A Doctor With His Eyes Wide Open

It is often said that when a student is ready, the teacher appears and when he is truly ready, the teacher disappears. Dr. Pavan Shorey’s life has been a roller coaster of a myriad of emotions which he has learned to deal with. He believes meeting his guru helped him to gain a new lease of life.

Dr. Pavan Shorey

The well-known author Louise Hay says that the professions that we choose are more than our bread and butter. They also represent and help us to find our purpose in our lives. Dr. Pavan Shorey, who is actually a poet and a writer at heart, chose to become an ophthalmologist, a doctor of the eyes. He has helped millions to see the world but little did he know that finding a guru would also help him to see the world with new eyes.

‘In our initial meetings, my guru told me that though the tragedy has happened but life has to go on. He told me to wait for time to heal me and in the meanwhile do my karma of looking after my parents and my son. He wasn’t one of those saffron clad gurus with ashrams. In fact, he was a householder. He never asked his followers for any money or any materialistic thing. In fact that is one mark of a true guru. He will never ask you for any money or anything materialistic. Every evening we would meet in his house in Jaipur. There were 10-15 of us who were regular attendees. He had a lot of followers in different countries too. We would start our sessions with a meditation. After that, there were discourses which were mostly about the questions that his disciples asked. In the end of the session, we would recite the Hanuman Chalisa.’

The Valley of Flowers

So, what made him write ‘Conversations on a Park Bench’ and ‘The Mountain Deer’?

‘I was associated with my guru for about ten to fifteen years. He had helped me to overcome my grief and see the world in a different way. Though he passed away in 2018, even when he was around, I always wondered why can’t there be a book with his teachings in it? When I sat down to write ‘Conversations on a Park Bench’, in 2012, I had initially thought of writing about a lady who is groped by her boss and experiences vishadh and wonders about the purpose of her entire existence. But then, I thought of taking my story and fictionalizing it.’

How long did it take for him to write the two books? ‘I finished ‘Conversations on a Park Bench’ within a year. My friend Nihal was incredulous when I told him that I had written the book in a year. According to him, a book takes years of research and writing. However, I took four years to write my second book ‘The Mountain Deer’.

But why didn’t he think of writing an autobiography? ‘I don’t believe that I am that important. I had read somewhere that the great author Khushwant Singh had once told Amrita Pritam that the story of her life was so inconsequential and tiny that it could be written on the back of a revenue stamp. I too am of the same opinion. Moreover, I believe when you write fiction, you have the liberty to create conflict to keep the narrative flowing. A personal story is quite boring because you just keep listing your achievements and failures.’

So, are there some instances in the book where fiction meets real life? ‘Yes, in fact many. But there is one incident that I can never forget. In my book ‘Conversations on a Park Bench’, there is a chapter titled ‘Who Am I’ where the protagonist Vivek is going to a meeting with his colleague Prashant. He waits for him in the parking lot of the building where he sees the watchman sitting with his wife. Their small daughter (who is toddler) is playing nearby. Prashant comes down and they get into the car. Just then, Prashant’s phone rings and he starts reversing the car while talking on the phone. As he backs the car, they hear a thump sound. They get out of the car to find that the watchman’s small daughter has been crushed under the car. Vivek is shaken by the incident but he sees that his friend is so materialistic that he has no qualms about what he has done. He strikes a deal with the watchman and the doctor who was in charge of the case and wriggles out of the situation by paying both of them some money. When the watchman protests, he tells him that the child was a girl and had she lived he would have had to pay a lot of money for dowry and her marriage. So, this amount is good enough for him. Later he boosts to Vivek about how he used his ‘marketing skills’ to get out of the situation. Vivek feels revulsed and it is then that he questions himself about his life and who he really is. This chapter was based on a real incident. There was a man who brought the body of a small child to the hospital and I could see that the poor mother of the child sitting and crying helplessly. My friend got out of the situation by giving her a mere 30,000 rupees. Tears came into my eyes when I saw the plight of this couple and I was revulsed and repulsed by the whole thing. How can someone be so callous and cruel?’

‘There is another incident in the book that has been inspired from real life. In the book, after his wife Radhika’s death, Vivek’s father-in-law asks him to return the flat which was a wedding gift to the couple. Vivek feels bad but his guru advises him to become detached with such materialistic things and return the flat. This again happened with a friend of mine. When his wife died leaving behind his infant son, his in-laws took away the baby on the pretext that he will not be able to take care of the baby. They held the baby to ransom and demanded his wife’s provident fund money, jewellery, car etc. My friend was distraught and asked Guruji for advice. Guruji promptly asked him to return everything and get his son back.’

In both his books, death has been the turning point in the story. Being a doctor, how does death affect him?
‘As a result of years of medical training, doctors develop a clinical detachment from death. Though in my speciality deaths are quite unheard of, yet I too have developed a detachment from death. This is not taught; it is just something that is passed on from seniors to juniors. But then, years of studying spirituality have also taught me that even when the body dies, there is something that remains alive. I remember an incident that I have also mentioned in my book where I had gone to meet a friend’s wife in the hospital. She had 80 percent burns as a result of a gas cylinder that had burst in her home. In such a scenario there are almost nil chances of survival and the doctors cannot do anything except give palliative pain killers to the patient. When I entered the room, she was lying in covered frame. She asked me who I was and when I said it was me, Pavan, she recognised me. It was then I realized that though the body had almost gone, there was something in her that was still recognizing and responding to me. She passed away after a couple of days.’

From a bystander’s point of view, Dr. Shorey’s life has been quite a journey. So, doesn’t he feel lonely? ‘No, I don’t. I have my practice where I see my patients. My son who is 37 years old is married and we keep meeting every now and then. I spend a lot of time with my friend Nihal and his family. Apart from this, I regularly go on treks to the mountains. I have trekked to the Valley of Flowers, the Great Lakes of Kashmir and many other such places. When I am at home, I like to spend time gardening. I love to see my flowers grow and bloom. I like reading and listening to the works of Meena Kumari, Sahir Ludhianvi, Neeraj and many other famous poets. I love the bhajans of Mira Bai. But my all-time inspiration remains Robert Frost. I also keep writing new stories and poems. In fact, I have recently written a new poem that talks about my life at 60 something.’

I am still a young 60 something

I used to walk a kilometre in 10 minutes,
Now I do it in fifteen.
I get a little breathless, a little tired,
But I am still fit like a teen.
I am still a young 60 something.

I get a muscle pull in my bums,
Or a sharp pain in the back.
Docs say it is aging,
I say I am fit to lift a wheat sack.
I am still a young 60 something.

I get up from the bed,
The whole world reels around me.
My friends say cervical spondylosis,
But I can easily bend over backwards for all to see.
I am still a young 60 something.

I get up twice at night to pee.
My friends say it is prostate,
I have too many fluids at night,
Guys, you have this negative trait.
I am still a young 60 something.

I see a beautiful woman,
My heart skips a beat.
Where the mind goes, the body doesn’t follow,
All fantasies take a retreat.
I am an old 60 something.

Please join us on the 15th of January, 4 p.m. for an exclusive interaction with Dr. Pavan Shorey where he will be talking about his books, trekking, life and much more at Sudharma, Chameliwala Market, Opposite GPO, MI Road, Jaipur.

This article by Shailaza Singh appeared in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit Section on 15 January 2023.

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