The Braying Donkey: Reflections on a Life by Dr. Timir Banerjee

With his father, one uncle, and maternal grandfather all working as doctors in India, Timir Banerjee knew early in life that he was destined for a career in medicine. It is ironic, therefore, that a major theme of The Braying Donkey, Banerjee’s loosely organized collection of memoirs and inspirational thoughts, is his lifelong quest for identity and self-fulfillment against the unforgiving forces of social convention, discrimination, and the random circumstances of birth. Born in India, he came to Louisville, Kentucky, as a young hospital intern in the 1960s. The story of his cross-cultural experience is a revealing contrast between the medical practices of his homeland and those of the US, but mostly, it is the unique and inspiring self-portrait of a remarkable individual.

Deeply steeped in the simple wisdom of his father and grandfather, Banerjee offers compelling insights into matters of religion, morality, racism, legal ethics, childhood, fatherhood, friendship, love, sexuality, literature, and more. The still powerful influence of his father and grandfather shows in his touching and detailed portraits of these two mentors. Disaffected by the religion of his homeland, Banerjee finds peace of mind and a strong sense of purpose through Christianity, enabling him to rise above the ugliness of bigotry and to combat conventional notions of success through material gain.

The book’s language and structure is shaped largely by the free flow of his thoughts, combined with descriptive imagery of a “mystic land.” These reminiscences are vivid, humorous, often aphoristic in impact, and always pleasantly unpretentious. Banerjee’s imagination isolates the most curious and telling details of his varied life experiences, lending clarity, humor, and poignancy to his stories. No reader will easily forget such scenes as a nude burglar, bound to a lamppost and covered with poison ivy by angry villagers; the young author and his friends eating baked potatoes while watching funeral pyres of sandalwood burn beside the Ganges; or his grandmother’s simple but effective home remedy for ear infection—warm butter, cooled on a betel leaf and poured into the ears.

About the Author

Dr. Timir Banerjee, a retired, board-certified neurosurgeon, was born in India and educated in India and the U.S. He has published numerous medical articles and a book, Signs, Syndromes, and Eponyms: Our Legacy (AANS, 1999). He has also written another book titled Sights and Sounds of Nepal and Katmandu Valley, and has presented many scientific papers. He is currently a professor of Neuro-Anatomy at the Kigezi International School of Medicine in Cambridge, England, and has served on the professional staff at the universities of North Carolina and Wisconsin. His volunteer work in the Federation of International Education of Neurosurgeons and Medical Benevolent Foundation takes him to such distant locations as Nepal, Peru, India, Brazil, and Zimbabwe. Timir also served as a Commander in the United States Naval Reserve and is an active member of the Senatorial Inner Circle. He now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he enjoys gardening and the company of his adult children.

Excerpts

Childhood Notions of Bliss

“My father and I often discussed the medieval country of Cockayne and its relationship with heaven. . .this place that is full of rivers of wine, houses built of cake and sugar, streets paved with pastry, and everything is free. Roast geese wander about the streets inviting people to eat them and buttered birds fall from the sky like manna…”

Young America’s Obsession with Indian Culture

“I was coming from a great culture where many children from America came to ‘find themselves’ away from their parents. I did not know how many ‘found themselves,’ or truly became scholars in Indian philosophy, but many certainly enjoyed the flavors of cannabis during the process…”

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