An ode to the people’s man

By on May 07, 2019
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Despite his illness, Manohar Parrikar went about his day with the kind of energy only possible through strong will power. Here’s a first person account by the doctor who diagnosed his illness

I was informed that a VVIP from Goa was likely to come to Lilavati Hospital. He had pain in the abdomen and they were suspecting ‘pancreatic pathology’. The hospital duly geared up and the VVIP walked in smiling. That was Manohar Parrikar. He was in excellent health; hardly looking sick. I was distressed in the evening that the marker came positive. He did have a pancreatic lesion. Unfortunately these rarely have early symptoms.

I had profound respect for Parrikar, not because he was a former Defence minister or Goa’s serving chief minister, but because he was an honest, hardworking ‘people’s politician’. It is very rare to find such upright leaders. He had an excellent academic background. Everyone in Goa loved him. I was inundated with calls and to the dismay of many, no information was divulged. We got the confirmation and started the treatment for a pancreatic ailment. He responded well and tolerated treatment. While he was admitted, prime minister Narendra Modi came to visit him. He was clearly unhappy that one of his trusted younger colleagues had this problem. Parrikar told him with a smile that his only desire was to serve people of Goa. The prime minister told us that the best in the world was to be done for Parrikar. As president of the IHPBA (International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association), I had friends in Memorial Sloan Kettering, who immediately agreed to treat him. Parrikar was flown to New York. Things seemed to be under control and he came back.

He was never out of touch with the affairs of the state. In spite of being in the hospital, he ran a full day of office work with his staff in the hospital. When I went to New York to meet him, I saw a similar arrangement of his getting information and passing necessary instructions back to Goa. Whenever outside, he was very keen on going back to Goa, as he really missed Goan fish curry. It is remarkable that in spite of his status that he clearly knew, not once did he express any disappointment or pain. Most patients ask, “Why?”, “Why me?”, “Why is God so unkind to me?” Parrikar, on the other hand, took it in his stride and said, “I never give up. Until the last day, I will spend in public service”. During one of the admissions, he said that he had to go immediately because he had to present the Budget in the Assembly. We were hesitant, but his will power was so strong that he not only managed to travel but also presented the Budget as scheduled. He was in AIIMS for similar treatment. It was also a difficult period as there had to be a tube in the nose to decompress the intestine. He was seen going about his official duties even with the tube in the nose and his nutrition being maintained by intravenous tubes. I have yet to come across such a strong-willed and positive person from any walk of life.

We discussed the state cancer centre in Goa Medical College and he was keen on its completion. I sought help from the Tata Trusts for the same. It would be appropriate to name the state cancer centre after Manohar Parrikar. He made a difference to all those people he has touched, both directly and indirectly.

I saw many with the courage to face adversity; I saw some with the courage to face the inevitable outcome; I saw only him with the courage to smile in the face of the inevitable. We will always remember him as a man who fought the toughest war bravely even after knowing the outcome.

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