Musically-inclined docs strike the correct notes for a lot of charitable causes

His equanimity while performing complicated paediatric surgeries matches the elan with which he plays percussion instruments. Dr Dasmit Singh is an accomplished tabla player, having learnt to tap the hide swiftly with his fingers at an early age. These days, though, he has limited using his fingers on the instrument because he does not want to risk thickening them. That could hamper his professional work, he says, because of the intricate nature of his surgeries, some of them even involving the rectification of genital abnormalities.

Singh now largely uses sticks while playing and relishes the output while beating

his octapad, a musical, drumlike machine that triggers a variety of percussion sounds. He and cancer/liver transplant surgeon have been the driving force behind DOCS (Doctors’ Orchestra for Charity and Social service), a musical band now comprising 18 doctors which has put up more than 200 shows since 2001.

The money accruing from the band’s performances has purely gone as charity to fund spastics, thalassemiacs, the neurologically challenged, heart patients and the poor as also to provide for environmental causes, the fight against drug addiction and the rehabilitation of tsunami victims. The band has performed in several fundraisers which have been conducted in association with social organisations like the Rotary and Lions clubs. It has funded surgeries and donated medical equipment and drugs.

While the charity done undoubtedly gladdens their souls, the doctors also look at their musical shows and regular twice-a-week practice sessions as a great stressbuster.

In a soundproof studio at Bokil’s residence-cum-rehabilitation centre for children with neurological conditions, the doctors jam up for their practice on Tuesdays and Fridays, beginning only around 10.30 at night and going on till 2.30 am. Bokil says there is no other “reasonable” time for these sessions and points to his own packed daily schedule, where he rises at 4.30 am, sees his first case at 6 am, is in the operation theatre by 8 am and continues with his surgeries or OPD consultations till around 8 pm.

Sound cables and wires crisscross the studio floor as four guitarists pick the strings, the keyboardists complement the harmonium player, Singh and the ‘tabalchis’ deliver the drumbeat effect, and the six vocalists endorse why mellifluity is the domain of only some. Bokil has an interesting aside to tell here: most of the doctors playing instruments are surgeons while those singing are usually not.

But it is the vocalists who have a star of sorts among them. Radiologist Supriya Gadekar, an expert in obstetric ultrasonography, has won honours for playback singing at a cinema awards show as well as at the state Marathi film awards. She was also a semifinalist in singing at a TV entertainment serial show besides being a graded ghazal artist on All India Radio.

For their shows, the band basically sticks to Bollywood numbers and belts out a range from the 1960s to the current renditions of Arijit Singh. Bokil, though, has a predilection for old classics which have the catchiness of the twist or the three-four rhythm. He has a good music system in his operation theatre which softly plays his favourite R D Burman and O P Nayyar numbers.

Impressed by the band’s talent, noted actor and once invited them to perform at a musical fundraiser, based on the verses of noted Marathi poet N D Mahanor. The band did multiple shows called “Hirvi Boli” in 2002 along with Palekar, Nana Patekar, danseuse Yogini Gandhi and Mahanor himself.

In 2014, the band was part of Palekar’s 70th birthday celebrations and shared the stage with the original singers who had sung for the actor onscreen — Sonu Nigam, Hariharan, Yesudas, Bhupinder Singh and Jayateerth Mevundi. The doctors played the original scores and won a standing applause from these well-known singers.

In 2011, they performed with in a musical titled ‘Yeh Kaun Chitrakar Hain’. The musical, which was attended by 2,500 people, was staged to increase awareness about the environment.

The band’s shows are compered by noted cardiac surgeon Jagdish Hiremath and carry a title, like ‘Dil Se Dil Tak’ for the performance in aid of heart patients. Coming up is a show to fund thalassemiacs and Singh has aptly named it ‘Unchained Melodies’ — musical support for people who have the blood disorder, which is caused by one’s haemoglobin having missing or impaired protein chains.

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