When a stab victim is brought bleeding into a swanky New Delhi hospital, Dr Neel Dev-Roy resuscitates her from near death. An idealistic young surgeon who has just relocated from the US, Neel is shocked to learn that the hospital authorities will let the comatose woman die because there is no one to pay for her care. Impulsively, he steps in to cover her bills.Already burdened by the ghost of his dead father's Maoist past and the future of his troubled marriage, Neel finds himself enmeshed in battles on the young woman's behalf. But he soldiers on, determined to do the right thing. His obsession with keeping her alive spills over into his personal life and raises troubling new questions. Who is she? Why was she stabbed? How did her medical records disappear? And why is a killer suddenly stalking his wife?Set against the backdrop of India's ascent on the world stage, The Death of Mitali Dotto exposes unpleasant realities within its gleaming new hospitals and raises discomfiting questions about the ethics of a brash new world. Finely plotted and skilfully told, it is also a call to arms: about standing up for the voiceless and finding in oneself the courage to forgive in order to move on.
Scalpels out at five places, Maoist underå?currents. bodies under threat in ICUs, wives under threat in parking lots. Anirban Bose‰۪s The Death of Mitali Dotto has all the eleå?ments of good potboiler, and a strong Robin Cook influence.
Neel Dev Roy, the braveheart doctor, decides to move back to Delhi from the US, bringing his beautiful wrife Stuti with him. He is filled with US ideå?alism. determined to plunge into surgery to save lives.
The Delhi hospital that Neel joins is run like a company with an eye on the bottom line. Critically ill patients who cannot afford to pay are allowed to pass away by Dr Kasturi, the Chairman of Surgery, a man who very obviå?ously has both Mafia connecå?tions and political clout to enable him to get away scot free.
While Kasturi comes across as too villainous to be true, Neel‰۪s wide-eyed idealism and determination not to give in to demands for bribes seems equally incredible. Bose, howå?ever, tells us that Neel‰۪s idealå?ism does not stem from America but from his father, a revered physiå?cian who devoted his life to looking after the tribals in Jhargram and who belonged to the Naxalite wing of the Communist Party.
åÊNeel‰۪s fights against corruption and greed echo those of his father. Bose takes the story to åÊåÊåÊåÊåÊ1970‰۪s Calcutta where the mother prays to the busts of Marx and Lenin kept on the refrigå?erator for the well being of her husband. Neel‰۪s past and present run side by side, though his present is fraught with difficulty through the arrival of Mitali Dotto, a 19- year-old who has been stabbed and who may be brain dead, but who turns out to be pregnant. Kasturi is determined to switch off her ventilator, Neel is equally deterå?mined to keep the ventilator on, to the extent of payå?ing her hospitals bills and wanting to adopt her child once it is born.
Bose‰۪s pace keeps the reader‰۪s interest from flagå?ging and his medå?ical research background gives him the edge where procedures are concerned. He is also aware of the issues that the media highlights like women‰۪s affairs, Maoists and India vs Pakistan, and the plight of the minority comå?munities or patients infected with HIV whom surgeons avoid like the plague, and he works them deftly into his plot. However, one could have asked for a neater tying up of loose ends - who Mitali Dotto is and why she was stabbed are never satisfactorily answered, or even the reason behind the ultimate fate of Neel‰۪s heroic father, who obviå?ously has shades of Dr Binayak Sen. Pulak the unforå?tunate policeman is given nothing much to do barring wander desperately after Neel in the hospital corridors.
Bengalis are well to the fore in the novel, proving Bose‰۪s fondness for his community. And Mitali Dotto ends on a severely moral note: in order to survive in India, you have to forget US rules. While doing that, it does deliver a much needed message on the state of the medical commuå?nity which has abandoned idealism for cold, hard cash.
Anjana Basu is the author of Rhythms of Darkness