I was born in Command Hospital at the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune on 2nd October 1954. It is a special day as it coincides with the birthday of the great Mahatama Gandhiji, the torch bearer of the Indian Freedom Movement. My mother, in later years, used to tell me that I was born healthy and didn’t cry too much on the day of my birth. She did not have any out of the world expectations from me. She was more than happy to have me, a little newborn, in her arms. Just like any other mother, she wanted me to lead a healthy and successful life.
The forces of nature are nebulous and difficult to be overruled. Beneath my seemingly glowing angelic skin, I was harbouring a deadly disease. As the days passed, my skin colour started turning yellow. I was examined by a paediatrician, a sturdy army guy in his 30s with a well-kept moustache and grim-visage personality, on the 6th day of my birth and was diagnosed to be suffering with ‘Neonatal Jaundice’, a condition that takes place soon after birth. It happens because red blood cells start breaking down and ‘ bilirubin ‘, a by- product of haemoglobin disintegrates and starts depositing in the tissues of body, thereby imparting a characteristic yellowish tinge.
I don’t have any first-hand memories of those days, and whatever I write, I do that at the behest of my mother’s astute recollection of memories. For the ‘Neonatal Jaundice’, I was given conservative treatment at first, which included lots of intravenous fluids and other supportive medications. Repeated blood tests were done, almost on a daily basis, but the intensity of jaundice kept on increasing. My parents passed many sleepless nights in the hospital. Hopes were taking a jolt and gloom was the predominant emotion in the family. It was then that my paediatrician decided to subject me to an interventional procedure i.e. Exchange Transfusion. This is a process in which blood is made to pass through a machine to filter out the toxic bilirubin levels. I was made to undergo left sided exchange transfusion that very night. I responded brilliantly to the treatment and the clinical deterioration was halted. My withered lips regained their rosy texture; my appetite increased and I started gaining weight. It was the first major fight of my life that I conquered.
Little did I know at the time that I was born in a warrior-suit, to fight battles of diverse proportions in the years to come. Some people are born lucky; they don’t have to struggle much as they have all the necessary resources of life at their disposal. As soon as I developed an insight, I knew I was not one of them. I knew by my inner-voice that I have to work doubly hard to reap the results that are half worth their values.