The Untold Slaughter
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
In my first year of Residency, I was waiting near the hospital elevator, with a colleague, already late at 8.30 AM. The Dean, who is the highest authority in medical campus, on his morning rounds, came with his routine flock: Medical Directors and Superintendents, Nursing Chief, and Assistant Medical Officers, and waited for the elevator. I wished him a Good Morning, he reciprocated and looked at his wrist watch. I understood. “Sorry Sir, I had an emergency last night, I left wards at 7 AM” I said. He nodded and smiled.
He was a respectable odd man out in the system at Government Hospitals then. He was clean and non-corrupt, extremely punctual and active. This reflected in cleaner wards and better services, availability of staff, medicines and devices, although the patients who benefited rarely knew who was the guardian angel behind the service. He had become Dean by a rare chance: there was no one qualified and willing to take on that responsibility, so he was given the charge. However, now those in the “good books” of power were ready to take over, and awaited the right moment.
Like most straightforward and non-corrupt officers with a spine, he was generally hated by the system. He had stopped the bribery and corruption that started from some ward assistant / ward-boy level to all the purchases, appointing committees of different heads. He had stopped the purchase of medicines and devices / catheters from dubious companies which had flourished for years around the town. “Local Cheap Pharmacies” run by the “Well Connected” or aliases of those in power were affected badly, as their whole set-up was designed to run via such government hospital purchases.
The doctors, clinicians and residents like us were happy that the patients got good quality drugs, it is otherwise horrible to witness treatment failures which can never be proven to substandard drugs or catheters. The only face to blame is that of the doctor for a politician or a patient.
Naturally, he was on the hotlist of many in power. The best weapon in politics: the caste card was being used against him. The labour organisations and staff associations that belonged to a different caste / religion than that of this Dean were continuously active to create nuisance, hoping to spread the fire and bomb the press at the first correct opportunity.
Almost all elevators at government hospitals are the basic old re-repaired ones: slow, jerky, unreliable, like many offices. As we waited, few others joined the elevator queue. Among these was a middle aged sweeper lady, who came limping.
“What happened?” asked the Dean to her.
“I fell at home, it’s just a small sprain, I am taking medicine Sir” she replied politely.
The elevator came. As patients rushed in, the Dean held open the door for her, and asked her to get in first.
“Pehle aap andar aao” he said (“You come in first”).
The lady politely replied “Nahi Sir, aap chaliye pehle” (‘No, Sir, You get in first”).
He went in, some staff went in with him, then he asked the sweeper lady to come in too, by a hand gesture.
That was enough. The next day, there was a huge agitation. The allegation was that the Dean said “Aati Kya” (“Will you come with me”) to a sweeper, and made an obscene hand gesture. There were morchas, road blocks in the campus. The sweeper lady declined to comment, her husband who was among the association leaders gave the press interviews. Some student organisations based upon caste and religion were involved, their gusto fueled by those in power. Two of the doctors who accompanied the Dean that day on the rounds also testified that the allegations were true. One of them was in fact the next in line to become the Dean. Everyone sane in the campus felt ashamed.
I was too insignificant then, just as I am today. But I went to the Dean with my female colleague, and we offered to testify what had actually happened.
He smiled through the hell he was going through.
“It was my mistake, Rajas, that I accepted the post. This is how the system works, this is the power they have. It is never any party or caste or religion, it is merely a human tendency and unfortunately, that is in abundance today. We have no chance against the majority, and if the majority chooses to be a mob, we
are helpless. Because mobs are bought and blinded, they have no logic or reasoning. The wisest thing in certain situations is to continue to survive, do your best, till you can help engineer a change”.
“But Sir, those allegations are so unfair and vulgar” my colleague said.
He looked at her straight in the eye, and said “Do you believe all that the politicians say?”.
The change happened overnight.
Disgraced and sent on leave, our Dean did not resign.
“I am the small good that must remain in the system. Twisting facts, making allegations that need no proof, exposing personal lives and relationships, misusing culture, philosophy and wisdom as per convenience are new-age essentials for most political leaders. Illiteracy is a dangerous force. The only hope is those who do not succumb to pressure, keep their eyes open and think with their own brains” he told his friends.
Two years later, when I met him to give him sweets for my passing, to touch his feet and seek blessings, I found the same sweeper lady and her husband waiting outside his office. I told him so when I went inside.
Calmly, he replied “Yes, their son has passed twelfth standard, they need some financial help for his college fees”.
I did not ask him what he would do. Doing good is an obligation with such human Gods, irrespective of what they get back in return.
That places them above every other form of human being dry-blabbering about humanity. I touched his feet thrice that day.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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PS: Some facts changed to mask identity.