The Surgeon with a Spark

Dr. Harsaran Singh

Born in 1933, Gujranwala, Punjab (Pakistan)

A very dear friend of my Bhua’s (fathers sister, Dr.Lalita Badhwar) since 1991, Dr.Uncle (as I would refer to him) got closely associated with the entire Badhwar family in the year 1995, when he operated on Dadiji (my grandmother) for breast cancer. I have literally grown up in front of him. Later, he also operated upon Pinni Masiji (my grandmothers sister) and my loving Nanima (my maternal grandmother). He has a very special place in all our hearts as besides being a great skillful surgeon, he has also been a wonderful friend to the family.

Taruna and I had an exciting experience sitting with him and going through all the old photographs. He pulled out a couple from days of his Pune posting (during his years in the Army). The one that came out first was that of a barren ground followed by a flowering garden (in the collage below – below left and to the right). It was the same space, transformed. Dr.Uncle shared how change is constant in life and how a barren land can be made into a beautiful flowering garden. Known for his green fingers, I have often overheard the conversations of Dadiji and him revolving around bulbs, plants and garden matters.


A major life event ….

Partition left a deep impact on Dr.Uncles life. He was just about 13 years old when they had to leave their home, overnight. All belongings were left behind as they embarked on the journey across the border to Amritsar. He recalls how wails, cries and shouting of religious slogans filled the air as mobs passed by with swords and other weapons. Houses were on fire and dead bodies strewn around.

From the truck to the trains that followed, the journey to Amritsar was long. The family had to see a different life with no food, clothes and money. Dr. Uncle said, ”Luckily we had water on the train.” He described how people were moving with their cows, goats and bedding on their heads – either towards Pakistan or towards India. From Amritsar his brother in law arranged for the family to move to Jalandhar.

(Filmed and edited by Taruna Hooda)

They lived in an old dilapidated bungalow. With heavy rains in Punjab that year the roof fell. Soon they moved to a school building where life carried on for the next 3-4 months. Dr.Uncle went into details about how they lived on meagre food and how so many families were sheltered in such small spaces. Yet, there was so much oneness and kindness in all hearts. People had lost their loved ones, girls had been abducted. “We were lucky that our whole family was okay and together”, he sighed. Poverty or lack was never felt, even though there were times when 30 to 50 people were living under one roof.

Joyous moments in various stages of life…

The love of his mother, sister, brothers and family, the fact that all were together and alive through the hard years of partition, was something that made him very grateful and happy. Dr. Uncle elaborated upon how there was this strong feeling of togetherness and how people were all out to support each other. “Nobody was nasty to another”, he said.

After joining the army in 1960, Dr.Uncle appeared for his Masters in Surgery. (M.S.) It was a great achievement for him that he passed in the very first attempt, which was rare in those days. He was one of the three people who were selected out of 14. He smiled, “It was a big moment for me.”

Post retirement Dr. Uncle shared how his wife was very sick. “I am happy I could look after her. I did not have to ask people for money or anything. I could manage doing all on my own, though my son visited from abroad now and then,” he said. This gave him satisfaction.

The most challenging time in life and how it was overcome….

Partition was the most challenging time. Dr. Uncle expressed deepest gratitude on how the family survived through it as he was surrounded by people who had lost loved ones to killings and abductions. Love, togetherness, helpfulness and the sense of oneness amongst friends and families made all the difficulties fade away.

Something special that makes the heart beat with love, now……

To this he responded, “There are no events taking place in life as such. Now it is very insipid.” However, he spoke about how meeting his friends makes him really happy. Amongst his old friends (they were a group of four), he is the only one living now. “I like Lalita Badhwar as she is very ethically correct. That is how I got to know her family”, he said.

The success of his son and the fact that he is a good, righteous human being makes him very happy.

The present desire….

“I should not have any illness to depend on others. I dont want to have tubes in me. If i am very sick please let me go peacefully. i am 83, it can happen any time.”

A message for all….

“I don’t know if I am qualified to give a message to others, I am a very average person with good and bad experiences. Please be honest, less selfish and do for others as much as you can , not only monetarily but emotionally look after others. Be true to yourself and others.”

On talents, individual qualities and sharing….

Dr. Harsaran Singh has been a very skillful and compassionate surgeon. Bhua shared how he is honest and extremely truthful. Dr. Uncle felt he is often misunderstood as he may come across to be too direct.

“I want to follow my profession in the best possible way I think”, he shared how it is very important to work according to your own values and beliefs no matter what others may think.

From Bhua I learned how Dr. Uncle has done a lot of charitable work. He has helped a huge number of patients who have not been able to afford medical treatment and surgeries.

8 Comment

  1. Thank you for posting this kind and accurate description of my father- its nice to hear from others what one knows oneself.

    1. Very happy to know that you liked it. It was our pleasure to engage in this exercise with him.

  2. Bindia Khanna says: Reply

    Lovely Mudita, he is indeed a great human being and you have been able to convey that through this piece!

  3. What a wonderful man he is. Thank you for a very precise and honest look at Harsaran, and for bringing it to the world.
    Kiran Singh

    1. It has been our pleasure! Thank you.

  4. Ranjith K Nair says: Reply

    I got to know Col Harsaran (Tibbu mamaji to all of us) through my wife, Gauri. He is her maternal grandmother’s youngest brother. Everything that you mention about him is absolutely correct. His intelligence, diligence and sincerity shine through whatever he does. It is amazing to see how he keeps himself current about the advances his field of specialty and how he manages to stay fit and sprightly despite the advancing years. A lovely ode to a wonderful man!

  5. A n extremely appropriate and beautiful description of your doctor uncle and my elder brother.I am youngest of the family of eight and not very aware of the hardships of partition,I just remember that we were a big family of all cousins full of noise and laughter,always together.As a brother he has been an examplary one always available, deeply concerned, joining in our joys and crises.
    You have done a wonderful job and thanks a million for this which we all knew always but could never put in words

    1. Thank you so much. It was an amazing experience for us to be part of this sharing!

Leave a Reply