Treating Chatur Lal, India’s famous tabla player

Vinod K. Puri

Born in 1941, Vinod was brought up and educated in Amritsar. He attended Government Medical College, and subsequently trained as a surgeon at PGI, Chandigarh. He left for USA in 1969, and retired in 2003 as Director of Critical Care Services at a teaching hospital in Michigan. Married with two grown sons, he continues to visit India at least once a year.

In 1965, I was being trained as a surgeon at Delhi’s Irwin hospital. (Ed. Note: His story is available here.) When our ward ran out of beds for the patients, they lay on thin red blankets on the floor-space between the beds. On a Saturday morning, when I went in to help with the new admissions, I would find some patients lying on the floor all the way in the corridor outside the ward.

One Saturday, I found a small, dark complexioned man lying on the floor. He had been admitted because he had blood in his urine. Very quickly, we realized that the man was Chatur Lal, a well-known tabla-player. His younger brother Ram Narain introduced himself, as did some more of his friends. Ram Narain played Sarangi, and later on became as famous as his brother.

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