Owing to several odds written in its fate circling an unending series of pain and trauma, Kashmir has been further entrapped by threatening eye diseases, native to its unique soil. However, breaking the 74-year long barrier of political correctness, a Delhi-based eye surgeon is changing the realm of snow-capped valley’s impaired vision
By Romaan Arora
ADJUSTING his phoropter with utmost care, a thoughtful man in his late fifties is trying his best to comfort his visitor. The visitor, though with a little hesitancy, trusts his healer blindly.
“Look straight, and inform me when this blurred vision of yours become crystal clear,” he says in a gentle voice.
This is the healing routine of Dr. Samir Sud, a prominent eye-surgeon from Delhi who calls Kashmiris his brethren.
“I’ve a special bond with these people,” Dr. Sud furnishes rhetorically. “I can see their pain with these eyes. They’re my family.”
As a senior super-specialist eye surgeon for the last 26 years, Dr. Sud visits Kashmir every month for only two days, in which he claims to check more than 100 people within the limited period of 48 hours.
His first such visit came in 2014 following the great floods.
“I used to see hundreds of patients from Kashmir in Delhi before 2014,” the surgeon recalls.
“Therefore, I decided to facilitate the entire valley by coming here on a regular interval. They came to me specially and used to put huge efforts, time, and money to meet me. Such was their trust upon me.”
His motivation was a simple yet hard-to-digest reality of life, to serve the majority of Kashmiris, as he knew they aren’t privileged enough to afford a regular flight from the winter capital of J&K to the political capital of India.
“I wanted to give these beautiful people world-class eye treatment in their neighbourhood. So you see, here I am, realising this dream.”
A Delhiite by conviction and upbringing, Dr. Sud has a mini Kashmir fully grown in his heart which he planted in his early childhood when he used to visit “the paradise” during his summer vacations.
“While most people go for material beauty, I am in love with the inhabitants of this heaven,” he claims.
“I used to stay in Pahalgam huts for three straight months every year. That’s where my love for this piece of marvel, along with its lovely natives, generated.”
For Dr. Sud, skills and results are the reason for the trust of his visitors over him. In what he terms as ‘a family bond’, the ‘vision guard’ has already operated on more than 10,000 patients in the snow-capped valley.
“And now,” he says with a smile, “I am bringing the latest and most advance eye-checking technology in our hospital as a tribute to my Kashmiri people.”
Dr. Sud is coming up with the biggest eye-care hospital in J&K, an initiative he personally terms as a state-of-the-art service center for eyes. The hospital is coming up in Srinagar and shall possess the potential of operating more than 500 patients at a time.
“With the inauguration of my new hospital, I’ll be opening two more in this paradise; one at Anantnag and the other one at Baramulla,” he says.
“By doing so, I shall ensure that my Kashmiri brethren from southern and northern parts of the valley don’t need to travel miles to visit an eye care facility.”
The locals forming more than 90 per cent of his staff, he says, “treat me like a father, a brother, a son and whatnot. The love I’ve received here in the mountains is unmatched.”
Over the differences between the two regions he operated at, the eye-specialist says his Kashmiri patients don’t have trust issues.
“Tell them anything, and they’ll abide by you,” he says with a smile on his face and a mark of tension on his forehead. “Unfortunately, it’s not the case in Delhi where people check 100 alternatives even before taking the medicines.”
Being a regular visitor to the valley, Dr. Sud calls himself a failed linguist for his inability to learn Kashmiri language.
Nonetheless, he proudly boasts of completely comprehending the Dardic language helping him to understand his patients better.
“I’ve noticed four common eye ailments in the valley,” he says. “There’s too much of trachoma, diabetes affecting the eyes, refractive errors, and leratoconus found in Kashmiris.”
As per the leading eye surgeon, he has noticed these four grave eye diseases more in the Dardic mountainous people of Kashmir than anywhere else in the world. A fact he wants people to take seriously.
“Because of these diseases, I advise every single Kashmiri to ensure a yearly eye check-up,” he says.
For his compassionate equation with his patients, they hail him as their ‘life support’.
“I get to hear beautiful words from my clients almost every time I visit Srinagar,” Dr. Sood says with joyfulness.
“Now you can imagine the love and the affection I enjoy here!”
With his ever-prospering eye-care empire turning into a grandiose each passing day, the doctor from the capital is making no bones about his tryst with Kashmir’s “enforced darkness”.
“I managed to ensure eyesight restoration of 75 per cent of the pellet victims I operated on,” he says.
“But, I have a strong regret over the cases where I wasn’t able to restore the eyesight of around ten victims because of the amount of damage inflicted on their eyes.”
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