Monthly Archives: May 2016

“Housewife, or Outwife?”

“Housewife, or Outwife?”
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Isn’t your wife working? She must not waste her education.. She has such good opportunity..” he asked.
“Yes, she is planning to, but after the baby is at least three months old. We have taken alternate leaves. What about your wife?” I asked. I knew his wife was a qualified postgraduate doctor.
“Oh she wants to stay at home and look after the kids. There is no one else at our home to take care of the kids. My mom has knee pain. She feels that once the kids grow up to 10 years, then my wife should join duty. I said okay, anyways I am earning enough!” he replied.
“Then why did you ask about the waste of my wife’s education?” I thought, but didn’t ask. I was used to these questions.

Although a single now, I was once married. My parents had gracefully lived like friends till my father passed away, so there always was a culture of true equality without any “culturally sweetened” excuses at our home. “If at all there has to be a preference, and you two disagree, prefer what your wife wants” my father always insisted. So naturally she studied and worked as she wanted, made her choices. There were no discussions about superiority, neither any hidden rules of dominance at our place. This has a compromise: when both are equal, and there is no “dominance”, fights/ arguments over differences increase. Still this was any day better than a traditionally hidden slavery system.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

But there were these friends, relatives and strangers, who kept on continuing the evergreen Indian business of “frankly poking their noses” in our affairs. From advice about what to eat to when to have children, they all had individualised suggestions for us, notwithstanding the knowledge that we were both qualified doctors!

One of my uncles was famous for spending his whole life at home before and after work reclining in a sofa. His day started with shifting himself from his bed to the sofa, ordering his wife to ‘paste his brush’, make tea, heat up water for his bath, keep his towel in the bathroom (all this while he read newspapers or watched TV), keep his office clothes ready, make his favourite dishes for breakfast, tiffin and dinner every day, and telling her and everyone else how much he loved her. Although she was an art graduate and sung well, she didn’t get any time for herself beyond his chores and raising the four kids. As aunty herself smilingly said she enjoyed doing all this, other working women in the family kept on speaking about her in ‘belittling’ words, of her being lucky to be ‘just a housewife’. Every other day, uncle’s friends came home for dinner / drinks / card games etc., and aunty kept serving their culinary wishes.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This very uncle was once chatting with me at a marriage ceremony. My grandma sent some tea with my wife to the room where I sat with this uncle and many guests, most strangers. As she handed over the tea to me, my uncle, in a ‘classified diplomatic high volume” voice, started: “Rajas, she is a doctor. She is equally educated as you. How can you ask her to make tea for you and bring it? Is she your slave? You must treat her as your equal”. As the whole room and over 40 eyes stared derogatory at me, I expected her to reply, but someone called her and she left.

I was reluctant, but one must never give up the wars for dignity.
“Why should she be a slave even if she is less educated or even uneducated?” I asked him. “Do you mean to say that a differently educated woman is doomed to be a slave? Why must your wife cook for you? Why must she be responsible for everything from your clothes to cleaning of the house to raising the kids, while you order her like a personal assistant? I have never even seen you getting a glass of water for yourself” I retorted. The ‘seniors’ in the room interfered, reminding me that this was not the way to ‘answer back’ an uncle.

Years passed by. We divorced. Kids with me, and an ever demanding career of a specialist doctor, I realised further more how difficult it is to attend to the house chores alone. From handling groceries, maids to schooling, how insufficient it is to have only two hands and only 24 hours. God helped, and I have survived.

This caused one definite change in my practice. While asking women the history, we were trained to ask “Are you working or not”? (and the usual answer used to be “No, I don’t work, I’m just a housewife”). Now I ask “Do you work only at home or also outside?” . Because I know the housewife works far more than the workwife, but without any remuneration or respect. The job of successfully growing up children is any day over and above any other!© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Someone has to look after the family. I can earn and provide as much as she wants. I give her whatever she wants. She has to choose a career with lesser responsibility, so someone is available for kids. She loves taking care of me and the children. This is our tradition, our culture. Men hunt, women nest”. There are so many sweet excuses of murdering a woman’s career! Well what most men hunt are women’s dreams and where most women nest are prisons with golden walls. The immense clever deceptive wordplay that goes into hiding the simple truth “I think women should look after home and live a secondary life while men have a free will” is amazingly accepted by even the best talented men in our society!

Be it doctors or any other profession, a “lesser career” for a woman is taken for granted by those who claim to love her.

“She should be happy about it: she has to just sit at home and enjoy, while I do all the hard work” said the national level director of a telecom project.

The second side: “I like doing it for my family” some women say, and if they do, how perfect it must feel!© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is not my business what others decide among themselves. But when people who “encage” their wives in the confines of a home start talking diplomatically about gender equality or why other people’s beautiful and able wives must start working etc., when they flirt with their officemates / colleagues while expecting wifey dear to keep dinner ready when they “return tired”, I cannot stop reacting without a sizzle in my words.

There are no easy answers for the ritualistic mindsets though.

One of my patients suffered with a very bad form of Parkinsonism, and was bed-bound for over five years. His perfectly healthy wife once broke down. “I have taken care of this man since the first day of our marriage, done everything he wanted. He was always busy, day and even many a night, outside the house, I have always been lonely all through so many years. I used to pray to God that I get some good time with him. The thought of making any friends, some other man never touched me. But he never talked to me about love. Never realised I was burning inside for true friendship with him. Now he is home all the time and wants me never to leave his bedside. But now I am tired. Now I clean him, feed him and just think: what had I done wrong to deserve this kind of a punishment?”.
When he passed away, we heard two reactions: “He is now relieved of his pain” and “She is now relieved of having to take his care”. What no one spoke was about the loveless, friendless 50 years of a woman’s life.

“You are so brilliant, hard working and yes, beautiful ,” said a senior professor, to a bombesque colleague friend of mine, gently patting upon her back, “you must make a great career.. Do let me know if you have any problems, I have many connections”. “Yes, Sir, may I ask what madam (your wife) does? Is she a doctor too?” asked my friend. “No, she stopped after MBBS. We married early, you see!” he replied.

Later that evening, as we sat at Nariman Point watching the sea, I asked her opinion about what the professor had said.
The breezes were noisy, and so was the sea, but the single word that she used for him made a hundred red faces turn towards us.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Greater Life.

The Greater Life.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“My younger brother was .. is.. was.. is..” he broke down. The auditorium held its breath. A colleague upon the stage pacified him.
“My younger brother was killed in an accident. But he is sitting in this room right now. I do not know upon which chair, but I know he is here. I hope he can hear me.” he said, pausing again to suppress sobs.
The transplanted liver of his brother somewhere in the same auditorium was silent, but more alive than most alive. Because it had survived death, living a greater Life now.
“My husband has the heart of a rabbit, he is very good otherwise. It was I who ran the show since our marriage” said this illiterate lady in an old green saree, torn footwear and one green bangle in her hand, to a laughing auditorium; “I have always been the lion-hearted in my family. I am not scared of any situation, not even poverty. I raised my children and even husband to a very happy family. But the day we were suddenly told that both his kidneys had failed, I lost my heart too, and broke down. But in a short while, I decided that I can solve this problem too. So I gave him my kidney. Now he is fine. I just want to tell you that you should not lose hope, God stands by us if we decide to stand up to the situation” she folded her hands at the sky, and wiped her eyes with a corner of her patched saree.
Next. She must be an artist or a guest to entertain. Twenty-something, fair and fragrant, as delicately beautiful as a dewdrop on a petal, dressed in an enviable grace, she walked up to the stage. She smiled like breezes before the monsoon, and softly said “I am an engineering student. My life had come to a halt when I was told that both my kidneys had failed. I received a kidney belonging to someone who passed away in a road accident. He may have lost his life but he lives within me. I cannot even thank him or his family: but I pray every day that they are always well provided for and looked after by the same almighty who saved my life”. She didn’t cry then, but there was something that kept her instantly above everyone, when she smiled. It was difficult to imagine that this young girl had had a kidney transplant!
He beamed when he reached the mike. Another teenager. “Forgive my rural language, but now I have the urban courage, to talk loudly and boldly. I was preparing for my own death two years ago. My village does not even have water or electricity. What’s more, nobody in my village knew what a kidney was! I was all bloated up, preparing mentally to say goodbye to my world any day soon. Then the people in my village collected money for me. My mother went from door to door, begging. The hospital and the social worker worked hard to get me donations from different trusts. And here I am, all cured, back on track to live life fully. I have a job now. Thank you, all doctors! Thank you, Joshi madam” he said.
As the “Organ Donation Day function” ended, almost everyone coming out was tearful and smiling. No amount of money can buy the satisfaction of the soul that comes from the greatness of human heart.
“Sir, my father has suddenly collapsed while returning from his office. We have taken him to the hospital near my home” said my student, his shaky voice making an effort not to give away the panic. They had just bought a new house, father was in his fifties, and the only source of earning for the family of four. Lower middle class, all the money went for basics and educating him and his sister. I worried about their future: with the long illness now, who will earn or pay for them? He was in his last year of physiotherapy.
In three hours, he called back. “Sir it’s a bleed .. they say he has no brainstem functions. We have consented to donate his organs. Sir, he will still be alive then, na? Five people will survive because of him” as his voice started shaking, “Sir today morning when we had our tea, papa had said that I must give back to the society. I guess this decision is right, isn’t it, Sir?” he paused to regain his voice.
To a society in which “Me, Mine and I” are the worst diseases, where children abandon parents for saving money and all corrupts blame all other corrupts, his father had professed him to give back. If not here, where else is the great?
“Where is your mom and sister? Hope they are aware” I asked him. “Yes Sir, I am with them. I know what you are thinking, Sir. I will take care of my family Sir, I know I can. I know you are with me..” he said.
Understandably, death takes away the life even of the survivors for a few moments. No one can think sane and calm. But we do come across some, who, once they know the inevitable, still think of what best can be done even in that situation. Organ donation by the live and now even the brain dead patients (where it is medically ascertained by 4 experts that the brain has no chance of recovery, and the patient’s heart and other organs may still work for a few hours ) has changed the scenario of a definite death penalty for kidney, liver and heart failure patients. Up to five lives can be changed / saved when the family of a brain-dead patient (or the patient during his life) has consented to organ donation.
There are very strict guidelines for organ transplant programs, and these are scrupulously followed and monitored by various agencies. Of course there are those who take advantage of the existing loopholes (as in any evolving system), but that by no means should devalue the great work being carried out by different transplant teams all over India. If a soldier dies on the border, other soldiers cannot waste time in crying and rituals, however they might suffer. That gallantry of soul required to continue to fight is unmatched. However, translated into medical battles, we need far more true valour. There are many allegations, but there is no recognition of the thousands of saved lives all over India, via organ transplants. As if all the sacrifices of those families, and all the hard work of the transplant teams were a waste! So many centres for organ transplants have such beautiful success stories and results, so many doctors have taken forward this huge task at the expense of their own time, effort and precious life.
For those who want to live beyond death, those who have an extraordinary heart, and even those who cannot stop criticising the whole medical profession for not being human and charitable enough, here is your chance to show what you are: please sign up for organ donation and save lives. Thousands die waiting for kidney / liver / heart transplants, while so many thousand kidneys, livers, hearts and other transplantable organs are just destroyed every day, people unaware that they can save lives.
The poor and non-affording still have difficulty arranging funds, the government must start this program in its higher healthcare set ups / medical colleges, so as to provide all the necessary backups and teams. Funding should come forward from charitable / religious establishments. There can be a central fund with ZTCC where people can donate, and a proportion of income from various religious / social / political / charitable etc. establishments collecting donations may be streamlined.
The Zonal transplant coordination centres (ZTCCs) work extremely hard to ensure that everything is legally correctly done. The police have recently provided with excellent backup for fast-transporting the harvested organ towards the recipient. Those who cannot think beyond money and criticism will never grasp the life of this activity.
A new era of humanity has begun, our challenge is to stand up to save lives.
Donate Organs. Please.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Please share for saving maximum lives through awareness.

The End

The End
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
He picked up the call he awaited desperately. She was ecstatic.. “Happy Birthday! I have been thinking about what you said. I have feelings for you too. Can we meet at the tea break around 4?” She asked. “Yes” he replied, excited.
“Oh yes and I also wanted to tell you that I got my visa yesterday”.
“Yes, congrats! See you at 4. I will wait” he said hastily, and disconnected. Another call was waiting, from the hospital. “Sir there is an admission, paralysis since yesterday. He had stopped his BP medicines two months ago. Now vitals stable, lab sent.” said the CMO.
“Get an urgent MRI, and shift to semi-ICU. I am on my way” he instructed.
He answered all the questions about “complete cure and guarantee” by relatives, and also listened to their hidden threats. He did not want to spoil his mood especially today.
He had left without breakfast, so went to the canteen and brunched a hasty sandwich and a coffee. He mused about her. After a long time he had liked someone, and wanted to take it further. She was a paramedic, and the kind of guileless straightforward, soft, smiling person he required to be with him all his life. He felt her affection in everything that she said to him. She seemed usually unaware that almost every head turned to look at her. He decided to make the best of today’s meeting. Life was going nowhere outside the hospital any ways otherwise. He had even forgotten birthday celebrations long ago.
More patients kept him busy for the whole noon. The poor had an unsaid plight coupled with their fears: of the illness, of the surgery, of the expenses, of the big city, big hospital, and even of the doctor. The rich were mostly ill-behaved, irresponsible and seeking ways of taking advantage: to avoid tests, visits, payments, vehemently reluctant to give up their addictions: alcohol, smoking, weed and money. Few kind patients realised his gloom and made an effort to soothe him with compliments, make him laugh.
He had no time to think or plan what he was going to say to her. They knew each other for over three years, but had not been able to spend quality time because both were PGs till three months ago, lucky if they had their meals and sleep. Now that they were out, they had to work harder to survive in the competition. He desperately wanted to spend his life with her. This was his last opportunity to say it properly.
Because she planned to leave India in a month, and if he didn’t speak his mind today, he would have no chance again to do so. He wondered about the coincidence that this was happening on his birthday. “She should not accept me just because of that” he thought. His inner voice said “Its ok even if it is that. You are going to make her happy in either case”.
It was 3.30 PM. There was no time to go get a rose or a greeting. He pictured for a second in his mind that he is romantically kneeling in front of her in his blue suit, holding an open box of a beautiful sapphire ring, and she, ever gorgeous, surprised and pleased, tearful and smiling, is holding his face.
The junior doctor came running. “Sir, there’s a traffic accident, head injury, unconscious, intubated in casualty”. They went to the casualty. Twenty years old, no helmet. Bike slipped and his head hit the pavement. Shocked, panicked and angry, the relatives thought everything was wrong at the hospital. As he ran to the patient, five relatives surrounded him and asked questions. He politely asked them to wait till he examined the patient. “When did this happen?” he asked the junior “Sir eight hours ago” he replied.
Pale and cold. Pupils not reacting. No Doll’s Eye movements. No spontaneous activity. No reflexes. No response to caloric tests. Heart rate high. BP low. CT scan showed large bleed, multiple skull fractures, and a compressed brainstem. Sodium already high. Beyond surgery. Beyond possibility of survival.
“Did he have any earlier illness?” He asked. The uncle replied; “He used to have fits. It was his birthday yesterday. He may have had some drinks with his friends”.
It was difficult to look at the face of his mother and father, lakes of hope, shock, trauma and expectation in their eyes. “We will make an effort, but things look quite bad as of now” he told them. “Do everything, doctor, call the best doctors. Just save my son. Don’t worry about money” said the father.
He lost his mind for a split moment. The doctor within him was crying for the lost patient. If you had all the money, why didn’t you buy a helmet for your son? Why did you allow him to drink and drive? How come his epilepsy medicine was stopped? But there was no use thinking about it all now.
He wrote the orders, and waited to answer the crying mother, who begged him to get her son back. He thought about his own mother and her anxieties for him. Helpless, he even felt at one moment that he had chosen another profession than to face this every other day. For it was not the courage or goodwill, it was not the hard work that tormented him daily, but it was the scars that each such event bruised upon his soul. For years.
He realised that the phone was ringing. It was 4.45. He ran to the canteen. She was already a little upset, but conjured a smile. “Happy Birthday” she said, and handed him the greeting and the gift. Thanking her, he sat there, the sobs of that mother in casualty still continued in his mind. “So, did you think about what I said?:” she asked, and continued: “my parents will accompany me there, stay for a week, and then return. I won’t be able to return for at least a year. The curriculum is too tough. What’s wrong with you? Are you listening?”
He told her about the near dead patient in the casualty. She became silent. He talked superficially about her travel plans, her parents and her stay there. He could not bring himself to speak of his love at that moment. Death, anyone’s, stuns most around.
They finished the coffee. With cordial words, asking him to take care of himself, and a promise to stay in digital touch, she left.

“It is your choice, your duty. You must think of the service you are doing to this society. Death, shock, trauma and illness are a daily routine for you, why does it even bother you any more? People get sick, die almost every day, and you have chosen to spend life in hospitals. Why can’t you learn to be insensitive, unemotional to medical issues?” asked a part of his mind.
The other part of his mind, stunned in an abyss of a silent agony, because a lifetime of love had just passed away, did not answer.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande