Dr. Aswini Kumar Sarma: A Year After A Devastating Personal Tragedy!
I visited my hometown Guwahati in May 2018 as my mother, Urmila Chakravarty who continues to write books even in her early eighties, was serious and hospitalized recently. The day I arrived she was already back in my sister’s house with a heart monitor attached to her which hang from her arm like a handbag. After my arrival at my sister’s house in the car sent by her to the station she informed me that they had decided to take mother to their Bongaigaon quarters, because there she would get constant attention from my brother-in-law and the township hospital nearby where my brother-in-law was the Chief Medical Officer. So we left for Bongaigaon the next morning and I spent three days with them before going back to my workplace as mentioned above.
Later in 2018 I was shocked beyond measure when Mitali informed me that Sunny was severely ill after his blood sugar shot up uncontrollably without any clinical reason as he has always been a healthy and cheerful person, and a very intelligent student, since his childhood days. He had to be shifted to a hospital in Guwahati where it was found that his liver got damaged almost irreparably. In a very critical condition he was later airlifted to a Delhi hospital where my younger brother Jyotirmay Chakravarty (an IPS officer who took voluntary retirement in 2020) helped them in every possible way. His life was saved and after a few more days they came back to Guwahati and then to his workplace in Bongaigaon Refinery township. What followed was one of the scariest and the most unusual experiences I ever had in my life.
Dr. Aswini Kumar Sarma, a very able, efficient and patient-friendly -physician-doctor, was no longer allowed to work peacefully in his workplace in Bongaigaon that he really worshipped. Due to the possible envy and rivalry of a few medical colleagues a kind of harassment in workplace haunted him constantly making him scared to go to office. After trying several times to work normally he failed and started staying at home indefinitely. Almost the entire year of 2019 and the pandemic-infested 2020 had been spent in extreme pain and trauma for him and his family. On numerous phone conversations with him I always tried my best to encourage him to take his rivals head-on and do his duties normally. Although on many occasions he sounded positive and spirited nothing concrete happened as my sister used to inform me occasionally. During that traumatic time he visited Delhi to appeal to the higher-ups of the IOCL for a transfer to Guwahati under genuine medical grounds, but there he was insulted and humiliated in front of his wife. Even then, he never preferred going against his company and prevented his wife from any complaining outside, so sincere and dedicated he had been in his career.
His absence from office was considered unaccounted, and Sunny was now very much concerned about his future benefits after retirement and did not want to take voluntary retirement because of the same uncertainty. His due promotions were also denied. On several occasions he visited his office along with his wife, and literally begged them for being allowed to work and to regularize his unauthorized leave. But every time the in-charge who superseded him in an improper way insulted him calling him unfit and to go and sleep at home. There were many other allegations made against him and his family. The ghosts of uncertainty continued to haunt him till the 17th of September 2020 when a threatening email was sent to him to explain his unauthorized absence from work.
And then came the 18th of September, 2020, a black day for our larger family and friends. In the afternoon that day when I was sitting listlessly looking out of the balcony in Mumbai, my brother called me and to my horror of horrors informed me that Dr. Aswini had passed away suddenly. I called up Akashneel immediately and came to know of the tragic demise. All was over in just five minutes: he took his lunch normally and in quite a good spirit and went for his usual afternoon nap. Moments after Mitali joined him he suddenly shook violently, and by the time he could be taken to the hospital he was declared dead. He could not even utter a single word about what happened to him, being a doctor himself. My sister said later that the hospital staff did not cooperate as was expected in an emergency. The final diagnosis was a massive cardiac arrest. A doctor died, in the prime in terms of his future services to his loving patients all over.
A year passed, and during that time there was not a single day when Sunny’s smiling face did not come to my mind, and more tragically, because of the raging pandemic and I being a senior citizen, we could not even visit the bereaved family and relatives till now. I only solaced myself through writings and my active help in the struggle for justice launched by Mitali and Akashneel who were also helped by one of my paternal first cousins, Debashish Thakur who is a lawyer, my youngest brother-in-law Sasankagupta Kashyap and Aswini’s youngest brother Utpal Kumar Sarma. I also activated a few friends in the IOCL. Some consolation came recently with the IOCL finally acknowledging some wrongdoing in the refinery, promising to look into it, and the company regularized Dr. Aswini’s all unauthorized leave and also announced a one-time compassionate financial grant. But all came too late, as we lost a good doctor unnecessarily and under most tragic circumstances.
On the first death anniversary of Dr. Aswini Kumar Sarma we can only share the pain with all family and friends, particularly Sunny’s mother who lost her eldest son and more shatteringly lost her first daughter to COVID-19 recently, and my mother who lost his first son-in-law. Sunny always took full care of all of us starting from my grandparents to ourselves, and my mother had been under his medical supervision till the end. Today we pray for him and for all other doctors who died prematurely due to various reasons including the fight against the pandemic, while serving for the better of us all the time.