The Real Disability
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“I heard your fees is high. So we collected money and came. Actually we are below poverty line” Kallappa said, with a big smile.
His father intervened angrily: “No, no doctor, don’t listen to what he says. We will spend whatever is required. Just please cure my son of his headache. He cannot work at all when he gets it”.
Kallappa’s spectacles were broken, but tied together with a colourful thread. Clothes were clean, but patched. The vest was more holes than cloth, the wrist watch a worn out yellow metal with an elastic band. His footwear was worse than the morals of most politicians, and as unpatched.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Feeling offended, I told him “Don’t worry about money. We have a free OPD too. You may not pay, it does not make any difference.”
He insisted on paying, and said “Doctor, I am only below financial poverty line, but we are rich at heart. I don’t want to take advantage of your service”. The big smile on his face persisted.
I wrote his prescription and asked the receptionist to collect a minimal token amount, just so that he is not offended.
In a sea of rich and affording patients who are trying to save money every which way, and claiming concessions, this was a reassurance. And it justly came from a poor man. Most people presume that a doctor must be available at “minimum or no service charge” as an open end social service.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I remembered my Canadian boss Dr. GPR.
Travelling together in a stretch Limo which took us back from a presentation venue, we were also accompanied by Dr. Tabitha, my British colleague.
“The concept of richness is wrongly tied to money, Rjaas!” he said with a handsome smile, “the real rich are the cultured ones who know the value of every human being, of art and literature, and earn respect through their wisdom and behaviour. Taking advantage of others in any way is the real poverty, those need help.”© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Dr. GPR was brutally honest. He considered any manipulation of speech to suit others a ‘mental pollution’. “I am not ashamed or afraid of my mind” he often said, and meant it. Whether it was taboo words or concepts, a discussion about most embarrassing or difficult, he spoke plainly, without colour or guilt.
He was super rich, had three luxury cars, each one of them a dream car for most aspirants of riches. What he had was the best in the world, and what he gave was too. Dr. Tabitha, already too much impressed with him, commented sadly “but people look down upon those who are not rich, Dr. GPR”.
“They are the real challenged, disabled of this world. They do not have any understanding or acumen beyond gold and cash” he replied, “there is nothing wrong in earning money, as much as one can, through service, skill and art. But to earn by twisting someone else’s hand is as criminal as pick-pocketing”.
That stuck in my mind.
In his book “Ideas and Opinions”, Einstein has commented about money, saying “Can one imagine the likes of Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi sitting upon piles of money?”. I had once told this to a friend whose dream was ‘to become very rich’. He shrugged his shoulders and commented “I don’t want to become Mahatma Gandhi. Too tedious”. Then I understood what Dr. GPR had said: there are disabled / challenged people who do not see beyond personal financial gains.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
My childhood fluctuated between lower and upper middle-class, and my bicycle was bought via an installment plan (a tradition I continued in my later life). I considered myself lucky that I had a bicycle to go to my Sanskrit tuition everyday 11 Kms away. It built up a wonderful stamina that helped me in various curious ways, including the hard work required of a doctor. I remember laughing while searching through the drawers at my home cupboards with my mom, to find enough money to pay the newspaper and other trivial bills. Nothing stopped for the want of more money, satisfaction and happiness were not married away to money.
I wrote a note to my boss for a concession for this patient, and he agreed graciously. Of course the next time Kallappa visited, he brought a big gunny bag full of home-grown veggies as a gift for me and my boss too. So different from the many rich patients whom we had given heavy concessions, but who still went disgruntled and never even thanked in words! “Thankless Rich” is a universal medical patient category I feel. Calculated gifts are also sometimes received, and there of course are rare honourable exceptions who value the doctor’s service with rich rewards.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Be it Picasso or Van Gogh, Einstein or Newton, Wodehouse or Amrita Pritam and so many Nobel laureates, they had one thing in common: an inherent sense that only money is not an achievement, nay, money is not at all an achievement.
There are many in India who are legally “Below Poverty Line” because of their financial status. But the number of people “Below the Cultural, Ethical and Moral poverty line” is ever increasing, especially among the rich. There are immensely rich hearted poor still able to truely laugh and love, and extremely poor rich roaming around worried and sad in their luxury cars all around us!
I am struggling to stay above both these lines, like many others whose parents gave them the best possible training in the world: not to tie one’s happiness and pleasures with finances. I will continue to teach my children the same.
We once went for a trip to Goa during our MBBS. One of the “lewdish” guys with us decided to make fun of an old roadside dhaba owner. It was dinnertime.
“Do you get everything in this dhaba?” he asked.
Smiling, the dhaba owner uncle said “Yes. What do you want?”
Touching his nose with his middle finger, this student asked again in a twisted tone “Everything?”.
With the same smiling face, the dhaba owner replied: “Yes, beta, I can get you anything you want. There are only two things your money cannot buy: a mother or respect from others. Now what else do you want? Tell me”.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The Real Disability