Thinking Of A Strong Man

Prem Khatry


Often times it is difficult to express what you feel. But somehow or the other the scribe is finding it hard yet imperative to do so in order to express the feelings that are overwhelmingly bursting in mind and heart of hearts of many Nepalis now. First of all, a word or two on the attitude and behavior of some social media users in recent days. Whether it is the national poet Madhav Ghimire or the highly acclaimed star in the medical world Dr. Upendra Devkota, the users have shown strange and unsocial behavior. At this time both these individuals are under treatment and struggling with all their might for their life.

Nepali culture enjoins the circles of family, friends and relatives to maintain hope ‘as long as one breathes’. This is not just a proverb; it has got meaning in it. Poet Ghimire had to even joke and make it clear he will survive to complete his unfinished work soon so he will live to see this happen. Instead of bothering for comment, Dr. Devkota chose to visit his home, enjoy the fresh air of rural environment that gave him energy and drink from his favorite water spring in Gorkha.
At this time Dr. Upendra Devkota is in critical condition. A person of great physical and mental strength, he already indicated upon his arrival to Nepal last month that he will no longer be wearing the gown, hat and mask and stand inside OT because he himself is suffering from cancer on gall bladder pipe. His well-wishers can only pray and ask for a longer, painless life for him. It is said his organs are not responding to the latest technology at hand. Result: as a renowned doctor himself, he seems to have given up further effort to work on the problem. However, the Institute he worked hard and made it his professionally and functionally first and emotionally second home would not give up. Treatment goes on as far and deep as it can.
This scribe was touched when his cousin and this writer’s senior colleague at CNAS, TU, Dr. Prabha Devkota-Kaini last week published an article on Dr. Upendra. In a very moving sentiment she related their childhood history including the school days and memories they shared together while growing up in the village. In the flashback was the village, the nature, their school at Luintel, Gorkha, and how they continued to care for each other’s health and well-being till date.
Then there was a letter a student had written and made public in the social media. The writer, a young lady, felt so much indebted but deeply saddened by the fact that the doctor who had done great service to tens of thousands and also for her, was in bed struggling for his own life. The story was written so powerfully that it certainly melted people who had heard about Dr. Upendra or/and known him personally. She described the nature of the doctor and how he had saved the precious lives of so many people and how all the clients would want to wish him not the end but a miracle that could prolong his life with health and energy. ‘You have to come back to active life, Doctor’, was the ultimate message. Like Prabha, she had spoken the minds of many.
The scribe fondly remembers how a nationalist, non-political campaign called ‘Jaagaran Abhiyan,’ initiated by Dr. Upendra, Bharat Dahal and few other friends, had made this scribe an activist close to him and the team. Through this campaign the doctor wanted to achieve one major goal: To see a clean, credible and democratic government able to function for the people of the country. Always against the indescribable level of corruption, Dr. Devkota would join the campaign’s corner meetings and executive meetings on regular basis. Even driving with him in his orange Land Rover was an experience full of lively discussion about the contemporary politics and the way leaders, his classmates included, remain so much detached from the fundamental issues of the day.
Health and education were the prime concerns of Dr. Upendra and he wouldn’t spare any leaders for their unscrupulous insight-less and weather-like political stances and lack of vision. It was hard to believe how he would find time to travel extensively to attend rallies and seminars out of his busy schedule at the institute he so laboriously founded and led for more than a decade. Today, he has abandoned the world-class facility in hospital like the King’s in UK and chosen to be in his own facility at Bansbari, Kathmandu, where he is struggling for life and receiving psychological treatment from his patients, friends, relatives, colleagues in the form of best wishes for his recovery and peace of mind at this hour of pain.
There are personal moments as well and the scribe would mention them with some sense of hesitation and humility for being ‘personal’. Often times, the Abhiyaan meetings were organised in the writer’s residence at Gongabu south. The doctor would arrive always on time and take his seat as the chairman and see that the team plunges into business agenda-wise right away. Amidst tea and at zero hours, he would also see the scores of medical prescriptions, x-rays and such for the writer’s wife suffering from diabetes and knee pain. ‘Take care of your diabetes first, for the other I can be of help; the x-ray shows no serious problem at the moment.’ It was lovely to see the patient smile every time the doctor was in the house.

Finally, in his four decade long professional career Dr. Upendra Devkota has given more to the country than he has received. Creating a new institution targeting the new generation of experts to take up what he initiated and move forward with the responsibility is what he has done in most recent times. Regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen in the next few weeks, months or a year, Dr. Upendra is in the hearts of many Nepalis for the new life he has given them. And, for the people like the scribe, his straight forward nature and vision to change the face of the country through another kind of ‘operation’ as the Strong Man always says, always remember as sure guide posts.

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