C G Potnis willed his body to medical research. His daughter Sucheta Potnis recounts her familys journey to finding peace in her fathers closing decision
Thirteen years ago, Anna, my father , who was almost eighty, then, announced that he had donated his body for medical research. “Your entire body Why not the eyes, isn’t that enough,” my mother asked. My brother and I were left speechless. We had known that our father did have some unusual ideas, butdonating your entire body was too drastic. Anyway, it turned out that Anna had made up his mind, so he must have given it serious thought.
Anna had registered his name for Dehadaan at the Lokmanya Sewa Sangh (Tilak Mandir) in Vile Parle. To ensure that his wish wouldn’t be overlooked when he passed away, he neatly put away the papers in a buff envelope. On the envelope, his beautiful copper plate handwriting said, “Papers regarding the donation of the dead body of C.G. Potnis” . Signed C G Potnis , dated 3rd December 1996.
One hears of strong, forceful personalities shying away from making their wills, as if by not thinking of their death, they can hoodwink death. And here was my father , a slight, quiet man of eighty, calmly writing out instructions about what to do with his body when he dies.
I wish now that all of us, Mother, my elder brother and I had sat down and discussed the decision with him. Why did he think of it and how long had he thought it over. It would have helped us to understand our father a bit more.
As he crossed ninety, he said once in a while, “Who knows if they will even accept my body now. They may simply say ‘take him away, he is too old to be of any use.’” We smiled. I would joke with him too. “Anna , since you have donated your body, I may not be able to say good-bye to you, since it may take me a while to reach Mumbai from Goa” . He would smile back.
Almost exactly 13 years since he wrote out the envelope, on 2nd of December 2009, he stopped breathing. We had seen the end coming. His breathing become more and more laboured till he sounded
as if he was drowning in front of us. His
pulse kept getting fainter and then he
As we sat around, in his now
silent form, the question arose
Should we go ahead with
his wish of donating his
body or not We had discussed this issue with the competent Dr Nadkarni, who had been monitoringAnna. He had been very supportive, making several visits while my father was slipping into a coma.
With Anna gone, we turned to him. He explained the procedure to us and told us how badly bodies are needed by the medical colleges. Still, the temptation was there. Wouldn’t it be much easier on us, his remaining family, to simply overlook his wishes and have a cremation
We looked to our mother. Her wish was paramount. She too wavered. At 82, her mind has been conditioned to the norms of the society. No one in her world of friends and relatives had ever done this. Then with a second’s hesitation, she took what was possibly the most difficult decision of her life. “He didn’t ask for much for himself. This is something he really wanted . I don’t think we can deny him that. Let’s do it,” she said.
A few hours later, we accompanied my father on his last journey through the traffic from our home in Parle to the J. J. Hospital . We took the sea-link , only the second time my father had been on it. The first time I had driven him and mother on it. He seemed to have enjoyed it then, before fatigue overtook him. This time, he was at rest. Covered with garlands and his favourite flowers, he had crossed over to the other world without needing sea-links .
The Anatomy Hall of the J J Hospital is thankfully in a secluded part of the enormous campus. Old trees shade the handsome black basalt building with wide corridors and tall ceilings. The paperwork took an hour, which, considering how long it takes for papers to move, wasn’t all that bad. The staff was co-operative and the young lady doctor in charge, Dr Jasmine , was solicitous, assuring us that all due respect is given to the bodies.
We had a few private moments with Anna in the ambulance itself and then it was time to say good-bye . Four staff members carried the stretcher upstairs as we watched from the bottom of the lofty steps. Till the landing, we could see Anna’s face, surrounded by the bright flowers, with his aristocratic nose rising above.
Then they turned the corner and my father was gone, bearing the biggest gift any human being can give to others his own body.
Donating or charity is an age-old concept .The Gita stresses the importance of giving’ or rather `giving up’ (tyaaga). According to the scriptures, donating one’s body comes second after `yadnya’ . The legend speaks of Maharishi Dadhichi , who left his mortal body in order to donate his bones to the making of weapons for the devaasto defeat the asuras.
In Mumbai Sir J.J.Hospital is the only one which accepts the donation of bodies.The hospitals number is 23735555. The Lokmanya Sewa Sangh in Vile Parle is the one place which actively educates on and advocates donating one’s body for medical sciences.They have created a detailed explanatory note on which the information above is based.They can be contacted on 26142123/26141276