(Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg, 70, was born in Sarnal, Anantnag. He did his primary schooling at the Primary Hanfia School in Anantnag and completed his F. Sc. from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. He completed his medical degree (MBBS) from the Government Medical College Srinagar, University of Kashmir, in 1967, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pathology from the Government Medical College Jammu, University of Jammu, in 1981. He served as the Medical Director of the Civil Hospital, Pahalgam, until 1983 and subsequently held senior administrative positions in the health service system of Saudi Arabia, including participation in a joint program with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of South Florida for a United Nations project related to environmental and ecological impact of the 1991 Gulf War. He is an Executive Member of the Jammu and Kashmir Red Cross (nominated by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir), Member of General Medical Council, Jammu and Kashmir, Medical Council of India, Saudi Medical Council, and General Medical Council, London. He is proficient in Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English, Arabic.)
My Days in the Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar
Whenever I ponder on my past I see it in three phases. The first phase was from my preschool to the gates of Kashmir medical school. The second phase though brief were the intoxicating days of youth in Kashmir Medical college and third the on going journey from out of the college holding a couple of medical degrees fighting for the livelihood from one end of the world to another. Starting from east in Allopathic dispensary in Changa district Doda to the Middle East on the banks of Arabian Sea in Jubail Saudi Arabia--- and the fight goes on and on and now enjoying Saabyr my grand son to crawl and speak his first words when he calls me Daada---Alhamdulilah. Time has wings it is just half a century short by a year when I entered the gates of this place of learning called medical college Kashmir.
I am sure I was not the brightest of the bright but some how I was one of the sixty scholars who entered the prestigious medical school in Srinagar selected on merits in the year 1961. Only after a few months we were joined by a generous list of Bakshi Sahib. At the end of the day the flock proved its metal and thereby proves the wisdom of the erstwhile Prime Minster of J&K. On my first day I saw a maroon color Ambassador car parked inside the gates and a stiff well dressed gentleman in his late sixties observing the students entering the college premises. The gates were closed exactly at 10.10. Somebody pointing towards this dignified gentleman whispered in my ears this is ‘Col; Murti,’ principal of the college and we were directed to assemble in the modest assembly hall. Immediately the principal was on the dais giving us his first sermon. I was already impressed by his personality but now I was overawed by the wisdom, vocabulary and articulation in his speech. Some of his words like, ‘you have come to a profession that is full of responsibilities. It demands hard work with dedication. You will have to keep the secrets that your patients will divulge to you and to none else.’ Echo even today in my ears.
Just after principal’s sermon I was confronted with a senior female student Ms.Naseem Akhtar D/O my great teacher late Mr.Saifudin. I knew the lady during my days in Anantnag College. Accompanied by her classmate Mehmooda Jabeen who later befriended and married my friend late Shafi Shaida. Later on I discovered Jabeen is a melodious singer and Shaida a wonderful friend tried his best to become a poet in her honor. The couple was a grace to each other-- alas Shaida succumbed to the weaknesses of his heart! A novice to the coeducational system and the pranks of seniors I was ordered to pay for the tea in the college canteen or else I had to face the raging. Canteen was a single man establishment. Gani Sahib was the manager the cook and the table boy three in one. There were only three chairs and a third girl one of their seniors made herself comfortable on the window of the dark room focusing her gaze properly.
In the physiology lab my group partner Ms. Nuzhat Yousaf a devote Muslim girl frail lean and thin with a hijab on her brainy head insisted to do the pithing on the frog. (A procedure to pass a probe in the spinal cord of the frog followed by a hit at its head). The moment she struck the frog Nuzhat was flat unconscious on the floor and was resuscitated by Dr. Shah Sahib our veteran physiology teacher. I was shocked to learn that we lost this noble soul to the deadly breast malignancy. The college annual day celebrations in September 1962 were organized in the near by Tagore hall.
The poetry of Dr. Iqbal, ‘Aiy Jazbay Dil Ghar Main Chahoon Har Cheez Muqbil Aajay----Manzil Ki Taraf Do Gham Chaloon Too Samnay Manzil Aajaye,’ sung by Dr. Bilqis Jameela are still fresh in my memories. The function was magnificent and the singer gorgeous. Late evening when the function came to an end I was honored to take the custody of a ladies bicycle as its owner with that unforgettable gaze that had bewildered me in the college canteen would get lift to her home by the college transport. I was left with no choice but to hide the machine in my hostel room lest my classmates ridicule me for my innocence. Our hostel those days was housed in the newly built shopping complex meant for fruit market located near the Lal Ded hospital. It is here I picked up the pearls of my cherished friendship Awtar Bhan, Karihaloo, Rashid Makai , Gulam Mir , Manzoor Baba, Naiku , Gulam Khan , late Gulam Nabi Lone and D.B.Sharma, C.L Gupta, Yogeshwar Mengi, Kirpal Singh from Jammu . Tasaduq Khan, Noor Mohammad Shah late Abdul Majeed Bazaz and Abdul Rashid Bhat were the day scholars of our cabinet. About twenty years back when I was invited to Noor’s house in Preston London I was delighted to see Noor was married to a nymph from Kashmir and had two brilliant sons from her. Mrs; Tassaduq is always a great host at Buffalo when ever I am on a trip to enjoy the grandeur of Niagara Falls in US. Alas Majeed Bazaz could not survive his bronchial asthma to benefit the nation through his wit and wisdom while ever green Zaffar Mehdi holds the fort of hospitality and humor at Ahdoo’s hotel in Srinagar. During the third year of our clinical training we had interaction with our seniors like Dr.Farooq Khan and Dr. Aarifa Rasool a brilliant pair that got married and settled in Long Island. Dr.Khan has been a great help to many Kashmiri doctors in shaping their career in USA. Dr. Altaf Hussain a gifted pediatrician of Srinagar was always my role model.
Medical college was shifted to the present magnificent location when we were in our third year of the cession. It was Dr. Pukhta my mentor who bailed me out of Dr. Goel’s strict evaluation standard in pathology. This friend cum teacher taught me about Mackonkis media, Agar Agar and taught me how to differentiate between a normal benign and a diseased or a malignant cell. Later on Dr.Kum Kum Sharma chiseled me in to a clinical pathologist in medical college Jammu. In DR. Gujral we had a visionary teacher despite that Dr.Fazli Sahib was a timely help otherwise Pharmacology was Greek to me. Drs; Col; Kaul, Dr. Ali Mohammad Jan, Dr. Naseer Sahib and Dr.Allaqband Sahib besides teaching medicine taught us bed side manners thoroughly. Dr.Gulam Rasool, Parmanik, Bhan Sahib, Girdhari Lal Je and Dr. Skind trained us how to sharpen the knives scrub the hands and taught the rules of a surgical operation theatre. And then we landed in the soothing hands of the expert gynecologists like Professor Girja Dhar and Dr. J.A. Naqashbandi who tried their best to make a gynecologist out of me but lucky for me it was not to happen. One fine morning I received a telegram at Sarnal saying that I have qualified to nurse the sick and my father whispered the same words in my ear that where said by principal Col; Murti on the first day from the podium of our college! Though I have left the institution almost five decades now the memories are still fresh with that unforgettable gaze in the college canteen.
Recently when I had the honor to visit the present principal a graduate of the same institution in her office chambers I was impressed by the decorum befitting to her personality she had maintained. The grandeur of the office chambers with Kashmiri crewel curtains (stitched from Islamabad-Anantnag my birth place) hanging on its windows and the zaafrani Kehwa reminded me of the personalities that have been the grace of this institution. I availed the opportunity to quietly roam around the corridors and lecture halls where I picked up the alphabets of health care system.
Our hostel was shifted to its present place at Bemina and I still remember the speech made by Prime Minster Bakhshi Sahib on its inaugural day. In response to Dr. Gujral’s speech where in the principal suggested that medical studies are only for bright students with high scores. Bakshi Sahib replied, “ My students from far flung areas of Karna, Kairan, Tangdar, Kishtwar etc; etc; have to travel hours by foot to reach to their schools. Under the circumstances how can I expect 80% or 90% marks from my underprivileged lot and that is why I have requested the services of great teachers like you that can turn my copper in to gold. And so far as scarcity of cadavers you mentioned. Never mind let the first batch pass out they will not disappoint you sir!” Despite the fact we are human doctors from this prestigious institution have been a pride of the nation at home and abroad. The long list of such luminaries includes Professors M.S Khuroo reputed gastroenterologist, Dr. Jallel Mufti an imminent hematologist in London and Dr.Muzzaffar Peerzada dean medicine Cleveland US.
I am proud and privileged to say that as medical officer Pahalgam I served as personal physician to Bakhsi sahib the founder of Kashmir medical college during his last days when he was out of power. The expertise that I received from Kashmir medical college gave me an access and a chance to interact with dignitaries like Prime minster Mrs; Indra Gandhi, Dr; Zakir Hussain, Dalip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and numerous such luminaries besides the underprivileged lot from J&K.
For those of my readers who have been a witness to my college days I have a humble request through this couplet,
“FIRISHTOO RAHMATAY HAQ SAY GUNAH MERAY BATADEYNA
MAGHAR ITNA BHI KAHDAINA KI BATAIN THIE JAWANI KI"