Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

“Namaste Poissons”


— Dr R Neerunjun Gopee


Every morning, said the father to me of his young son, he walks towards the aquarium as soon as he gets up, and greets its denizens with ‘Namaste Poissons.’ Next year the little fellow will be joining Standard III, and he is already enjoying his school holidays, having spent the first week at his nani’s place in the north of the island.




When dad called to say he would come to fetch him because the younger brother and sister were missing him, he wanted to extend his stay – unsurprisingly, given the attention and the love that was showered upon him, as always, by nani. Don’t all of us have such fond memories of moments shared with our elders, with nani – for those who were lucky enough to have known theirs — occupying a special place in our hearts?

Dad had set up the aquarium recently, and no need to say it has become the centre of attraction for the children, if only because it has come at the right time when they are on a long leave till school resumes again next January.

When I was told about how his son, without any prompting from either father or mother, by himself started saying namaste to the fish, accompanied by the proper gesture of the palms brought together and held up towards the creature, I could not help thinking how so naturally the child had ‘connected’ to a fellow living being and intuitively grasped that there was some identity to that living thing that he had to respect.

What a marvel indeed, the innocence of the child and the unconscious, instant realization of a certain commonality between him and the fish, which leads him to linking up with it through the simple but so profound ritual of a namaste.

Someday his father will perhaps explain to him the significance of that greeting, that it means ‘the Self in me recognizes and acknowledges with reverence the Self in you as being of One.’


* * *

Smoking = burning money

During my years of medical practice, it has not been uncommon to come across many a smoker, especially among patients belonging to the middle and lower income brackets. When I used to ask, as part of the medical history, whether the patient smokes, the usual initial reaction was a denial, in spite of telltale evidence to the contrary: the smell to start with, some yellowing of the tips of the fingers, maybe a cough and so on.

Then I stopped asking ‘whether’ and instead went straight to ‘how many?’ The lesson I learnt was that you could multiply the number given by at least two, so if someone answered ‘I smoke about 5’ it’s actually 10 (at least). The next stage was asking ‘which is your preferred brand?’

Smoking has a health, social and economic impact. Tobacco smoke contains up to 4000 chemicals of which the most well-known is nicotine, which is the cancer-causing substance. A variety of other lung diseases are associated with smoking, which also causes heart disease and narrowing of the arteries in the lower limbs in particular. Eventually these combined diseases affect the person’s ability to perform his work properly.

Cigarette smoke embarrasses non-smokers, and one can imagine the irritation caused to wife and children when smoking takes place in the house. Even if the person steps out to smoke, the lingering smell is quite unpleasant. Besides, the cost of cigarettes can add up to a sizeable chunk of the income, money that could certainly be put to better use. But as they buy their daily packs, smokers do not stop to think how much it all adds up to in the longer term.

I’ve done it with a few of them. One was a 31-year old, 6-foot tall policeman, accompanied by his smart wife who was a teacher. He already had a paunch, and since he was walking awkwardly because of a sciatic pain, this enhanced the paunchiness. There’s nothing so disfiguring in a man, especially if he is young, as a big abdomen, and the ugliness is compounded when the weight of it alters his posture.

That gentleman had not reached that stage but because he was quite muscular otherwise, the overall effect of his bulging tummy was not pleasing to the eyes. So I took him on, first explaining why he should get rid of his bulge.

I then proceeded to give him advice about stopping smoking, passing a remark that since he was married already he did not have to smoke to impress girls! To this, his wife reacted with ‘girls nowadays are not impressed by guys who smoke!’ Later on, I reflected that I should have asked her whether it is because nowadays girls themselves have taken to smoking?

I told the guy to multiply the daily cost of his cigarettes by 30, then by 12 . The result, I was sure, would be in the thousands of rupees, at the very minimum Rs 10 000. Then I requested him to imagine a scenario: when he gets his 13th month pay in December, hold up a sheath of Rs 1000 notes making up a thousand, light his match, set fire to the notes totalling Rs 10 000 and let them burn to finish!

Would you do such a stupid thing? I asked, addressing my question to both husband and wife. The answer was obvious, and once it had sunk in, my advice to him was to open an account for his future child and put the cigarette money into it instead.

I left him to continue the calculation of how much it would amount to by the time the child becomes a major and is ready for university or the world of work.

The figure came as a shock to him, and this is the exact effect I wanted to produce on him, so that he would realise by himself what an enormous error he was committing. Whether or not he would act on that and mend his ways I do not know, but least I had counselled him, and if he had the sense to follow the advice, it is him and his future family that would benefit.

Do not smoke – because you are literally burning your hard-earned money if you do. And even if you earn a lot of it, why violate the sweat of your brow?

RN Gopee

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