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Story of the different worlds
Dr.Rathin Datta FRCS (England, Edinburgh & Glasgow).FFIMS (Athens)
Story of the different worlds
PHOTO : Assam Medical College

I grew up in Shillong, the first 15 years of my life and left only after passing my I.Sc exams. That was in 1950, the year my father, a doctor and microbiologist also retired and built his own house in the city. Pasteur Institute was a research Institute then, situated on a large hill (locals called it the Laomali hill).

Although a large hill, it was but  populated sparsely at the top areas only and the periphery densely forested  with wild animals aplenty. We the lads and lasses would move around  in the forest with our homemade swords and kukris, bows and arrows and Javelins,  toy air guns,  looking for  Shikars  like wild snakes , jackals and of course ghosts who were expected to climb up the forest edge which ended near the river shore  after a narrow path. The riverside had the Crematorium and a little beyond was the burial ground from where we expected the ghosts to enter the forest and then move to our homes. None ever came, though we never stopped suspecting everybody entering the forest from the riverside to be a Ghost or a ‘petni’ in disguise. Saturday midnights  were our Special invasion nights but we never found any Ghost or the like. As we grew up slowly we stopped our vigil and moved to other  objects of interest away from the ghosts.

Ghostwise nothing happened till I moved to the Anatomy Dissection Hall in our Medical College. There were dead bodies galore but they never bothered us even when some of us spent a night or two lying in the tables alongside the bodies. I even took a formalin-preserved human brain to my bedroom, kept it hidden under my bed in the Hostel at the College campus, hid it from other  students (as it was a forbidden act) and studied it,  for I wanted to be a Neuro Surgeon. I met no Bhuts/ghosts/petnis while a student.
I passed MBBS with credits, completed 3 sessions of House Surgeons, was promoted to the post of Registrar, then a prestigious post, the only one in the whole College & Hospital. I applied for a D type quarter, for my mother needed surgery for her Incisional hernia. Promptly D13, which was lying vacant, was alloted.

Principal Prof. Banerjee who was fond of  me called me "Sabdhane thakis sunechi barita haunted" i.e. “be careful, I have heard that the house in haunted and nobody  wants to stay there”. I assured him not to worry. The Head Clerk while handing over the allotment letter did not forget to warn " Husiar thakiba  gharat bhut ache” i.e. “the house is full of Ghosts,  remain careful”.  I assured him also not to worry. Previous occupiers of D13 had briefed me "He is an American. Where our college was, there was an American Army hospital during the Second World War - the college was built in the abandoned building of the hospital over a large area when the Yanks left in the late forties after the war ended. He i.e. the ghost was called Phillips probably a Surgeon. A black-American, he is very friendly. He communicates through Telepathy (I read up about telepathy in the Library before moving in). I occupied the house, employed Biren, a fulltime servant from Barpeta - he will cook, clean the house, keep guard during the day but would sleep elsewhere at night (Ai gharat bhut thake, Sir, i.e. Ghost live in this house, sir).

The first day after finishing work at the hospital I cycled home, pulled the key of the door from my pocket -- but! but! the door opened on its own! Somebody whispered "welcome friend". I was bold but not bold
enough not to tremble, I literally shivered. I stepped in, "but who are you?  I cannot see you! where are you? will you kill me, but why?”
"I am Phillips, from Tennesse, was a doctor like you, a doctor does not harm anybody.  I can see you alright, but you won’t see me. I live in the other world; do never call me a ghost. I do not like the
word ghost. I lived in this house before I left your world. I had the rank of a Major in the US Army, by mistake your Liberation army shot me.” (Later I came to know it was Our Netaji's INA.) His visit was
irregular, may be once in a fortnight or so, but whenever he came we used to have long sessions, talks.... He had good knowledge of surgery and I gained considerably. I spoke normal English; his was Telepathy,
with which I became quite comfortable after sometime. Told him my mother, with her entourage - my sister, sister-in-law and their half a dozen kids of varying ages i.e., my nephews and nieces would be in for 3 months, stay till the surgery was over and their school reopened in Shillong after winter vacations. “No problem”, hedeclared. “I do not like ladies, shall gladly stay away, kids are too noisy and are uncomfortable. Promise won’t frighten the ladies either and the kids too.”

Three months after my mother and my sister had their surgery, the crowd departed.  Phillips returned. He said he had planted the tree himself and was happy to see the "Boroi tree"  (localy called BOGORI )full of
fruits in the courtyard. I could hear him climbing the tree and shaking it, heard the sound of fruits raining down on the tinned roof.
Next day in the morning it was gala time for the kids from the neighbouring sweepers colony, to collect the fruit in bags. Very generously they would leave a bagful for my office peon Samsul to collect for the surgical staff, who consumed the lot in an hour.

Lot of things happened thereafter!!  I worked very hard to prove that I was the best Registrar ever. I found my second mother and lost her within a month, the ill-famous 'Bongal kheda' in Assam started in
June'60 and I decided to refuse admission in the MS (General Surgery)  class which was due to start the next year, and decided to go to the  UK for FRCS instead.
Known as the most popular student of the college, and always very proud to be called so, I suddenly found myself to be on the wrong side being a Bengali. I spoke fluent Assamese. Few knew that I was a non-Assamese but it was my close ones that hurt me most. My professor who was known to be a communal freak started taunting me as “a bahiragata who was  eating away Assam's food -- tahate bahiragata asombashir bhat khai  pelaicho”. Victims of the riot were pouring in our Surgical unit of which
I was the in-charge. I decided to leave Assam, where I was born, brought up and educated, loved the beautiful land and its generally friendly & very kind people. Nearly all the Bengali boys and girls had disappeared...fled.
Sought counsel from Phillips, who agreed that Assam was no more the place for me, assured help and advised......So I sent signed blank papers to my uncle Prof. P.C. Datta, (who was then the Director of
INDASSON) to send to different places and strangely within a month my admission in Royal College of  Surgeons in England  was confirmed. Confirmed letter of accommodation in Students Hostel in London, Sanction of Foreign exchange and confirmed booking of passage to London port by Sea were received by P&O. In those days it normally would have taken more than a year, but for me every stage was cleared within less than a month. In August I applied to Assam Govt for study leave for five years which was sanctioned immediately. I was ready to leave Assam in September, but ultimately did on 1st December. Felt Phillips’ hand in every step.

Another significant incident happened elsewhere. Mr. Chakravarty was Secretary of a rich British Planter of Chabua. He was brought in with profuse blood vomiting. It was June '60. He was Bengalee, my
professor, a very communal person was not willing to touch the patient  or operate . I was compelled  to open  the abdomen and found a large Cancerous growth. I went ahead and completed the Radical
Gastrectomy but the growth had spread beyond, meaning he would have only few months to live. However the palliative surgery promised a smooth passage. After two weeks he was discharged but before leaving he wanted to talk to me in private. He told me "I am from an astrologers’
family and know astrology. I studied your palm, without your knowing  when you used to count my pulse. You will be going to London soon and you will meet with two accidents on the way, but will reach London on  time and will be a great surgeon in the future. But do not try your final exam before January 1965. As for myself nobody can save me. I will be dead within 3 months." Sometime in November we came to know that Chakravorty was dead. He died in Chabua Tea Garden Hospital from  multiple spread of the cancer, but had a painless death.

On the 1st of December, 1960 I left Dibrugarh by the morning train for Tinsukia to catch the evening mail train to Guwahati (then called Gauhati) . The railway line and the Assam Trunk Road ran parallel. An
army truck was speeding alongside, carrying about 20 Army Jawans going on home leave cheering us i.e. the train passengers all the way. Suddenly the road turned on the right to cross the rail line, the army
truck came on the rail line and the Engine of our train hit the truck full face and side on and carried the truck for nearly 100 metres and itself was derailed and on fire. Humans were scattered all around and
I was pushed out of the train door while it was still moving fast and  remember nearing an electric post for a head butt. I woke up, my head on somebody's lap -- I looked up to see who it was? It was Chakravarty smiling down at me. My fore head was sore, my finger felt a neat sutured wound, above my right eyebrow. (But he died a month back-- how could be here?) Next it was Phillips' telepathy – Do
not worry mate, you are all nicely stitched up."
I looked at my watch - nearly 4PM. I was worried (“do not worry mate, you will catch your mail at Tinsukia) but how? Again the voice said “the mail is running three hours behind time”. ???)

I reached Guwahati and  Shillong, later arrived at Calcutta with the whole family, who saw me off after three days at Howrah RLY station. I reached London after 16 days of turbulent sea voyage, obtained
admission in the Royal College of Surgeons of England in London and completed the course (15 weeks of extensive study of Basic Medical  Sciences}. But Phillips never contacted me and I could not decide if
and when to appear for the Primary FRCS exam. I found a job at the Emergency & Trauma Unit of a large  Hospital near Manchester. I had  just started the second six month of my service on the 1st of December when Phillips suddenly woke me up, "Friend wake up I have something to tell you. You are well prepared, take the Primary exam next May (1962). I know you hate failing in exams so take the final FRCS after January 1965 and not before. I have been asked to move to our next world from where I may not have contact with you easily. "But where do you  live Phillips? Who has asked you to move to another world?", I asked a little perturbed at the thought of losing my best friend”. I live right here next to you, just a dimension away. It is "Him" who moves us. Good bye.

I wondered and am still wondering?? What is this Dimension?? & who is “Him”?
I passed my Primary FRCS in May '62. In February '65 I cleared FRCS Glasgow, in March '65 cleared the FRCS Edinburgh and the toughest of all the England {London} in May ’65. I returned to India in June '65
(no failure in any examination), but did not go back to work in Assam again.

PS > I went back to Assam Medical College in 1997 November when the college completed its 50 years. It was their Golden Jubilee. I was invited to cut the ribbon of the inauguration ceremony as the highest achiever among the outgoing Graduates in 50 years of the college. In the afternoon, I was accompanied by one of my class mates to go and see the D13 Qtr, the last but one on the second row.  Saw the D13 number and knocked. A young house wife welcomed us and told me that she knew me. When we
told her that I lived in that house 40 years back, she told us her mother was also born in 1957. We were offered tea. As we were coming out, a small boy told us that the Qtr no. was not D13 but D28. We
turned to look back... it was indeed D28! ( I was told that D13 does not exist anymore ). My next wonder was ... who was the housewife then in the D type Qtr?

Edited by :  1.  Ms. Debeshi Datta
Mr.  Amit Datta

Dr. Rathin Datta, FRCS (England, Edinburgh & Glasgow).FFIMS (Athens) 

Surgeon & Sports Medicine Specialist

Padmashree Awardee, winner of the Bangladesh Liberation war honour 

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