(Dr.Santhosh Kumar SS)
“We go around and initiate young people to volunteer for the organization, Doctors without Frontiers,” said Dr.Santhosh Kumar S.S, Deputy Superintend of Trivandrum Medical College and an active member in the Paris based Medicine Sans Frontiers that works in the conflict ridden countries that desperately need medical and trauma care. “Most of them pull out of the mission at the last moment citing the objection of their parents, partners and children. To volunteer in the medical field you need a different mindset,” Dr.Santhosh said categorically. Serving in the conflict zones, though sounds romantic, proves to be contrary for the people who really dare to venture and serve. We were talking about his forthcoming book tentatively titled, ‘From Gunpoint to Syringe’, a collection of essays that he penned for one of the major Malayalam newspapers, detailing his experiences in around fifty countries, mainly the African ones, as a member of the Doctors Sans Frontiers. I was curious about his statement and asked why so. “You should be a person having more than humanitarian piety and that quality is something akin to thrill and excitement derived out of life threatening adventurous,” Santhosh explained. He filled in me with more examples related to mountaineering, street brawls, accidents and calamities.
Meek people may prove to be lions when adversities confront them. Adversities are the test of a person’s true mettle. Those who brag about their prowess in any situation may turn cold feet when they are really in a life threatening situation. During the first and second World Wars, there were many among the writers, poets, doctors and painters who went to the fronts as fighters. They were not really volunteering but were forced to serve because compulsory military service was in place in those days. Wars perhaps enriched them and the trauma helped them to purge their minds of bad feelings for humanity. They became great artists. I remembered all these when I was invited to be a part of the four members team that just decided to travel to the flood affected northern districts in a car. It was a very lucrative one for the thrill of adventure was the first reason for that invisible adrenaline pumping. However, soon I checked the pros and cons and found myself unsuitable and perhaps unwilling to take up that journey because I had something else to care for at the home front. But the friends made the crumpled seams of my ego smooth by assuring me that the invitation was just a formality and they were not really intending to take me along because the seats were already full.
One of them was Dr.Santhosh Kumar SS and the other was Dr.Ajitkumar.G. Accompanying them were the social thinker and former activist Maitreyan and Anu Devarajan, a woman activist. Having served in conflict areas in more than fifty countries, for Dr.Santhosh the flood situation is one such conflict which makes him act out of the routine. “Some are people who prefer to be in one place and serve the maximum number of ailing people. I like that kind of ethics in my friends. But I am a kind of person who just gets bored by the routine of a place and work. It is not the cheap thrill that goads me to pack my bags and fly upon the intimation from the Parisian Headquarters of the Doctors sans Frontiers, it is a way of life that cuts the routine out and rings in the new experiences, new people, new lives and new stories,” says Santhosh. Dr.Santhosh has carved his life differently by finding time for working away from his office but at the same time performing his duties efficiently. He finds time for writing columns in the newspapers and also spare time for friends. With a vast number of influential friends on his side Dr.Santhosh doubles up as a fund raiser for ‘revolutionary’ projects imagined and executed by his artistically inclined activist friends, of whom Dr.Ajitkumar tops the chart.
Dr.Ajitkumar G is fondly called AKG, an acronym for one of the legendary communist leaders in Kerala, A.K.Gopalan who was also a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru. Though Dr.Ajitkumar does not resemble AKG in any manner, when it comes to the organizational qualities Dr.Ajit stands almost at par with the legendary namesake. Came up in the forefront of political struggles during the early 1990s as a medical student, Dr.Ajitkumar not only earned a medical degree from the Trivandrum Medical College but also innumerable friends from different walks of life including politics, art, literature and of course from the medical field. From the very beginning Dr.Ajitkumar was more interested in dissecting human form on papers with colors than on the dissection tables with scalpels. He became a university winner of drawing and painting. “We were a pack of trouble shooters, future doctors who moved around in packs for political reasons but lived lonely lives in our minds where we remained extremely creative,” remembered Dr.Ajitkumar in one of our conversations. “We went to the University Youth Festivals in a small bus. We were a few people. But we came back with a busload of trophies, shields and certificates. If Medicos were there then there was not much hope left for other colleges,” said Dr.Ajitkumar.
(Dr.Santhosh Kumar with the patients in Wyanad)
Remembrances are not about just boasting or boosting the self-image. Despite the talents they all individually had, they were destined to politically struggle against the existing educational system. They were fired by a romantic zeal to change the world by all means necessary, which obviously brought them lathis and tear gases and temporary imprisonments. Dr.Ajitkumar still nurses the memories about his political struggle and the kind of thrashing that he had received at the hand of the Kerala Police. Dr.Ajitkumar had the fire of an artist in him rather than to pursue a regular career in medicine. However for the time he worked in some hospitals only to start his own with a few friends, who were equally romantic. Hence, the hospital did not become a huge establishment. Instead Dr.Ajitkumar became an establishment in himself by organizing art projects and similar programs while pursuing his individual creative activities as a painter, installation artist and conceptual artist. An extremely good watercolorist, Dr.Ajitkumar was instrumental in inspiring a few youngsters who later on went to art colleges and became artists. Amal Pirappancode, an artist, writer and illustrator who lives in Japan these days remembers that it was Dr.Ajitkumar whose watercolors that inspired the artist in him and the guidance that Dr.Ajitkumar gave him years back helped him to find a foothold in the art scene.
Dr.Ajitkumar initiated Arteria, a public art project in Trivandrum collaborating with the Tourism Department, Government of Kerala. He has done two phases of it with the participation of many important artists in Kerala. Dr.Ajitkumar and Dr.Santhosh Kumar SS and Maitreyan, their fellow traveler of the day, besides many more doctors and friends were at the forefront of the ‘We the People’ movement that upheld the Indian Constitution through mass mobilizing through political, social and cultural involvement. Dr.Ajitkumar has also been the Director of the Shanghumugham Art Museum. A man with more than one project always in his pocket and many more in his mind, Dr.Ajitkumar is an ardent pursuer of anthropology, linguistics, sociology, genetics, history and socio-biology. The multi-disciplinary approach to anything and everything in the society helps him and his friends to be on the track of science and they vouch for a scientific revolution of the society.
(Dr.Ajitkumar with patients in Wyanadu)
Seeing them at the flood relief camps is a wonderful feeling. It is more heartening to see Dr.Ajitkumar who generally denies that he is a practicing doctor (but in fact most of his doctor friends discuss medical matters with him before they go into real action. Also many friends seek medical advice from him before they go in for any medical procedure) attending the patients and looking at the medicines with Dr.Santhosh Kumar SS. When I saw the pictures posted in the facebook I thought of celebrating them and of course there are thousands of doctors in Kerala who are currently serving the flood affected. I acknowledge them all. And it is great to have such wonderful friends.