(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Sir Can I come to meet you this Wednesday? I am in Delhi right now, I will be coming to Pune on Tuesday to see my parents” Dr. Aman asked. He sounded different from his usual jovial self. I was with a patient.
“Sure! Everything alright with you?” I asked hesitantly.
“I will come and see you sir, I want to tell you something”.
I finished my OPD and went to the cafetaria, feeling nostalgic. Dr. Aman was a brilliant student from one of my earliest batches. You know, when you have just passed out Neurology DM, and you are a teacher to those 3-4 years younger to you. It’s a guarded friendly relation more than a teacher-student one. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
His parents were uneducated, his father ran a grocery shop in a small town. Aman had mostly stayed in charity hostels almost all his school and college days. He had maintained a high merit but also a very polite behavior, enabling him to get support from his teachers. I met him first during his last year of MBBS, I was in the last year of my MD Medicine. We became friends because both of us were night owls, preferring to study late in peace. The city bus-stand was about two miles away from the hostel, and we went there together to snack and have tea etc. early morning at 4 AM, after having studied till then. We did not discuss anything academic, we were more into Richard Bach and Ayn Rand stuff. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Once during that 4 AM walk to the bus stand, he said “I want to do the best for my country, Dr. Rajas. My dream is to open a hospital where all poor patients can get the best treatment completely free. Not the ‘charity’class cheap and superficial treatment, but the best treatment that there can be anywhere upon earth”.
“I agree, I want to do something similar too, but where will the funds come from? World class treatment will mean world class doctors, staff, technology, set-up and even world class medicines. Who will sponsor it all?”I asked. This thought crosses the mind of almost every medical student while studying medicine, because there’s no one else other than medical students and resident doctors who witnesses the real health-related suffering of the poor. All the rants of socialists, politicos and other famous preachers die when they actually have to help from their own pockets to treat the poor. Every Indian doctor does it daily, without advertising.
Dr. Aman spoke as if thinking aloud: “Yes, I know it is difficult. But I was thinking that I will urge our society, lawmakers and others to fund my hospital for the poor by using the funds donated by people for greater purposes. The taxpayer should have a choice to directly deposit tax in a fund meant exclusively for healthcare for the poor. Highest donations in India are made for religious purposes, to various religious places. What best use for these billions than to start a free hospital? Will any God of any religion not be happy if those donations are used for the poor patient’s treatment?” he innocently asked. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
That thought never left me.
After my MD I went to Mumbai for DM, and Aman came there in a year for his MD. We caught up occasionally at night in the famous tea stall opposite KEM Hospital. Dr. Aman earned himself the best reputation that a doctor needs: hardworking, studious, and very well behaved with the patients. He was already handsome enogh to be envied by his colleagues, but kindness, compassion and genius gave him an edge above others in everything. When I left Mumbai to go to Canada, he was still studying there. Upon my return, I came to know that Dr. Aman has joined a government hospital near Delhi. We almost lost contact. Then this call. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
He came on Wednesday as planned. I was shocked, his handsome face had a large raw scar.
“What happened?”I asked.
“Two weeks ago, I was in the casualty, when a young lady was brought in unconscious and gasping. She was frothing at mouth, had many bruises on her body. Her husband and two others accompanying him were drunk , incoherent. There was a smell of insecticide, so I started treatment accordingly. There were no ventilators available at our hospital, we have requested the government many times but were told there were no funds. We were trying our best, but within minutes she passed away. As it was a suspected poisoning, a postmortem was necessary. We advised so, but the relatives declined. I explained them many times that a postmortem is legally necessary. Then they called a corporator, who came with his goons. One of them attacked me with a knife. The nurses tried to restrain him, but he attacked them too. Four of us were injured by the time that police arrived. They did the postmortem, the report says that lady was killed”
“That I could have survived, Dr. Rajas. But the next day we were told to withdraw police compaints which we had made against the attacker with knife and the corporator. The administration refused to stand by us”. Dr. Aman was now charged, angry and almost tearful. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“I don’t want to work here! Many times over now, I have realised that people do not want good doctors, they want chained, frightened slaves who cater to their illegal, immoral demands. I wanted to serve mother India” he now sobbed “but apparently mother India does not want the likes of me now. Last three years I had received many offers from UK and many other countries, but I had proudly declined. Now I have accepted an offer from Oman. They are paying me twenty times what I am earning here, with a two-month paid annual vacation, free housing and food. I feel bad, I don’t want to go, yet I do not want to work here now. I came to you because I have faith in your advice, you are like my elder brother. Please tell me what I should do”.
After thinking a lot, I told him: “You should do what ensures your peace of mind. You can help Indian patients from anywhere in the world, or you can help them from within India”. I did not want to force him to stay back in India, because I was sincerely afraid about his safety
Dr. Aman left the country yesterday, like thousands of brilliant doctors in last twenty years. I feel as if a part of me died when he told me his decision, and the only thing I could say to him was : “I understand. To do good to others, you must first be safe, alive and at peace with yourself. Take care”.
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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Doctors from various states are welcome to translate this article in local language without changes, and post it with their name along with the original author credit. This will help us spread the message.
I am also translating this to Marathi.