Monthly Archives: September 2015

Hide, Don’t Seek

Hide, Don’t Seek
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We are all experts in this.

Mr. SP suffered a stroke, lost his job. Still has to run a family that has kids in engineering college. Since last six months he is looking for work, and is freelancing as an interior designer. To go to work he needs special vehicle. To buy it he needs loan. Bank does not give loan because he does not have a job. RTO will not issue license unless the vehicle is in his own name. He is ineligible for a handicapped- job opportunity because he cannot get a certificate, because there is a huge line for the same in only one center in a large city like Pune, where the handicapped people are expected to queue up starting 4 AM in the morning, without a place to sit or a shade. He has been in this queue for umpteen times, but could not reach the clerk as only limited number of people are taken in. He keeps on spending on the autorickshaw fares, his own medicines, physiotherapy, and limps his way through life cursing his fate. He has already decided that his children will not settle in India.

All that India has learnt in it’s recent evolution is to address him as “Man with special needs” or “Physically challenged” instead of handicapped.

Now he awaits Mr. Mark Zuckerberg or Mr. Tim Cook or Mr. Obama to digitally reach out and solve his problem.

In our evolution as the strongest and the most invested nation, we have shoved below the carpet the facts that we have highest number of unhealthy people who cannot reach or afford basic medical care, hunger deaths, a government-run healthcare system that is worse than dysfunctional at best, a valley of inadequate resources created by senseless laws / rules / red-tapism that mock the possibility of a comfortable living of an honest citizen, where bribe is the basis of any function at almost all levels. Traffic kills not only those on the road, but also those in an ambulance.

This even as we pay one of the highest income tax, and probably the highest duties on almost everything.

Neither women nor children are safe, the political backing encourages hooligans to do away with all the eve-teasing they want. Richest of the rich revel in their 100 and 500 crore successes, multimillion ventures and billionaire statuses in Forbes, while there is no answer to innumerable suicides of poverty ridden populace.
Now we will digitally connect them.

We have learnt the western language in an attempt to impress the western press. With our huge population, there always are enough positive numbers to impress the world, while we hide the negative numbers from the world’s eyes. We have learnt perfectly the eternal art of beautifully colouring a home from outside, while there still are decaying crimes, mountains of unsolved legal / procedural basic issues that eat up the lives of those who live within. The rich-poor gap is at its worst, and the onus is upon the citizen to find legal / illegal solutions to their problems. Audacious corruption stinks in almost every govt. office, but we will sing songs of our own greatness and history. We will die to establish an arrogant historic fact rather than help a dying needy in the present.

We need human connections first. We need internal reforms first.

What will an old sick parent “thrown up by children” do with internet? What will a heart attack patient stuck in traffic do with digitalisation, when there are no sufficient paramedics, and they can’t reach him? How will internet, another “profit-based” venture, provide for food and medicines to those who don’t have money?

Will all this internet access / digitalization solve the issues like rehabilitation of thousands of orphans in the country, rehabilitation of women who have suffered rape, whistle blowers being beaten up and killed in open daylight, a perpetually deficient healthcare scenario with increasing gap between doctor and patient, further widened by draconian laws against the tiny number of remaining doctors?

Just Hide, Don’t Seek answers.

Let us all dress up our best for our new girlfriend: the affluent, civilized western world.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: I am strongly pro-digitalization, but it is the wrong God to bank upon for a positive change in our country.

When once I met God

When once I met God
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Rainy Sunday. My Corolla, still young at 8 years.

I had just finished rounds and was still irritated at the never ending task list. From grocery to Income tax, there always is something pending, and what’s done is never enough. Countless patients with their endless problems, trusting you to solve them, and many suspicious that you have other intentions. Add the cut-throat professional competition where hitting below the belt is a smart move, and frame the picture with the duties towards each relation, closer the costlier. Driving through the city, you cross faceless somebodys flaunting ugly egos. Their middle name is money. Bribe hungry vampires wait at every corner, dressed in official greed. Nothing to be proud of, nowhere to go and nobody to look up to.

Life felt like a carcass with vultures on all sides, tearing me away.

Top gear, I entered the expressway and switched on my mental autopilot: the beautiful sound system that was prepared to play the huge collection of music: seventeen thousand tracks, pieces of history encoded in sound, human creation that separated us from animals.

The system burst alive with “Les Valses de Vienne” by Dmitri Shostakovich / Francois Feldman (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6mwqQvv99c ), and my brain lit up at the smiling face of my most favourite actress Sophie Marceau dancing gracefully to the waltz.
Irritability vanished, and a hopeful yearning for good days started whistling to the tune of this eternal piece of music. It hijacks my brain every single time. Born to a shop maid and a truck driver who divorced when she was nine years old, she made to the top in French films and a mark in Hollywood. She must have had her mountains of problems and valleys of a lustful society to overcome before she reached the top, but she indeed made happy memories for the world! It must be so damn difficult to smile and love and dance in front of a camera, knowing inside the reality called world. Then I felt it: that the beauty is your inside, what you can be, what you do good. Nothing outside will ever change, and the mirage of a utopian society will always kick between the legs of most idealists. But at the end of the day, what one will run to, what one will beg for, and what one will regret having lost is this: that all the time one had to do good and feel happy was wasted in feeling bad about what people are and what they do.

The music system, competing with the madness of its owner, shuffled to Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa”.. “A man gets tied up to the ground, He gives the world its saddest sound” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNbltoivskc ) . How tightly we hold on to the ground, never letting go! How religiously we guard the image we like to create of ourselves for others, and how much beauty of life we sacrifice to safeguard that image!

The rain decided to be nice for once, and became torrential. If at all it rains, it should rain like the final war, or it should not rain at all!

“Moonriver” by Henry Mancini started, as Audrey Hepburn sung in a most loving, melodiously romantic voice, what the heart had always craved: “There’s such a lot of world to see… we’re after the same Rainbow’s end” … so many artists have made timeless icons of lovely moments that soak our lives..

God knows how mute love would have been without music, and how dry without the rains!

The uncontrollable desire to get drenched, suppressed for long, took over me. No book said it was unbecoming of a doctor. I parked on the shoulder and got out. Happy raindrops jumped upon my being and got hold of everything I had.

Ironically, the happiest and the saddest moments in life are when you have nowhere to go and nothing to prove. If you hold a hand in the rain, you are the luckiest, richest in the world. If that hand holds your hand too, you have lived life.

Steaming hot poisonously sweet tea, made by a roadside stall, added to the flavour of that moment. Like a loving but stern mother slapping the bum of her naughty child, nature had shooed shut human movement, a reminder to the highest rule: enjoy happiness while alive. . Big and small, rich and poor, all looked at the sky, content with nothing, smiling at the rain, forgetting the desire to earn more in that moment!

Nostalgic, I recalled sitting by my father and watching water-lily buds broken open by raindrops. I remembered my stunningly beautiful friend with curly hair who kissed me on Marine Drive by the roaring sea under the stormy rain, standing on that parapet, forgetting that there were shocked people around. I remembered falling flat upon my back like a hundred idiots while running with my kids, telling them to be careful.

What is it that I am running after now, with so many beautiful things around me: the music, the rain, the friends, my kids, coffee, books, driving, writing… What more will I buy that will make these things more meaningful? Is it worth being unhappy, being irritable with the world, trying to change people, having more money than being able to enjoy peacefully?

Once in a recent radio programme (recorded) Mr. Ameen Sayani, that messiah of voice, played a rare clip of speech by Mr. Raj Kapoor “Sangeet nahin hota toh jaane hum kahan hote, kya karte, kaise jeete (If there were no music, God knows Where we would be, what we’d do or how we’d live)”.

I suddenly realized, that the music, the drive, the road and the rain had conspired to take away my worries. They had reset the method in my madness. The eternal ‘Flute’ so dearly mentioned in “Geetanjali” by Rabindranath Tagore had played in me.

The rain had stopped for now. The music never will.

Thus I met God in my own Happiness.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Mystique

I desperately wanted to get admission to the DM Neurology course, one of the toughest known. The entrance for only 6 available seats in India then was attended by many hundred doctors who had passed their MD. The results came on a stormy rainy evening, there was a chance: I intensified my prayers.

The interviews left me stranded on the high edge: I was first on the waiting list for Neurology. I returned with a heavy heart to Aurangabad, and joined a private medical college as a lecturer, just to buy time. I started preparing for the next entrance, to be held a year later. The feeling of “not having what you want” is the worst in the world. You know it, I don’t have to explain!

A loner, I sank further into studies, and my calendar was full of studying, teaching and attending my toddler son. I was posted in a new unit, I was told the new boss would be a little “surprising”.
I met Dr. C. S. Shah, professor of medicine next morning. He had a Roger-Moorish mocking expression perpetually upon his smiling face. An excellent clinician himself, he had his own mysterious style of behaviour and speech, and the best part of it was he was completely unconcerned what people thought of him. Still more enviable, he didn’t think at all about them.

“Why are you stressed?” He asked one day after the rounds, as we had a light OPD. I told him I desperately wanted to get into DM Neurology course, but was waiting because there were only 6 seats in the country then. He asked “So what? Study all the Neurology you want and practice it… who is going to stop you?” “But sir, people look at the degree” I replied .
“That is why you will always be stressed. People.” He laughed at me.

“Give it up” he said.
“What?” the dumb me.
“Your desire to do DM Neurology. Give it up” he replied with his trademark mysterious smile.
If it was anyone else, I would have lost my mind. But this was a person I respected.
“I won’t be at peace with myself sir” I replied.
“Are you at peace with yourself now? Have you ever tried giving up what you desperately want just because your arrogant mind wishes it?” he asked me.
I had never. I remembered my favourite quote from Einstein’s book “Ideas and Opinions”: “Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants”: profound words by Schopenhauer!

I was not prepared to. This was one of my fondest wish: to attain the highest in Neurology education, and DM was an essential step for later plans.

Once we spoke about prayers, I told him my efforts and failures about meditation and “Kundalini Jagruti”. One of my early mentors Dr. P. D. Purandare had encouraged me to read J. Krishnamurty, and I had attempted “feeling one with eternity” for many times, without success.
“Because you are not prepared” Dr. C.S Shah answered immediately.
“For feeling one with all, you cannot have a selfish intention that can harm anyone else. You eat killed animals, how will any animal feel one with you? If you take what belongs to others, if you want to be better than everyone else by showing them down, why will they feel one with you? Inner peace has a price: you cannot hurt or deceive anyone” he added.
It was difficult to follow this in a competitive world where the ability to cleverly deceive others is considered smartness, and to diplomatically market that ability has become the gold standard for most businesses. Honesty and loyalty are considered weaknesses in a world that faces the worst addiction humanity knows yet: money.

But the divinity of good is that it seeps into your soul, whether you like it or not, and even the bad ultimately knows to respect the good. I gradually started realising what a grand difference it makes to myself, to not harm others by even a word, by making choices based upon honesty and trust.

Dr. Shah often told me: “Give up your desire.. it kills you…you will get whatever you want only if you pursue it with a neutral interest, with a readiness to let it go. The more you run after something, the more difficult it will get for you. Nothing is more important than your peace of mind. Don’t sell it for anything else in life”.

He took me to the Ramakrishna math (monastery), where he had found his inner peace. It was such a joy to let the silence soak your being, a flood of realisations that woke me up to what life had to offer and how my stubborn wishes had suffocated my own possible futures. To let go is not always weakness, it is also a sign of higher maturity. A loser or a coward lets go for fear but a winner lets go for a better life.
There, in complete silence, I made a decision that a million words and thoughts had been unable to make: I wanted to move ahead, and even my best dream couldn’t be an obstacle in the path for a good tomorrow. Dreams were not meant to stop my life.

I resigned and went to Nanded, joined one of the best hospitals there and started working with a cardiologist who wanted to pursue a social career. He offered me to take over his hospital.

On 7th January 1999, my birthday, I signed a contract with him. I had also finished a religious book as planned, and my parents were very happy about all this.

On 8th January, I received a telegram:
“You are selected for D.M. Neurology at KEM hospital and Seth G.S. Medical college Mumbai. Please report immediately”.

I called Dr. C. S. Shah sir, and told him I got DM after ‘giving it up’.

He laughed.

“Now give up your dream of a happy life” he said.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande