Life is strange. The best people you meet leave you early.
Dr Surbhit Choudhary is one such example. I knew him for only a couple of years. However, the duration of my association did not matter. Every time I met him, our bond strengthened.
He was both a very skilled doctor and an outstanding human. At first, I consulted him for an allergy in my eye. A month and a half later, when my eye healed, I took my mom to consult Dr Surbhit for a retinal complication.
My mom embodies the personification of anxiety. Dr Surbhit began the treatment by first addressing her anxiety. He had a remarkable ability to calm her. After putting her mind at ease, he began the actual eye treatment.
My mom has a rare eye condition which requires an injection in the retina every month. It is a procedure which needs to be performed in the operation theatre and therefore requires due formalities like admission and discharge. The entire process takes between 4-5 hours but thanks to Dr Surbhit, he always did his best to keep it under four hours.
He was a workaholic and worked through the week without a break at least two weeks a month. I consulted him mostly on Sunday to avoid a clash with any professional engagement. I once saw his wife Dr Aarti accompany him on a Sunday and I remember asking him apolegetically how he managed to balance his work and life. He told me not to worry, he had promised her a sumptuous lunch at Oh Calcutta after attending to a surgery.
Not many doctors are forthcoming to share their hand phone numbers but Dr Surbhit passed it to me willingly at the first meeting and encouraged me to WhatsApp him if there’s ever any issue. He would always reply to each text with utmost politeness. Sometimes he would embarrass me with his polite response making me feel I should have phrased my text better.
I have the pleasure of knowing many good doctors but Dr Surbhit is special. My mom spent the last three years staying a few months each in three different cities. This arrangement required her to consult different doctors for the same ailment. If a doctor in another city had a different take from Dr Surbhit and I let him know this, it never upset or troubled him. He would stick to his line of treatment and never rubbish any other view.
I often recommended friends and colleagues to consult Dr Surbhit if they had any eye issue and they would always be thankful after consulting him. Dr Surbhit had the amazing habit of sharing every update on the progress of anyone I referred to him, even if I hadn’t requested for it.
To wake up one morning and find his picture in the newspaper announcing his demise was shocking. I still cannot believe he is no more. He was my eye doctor and I met him just once a month. If I can feel so bad, I shudder to think how his family, friends and the people associated with him on a daily basis would be coping with losing him forever.
I lost my dear cousin when he was a teenager. He was extraordinary. I still miss him. I remember being angry with God for taking him away so early. I know a few others who left well before their time and the common thread in each one was their remarkable ability to touch lives.
Perhaps, this explains why they are prematurely summoned to the other world. Because Gods seek their company as much as you and I do.
(This piece, first published on March 24, 2016, has been updated)
Post Script: Soon after the prayer meeting following Dr Surbhit’s eternal departure, his wife and professional partner Dr Aarti headed to the clinic to meet with fellow doctors, staff and reassured all she will carry on the good work she & Dr Surbhit had started together. Five years later, Dr Aarti continues to do so with vigour and passion. More power to her.