Right now, the most important man in Karan Johar’s life is a doctor called Bhupendra Avasthi.
I first met Dr Avasthi at Lilavati Hospital in Bandra shortly after Kajol Mukherjee Devgn gave birth to her son in 2010.
The doctors who were present in the operation theatre that day were Rishma Dhillon-Pai (just for perspective, she is the younger sister of actress Poonam Dhillon and wife of IVF specialist Hrishikesh Pai), Nandita Palshetkar and the man who took over the baby immediately after the C-section was Neonatal specialist, Bhupendra Avasthi.
A stocky and short man wearing big, black and heavy spectacles that unnecessarily made him look more serious that he actually is. His words were measured but there was a strange positivity around him.
That day, we spoke about the dangers of preterm babies but I didn’t think it was worthy of a news copy. It was on that day I told myself, “Chal chod yeh boring copy. Yeh mere saath kabhi nahi hoga…”
It was September 15, Monday.
I didn’t know that God would soon play a cruel trick with me.
When my wife was pregnant, I calculated carefully to ensure that Dhillon-Pai and Avasthi were in charge of the delivery at Lilavati. Incidentally, my wife was wheeled into the same OT as Kajol’s.
Everything was going according to plan and Suhaan was born.
I was present in the operation theatre and managed to take shaky, short video immediately afterwards.
I was nervous and tense.
Here is the video…
What I once dismissed as a ‘boring news copy’, happened to me and my wife.
Suhaan was a preterm or a baby who was pulled out of the womb much before he was supposed to be born.
I can completely emphathize with Karan Johar and I can completely understand what he is going through.
In India, premature babies are routine because we account for the highest number of preterm births in the world. The problem is — India is still miles behind other countries in the field of neonatal intensive care.
Take the case of Karan Johar.
Karan Johar’s kids were born at 30 weeks and the babies weighed around 1.5 kg each only at the time of their birth. They needed immediate and specialised intensive care. They are still in the hospital and under constant watch of a team of doctors.
I really cannot describe what parents go through when the doctor says that he needs to keep your baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and bars you from taking him home.
Why am I speaking about it now? Consider this…
According to the (BMJ) British Medical Journal, every preterm infant — those born before 32 weeks’ gestation — represent fewer than 2% of all births. But up to half of infant deaths worldwide.
The moment these things are told to you, a thousand nightmares haunt you. You count your days when your baby will go home with you.
I went through it and Karan Johar is going through it too.
For Karan Johar, the worst is over and there’s nothing to worry about. Yash and Roohi are doing fine and they have been kept under constant surveillance at the Neonatal unit at Surya Mother & Child Hospital which is near Santacruz Station, in Mumbai.
The newborns are expected to be discharged in a few days and you will soon see them going home securely cradled in their father’s arms.
But this is the time when we should bring the conversation back to the much neglected problem — the need for more advanced neonatal intensive care units in India, specially at government hospitals (at least in the state capitals).
The doctors treating neonatal emergencies at government hospitals are severely handicapped to deal with new-born emergencies and constantly worry about their own safety, in case something goes wrong.
We asked Dr Avasthi about why dealing with premature babies is harder than treating any other emergency of an adult and this is what he said.
“Premature babies are not fully equipped to deal with life in our world. Their little bodies still have underdeveloped parts that include the lungs, digestive system, immune system and skin. India needs many more NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) units for its ‘preemies’ where they can survive the first few days, weeks or months of life until they are strong enough to make it on their own.”
According to the World Health Organisation, every year, nearly 15 million babies die due to complications with premature births, and “survivors can face a lifetime of disability including learning disabilities, visual, and hearing problems,” according to Dr Avasthi.
Some of us like Karan Johar can still manage to get the best care for our babies. What about the less fortunate?
You cannot imagine what goes at a government hospital. More often than not, preterm babies come to a point where the doctors aren’t sure whether the babies will be able to go home.
I think you have already guessed it. Dr Avasthi is the same doctor who owns Surya Hospital and supervising the treatment and care of Karan Johar’s surrogate twin babies.
Doctor Avasthi has always had his way with Bollywood and has assisted the birth of numerous star babies. He even managed to create a baby out of eggs frozen eight years ago (that was for former Miss World Diana Hayden). In 2015, former South African cricketer Jonty Rhodes came to Mumbai just to get his baby delivered in Dr Avasthi presence.
He is now drawing our attention to the inadequate infrastructure of our country to deal with preterm babies. In the days to come, there might be a social media campaign about it and we are all expected to willingly participate.
I am in. Are you?