Dr. Victor Preetam Das, The Leprosy Mission’s Secretary for South East Asia and his wife Beulah Das came to visit us in the Hospital when I was admitted, waiting for Rekha to arrive.
Dr. Das had come to discuss the mission bond we had to serve out with the Leprosy Mission. Sam had a bond with the Leprosy Mission as he was sponsored by the Leprosy Mission for his medical studies at the Christian Medical College Vellore. I had a bond too. I was sponsored by the SPG, Singapore, for my medical studies at the same college. Since the SPG , the Society for The Propagation of the Gospel to Foreign and Heathen Lands, had no hospitals in Singapore, my bond was transferred to the Leprosy Mission which meant that Sam and I could do our bonds together and reduce the bond period by half.
We were delighted to see them in the Maternity Ward. After they enquired after my health, Dr Das gently broached the subject of the bond.
We have given it a great deal of thought , he said. We have decided to send you both to Bhutan.
We had no idea where Bhutan was but we would have gone to the North Pole if he had asked us. We adored him and were in absolute awe of him.
We’ll go, we said in unison, without even looking at each other.
I want you to take your time and give me an answer, he insisted gently.
There is no hurry. Take your time and let me know after the baby is born, he said
No, Sir, we said nodding our heads enthusiastically, we will go anywhere you send us.
Anywhere? he asked with an amused smile.
ANYWHERE, we said in unison.
I will give you both some time to think it over, he said laughing.
When they got up to leave, Dr. Das turned at the door and said,
Susie, I hope you do not have a precipitate delivery when you find out where Bhutan is.
We had to look at the Atlas, to find out where it was in the Himalayas. We were young and enthusiastic. We would have gone anywhere that he sent us.
Dr. Das always kept in touch with all his students, throughout their medical studies. When Sam was in his final year, Dr. Das was Sam’s guest for his farewell dinner at the Men’s Hostel. That was the first time I met Dr. VP Das, Sam’s mentor. When Sam introduced me to him before we went in for dinner , his eyes twinkled as he smiled and shook my hand. Ah, at last we meet, Susie, he said, I have heard a lot about you. I wanted to say, Likewise , Sir , but no words came as I stood tongue tied and looked up at a legend larger than life. I liked him instantly and we bonded.
Dr. Das had the looks of the yester-year Hindi film star, Ashok Kumar and a personality to match that inspired enormous respect and love among his team. My fondest memory of him, dressed in a plaid blazer, a bow tie and smoking a pipe, still chokes me up. He was always well dressed and the perfect gentleman. A classy gentleman with charisma. Sam and I adored him. He taught us so many things in life, beyond the pages of the textbook on Leprosy,
He inspired us with his letters which arrived like clockwork, three weeks apart, the time it took for the post to reach Bhutan from India . We waited for his letters . One letter of encouragement from him was all it needed to keep Sam and me charged for several weeks on the top of the cold Himalayas. He was a father figure to all of us, admonishing us gently when he needed to and encouraging us with pride, in all that we did. He was a kind human being and an extremely appreciative Boss. Sometimes his charming wife, Aunty Beulah to us, would travel with him and we felt that our parents had come to stay.
When you have a boss like Dr. Das in your first job, you are spoilt for life. No one ever comes even close. When he retired , we felt orphaned. Sam was his blue eyed boy and there was nothing that we could do wrong in his eyes. He trusted us to bring out the best in us.
Dear Dr. Das, remembered with much love and fond memories.