Gurdip Singh Flora is a physician with a thriving
practice in Simi Valley. His middle name, Singh,
indicates his faith. He is a Sikh and all male
Sikh’s have that same middle name - Singh. The
Sikh religion is a fusion of elements of Hinduism
and Islam. Its adherents live predominantly in
Punjab, a northwestern Indian state bordering
Islamic Pakistan and Hindu India.
Sikhs have been famous for their fierceness
in battle and their heroism for hundreds of years.
They were the turban clad, sword-wielding soldiers
in Britain s former colonial Indian army. Rudyard
Kipling’s Ballad of Gunga Din and the movie of
the story staring Cary Grant exemplify that tradition.
“Though I’ve belted you and flayed you, By the
living God that made you, You’re a better man
than I am, Gunga Din!”
Growing up in India, Dr. Flora adhered to the
Sikh custom of the five K’s: keeping his hair
long (kes) and carrying a small comb (khanga)
under a turban, wearing an iron bracelet (kara),
carrying a symbolic steel sword (kirpan), and
wearing a tight, knee length undergarment (kaccha).
But, like many new Americans, Gurdip Flora has
foregone those elements of his tradition. He has
held onto others.
True to Sikh custom, his father arranged his
marriage. He did not see his wife until he lifted
her veil. He didn’t go through the courtship and
dating rituals familiar to native-born Americans.
But a happy marriage to his wife, Ayvinder, for
fifteen years and three children speak well of
his faith and traditions.
After attending medical school in Calcutta,
Dr. Flora arrived in the U.S. in 1983 to do continue
his medical training. As many other Indian doctors
have done, he stayed in the U.S. – to raise his
family, to pursue his career.
If you glance at any directory of hospital physicians,
you’ll find a bevy of Indian names: Kumar, Aggarwal,
Gupta, Goel, Garg, Patel. The largest groups of
doctors, next to those American born, are from
India. “India has more than 100 medical schools,”
Dr. Flora explained. Because of British colonial
influence, these schools are steeped in the traditions
of western medicine. But while their schools teach
about the technological advances of medicine,
because India is a poor country, there is less
opportunity to apply those advances. Indian doctors
seek to come to the U.S. to learn how to utilize
the latest technology. They stay certainly because
economic opportunities are greater here.
What does Dr. Flora miss most about his homeland?
“Peace of mind,” he said thoughtfully. “Even
though India is decades behind the economic level
of the United States, the stress and anxiety levels
are not there at all. Indians are very relaxed
people.” And there is no threat of legal action.
“Physicians are still revered in India,” Flora
explained. “After god, there’s the doctor. And
the doctor heals with the help of god.”
Flora described an interesting difference in
the practice of medicine in the U.S. and India.
In India, he said, a doctor can take more time
tending to his patients because there is no such
thing as medical records. Instead of the doctor
keeping each patient’s record, he writes down
his exam, his diagnosis, and prescription on his
letterhead, and gives it to the patient. It is
the patients’ responsibility to keep their own
records and bring them with them on revisits to
their doctor or in visiting another doctor.
Dr. Gurdip Flora does not remind me of a fierce
Sikh warrior. He is a soft-spoken man with a talent
for compassion, well educated in the healing arts
of medicine. But then again he might surprise
me one day wearing his traditional turban and
sword. Afterall, his middle name is Singh, which