Tale of a real-life Dr Dolittle

Published: 11th March 2013 10:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th March 2013 10:00 AM   |  A+A-


The success of the Hollywood movie ‘Doctor Dolittle’ rests partially on the fantastic possibility that it proposes - that of a veterinary doctor who can communicate with animals. The fantasy could also be interpreted as a superior understanding that stems from true empathy and love.

At several points in the memoir penned by veterinary surgeon B Mohanachandran, the reader is reminded of Doctor Dolittle and the kind of difference that a compassionate human being can bring to the life of an animal, more so in the case of one in peril.

The foreword to ‘Mindapranikalum Njanum’ presents it as a worthy addition to the genre of ‘hasya sahityam’ (which roughly translates to literature with an accent on humour) in Malayalam language. Yet, the delightful mix of autobiographical details, reflections on the profession of a vet and effortless profiling of animal and human characters merit a reading not limited by such compartmentalisation.

The love and compassion that the author has for animals lend the book its endearing honesty.

Fashioned on the lines of James Herriot memoirs, the semi-autobiographical stories speak of the exploits of a young veterinary surgeon posted in rural Thiruvananthapuram. The doctor is seen accomplishing feats made all the more difficult by limited facilities and rendered humorous by circumstances. Strewn all over this path are men and beasts, who contribute to his maturing as an individual and surgeon.

The tale of Jimmy, the dog who drags himself into the hospital one day and the eventual bonding that develops between him and the doctor, is one of the touching episodes in the book. Abdulla, the goat who fosters a dislike for trouser-clad men and who delivers two solid kicks on the unsuspecting doctor, the elephant who yields to his weird pipe blowing more out of sympathy than anything else are all vividly-portrayed protagonists.

Digressions on some of the human characters, whose fates happen to criss-cross those of the beasts, add spice to the stories. Rasheed, who served as live-stock assistant while the doctor was posted at Pangode near Nedumangad, is remembered for his remarkable expertise gained through experience and dedication. Appukkuttan, who served in the same post at another hospital, has a stammer that makes it impossible for him to mouth the word ‘appendactomy’, the name of the surgery he had to undergo, without sounding objectionable.

The author traverses the thin line between humour and vulgarity with poise, the language always sure of itself and the details never overboard.

In fact, the slim book puts forth an egalitarian world view, which could well be read as a sub-text to the unpretentious notes. The two-legged animals populate these stories merely as just another set of claimants to good old earth. The book stops short of reminding you of this great truth leaving it to dawn on the reader when the last page is turned. More readers could savour this hilarious book, if translated into English and other languages.


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