What He Meant To Me - Hema Shah

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After reading Profile In Courage and noting all his achievements, one may wonder whether he had any time for me. Those who knew him well know that I was the guiding force behind him throughout, and he openly acknowledged it to others. In the year 1962, I joined the Psychiatric Dept. of K.E.M. Hospital in Dr N. S. Vahia’s unit as a Psychiatric Social Worker. Dr L.P. Shah was the Registrar in the unit and was to appear for the D.P.M exam. He was a person full of confidence, highly knowledgeable, respected by one and all and looked like a junior boss to me. I was scared. Gradually, I realized that underneath that garb of sternness, highly disciplined, systematic and firm attitude, was an affectionate, considerate and caring person. He was extremely nice to patients, friendly with colleagues and helpful to others. We were working together on some research papers for Dr. Vahia, who was to go to USA to present papers for a conference. As I started knowing him more I realized that there was some hidden sorrow somewhere which was due to his poor vision. I developed lot of compassion for him. At the same time I was amazed that a person with such sterling qualities, in spite of his disability, was not only trying to compete with the well sighted, but also wanted to surpass them, which ultimately he did. When he mentioned about it I had only one shloka to encourage him:

Rathasyekam chakram bhujagayamita saptaturangah niralambo margaha charanarahitah sarathirapi.

Raviryartevantyam pratidinammuparasya narabhasyah kriyasiddhi satve bhavati mahatam nopakarane.

(The sun in the sky travels everyday with all odds against him, like a chariot with one wheel, seven horses trod by serpents and the driver without legs. Great people don’t depend on their accessories. They achieve their goal by their spirit and determination-- Translation of  the Sanskrit Verse above.)

He was so much inspired by this shloka that he always remembered it. Here was a diamond which needed proper setting by a skillful mentor so that it will dazzle the world around. We became good friends because of our common interests viz.: social psychiatry, music, dramatics and reading, more than that, the ambitious nature and common goals. I went to USA with a Fulbright Scholarship to study further and he started as an Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at G.S.M.C. and K.E.M. Hospital, simultaneously building up his private practice. He also started offering honorary services to certain welfare  organizations in the afternoons. Thus, he was working for at least 14 hours a day. He had a tremendous capacity to work sincerely, and with devotion.

After my return, we got married in 1965, fully realizing that a life full of struggle and hard work was in store for us. We accepted the challenge willingly and whole heartedly. My only aim was to see that in spite of his visual difficulties he should come up in life and fulfil his dreams. In return, he saw to it that I got all the comforts in life. He knew my strengths and weaknesses and saw to it that the best in me could be brought out and achieved professionally, socially, and at a personal level.

We travelled all over the country because of he shouldering the I.P.S responsibilities and that of other Psychiatric Associations in which I also participated by presenting papers, becoming a Council member and also becoming President of two associations: Indian Association of Social Psychiatry and Indian Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health. He was a dynamic person, hardworking and courageous. He had the knack of inspiring others also to do so because of his leadership qualities. He encouraged the students by bringing out their potential for going ahead. He was never jealous of anyone even if they went ahead of him. He praised them for their achievements and guided them with genuine interest. Even the parents of his students were his great fans. He always enquired about the family members of the students, because he felt no one was complete without family support.

Even though he lost sight during the last few days, he had strong memory of a person’s voice and could recognize them just by their tone. He had such a strong memory, that in one of the conferences, his assistant was to present a paper but the organizers insisted that he present it as the principal author. He asked the assistant to read the text ten minutes before the presentation and he could recite the contents without any difficulty, along with the slides presented.

Everyone in the audience was stunned. Such were the gifts given to him by the Almighty, whom he prayed to, day in and day out. He was invited by various universities as an external examiner and the students who appeared before him for viva voci praised him, as they found them to be more like teaching sessions. He was always popular among the students for his teaching methodology. The only difficulty that came up between us was the time factor. He was always punctual and wanted to reach every destination before time. He would get anxious when if I could not keep the time schedule. He even felt that we are going to miss the train or the flight to a conference. Fortunately, it never ever happened. But, in the end he went earlier, and alone, without waiting for me to join him. I don’t know why he was in such a hurry.

Probably it is destiny, for I have still to complete some of the work whichhe could not in his life.

In the end, I quote in Marathi :

Jhale bahu hoteel bahu. Parantu ya samaha.

 (So many great people have come in this world in the past and so many great will be born in times to come. But he was the only one of his kind.)





(Author---Ms. Hema Shah, wife and lifelong companion of Late Dr. L.P.Shah did her MA in Sociology from Mumbai University, and MA in Medical and Psychiatric Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. She went on a Fulbright Scholarship to the USA for further training in Family Therapy, Group Therapy and Individual Counselling. She worked in the BMC at L.T.M.G Hospital Sion, and KEM Hospital Parel, and in Seth G.S.Medical College as a Lecturer. At present she is in private practice as a Social Counsellor and Psychotherapist.

Ms. Hema Shah has won the West Zone I.P.S. Best Paper Award in 1975. She has been President, Indian Association of Social Psychiatry 1999, and President, Indian Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health 1997-99. She has also done a Certificate Course in HospitalManagement with the BM Association and has a certificate in Computer course. She is coauthor of Hand Book of Psychiatry along with Late Dr. L.P.Shah. She intends bringing out all his papers compiled in a book form soon. MSM wishes her all the very best in this endeavour. - eds.)




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