“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Dr. Khuroo shares his experiences from a time and era when getting admission to the GMC Srinagar was not an important thing, but the ONLY thing

(Dr. Mohammad Sultan Khuroo was born in Sopore. He attended the Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, receiving his MBBS and MD from the University of Kashmir. He specialized in Gastroenterology from PGI Chandigarh, and subsequently earned three prestigious international fellowships – FRCP, FACP and MRCP. He is currently the owner-director of Dr. Khuroo’s Medical Clinic in Srinagar.)

Trip Down the Memory Lane

Government Medical College Srinagar is celebrating golden jubilee this season-what an event! Only yesterday on June 1st, 1962 I was delivered a letter by the postman at my home in Sopore and to my surprise and shock, was invited to join as a medical student in Government Medical College Srinagar. Few weeks prior to this our FSC (Intermediate 12 class) results had been announced and I stood high in medical merit list from University of Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar. I had never applied for this coveted course and Secretariat had processed the list from the result merit sheet issued by the University. Very soon I found myself in the “Anatomy Dissection Hall” in Lalmandi Srinagar. The Lalmandi makeshift facility had par excellent delightful ambience and get up. The first view of a 6 feet 8 inch human being (Late Prof. M. L. Kaul, our anatomy demonstrator at that time) got all our attention and his loud shout “Come dangerously close to me” to 8 of us (6 boys and 2 girls) yet rings in my ears. That is how all of us joined our heads together with his, to watch the most intriguing human structure on and around the dissection table. Next it was a treat to watch a wise fatherly figure (Prof. Ayer, Head Department of anatomy) and his ultimate manners in imparting knowledge were masterly. Once he spotted a girl student weeping in the corner of “Dissection Hall” and on enquiry found that she was scored “zero” in quiz by Dr. Aslam (Another anatomy demonstrator that time) for identifying “Humerus bone” as “Femur”. He asked Dr. Aslam to watch that villager through the window, who was carrying a gunny bag on his back and questioned what score he shall give him in quiz. Dr. Aslam remarked “Zero”. He walked out silently with the remark that my daughter (girl student) is evaluated so. Dr. Aslam apologized for his error. Prof. Kahali headed department of physiology and taught subject with great passion. His weekly quiz of ten MCQ (multiple choice questions) with ten marks is reminiscent of modern methodology for medical entrance examinations/evaluation so well propounded by the Americans.

We were 62 in the class, what represented a true picture of global (students from Africa, Malaysia and Pakistan), national (students from Mumbai, UP and Himachal), religious (Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist and Christians) and social (those from convent, Biscoe, Burnhall; those from Govt: schools like me; those from distant villages and undeveloped regions of State etc) integration. One who impressed me most was a tall skinny fellow from Chinkriyal Mohalla (now Legendary pathologist Prof. Abdul Rashid Khan) and every day we walked together from Medical college gait to his home discussing Best & Taylor (Physiology) and Gray’s Anatomy. It always astonished me how he had mastered these books including the foot notes. Occasionally I took pleasure to relish Kanti & Kabab from famous Ahdoo’s and for this took a Tonga ride with Ghulam Nabi Lone (who later took over as a Minister in J&K Govt: and unfortunately succumbed to the bullets of the assassin) and Lone sahib always volunteered the smaller Tonga bill (rupees 2) and left for me to pay the bigger Kanti bill (rupees 16). Medical College canteen was a place of great entertainment and joy. On a daily basis, we all assembled around one table in the canteen where Fida Hussein (Dr. Fida Hussein settled in South Africa and unfortunately died few years back from motor vehicle accident) was to sing gazals in his melodious voice. Many would name him Mehdi Hassan and/or Mohd Rafi of our class and I can vouch that his voice was as impressive as either one of these legends. Another legend in our class was Abdul Wahid (recently retired as Prof. Medicine SKIMS) and his critical reviews about Kashmir politics and leaders would hit the Urdu paper “Khidmat” and other Urdu periodicals on regular basis even in those days. For a number of years I lived in the Medical College Hostel, Bemina and during these years three of us namely I, Ved Prakash Gupta (retired as Director Health J&K), and Bashir Ahmad Khan (unfortunately died from aggressive Polyarteritis nodusa soon after passing MBBS) would have afternoon Abi-Guzar bund walk, eat one rupee “roti and tarka-dal” from a vegetarian dhaba in Kokar Bazaar as a single evening meal of the day and at around 9 PM would drive our 3 bicycles from Amirakadal, to Karan Nagar, to Tutto ground and to Bemina Hostel.

We entered second MBBS after 2 years and relished the pathology lectures from Prof. Goyal who taught subject by symbolizing human pathology to varied events in nature. For this he had made a compendium which he always kept to his chest and brought it to the class room to narrate these events. One day many mischief mongers of our batch (there were quite a few) coaxed me to ask Prof. Goyal to lend his personal great compendium for a short time so that we could broaden our knowledge. He hesitantly surrendered it for just one night (probably first time in his career) and that night we all relished it from A to Z with great fun. Prof. Ahluwalia, Head Social & Preventive Medicine was an exceptionally great character and his environmentalist abilities should today win him an international award from IPCC. Those days, Medical College Garden and SPM museum were treat to watch and created attention at national medical circles. Our clinical postings in SMHS Hospital wards and outpatient departments were supervised by Prof. Col. S. Kaul (Medicine) and Dr. Permanik (Surgery). Because of this and with the untiring efforts of these/such medical giants, we learned the most difficult of art of history taking, palpating the magic box of human body i.e. abdomen and listening to the demanding tender human structure namely the human heart.

I have taken pains to portrait the faculty of the Govt. Medical College of that age, in order to pay special tribute to these/my teachers and find it a part of my duty and prayer. All these were full time medical teachers and had brought this profession to recognition in India. They took pains, showed tremendous patience and made intense efforts in order to impart the most difficult knowledge of humanity i.e. art of medical practice. These and such teachers went to the ultimate details to teach us ethics, respect to human being, patience, and self-respect and above all how to be God fearing. They did it not by talking to us about these virtues but by practicing these virtues. They practised morality and thus spoke of it and wanted us to follow it. They practised medical ethics and wanted us to follow ethics. They respected every patient for his values and taught us to practice it. They felt inner happiness to see their students doing well in quiz and examinations and finally in life. For those who stood at the backbench and struggled, they were there to extend help, support and advice.

Apart from learning medicine through dictatorial lectures, bed sides and weekly quiz, Govt Medical College those days offered education, including medical, religious, social and political on an intensive basis. The institution was frequently visited by national and international scholars and educationists and system would encourage and support this process. During our student days, we have listened to Noble Laureates, great religious scholars, legendary political figures, and Yoga giants and palmists of international fame. The system absorbed views of all shapes and kinds and this created a highly conducive scientific atmosphere.
I always wondered about the abilities of the conceiver who brought these legendary teachers from all parts of the country together and invite/force us to join the medical studies and create an atmosphere which was revolutionary and full of creativity. Over the years, this Medical School has produced thousands of medical graduates who have served our State, other states of India and rest of the World. Today when we are to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this Institution, we can only thank those who conceived, built, supported and maintained this great seat of learning.