I first met Alok Singh last month at his office in Andheri East, Mumbai. Alok was working as the station head for Fever 104 FM, a FM radio station owned by the Hindustan Times group. The station has been struggling and Alok had moved in from Kolkata a few months back to set things right.
I was visiting the Mumbai station on my induction. As a new employee I was required to visit all the stations (Fever 104 runs stations in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata), meet key people and understand the finer points of the Radio business. That morning Alok filled me in on the company’s history and his own professional life. In an earlier life he had worked for Pepsi and Vodafone and had gone to the Indian Institute of Management in Lucknow for his management education. I was suitably impressed. We talked about the difficulties of shifting to Mumbai and being an outsider in Mumbai in these times of Raj Thackray and his goons.
The next day we had a long session on the business dynamics, the problems beseting the Mumbai station and the plans that Alok had drawn up to get the station back on the rails. I spent two weeks in Mumbai and got to know Alok well and would usually join him for his morning cuppa and cigarette brake. I noticed that he smoked a lot, at least 2 may be 3 cigarettes per brake.
The day before yesterday I was again in Mumbai. Now a lot more sure of myself I had called a meeting of our regional sales heads in Mumbai to discuss our plans for the next quarter and assess the team’s mood. I had also Alok to join thinking that his past experience in sales with Vodafone and Pepsi would come in handy.
While halfway through the meeting we were shocked to receive a call from a hospital in Juhu informing us that Alok has just passed away apparently from a massive cardiac arrest. This is the kind of news that benumbs the mind and makes one wonder about the ephemeral nature of life. All that which seems important appears so small and insignificant and meaningless when confronted with death.
Alok was in his early forties and like many of us lead a sedantary stressful life, smoked and to make matters worse had a family history of heart disease. He was in medical parlance at high risk. In his last annual check up his ECG had shown abnormalities and he needed more tests. He knew all this. Yet he paid no attention, could never find the time for further cardiac evaluation, never visited a hospital again. Like many of us he never believed that anything could happen to him.
The morning Alok died he did not feel well, he was uneasy, nauseous and had even vomited. He self medicated popped an antacid and thought he will be fine. Even then he did not ask for a doctor.
With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to say that Alok was asking for trouble. However, how many of us would have behaved differently? Most of us routinely take good health for granted, believe in our own infalliablity and like to keep the doctors away even if it means self medicating.
No amount of awareness campaigns run by the hospitals can work if we as consumers of healthcare keep ignoring our own health.
I wish things had worked out differently for Alok. However for all of us the lesson in this is self evident-our health must take precedence over everything else.