November 29, 2005

Hospital on my mind

A man called Anand Dighe died in a Thane hospital in August 2001. He was a popular man, I believe. For a crowd that had gathered while he was being treated felt very sad when he finally died. "Spontaneously", there at the hospital, they expressed their "grief."

And this is how they did it.

They destroyed the ground floor of the hospital. They looted and burned a Raymonds showroom nearby, then burned a godown opposite. They stole the petrol from several ambulances, overturned them and set them on fire. They smashed over 30 cars in the hospital compound, and three buses outside. They assaulted several journalists: two, from the programme Aaj Tak, were so afraid they would be killed that they fell to the ground and feigned death till the crowd lost interest. They chased nurses and patients all over the building, battering down the doors some nurses hid behind. One patient who had to run for his life had actually been in the bed adjacent to Dighe's in the ICU, under treatment for renal failure. His son told the press: "I had given up hope. I thought I would lose my father."

Several patients were hurriedly moved to other hospitals. I don't know if anyone noticed the irony that one of those hospitals was named "Chhatrapati Shivaji."

So badly vandalised was this Singhania hospital, that it had to shut down soon after. Just like that, a city lost an entire hospital. "Spontaneous grief", don't forget.

Why do I remember this incident, four years on?

Well, Dighe was, of course, a member of the Shiv Sena. This party is now reeling under the weight of an ancient Indian tradition: the bitter family feud. The nephew has quit in a huff, angry with the son (his cousin) for years of put-downs. He is widely seen as the more natural heir than his cousin to the party's forty-year tradition of street thuggery. Trashing a major hospital, of course, went right along with that tradition.

But on Saturday, the nephew's huff took him to, of all places, Nashik. There, entirely by chance, he bumped into another man. This other man had quite literally dropped out of the sky. He had just landed in Nashik after breaking the world record for the highest hot-air balloon ascent, nearly 70,000 feet. His son was there to meet him, and together, they ran into the nephew-in-a-huff. "Hi Raj," the son said, "my father has just broken the world record." The newspaper picture of this meeting is priceless: the nephew's huff is written all over his face.

And who was the man who dropped from the sky? Aviation and ballooning enthusiast, patriarch of the Singhania family, the industrialist Vijaypat Singhania. The very man whose hospital was destroyed by the nephew's own party colleagues, four years ago.

Even with the euphoria of the world-record to savour, I imagine Singhania must have had thoughts of that hospital on meeting the nephew. What went through his mind, I wonder? Anger at the mindless violence the man in front of him, and his party, wear as a badge of honour -- the violence that consumed that hospital? Satisfaction that this feud has plunged the party into a deep crisis? Revulsion? Indifference?

I don't know. But I remember that obscene assault on a hospital and its terrorized patients today. And I think: a party steeped in violence for years can only expect to be consumed by violence itself. That's what this feud is really about, and I simply cannot bring myself to give a damn.


Anonymous said...

As the old saying goes ' He who lives by the sword dies by it'. I agree the Shiv Sena collapse will be violent. But my concern is for ordinary innocent Bombayites who will be affected by this violence.
Vijaypat Singhania should have simply not have acknowledged Raj. If these people do not call Raj & Co's bluff, then who will?
However it is all the more concerning that the Congress is also supping with devils like Narayan Rane etc..
Rediff also has a story on how Smita Thackeray's movies are now lying unsold.

Anonymous said...

Here is the link to my earlier story:

But look at who is the replacement. Shows how spineless our filmakers are.

Shinu Mathew said...

"what you sow is what you reap" is what Shivsena must be feeling now! How Rane gave a dose of their own medicine in Malwan!!
@ spontaneous grief
Nowadays public outrage is more or less the deciding factor. Be it in Sarabjit case, or Saurav Ganguly's exclusion, media and in some cases even courts are swayed by this public reaction.

Anonymous said...

It is good that Shiv Sena got a dose of its own medicine in Malwan-namely its thuggish attitude. However it is uneasy that somebody like Narayan Rane is part of the congress.
Where are the congress high principles of 'secularism'?
As Tavleen Singh has mentioned in her column - Do rank communalists like Rane and Nirupam go through some 'shuddhikaran'process of becoming secular just by joining the Congress?
I think we just have to put up with some more street-thuggishness from the Congress.
If Raj Thackeray goes to the Congress, then it will be the ultimate irony.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Nikhil, there are no principles of "secularism" and it's a waste of your time and energy (not to mention Tavleen Singh's) looking for them.

Politics is about opportunism, and that's all. Politicians will go where the pickings seem best; parties will admit the guys they think will bring them the best returns. Neither the Congress or the BJP or any other party has any particular use for principles or ethics or ideology -- unless it is to beat the other guy with.

That the Congress now has goons like Rane is no great departure from their tradition: after all, they have harboured thugs like Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar for decades.

When Sanjay Nirupam says that the Congress will admit Thackeray if he "adopts" the Congress "ideology", the right thing to do is to laugh in his face. Wish some of those journalists had done that.

Anonymous said...

It is true that the congress had a tradition of goons - predominantly after Sanjay Gandhi's rise. But in Bombay they also had a few decent folks such as Sunil Dutt and Murli Deora.

Unknown said...

I live in Thane. Although I'm in Chennai now, I was in Thane when Anand Dighe passed away and the Shiv Sainiks ran amok.

The hospital was a sorry sight :/

Actually, the day after the incident, Saamna had the audacity to proclaim that "very little damage was actually done". Two things so wrong about that:

1. Does the "amount" of damage matter? Is it not bad enough that any damage was done at al?

2. Outright lie. I went for a walk that day in the evening, and saw the gutted Thane Municipal Transport buses, and debris sctrewn all around the place.

The saddest part is, Anand Dighe was a pretty nice guy who did quite a bit for his ward in Thane...

wise donkey said...

well said

Anonymous said...

I think Saamna has different standards for damage. Shiv Sena would have wanted all of Thane to be subjected to looting, arson and destruction. That would have been substantial damage.

Anonymous said...

Hope this Raj guy joins Congress and becomes secular overnight like his other buddies Nirupam, Rane and Bhujbal. Or maybe now that Thackery's announced 'retirement' entire party joins Congress (save Raj and Uday) and everyone will be secular!

BTW, why you surprised about Singhania and this Shivsena fellow. Anything done differently by a career IAS babu like J B D'Souza who's in construction business with hut demolishers of Goregon? Even a decent, highly educated, qualified Sardar like Manmohan can work as very very seniorleader (well, in theory) of the very Congress that butchered thousands of sikhs, what's wrong with Singhania and shivsena guy making up? If Singhania wants to build more hospitals he'll still have to go licking boots of this politicians - dosen't matter they come from those who 'spontaneously kill' in grief or those who 'spontaneously riot' in grief.

Yeh hai India meri jahan.

BTW, entire school was gutted in Mau about a month ago. Who give's a rat's ass? Right Dilip?