He combed his hair and tidied himself up so as to look smart to the nurses, you see!

HE walked into my clinic - ramrod straight - a dignified, elderly, fit, Sikh gentleman. I knew immediately that he was from the armed forces. He was a retired Wing Commander.

"Doc, I need to have a bypass surgery", he said in a no-nonsense way. I went through his records. He had suffered a major heart attack and his angiogram showed critical blocks. His heart functioning was labored.

"Just fix me up good" was all he said. No questions about risks, complications etc. His wife, a graceful lady, maintained a brave, stoic, front, though I could make out that she was very worried.

We took him for a triple bypass. The surgery went well. His heart bounced back to normal. He was "fast-tracked" in the ICU. Armed forces men hate to be tied down. Action and discipline are in their blood. These qualities stay for life. On Day One he was sitting in a chair reading a newspaper. On Day Two he combed his hair and tidied himself up. He had to look smart to the nurses, you see!

He went home on the 6th day. On his first post-op visit he was smartly turned out. "I tied the turban myself", he proudly told me. All systems were good. In my office his eyes alighted on my father's photo. "Huh, I know this guy", he said pointing to the third man in the standing row (pic below) . "I flew him in my Dakota with a bunch of paratroopers in December 1971". Armed forces men have an unwritten code of mutual respect. I knew he was referring to the war of liberation of Bangladesh. I was in school then - somehow we found it fun, although I knew that Dad was in the thick of the battle. There was a curfew in Dehradun, we dug trenches in school, had mock drills and had a total blackout at night while preparing for the school exam in candle light.

MajKMSBedi (77K)

Dad was a paratrooper in the SFF of India (the then secret and decorated Establishment 22) and had been parachuted behind enemy lines in Chittagong with his men. They were part of the brave effort by the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini in getting the Pakistani forces to surrender. Anyway the Wing Cdr (then Flt Lt) flew the DC3 popularly called the Dakota which was used in the 1971 war. According to his memory, it was a twin prop piston engine aircraft which could seat 28 fully armed paratroopers. It had a cruising speed of 150 mph and range of over a1,000 miles. Thus it could fly non-stop from Delhi to Bombay!

He said that he remembered the sortie where he dropped Dad and his troops! On recalling that day he looked at his wife, twirled his moustache and smiled.

When I got home I told my Dad about this incident. He squared his shoulders, looked at my mother, twirled his moustache and smiled.

Dr.HSBedi (15K)A small world - no?

Dr. HS Bedi, MCh, FIACS (Gold Medallist)
Ludhiana Mediways Hospital, Ludhiana
[email protected]

The author is Chairman Cardiac Sciences at the Ludhiana Mediways Hospital in Ludhiana, Punjab. He was earlier at the Escorts Heart Institute New Delhi , and the St Vincent's Hospital Sydney , Australia.

_Small (59K)

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