The whole thing was like out of a dream! From the moment we landed at the sprawling Delhi International Airport the events rolled quickly and merged into one long episode. The publisher, Mr Bhaskar Roy came to meet us at the Royal Plaza hotel on Janpath, right in the middle of the city jostling with swank colonial buildings of yesteryears. He took us through the following evening’s timetable and tried to reassure my frayed nerves.
There were two eminent archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) who took an active part in the discussions. Dr B R Mani, current Additional Director General of ASI shed further light on the subject of Soma. The discussion went on into the evening and the book was well received. Most of the books on display were snapped up very quickly and I was kept busy signing the books long after the programme was finished. It was considered a very successful launch partly because of the presence of the Kapila Vatsyayan who does not normally attend book launches unless the book is of significance and partly because of the excellent audience participation.
We travelled to Varanasi the next morning looking forward to the charity medical camp. We were rather anxious about the whole thing as the information about the facilities was rather sketchy. We were in for a pleasant surprise. It turned out to be a new hospital, reasonably well equipped.
On the first day, we spent some time getting used to the place and the people. They gave each of us a room to examine patients and the staff went out of their way to accommodate us. Part of the problem was the language! I did not realise that a large percentage of the local population, particularly the rural areas, spoke Bhojpuri. It is closely linked to Hindi, but still not very easy to follow. It became obvious very quickly that we won’t be able to manage without an interpreter. It took over 30 minutes to see my first patient! Even Sushma appeared to enjoy herself despite being extremely apprehensive to start with. She saw several patients with surgical problems and we saw over 100 patients over two days. It was tiring but enjoyable at the same time. The director of the unit, Dr Indu Singh was a revelation to us all. She was an extremely pleasant and hard working Gyneacolgist with a very keen interest in Telemedicine to bring modern medicine to the rural masses. She has asked us to return next year to conduct CME programs, interactive workshops with the local orthopedic fraternity and expand the remit of the charity camp itself. We returned to Delhi tired, yet satisfied with our efforts.
Delhi Public School; I was not sure what to expect in the school. Mrs Aditi Misra, the principle of the school and a very dear friend had passed my talk earlier on. But I was still wary of facing a bunch of students. The school building was very impressive. It must be to host 6000 students from nursery to school leavers.
The programme was started off with an impressive dance performance by the students to a Bengali song sung by Amitabh Bhachan. The dance was extremely professional and inspiring. I did not understand the song, but the dancers were so good that it was easy to understand the theme of the dance and the story behind it. One of the girls from the Editorial Board of the school then introduced me to a packed hall and invited me to start an interactive session. I was not sure what to expect and started off tentatively to try and see how much the students knew of Harappan history. I need not have worried. The kids definitely knew more about it than I did at their stage in career. As I went on, the questions came thick and fast. Their desire to know was unstoppable. Finally, the Principal of the school, Mrs Aditi Misra signalled me to wrap it up and go on to my talk. The talk again stimulated a lot of discussion. I was then invited to be interviewed by the Editorial Board of the school. This was made up mainly of students from across the school, of all ages with one teacher guiding them in the background. This was a daunting task as their desire for information was enormous. The session was stopped by the Principal again as the school time had run out. I was on the floor for over two and half hours!!!
There was two segments to the Bangalore launch. First one was a talk to the Rotary Club organised by Srinivas Rajanna at the prestigious Century Club. The venue was overflowing with standing room only for the talk. There were a lot of questions and discussions went on into the night. There was an interesting question to finish the evening – “Are you a Doctor or a Historian now?”. I was not sure what I am now! I am a doctor by profession and history is my passion. I answered it with “I am neither. I am, but a humble orthopaedic surgeon, a frustrated carpenter!”
The last stage was a formal book release under the auspices of the prestigious MES College in Malleswaram. Known for its extremely conservative values, I was rather apprehensive about the evening. The audience was made up of journalists, authors and historians along with well wishers.
There was a panel discussion with historians and experts in the scriptures along with a professor of ancient history and an author. The evening ended well and my talk was extremely well received. All the books on display at both the venues disappeared very quickly and I ended up spending last hour signing the books.
Has it been a successful launch? Only time will tell. It was a success as far as I am concerned as it generated a lot of interest in the people who attended the programmes!!