Dileep Jhaveri, 9/9/2013
Current Occupation: general physician
Former Occupation: student
Contact Information: Dileep Jhaveri is a practicing general physician based in Thane, near Mumbai, and a well-known Gujarati poet and playwright. Many of his poems have been anthologized, and his poetry has been translated into English, Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Bengali, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Irish. He has published one collection of poetry in Gujarati entitled Pandukavyo ane Itar (1989) and a play Vyaasochchhvas (2003), which has subsequently been translated into English as A Breath of Vyas by Ms. Kamal Sanyal. He has received the Critic Award (1989), Jayant Pathak Award for Poetry (1989), and the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad Award (1990). Inside India, he has been invited to read his works by the Central and State Sahitya Akademis, Universities, and literary groups. He also has been invited to read widely abroad including at the Asian Poets' Conference in Korea in 1986, Taiwan in 1995, and such other countries as Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Most recently, he was invited to read his poetry in the U.S. by Georgetown University and South Asian Language Association for the organization's 2009 convention. Dileep Jhaveri serves on the editorial boards of Museindia.com and the Kobita Review. Recently, he was a featured poet at The Hyderabad Literary Festival.
The Poetry Reading
She was sixteen or seventeen, her respiratory rate was thirty, pulse was one hundred twenty, and temperature was one hundred three. She was coughed relentlessly, and her handkerchief was speckled with blood. For a long time she had been treated by a chest specialist with costly medicines that her tailor-father could barely afford. I had a reputation as a successful tuberculosis doctor among the poor, so she came to me for treatment.
Because of the daunting number of drugs she had been prescribed, she could hardly eat. The previous doctor was a vegetarian Hindu and had advised a non spicy vegetarian diet with lots of fruits. The young girl’s name was Nargis, she was Muslim, and her father was an impoverished tailor. She needed protein, calories, and iron, which these costly fruits could not provide. Beef was cheaper and more nourishing. So my first task required changing her diet and stopping hemoptysis. Also, it was imperative to start her treatment with basic first line drugs in the proper order and dosage.
Her breathlessness had to be improved, and pills alone would not be sufficient. So I decided to teach her some rudimentary breathing exercises. The muezzin’s call to prayer at the mosque ends in a beautifully sounding line of sixteen syllables. It would take about six seconds to utter this line. All she needed to do was whisper the name of her great and kind God while inhaling and repeat it while exhaling. This would bring down the respiratory rate to five or six in a minute while allowing the lungs to expand their capacity, strengthen the intercostal muscles, and stabilise her pulse. She was an exemplary pupil. Within a month, her fever came down, her coughing decreased, her appetite improved, and her bleeding stopped.
By the next month, she became playful with me. She also began regretting her extended absence from school. Yearning to learn was an irrefutable sign of improvement, and now the little Narcissus bud was beginning to bloom. The pallor on her lips changed to pink. Her greetings and smile were open and enigmatic at the same time. She was a child and a woman simultaneously. Her words revealed her faith in me as her physician, while her heart throbbed with indefinable desire associated with the Electra complex.
Her father, of course, became less anxious since he was spending a smaller amount on her treatment and had more time to concentrate on his sewing machine. Once or twice her sputum was stained with blood, but that was not alarming. Six months passed and a fresh x-ray of the lungs revealed some improvement. I was scheduled to give a poetry reading at a literary festival for two or three days. Because of this, I had explained exactly what to do in case of an emergency, provided her with the name and address of a reliable doctor, and told her when I would be back.
She did not return for her monthly check up for nearly two months. One day her father arrived with a glum face and told me what had happened. While I was gone, she had a slight fever and some bleeding. Forgetting that I was away, she had rushed to my clinic by auto rickshaw, but seeing the closed shutters of my office returned home. She refused to see the doctor I had recommended and died within two days. Thanatos had entered the space between her heartbeats in my absence. Her ineffable adolescent romanticism had blindfolded her and enticed her to the grave. The intensity of faith and extension of love may help healing, but being Janus-faced also dooms one to darkness. I used to scoff at romantic sentimentality in poetry, but Nargis made me regret my cynicism.