilometre away.

The clinic closed at eight in the evening but he, unlike other doctors, made himself available for consultation thereafter in his house that was nearby. It was service that had always motivated him and he had never been avaricious.

Quite atypical for a doctor, he always boozed up. He was an addict. However, he had never let his addiction get in the way of his profession; neither had it made him less efficient. I still remember his visits to my house in the night to attend to me. If the last bus had left for the day, he would foot it as auto-rickshaws were unheard of then. Taxies plied only in towns. During his evening house calls, he was blotto and always had someone with him, not so much as to hold his medical bag as to support his instability.

He left a valuable lesson for all doctors that high qualification doesn’t alone make for a good doctor, and medical service should not be a money making racket, what with reports these days of doctors involving themselves in the trafficking of human organs suggest. For them, it was avarice that was the driving force while selfless service motivated him. He starkly contrasted with them. It was these schemers who have triggered my memory of him.

Alas, our village was not fortunate enough to have his service for long as he died of cirrhosis in his early fifties – wages of alcoholism. The soft-spoken Mathamangalam Vaidyan was indeed a healer nonpareil.  

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