My worst fears were confirmed when I opened the phone this morning in London. Dr KK Aggarwal, my friend and doctor for over three decades, had lost his battle against Covid. He was just 62.
My mind effortlessly recalls my long association with him. Whatsoever health problem one may have, he was always optimistic and his words reassuring. His frank yet friendly honest voice will continue to reverberate in my ears for a long time to come.
Goodbye, my friend, you will be missed by thousands whose lives you saved and touched over the years.
If I recall correctly, the year was 1990 or 1991; I am not sure. I was around 40, and had been diagnosed with hypertension. I knew very little about this medical problem and there was no Google for instant education either. I was looking for some expert to educate me on how to deal with the blood pressure (BP) issue, which was threatening my otherwise placid life.
I discussed the problem with my friend and a comrade in NUJ, late Rajinder Prabhu. At his suggestion, we both went to Moolchand Hospital, where he introduced me to Dr KK Aggarwal, a young, energetic doctor, with a streak of idealism. It was clear: he was not just a physician, but a lot more.
KK didn't treat me only as a patient, rather more as a friend. He explained to me in layman's language what BP is and its implications.
Over the years, I was both his friend and a patient. We would often discuss new breakthroughs in health, their pros and cons, and occasionally chat on politics and Hindu philosophy and traditions as well.
My last interaction with him was in late March/early April this year on Face Time. I and Shashi had landed in London on March 19. Two days later, I developed Covid symptoms. At my daughter Shweta’s initiative, a Face Time meeting was set up with Dr Aggarwal.
As usual, after some friendly banter, Dr Aggarwal gave his professional advice. Look at destiny: almost all his Covid patients, including me, have recovered following his advice, and he has fallen victim to this scourge.
No doubt, Dr Aggarwal was a good physician. But I will remember him as an excellent human being dedicated to his profession and steeped in Indian traditions, and who was ever ready to reach out to those in need and distress.
When I met him for the first time in 1990, Dr Aggarwal was a part of the Cardiology Department of Moolchand, then headed by legendary heart specialist Dr Chopra, father of Dr Deepak Chopra, the US-based lifestyle guru. He was comparatively new to Delhi, lived in Lajpat Nagar and used to get completely engaged with his patients and their health issues.
So my association with Dr Aggarwal is over three decades old. Both of us continued to move in life, achieving milestones in our respective fields and evolving in the process. But our relationship, both as friends and doctor-patient remained unchanged.
What set Dr Aggarwal apart from other doctors? He never allowed the inquisitive and sensitive human in him to be overwhelmed by his degrees or the accolades that came his way. He never let the simple, honest man in him to be dominated by his status or multiple successes he achieved.
I don't know how many patients I would have referred to him over decades. He was always available and helpful. Most of the times, his consultation was pro bono. Thanks, KK, for all you did for me and my numerous friends.
Dr Aggarwal had a scientific and open mind. He was not averse to new ideas. As a result, while practising allopathy, he sought answers to myriad health problems in ayurveda and philosophy as well. In fact, these were common areas of interest between the two of us.
My heart goes to Dr Aggarwal's family. But Dr Aggarwal's family is not confined to his wife Dr Veena and children. It's spread all over the globe and includes even those countless who watched his inspirational and educative videos and benefited.
My tearful and respected homage to Dr Aggarwal.
Balbir Punj is a senior journalist and columnist