Serendipitously, another early-hour rower in another boat saw me, raised an alarm and got a number of rowers to turn up. With great difficulty they lugged me to a heavier boat, rowed me ashore and lifted and laid me in my car. Then they drove me to a doctor.
When I returned for a review a week later, he again examined me punctiliously and suggested a series of preventive exercises. He made me do each of the exercises to make sure they were correctly done and suggested another review three weeks later.
In every review, I found that, even in those pre-electronic days, he maintained scrupulous records of a patient, and made it the basis of an exhaustive check on actual and potential problems. A patient to him was not just a case, but a commitment. He felt he was responsible for the entire well-being of the person and would not let go of a single clue that bode future trouble. Like all doctors he relied on equipment, but depended far more on acute clinical judgment than on a plethora of tests.
In short order Dr. Gupta became my primary care physician, but soon also the principal wellness consultant. I persuaded several friends and relations to turn to him for help. If he felt another physician would be better able to help in a particular case, he not only called the other specialist but arranged an early appointment. I could not help noticing that anybody I referred to him stuck to him and insisted on bringing their family members to Dr. Gupta for consultation.
I found the reason for that. He clearly believed health was an integral thing and medicines were not the only means of sustaining it. He made no excuses for asking about one’s diet or living style. Faced by his interrogation others were taken aback as much as I was, but realized soon that he operated as an advisor as well as a clinician. His concern for a patient was total, and that gave me a sense of trust and relief I have seldom experienced since.
Waiting in the doctor’s chamber I always carried a book to read. When he noticed that, Dr. Gupta eagerly asked about my interests and we found we had a common interest in literature. More surprisingly, I discovered that, while he practiced as a traditional family physician, he had wide-ranging knowledge of other systems of medicine. He explained that, though he had started, like his fellow doctors, with deep-seated skepticism of homeopathy, he had read Hahnemann’s and other treatises and believed implicitly in the capability of other esoteric systems.
A bunch of hand-made birds adorned different corners of his chamber, and it took me time to find that he crafted them in his spare time as a hobby. He loved birds, had extensive knowledge of ornithology and used it to create remarkable life-like models. He told me how he collected the materials painstakingly, colored them and put them together at late hours after his work was over for the day.
Our friendship continued until the day I emigrated.
After thirty years, spent in work assignments in three continents, I was on a nostalgic visit to India, and I paused briefly in front of the neat little house where Dr. Gupta lived in the back and had his office and examination room on the front. I was told the house would soon be demolished and replaced by a tall apartment building, indistinguishable no doubt from a dozen other nondescript buildings around it. I tried to banish the thought and recall the sunny, cheerful office where I had spent hours with a doctor who always seemed to have time to listen and explain.