one minute of sitting down with Dr. Jaspal, the managing
director of Chang Puek Hospital, we were discussing the
linguistic origins of the Tai languages, Sanskrit and Latin.
This came after explanation of the name “Mor Bpan” by which
he is usually known. “Mor” being Doctor and “Bpan” being
as close as we could get in English script to the Thai
contraction of Jaspal, where the “p” is either a “hard”
P or a “soft” B and the final “L” in Thai is pronounced
as an “N”. Sometimes Thai defies transliteration.
Dr. Jaspal puts one at ease very quickly, but
of course, as a practising medico, this should be one of his
fortes. It is. From the origins of the Tai language we were
suddenly engrossed in the history of Siam, with the many peoples
that eventually became the inhabitants of a country called
Thailand. “I like history,” said the good doctor. “I
should go back and trace my heritage,” he said to himself.
He is the eldest son of a textile trader from
the (pre partition) Punjab who had come to Thailand as a
youngster. However, on one of his parents’ trips back to their
homeland, Dr. Jaspal was born, but only spent three months there
before the family returned to their adopted country, Thailand.
“My father was not well educated, but he
made sure that we all got a good education.” Towards that end,
young Jaspal was sent to an Indian international school in
Bangkok (Bharat Vidyalaya) where he passed his matriculation. At
that stage it was time to look at his future career, and Jaspal
knew two things - the first was that he did not want to be a
shopkeeper, and the second was that he knew his preferred option
of being a writer or journalist would not meet parental
approval. “I wanted to present a ‘real’ profession to my
father,” and from that desire came the decision to study
The decision made and agreed to by the
family, he went to India and completed his two year pre-med
training at Delhi University, then went to Medical School at
Rajasthan University, graduating in 1969.
On his return to Thailand he completed his
internship at Chulalongkorn Hospital - an unpaid position! When
that was over and now possessing full registration to practice
here, he looked around to see where he should go. “I needed to
make my own money, instead of asking for it from my parents.”
Having relatives in Chiang Mai, and
remembering pleasant visits here to see them, pushed the young
doctor north. “I found an opening in a private hospital, and
after a while I also opened my own clinic on Chang Puek Road.”
The industrious doctor was able to open a
small 25 bed hospital after 6 years, and then another 12 years
later, in conjunction with his brothers and friends, he opened
the 100 bed Chang Puek Hospital.
While that may sound like a dream run, with
the family all chipping in, it is not as easy as it sounds. What
has to be considered are the high expectations in an Indian
family. “My parents always hammered into me, you are the
eldest. Believe me, that’s tough. As eldest you are expected
to be a father-like figure. There is a lot of onus and burden.
As the eldest I can give advice and they will listen to me.
There is respect for seniority in the family.” However, it was
also apparent that being the eldest almost meant that he is
expected to be infallible - a difficult concept to live with,
all of us being mortal, after all.
Dr. Jaspal expounded further, drawing
allegories from the Ramayana and the trials of Rama. “There is
no asking ‘Why?’ You have to assimilate all this philosophy.
These stories have an importance in everyday life,” he said.
This I found very interesting, the ability to look at the old
fable and find its relevance to life today.
He went on to describe his personal
philosophy. “Nature neither rewards nor punishes. It follows
the Law of Consequences.” He went on, “When I have
suffering, I ask why did it happen? It is simply a consequence
(of something else). The concept of ‘Karma’ is not
understood. The idea of predestination is really only the
consequence of factors in the past.”
Talking with Dr. Jaspal it was obvious again
that these were not just glib words flowing off his tongue, but
concepts that had been carefully thought through and honed,
using ‘family wisdom’ as handed down from his forebears, and
amalgamating that with his own ideas to produce this credo. I
admit to not fully understanding the concept of Karma either,
but after some time with him, I have a better handle today,
notwithstanding my western mind-set.
Despite his managing director title, Dr.
Jaspal is still active in clinical practice as a GP. His
ambitions include, “I want to remain active as a medical
practitioner and in the future be a source of scholarship funds
for deserving youths to get the best of education. That is my
Of course his own three children did have the
advantage of a good education, and all have been through
university, but surprisingly, none are doctors. I asked if that
was a disappointment? Quite the contrary it seems, “I’m
absolutely thrilled that they are not doctors. I know the stress
it takes.” (Being a doctor myself, with children, I knew
exactly what he was saying, having actively discouraged my
eldest son from entering medical school, but who did it anyway!)
What does the busy doctor do for a relaxing
hobby? “I read six newspapers a day,” was the reply. I asked
what were the other five and he laughed at the impudence of it
However, one day he will write a book. His
heritage? The Ramayana explained? Or even a book on Chiang Mai
restaurants? Dr. Jaspal awaits the Law of Consequences!