You will say I am Mr. Gandhi H. K. or Mr. George B.J. (Name). Someone will say I am a “Doctor or an Engineer”.(Knowledge). Others will say I am American or an Indian (Nationality). But in fact one really does not know his or her true SELF or real “I”.
Do you think that you really know your true self better than your spouse or kids and friends? No, you really do not know your true self.
You will know it better after writing your own short biography in your own hand writing and words. I present a sample of my auto-biography. You can also try and write a few pages in this manner.
My Birth Date.
It was the ‘Last Day of Universal Time’. Yet people called it “TODAY”. When I have written all events of my past years and of yesterday, my story will come to an end. It will be a day, called “Today”. We all have memories of past only and existence at present moment. This law applies to every living human being on Globe Earth.
I was born on Nov.-16-1924 in Naroda, a village near city of Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, India. I will write about my childhood, young age and student days in school and college. I will write about my marriage, births of children and death events of family members and friends. I will write about independence movement of India and part I played. I will write about my failures, successes and achievements and lessons I learned.
Thus it is not difficult to write an autobiography. Only thing needed is your ‘will and desire’. Start with determination and continue in nonstop manner. Everyone has something to remember, share, enjoy and some story to tell, and some message to give to growing young generation.
My Memories of Childhood.
We were financially hard pressed in my young days. My father Kantilal died at his age of 19 years, when I was only six months old and my mother Sitaben was 17. In Hinduism a woman generally cannot re-marry after death of husband. She remained widow for her entire life. She died in 1974.
Born in 1869, (the birth year of Mahatma Gandhi) my grand-father Ambaidas Gandhi was an adventurous and successful business man. Old records indicate that he was running three firms in the year of his death 1910. One in Rangoon (Burma), second in Bombay, and third in Ahmedabad. After his death two firms were taken over by local partners.
My grand-mother Roopaliba was a very beautiful but illiterate lady having no knowledge of business. Her second son Mangaldas had died at young age of 13 by drowning in a lake. She lived for 25 years after the death of my grand father and gave me wonderful love and moral support to my mother. Our Ahmedabad firm was managed by cousin brother of my grand father. He was made a partner by my grand father.
I see a dead body. (1934).
After the death of my father in 1925, Roopaliba managed our home until her death in 1934. I remember her beautiful Mona Lisa like face and immense love for me. Up to age of six years I used to sleep with her. I remember all events of her death as if it occurred only yesterday. I was 10 years old. It was a moment of great grief and sorrow for me and my widow mother. I remember I had cried for days and months.
For the first time I was looking at motionless and speechless dead body of my loving grand-mother. Being the only male son in family, I was forced by relatives to walk to the cremation place on the bank of river Sabarmati for performing final fire rites according to Hindu custom. After her death our financial conditions worsened. It was a challenge for my mother to run home and arrange funds for my school education and other needs. Her only hope and goal was my good cultural growth and education.
After the death of grand-mother in 1934, my mother wanted to know details of business and annual balance sheet from the cousin grand father. We used to receive only Rs. 25 ($4) per month from our "A.C. Gandhi and Brothers" firm in Ahmedabad in 1934. Accounts and any increase in monthly maintenance were denied by the managing partner. So my mother filed a court suit. It went on for next ten years. Ultimately we had to make some compromise in 1944 and give up the right over the firm after getting some cash money only.
My brave widow mother Sitaba.
"Behind every successful man there is a woman". Most people understand that this woman is wife. But now I understand that it is the mother and not the wife. Mother is the greatest teacher, living Goddess in the world, as our scriptures say. Wife enters the life of a man in late twenties. By this time 90 % of the personality make up of a boy is already formed, is very firm and not easily changeable.
A hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world. The cultural mind of child is molded more by the mother than the father. A good mother gives love and a good father gives money for education and teaches discipline. My mother Sitaba had played both the roles. She was very strict. She will not allow me to play in the street with other boys if I had not completed my home work. She taught me truth and honesty, self respect, endurance of hardships, but above all faith in God.
Sitaba faced many difficulties and hardships in her young age. But her penance (Tapascharya) were rewarded in later life. She was a fighter of truth and a woman of self-respect. She filed a court case to get our due share and money from grand father's firm. In spite of poverty she was very hospitable and social. She always welcomed guests and treated them well. Sitaba took interest in finding husbands for her many nieces and daughter's of many relatives. In India marriages are arranged by parents and elderly people and not by dating.
I can never forget the discipline, devotion, love and care she gave me in young age. I will never be able to repay her debts. She had raised me with great moral and financial support, which she received from her mother and four brothers in Naroda. She always guided me on the right path of family love and respect for the elderly uncles.
She was very happy to see her five well educated grand-children at the time of her death (at her age of 67), in 1974. She suffered a short illness of stomach cancer. My two daughters Ila and Varsha, who were in America, rushed to India on hearing the news of her terminal illness.
We moved from Naroda to Ahmedabad in our own bungalow on C.G Road in Ellisbridge area in 1961. She was very happy at this place with her grand children. She did many religious activities. Now she started her pilgrimages and visited many temples of India. She has written a nice travelogue of her pilgrimages. Day and night she would sing devotional songs. Daily she would go to a nearby Shiva temple in early morning at 5 a.m. to offer prayers to Lord. She was a devoted and compassionate lady. Seeing a poor beggar she would give alms, clothes, food etc.
When I retired from private practice, I converted my clinic into a charitable medical center and created a charitable trust in her name in 1981. But I had to close it within two years, for want of service minded doctors and devoted staff.
Marriage, children and family.
After the death of grand mother, my mother Sitaba and me were only two individuals in our home. So I was married on March-8-1943, due to wish of my mother and relatives. It was an arranged marriage by relatives. Mostly we stayed with joint family of four maternal uncles at Naroda. It was a village located 5 miles from Ahmedabad, now a part of mega-city of Ahmedabad. My maternal grand father Ishverbhai Patel was a leading farmer (Mukhi) in Naroda. It was a big and caring family.
I became father of first daughter Ila, in 1946, the first year of medical college. My second daughter Varsha was born in 1950, the last year of medical college.
Let me explain, why I got married during my student age.
We have a custom of early marriages. I had passed with good grades in high school. Boys of my age were getting married. To add a family member, moral support and help in the legal cases going on in the courts, my mother and uncles wished I should get married. She selected the girl and I got married without dating, arguments or protest. The moral support and good advice of my father-in-law Kunvarlal Bapuji worked. All court cases got settled with his compromising attitudes, guidance and wisdom in 1944-45.
Part II. I am always a student.
I joined school at age of seven, but I have always secured A grades in class from the start. My rank remained first or second in all grades. Today in India and abroad I see three year old kids sent to K.G.. I feel piety for them. This is the age for playing. Parents want their children to become genius doctors like Doughy Houser and scholars like Einstein. But they forget that geniuses are born and not made by sending children to school at very early age. Parents and teachers can only mold their characters by teaching good morals and teaching history, maths etc.
I remember all the good grades in schools and colleges I scored. I was first in Ahmedabad center (among 42,000 students) in the high school graduation test (Matric) of Gujarat State in 1941. I was first class first in biology- Intermediate Science (B-Group) examination of Gujarat university in 1945 and third among all the students admitted to medical college in Bombay State of British India. Bombay State included districts of Sindh (today in Pakistan), Gujarat, Vidharbha, and State of Maharastra.
I can never forget the days of economic difficulties (Tapas) that a bright student has to face for getting education in early years of life. I had to get loans for books and fees from relatives and friends besides some scholarships from charitable institutions. I did part time jobs to continue my studies. Finally I graduated in medicine from K.E.M. Hospital, Bombay in 1950. I wanted to continue my studies and become a surgeon. But I had to give up my dream of surgery and start family practice in a village for earning money due to family needs, and financial responsibilities.
Economic conditions now improved. To fulfill my dream of becoming a surgeon, I enrolled as an external PG student in 196O after 10 years of practice, at suggestion of my old friend Dr. P. P. Mehta. He was a good teacher and popular physician of Ahmedabad. I passed M.S (part I) at the first trial. Regular students needed two or three trials to pass this. I appeared for final part II in 1964 (after 3 years). For the first time I failed in this exam. I know it was due to increasing practice, family responsibility and lack of time for studies.
After coming to America I appeared for the E.C.F.M.G. in 1983. My score was 66 % without great preparations. I joined computer courses, medical billing courses and income tax courses in USA to learn the tax laws of this country. I always read new thoughts from any corner on any subject. But now I spend more time in reading and writing on religious subjects. Because I know that if I don't give out my thoughts, views, and gained knowledge and personal experiences by writing or speaking on audio-tapes, my acquired knowledge will die with me. It is with this kind of self realization, I write books, magazines, booklets and short flyers since last 10 years. I have no aim of any financial gains. I also do not know who will read my literature. But I feel like writing and I write. This kind of attitude is described in the Gita as “NishKama Karma Bhav”.
Hopes and dreams of bright future give courage and keep us alive. We do many activities (Karma) for survival, gaining knowledge, progress and getting financial prosperity for self and family members. But we forget God until diseases, old age and difficulties arrive in life. We are never conscious of the constant changes occurring in our body, mind, intellect, knowledge and ever changing human relations.
With passage of time my gross body, places where I lived, relatives and my economic conditions have changed. But the changeless soul within me is same. It does not change and my knowledge is ever increasing. These changes occur according to fixed laws of God, but I was not aware of this in my young days and youth period. All material things are constantly changing according to fixed laws of mother nature. This is nicely said in the following verse.
Mayaadhyakshane prakrutihi sooyete sacharaacharam
Hetunanena Kaunteya jagat viparivartate
The Gita. (Ch. IX- 10).
"I pervade inside and outside every (non-living and living- Jad and Chetana) object in the universe. Constant changes occur in the gross bodies according to fixed rules (laws of mother nature - Prakruti) made and supervised also by ME".
This is an ever changing universe. All material bodies undergo fixed changes. A new born baby becomes a child, then a teenager, a youth, and an old man. The diseases and death also occur according fixed design of God. With spoken words and knowledge gained we can understand these changes. With our own eyes we can see, understand and experience these changes.
Once I was son of my mother and father, and grand-son of my grand-mother. Then I was a student of many teachers (Gurus) in schools and colleges. After my marriage in 1943, I became a husband, then a father of five children. Today I am grand-father of 10 grand-children. But I am still a young and curious student.
There is a blank unrecorded empty disk in every brain. There is always plenty of room for new thoughts and new ideas. If you do not learn new thoughts and views of other people, and learn new skills every day, a good portion of your memory disk (called Chitta) ever remains blank. The following verse of great wisdom has always inspired me during my entire life.
Na chor choryam, na ch raj haaryam
Na bhratru bhajayam na ch bharkari
Vyaye krute vardhat ave nityam
Vidya dhanam sarva dhanam pradhanam
"Knowledge is the greatest wealth of any individual. A king cannot tax it, brothers cannot divide it, a thief cannot steal it, and it is weightless. But above all, knowledge is such a wonderful wealth that it increases by spending!".
Keep your mind, eyes and ears open and daily learn new things. Give gained knowledge to others who want it. Give it free, without expecting any rewards. Do not sell knowledge. Knowledge is God with you and within your self. Vidya- education or knowledge is the greatest wealth of any individual. Give its benefits to others at all times. It will increase and not decrease.
Learn new thoughts and remove wrong beliefs by self knowledge (Atma-Gyana) and the Gita study in a scientific manner. Read the life and thoughts of all great men of divine vision like Jesus, Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi. Read scriptures of all religions like Bible, Koran, stories from the Ramayan and Mahabharat etc. Remember that divine knowledge cannot be sold. This is Real Hindu Heritage or Vedic culture.
Good thoughts must be propagated free without expectations of money or rewards. Develop your (Sad-Buddhi) unbiased intellect to think with broad vision without any material attachments.
ALWAYS REMAIN A LIFE LONG STUDENT IS MY MESSAGE FOR EVERYONE. We immigrate to USA.
I do not know why, but by some inner instinct I wanted to send all my children to USA.. That dream always remained in my sub-conscious mind (Chitta). For the college education of growing children, we moved our residence from Naroda to Ahmedabad in 1960. The student in me also was inspired. I also joined the medical college as external part time student to fulfill my dream of becoming a surgeon. I failed in my last examination of surgery. But I was able to give best education to all my children in the colleges located in our area. To achieve this duty bound goal, I daily drove 15 miles two ways, two times to run my well established practice of ten years in Naroda area. I continued this life style and driving for next 20 years, until I closed my clinic in 1982.
The dream of sending my children to USA became a reality in 1972 when my eldest daughter Ila graduated in pharmacy as first class first student in her college. She got the 3rd preference Visa for USA. She was my first child who came to USA. One by one, other children followed.
Sweet and sour memories of joys, difficulties, separations and reunions are linked with the years between 1972 and 1980. My second daughter Varsha (Dentist) and her husband Mahesh Patel (Ph.D. in computer engineering) had immigration problems due to our ignorance of immigration laws. After studying Immigration Laws from this experience, I wrote my first book on immigration laws of USA. in simple Gujarati language to help average people. A medical doctor wrote a book on immigration laws of USA, without going to any law school.
After marriage in India, my third daughter Daksha (M.A. born in 1951) came to USA in 1978. Then my doctor son Pankaj (born in 1953) and his wife Kshama came to USA in 1980. In 1981, me, my wife Jashoda and youngest son Rupesh (born in 1963) came to USA.. My dream of 1958 became a reality in 1981.
In 1981 I decided to close my practice and stay permanently in USA. with children. My will (Hath-Yoga) to come to USA was very strong. According to our joint efforts and accumulated (Sanchit) Karma we (my family) were rewarded in 1982. Karma done by all the family members get accumulated. TODAY we all are in USA, a different place than Ahmedabad or India. I do not know about tomorrow. The laws of Karma have worked so far. Joint efforts (Purusharth) of family members are visible as progress, achievements of set goals, prosperity, and some failures also. But we should forget all disappointments and failures, and always keep positive attitudes. We are all fairly well set and happy in USA.
People staying in any country are like a big family. United hands of the people of a country (national unity), lead to country's prosperity and progress. The attitude of caring, sharing and sense of sacrifice is called LOVE. Love is fostered by giving cultural training and moral discipline (religion). For family unity and prosperity leadership, correct decisions and right Karma by all family members are necessary. It brings joy and happiness to all members.
Hinduism is not an organized religion. But it is a worth studying age old culture and heritage. It has many Scriptures, and Stories of practical messages of true religious life (Kul-Dharma) for happy and united family living.
Memories of medical practice.
After my graduation in 1950, I started first private practice in the city of Ahmedabad which I shifted to Naroda within six months. I practiced at this place for next 32 years, from 1951 to 1982. (TIME-PLACE BONDGE).
Economic conditions improved in course of TIME. There were successes and failures in profession and other businesses, which I tried. I have mentioned earlier that I wanted to become a surgeon. It was my dream of college days. In 1957 I tried to enter into politics, contest an election and become a congressman. Sometimes I thought of leaving medical practice and start business of building construction, pharmaceuticals and radio dealership and so on. I became a partner in a radio-agency and a pharmaceutical company. But I lost money as I WAS A SLEEPING PARTNER. I had no knowledge of those trades.
I had many dreams and plans of becoming rich in a short time in the early days of my slowly growing medical practice. No plan worked. Only my medical knowledge was rewarding me slowly but steadily.
For 32 years as medical doctor, I have treated hundreds and thousands of patients. Naroda in those days was a central bigger village between 30 surrounding smaller villages. During first ten years I was the only qualified medical doctor in this area.
I had to make home visits to villages within range of 20 to 30 miles, at nights, in rainy seasons, and during hot summer days of tropical climate. The facilities of transport were poor. During early years, I used bicycle, then a two wheeler motor cycle. In 1957 only, I was able to buy my first second-hand car for Rs. 1700. I used it for next 8 years. Some people could not afford fees for car expenses so they brought their bullock carts. I had to accept this method of transport and make home visits in surrounding villages nearly daily or on alternate days.
As required by the need of local people, my office hours were from 8-30 a.m. to 1-30.p.m. first session; and 5-30 p.m. to 9-00 p.m. as second session. I used to treat nearly 100 to 150 patients per day, seven days a week. (Only half day holiday on Sundays). It included all types of cases, medical and surgical, children, adults, gynecology, cases of delivery, ophthalmology and orthopedics, burns and injuries and what not! We had to make a quick clinical judgment, and treat the case immediately with whatever medicine was available.
There was no medical insurance system. There were no pharmaceutical drug stores in Naroda. We examined patients and gave all the medicines from our clinic. My fees were only One Rupee, for adults and 50 paise (cents) for the children. We charged Rs 2 to 5 for injection shots. Home visits charge was Rs. 3/- during day time and Rs. 5/- during night hours. There were no separate consultation fees. Everything was included in the fees for medicines dispensed from the clinic.
When I compare this style of medical practice with the prevalent medical system in foreign countries like USA, Canada and UK, etc., I feel that we did a far better job with less equipment, fewer diagnostic tools and limited transport facilities. Today the practice of medicine in advanced countries is getting more and more complicated by the entry of intermediate agencies like the health insurance, HMOs and Medicare systems. The patients pay premiums in advance for receiving treatment in future, but the doctors also pay premiums for mal practice law suits. Ultimately the costs get accumulated, and the burden is born by honest tax payers and the healthy people. A complicated billing system and many text books of availability of benefits have emerged. One most important factor in mental healing of a patient is sacrificed, viz.,. “the doctor patient relationship and faith in doctor”. This vital element has practically disappeared.
Our patients were highly satisfied with what ever we gave. If something went wrong, there were no mal-practice law suits. Except for an occasional mishap, due to drug reaction or non-availability of proper drugs, our overhaul results were fairly good. We were respected like angles (living Gods), by the families, our patients, and the village community.
I have forgotten the memories of thousands of patients and their illnesses. But all my patients remember me as their savior. My patients had great faith in my (little) knowledge and in my honest practice. Faith in the words of a family doctor is a very important factor in healing and recovery from sickness. This I have experienced in thousands of cases. It was not my medicine nor the diagnosis, but their faith in me was the greatest factor in their cure. If a doctor treats his patients with devotion and care, the memories of a doctor always remain permanently engraved in minds of his patients. This is the greatest earning of any doctor. I think and believe this after my experiences and conviction after 32 years of family practice.
Once I was visiting my nephew in Chicago, who had moved in his new home. An Indian neighbor came to meet me.
"Dr. Uncle, do you remember this young guy? He is from our place Naroda". My nephew asked.
"No, I don't remember" I replied.
The visitor said, "Dr. Uncle, You can forget me but how can I forget you. I am Ramesh, son of Krishnakant Joshi. You were our family doctor for many years. I had tuberculosis in childhood. My parents had lost all hopes of my survival. But you had cured me from a serious disease. Whenever my mother brought me for shots, I used to cry at the top of my voice, abused and cursed you. It created an atmosphere of a thunder storm in your clinic. But you have given me a new life. When Deepak (my nephew) informed me that you were coming here, I wanted to meet and see you after 25 years and apologize for the misbehavior of my young age".
It was a moment of great surprise, unexpected joy and divine happiness for me to meet that naughty boy Ramesh and see him healthy and well placed in life. I recollected immediately the memories of his abuses, mischievous behavior and the drama he used to create in my clinic. To see such a patient healthy after 25 years was a moment of great joy, and a sense of satisfaction and pride. There were no ill feelings in my mind either then or now. I believe that the true earnings of a doctor is to see such cured patients and the sense of gratitude and joy of life on their faces. Now I will record some of my public life and social activities.
I start a new branch of IMA.
After a few years of practice, I have always remained active in medical politics and activities of Ahmedabad Medical Association; and later on in the Naroda Medical Association, a branch of Indian Medical Association (IMA). Once I was Jt. Secretary in Ahmedabad, a branch of IMA, having nearly 1500 members. I was active on its Working Committee for five years or more.
Doctors staying and practicing in Naroda area were not able to attend the clinical meetings held during the night hours in Ahmedabad. It was a distance of 15 miles. So I decided to start a new branch of Indian Medical Association in Naroda area. I took the initiative and enrolled nearly 40 members. We started an independent Naroda Branch of Indian Medical Association. I became first founder president of Naroda branch of IMA. I remained active in its growth and all its academic, humanitarian and social activities until I came to USA.
This activity brought unity, harmony and friendship among the medical community in Naroda area. It helped us to solve local problems and was very instrumental in avoiding unfair competition. We arranged regular clinical meetings by inviting leading doctors from Ahmedabad. We learned many new things in fast developing medical science. We arranged family gatherings of local doctors. Once I became the vice president of the Gujarat State branch of IMA.
My Educational activities in Naroda.
There was no high school in Naroda. I had faced great difficulties during my student days for high school education. I had to waste nearly 3 hours daily in going to and coming from school. I had to walk daily a distance of three miles, and travel by train or bus from Naroda to Ahmedabad. My eldest daughter Ila - now 12 years old- was facing similar difficulties for going to a high school in Ahmedabad, during the years 1957-58.
I believed in giving the best education to my children, children of relatives and all the people of Naroda. So I took an initiative and started a non-profit charitable education trust with the co-operation of local people in 1958. We collected donations and purchased a good plot of land. The high school was started with five classes and 250 students. I have memories of fund raising projects, its growth and many social, legal and other difficulties we faced to bring this high school to its present status.
I had ever remained active in educational field during my medical practice. The high school in Naroda area was started in 1958. It has grown into a big tree having classes from K.G to 12th grades. It has nearly 3000 students, and the classes run from KG to early college grades.
At this point I wish to pay my respect and tributes to its first principal Mr. V. D. Chandarana. He was an average school teacher in nearby Sabarmati high school. I invited him to join our budding high school. We gave him fullest freedom and tried to meet all financial needs. We agreed with his all reasonable and good decisions in the interest of students and community. I have learned from this experience that when the trustees of a charitable institution give such freedom to a visionary teacher, he works with his fullest devotion and zeal. The institution grows, prospers. All are benefited in long run.