The Wrong Sacrifice

The Wrong Sacrifice
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Come home this weekend.. I feel like seeing you” my father said. He was already feeling sad, missing my sister who had married three months ago.

That was 14th October, a day prior to my sister’s birthday. I had taken a week’s leave for her marriage and preparations.
I felt sorry for Baba and desperately wanted to meet him. I was quite attached to him.

I asked my professor, and was reminded that there was a shortage of resident doctors, we had a ward full of 50 patients, 10 more than the capacity. “You have to sacrifice some things once you become a doctor, Rajas. I am sorry, but you cannot get leave at present” my professor said.

Late that night I called Baba and told him so. I could feel the heaviness in his throat as he replied “Ok. I am proud that you value your duty and responsibility above me. Take care. And yes, don’t forget to wish your sister tomorrow for her birthday, and get her some good gift. She must be missing us too”.

I had had one of those cruel “brother-sister” fights with her, and we weren’t talking. Another carefully protected window to our childhood, we enjoyed those fights which multiplied our love.

“You have always sided with her, Baba. You are partial to her” I replied with pretend-anger.
He laughed “That’s because I have made you tough enough to take care of yourself in any situation. She has a delicate mind” Baba said.

I assured him I will call her. I did, and wished her a Happy Birthday. She was ecstatic. That evening on 15th October, I called up home. My mom picked up. She told me that both of them were feeling very sad about being away from us especially because it was sister’s birthday. “Baba has tears in his eyes all day” she said.
I tried to cheer up Baba. “I have called your laadli daughter and wished her. I have also sent her a nice dress from Mumbai. Now you have to buy me something when I come home okay?”
“When will you come?” he asked again.
“As soon as my professor allows” I replied.

The next afternoon, on 16th October 2000 at 2.30 PM I received a call that Baba had had a sudden cardiac arrest and passed away. I suffer that call till this minute. I will never recover from the trauma of that moment.

Now, whenever someone questions the integrity of a doctor, the honesty and hard work of genuine doctors or accuses them of working only to earn money, or high-handedly suggests that the hardships and sacrifices involved in this field are ‘chosen’ and mandatory, I feel I made a wrong sacrifice for an undeserving society.

There are sayings in every religion about some animals not understanding their holy texts. Medicine is my religion and I will not explain its holiness to the donkeys who refuse to understand it. Be it the corporators, MLAs or MPs from ruling parties who attack doctors, Journalists or reporters who spew poison against every doctor, or the perpetually “cheap and free” demanding class.

There are thousands of doctors who have gone through this situation: sickness, marriage, rituals and even death in their families which they could not attend just because they were working to save someone, attending other patients. I know of umpteen doctors who got one day leave for their marriage, when their child was born, or their parent was sick.

Before you question a doctor’s intent and integrity, before you talk loose about this profession, please do search your soul.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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