Prakash Nirgudkar, the ever smiling Buddha! Part I

We read many stories in mythology, where someone gets a curse from a sage or a king! Then later the same person is given boon, conditions attached! In today’s world where everything you do is saved somewhere on a computer server, in text or image format! So, probably 2000 years hence there will not be any mythological story about Prakash, all hard facts are known and recorded. When unbelievable things were performed by humans, these turned into stories and such miracles were explained in terms of curses and boons! To me, such boons can be explained as courage shown by Nirgudkar family and by Prakash in particular to overcome impossible odds. The curses to me are destiny!

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I got my Master’s Degree in Metallurgical Engineering from COEP, the famed 150 plus years old institute from Pune. One thing I learned during those two years of Post Graduate studies was to do everything sincerely and keep the commitments. Prakash Nirgudkar urf Pakya was one-year senior to me in the Metallurgy department. We used to live in the dormitory. He is a pleasant person with an ever-smiling face. He is smart and very cooperative. After our first degree, there were very few students in the Master’s course. We were both busy and still had enough time. One thing we had decided was to brush up card playing skills, mainly Rummy. We had one more partner in this endeavour, Naidu urf “Todya”! Why he was given this nick name “Todya” is still a mystery to me. Three of us mostly had our sessions, in the afternoon. We had decided that our course timings were flexible, contrary to college rules. Sometimes we erroneously committed to play cards which clashed with some course. But the commitment was a commitment, nobody ever broke it!  

Prakash had so many good things in him but I had never imagined that he would be a great fighter, a survivor. The main trait that came up during the recent catastrophe in his life, was the indomitable spirit. What a human is capable of only comes out during tough times one faces in life. The old cliché of “When things get tough, tough get going” fits perfectly to Prakash and his family. I had written about Prakash in my blog a couple of weeks back, the link for which is given below. 

https://wordpress.com/post/panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/5910 

Yesterday, I read the book written by Kavita, his wife. The name of the book is “Surviving the toxic frostbite”. Below is the e link for the book for purchase.  

https://www.bookganga.com/R/7VXM8 

It needs downloading of book reader by Book Ganga. It can not be read on other readers.

The book is captivating, it is about the journey of Prakash when he went for a Himalayan trek; the second part is the horrendous event that happened in his life. He was a victim of severe frostbite; along with that he caught an extremely rare infection called necrotizing-fasciitis or in common language flesh eating bacteria attacked his right hand. The link about the infection is given below. 

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/necrotizing-fasciitis-flesh-eating-bacteria#2 

Even though I knew sketchy details of what Prakash went through, while reading the book I felt very tense in the second half. One suggestion! The photos of necrotizing-fasciitis shared in the book are not for weak hearted persons; I am not really sure if even many doctors have ever handled such severe infection. Obviously, the details of the treatment are all there in the book by Kavita. Hence I will not write about the details; but I am writing about human reactions, their behaviour, families and goodness of people under such tyring situations. Such good stories about humans help and support, bring back confidence in us that all is well with this world! Terrorists, accidents, economic crises are aberrations in real life!  

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Kavita, their daughter Nandita and son Prasanna have handled the major crisis in the Nirgudkar family bravely! Kavita is the person around whom the whole saga was revolving, she was the General. She was pushed into a battle which we will never hope or  want even our enemies to fight! Prakash in the initial period was as good as in trance! Even later he was so weak that Kavita was the one who held the fort! Kavita Salute! I can also understand the predicament of Prasanna who lives in the USA. He could rush for  sometime a couple of times but worrying long distance is a tough call. Nandita has handled everything with aplomb at a very young age!  

Human touch in the saga started right in the Himalayas. The team had gone twenty thousand feet above sea level, in an extremely difficult weather and terrain. At that height, Prakash had started feeling weak and his stomach problems started. Stomach issue had started draining his reserve energy really fast. As it is, at the height of 20000 feet, the body functions on reserve energy. The porters and his colleagues physically lifted him and brought Prakash down to the manageable heights. From there he was brought him into civilization in trucks and jeeps provided by ITBP. His colleagues were equally tired but had no illnesses, luckily. They rushed him to Delhi airport. During the journey, he had become so weak that his soiled clothing was required to be changed by his colleagues.  

His right hand showed a rash and had started swelling, and its colour had become ominously dark. All airlines refused to give him the boarding card. The airport doctor gave him a fitness certificate but still, he was denied boarding, looking at his hand. It was a blessing a disguise because when Delhi doctors diagnosed him for necrotizing-fasciitis, they said that air travel under these circumstances would have proved fatal. The doctors in casualty area at the hospital, where Prakash was taken were following routine procedures. The doctor from the airport came behind the ambulance on his own and told the doctors to treat the case as a serious emergency. Prakash was then put on the fast track and without even entering his name anywhere he was wheeled into Operation Theater for emergency surgery. Had this surgery got delayed, Prakash was already having a dialogue with Chitragupt; anything could have happened. This was Prakash’s first close shave with death, with many more to follow later. Airport doctor was the first of many souls who went out of their way to help Prakash. 

At this juncture, Kavita was unaware of the seriousness of the situation. She and Nandita rushed to Delhi from Pune, expecting to come back in a few days. They could never have budgeted what they had to go through even in their dreams! In terms of human goodness, the trek coordinator from Delhi, who was just an acquaintance but he went out of the way to help Kavita to get a base close to the hospital. Initially, he put them up for a few days with a lady; it was a god sent gift for them in the unknown territory of Delhi, that too under really trying circumstances.   

Delhi doctors managed to bring Prakash to the level of taking a journey to Pune. Flying was out of the question for medical reasons. They took a twenty-hour journey to Pune by train. Prakash was allowed to travel by Delhi doctors under two conditions. First was that a male nurse must accompany and second was Prakash was to be taken from Pune railway station to a major hospital! Luckily no events took place during this journey made arduous because of Prakash’s health.

I follow a rule of limiting my blogs to a certain number of words for it to remain readable. But this human saga that my friend Prakash and his family had to go through is making it difficult for me stick to my rules. I will share the concluding part of this event with you in two parts!  Tomorrow, I will publish the second part!

In the second part, I will write about Prakash getting back from the brink (his condition was still very delicate) and rehabilitation which was another journey for one plus year. 

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 Link for Part II is below!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-ii/

 

         

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Musings Circa 60’s! Eateries in my life!

My friend Suresh wrote something about canteens in COEP, on our WA group;  that took me back to my childhood and college days. My first visit to an eatery that I remember was when I was a child; I had gone with my mother and other family members to a place on Tilak Road, in Pune, called Jeevan! I was on the 7th cloud and I ate a Ghavan! Now I am not really sure if it was a dosa or the ghavan, both very thin roti type of bread, made of completely different batters. Later, I asked my mother a few times if we could go to Jeevan again. But she did not even bother to reply. Eating out in those days was something very rarely done. Then, of course, there was Diwadkar’s batata Wada (Patty) eaten during travel between Bombay and Pune. I used to eagerly wait for Karjat station to arrive. I think they used to give garlic chutney also along with hot wadas! This was the beginning of my journey about eateries, in 50’s.

My schooling was done in Bombay and I used to live in Dhobi Talao behind Metro Cinema. I used to go to school by us. Monsoon was the season I would eagerly await. I would cook a story that due to heavy rains buses were delayed and I had to walk home, a distance of about 25 minutes! Those four annas were used to eat Masala Dosa at a place called Kelkar or Batata Bhaji, yes only bhaji, no puris! This bhaji was the speciality of a place called Kulkarni’s, bang opposite our school at Prarthana Samaj in Girgaum. Both these places have gone away with time.

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One iconic place near our home in Dhobi Talao was Kyani’s. (The photo above) Bun Maska, chai, pastries and Omelette was their speciality. But how much money could one pinch from home? Once I managed to pinch money for an Omelette and a few times for bun Maska/chai, a couple of times for pastries. Ten years back I went there and had a full feed of everything, finally. Kyani is still around. My Mumbai story will not be completed without writing about Milk Bar behind Elphinstone College; custards, puddings and jellies and what have you! The last one in my list was Napoli Bistro opposite Brabourne Stadium. We used to go there during my Telang Memorial hostel stay on C road at Churchgate. We used to get expresso for a princely sum of Rs.1/, which we used to have once in a while. There was a jukebox in the restaurant which made us hang around for some time. One naughty guy called Nitin Khot took a bet with someone and somehow managed to pinch a chair from the restaurant. It was returned the next day!

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That brings me back to Pune of my engineering college days. Good Luck is like Kyani’s of Mumbai and served the similar foodstuff. There used to be a little more money in pockets during this phase which allowed us to eat chicken masala and roti! Wow! Mouth still waters! Bowing to the father time, now they serve Idli Sambhar also. Another joint for us night owls, was Olympia opposite Pune Corporation. We used to be awake with our other studious guys but most of the time was spent on serious discussions of the world at large, with special reference to girls! When we had some time free from these discussions, we would be busy in Rummy or Teen Patti (Flush). These serious activities would make us hungry past midnight and the only option was Olympia, famous for its Baida Masala! Boiled eggs cooked in a lovely curry! A couple months back I ate this dish at Fountain hotel near Vasai but I could not remember where I had eaten this beauty before! Of course, it was Olympia!

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Modern Café was our main Adda! Modern Café kept our gastric juices in control by providing us with piping hot Shira (something similar to porridge) and coffee at 5.30 am after all-night sessions of Teen Patti! In the afternoon the cafe would provide us with Idli, Dosa etc. At night around 10 pm we would go there for a cup of tea, theoretically to keep us awake for studies; oh yea! I also managed a Master’s Degree in Engineering too! Our main sessions in Modern Café were during our annual day functions. Preparations were done for a couple of months! I used to take part in these activities to hang around as Jaya used to play major roles in dramas. I was kept busy doing the backstage activity. Modern café had created a new facility at their backside called Bamboo House! This was a real cosy place where they had a charming manager called Shekhar. He was very talkative, we used to regularly have parties where someone from the group of 15 /20 of us would pay. Shekhar used to keep track of who had not paid for a long time and remind us that person’s name. The advantage of these parties was we could skip food in our common hostel mess! The money saved was money gained, which was fruitfully used on going to movies.

Out COEP hostel mess was very famous for the quality of food. Students and their relatives, friends from different colleges would come here for the Sunday feast. There were messes based on veg/non-veg food. Two of them, A & F were famous for non-vegetarian stuff. C was Maharashtrian, D was Gujarati type, E was Maharashtrian Kolhapur style hot food. Then later was born O club which had a mix of everything. A & F usually had the cosmopolitan crowd and the so-called Bombay crowd. I was in A club for two years. We had a guy called Aziz who used treat us to some lovely Biryanis and chicken Masala. Coke with Ice cream was the famous dessert of those times. I was friendly with all cooks and head waiters from all clubs. So, we could always “borrow” something from other clubs. My 3rd and 4th year were in C club. I was not admitted to this club in the first year because I was wearing a bold striped shirt for the interview. Medhekar and I used to be the first guys every day for breakfast for our morning quota of eggs. Another interesting thing used to be carrom games in the mess hall. There were some guys who used to be experts. But Bhave and I used to be Killers and we would beat the so-called champs. Just at the entrance of the hostel was a canteen run by Seva Sadan! It was really inexpensive and would sell home-made laddoos and Shankar pale! Next to that was table tennis room where would spend a lot of time. Even after marriage, we had opted for packed hostel food during exam time! We got married while we were doing our Masters!

Our major past time used to be watching movies! This would take us to different parts of Pune. Bedekar Misal, Sweet Home Khichadi and burun and tea at George’s in the camp were some of the famous places we would visit in those days before or after a movie! Pastries at NCR, opposite Jangali Maharaj Temple, were a treat. Near mandai we used to go Asara for very hot chicken! For us COEP gang Vaishali was just coming up on the horizon and was the place to see the Fergusson College girls!

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I could go on and on! But I must mention two places in camp! First one was Dorabajis where one of our gang, Nayan, Sharad, Ashok and others used to go for breakfast to celebrate birthdays! It was a real ritual. We used to sit in the area on the mezzanine floor. Then there was Latif’s. This has a special significance. Jaya and I used to go there as we were almost sure that no known persons will find us there. For Jaya from Sadashiv Peth to Latif’s was a big cultural jump! Until I told my friends, during my first year of post-graduation, about our marriage,  nobody had any inkling of our courtship. Latif’s was a great place “away from everything” in those days!

Let me find out if Latif’s still exists; its high time Jaya and I went there!