Two Shades of Nepotism, and Doctors.


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Surgery final exams.Butterflies.
My best friend and me were sweating since last few nights.

My turn, a case of breast cancer. I did well, but obviously it is not possible to answer everything, and there comes the “Sorry Sir, I don’t know” moment, I said it. The kind external examiner smiled at the end, a positive sign. I started on the next short case nearby. My best friend was presenting to the same examiners when I was recording my next case. Poor guy, he had a difficult case and was confusing. He was better than me in surgery, and here he was, not doing well. Just then, his uncle, a senior surgery professor, entered our ward, and our examiners stood up to wish him. They were his students. Our professor wished my friend best luck, and said to the examiners he hoped his nephew did well.

I got enough marks to cross the first class, my friend was far ahead. While I secretly resented that my friend had an advantage, I knew he was a good student, and it did not hurt much. Maybe, if it was an enemy my reactions would have been different. Many examiners in India actually discriminate between an outsider (belonging to non-medical parents) and insider (belonging to doctors, especially from the same institute), or on the basis of caste, language, and even gender.

Gender discrimination and its various shades are nothing new in India and still a taboo to write about, but there are beneficiaries and victims of this anomaly. There was a girl in my college, not very academic, who did ‘impress’ the examiners with her beauty and smile. We saw some male professors being partial to her because she was exceptionally beautiful and had a model-like personality. She always passed with very good grades, got the best ranks, and eventually married a similar rich and handsome guy. Nothing in this story offends me, these are the ways of today’s world, but since centuries probably. I know that most beautiful women also face a reverse discrimination, i.e. even after being the best they are accused of using their looks to get what they want. They are usually above the tendency to reply to such allegations.

A very wise quote mentioned in almost all spiritual texts says “Imagine yourself in their place before you speak about someone”. What would I have done, if my uncle was a Surgery professor, and could ‘push me up’ a little bit? Or, a more difficult question, would I have taken advantage if I was a woman with really good looks? Well, the answers are not very pleasant, and certainly not universal. I wished I had a Godfather in medicine, to guide and protect me. However I do not hate those who have one. Not having a godfather helped me grow better and stronger, and I always found ways to create enough opportunities for myself, to face this reality head-on rather than engage in a blame game about it.

Nepotism and discrimination are not new, in fact it is an ancient tradition in many cultures, like some other questionable traditions. From Kings and Priests to classical singers, people have preferred their own over deserving others. For example, if a wrestler has struggled and won medals, name and fame, he would want his progeny to excel in his own craft, and will do everything possible to help his own son/ daughter. Only those who can say ‘ I will never help my son / daughter / friend to excel in their career, I will never invest for them, never use my goodwill to get them the best life should be able to criticise nepotism in true sense. Nepotism is the naked truth about almost every profession, from politics to mafia. Even genetically (this might need a broader-grasp mind) there are certain things which people inherit an ability to do better. Right from famed watchmakers to singers, dancers, and some artists in fact retain their craft strictly within families, and proudly keep it a secret. So long as they do not prevent someone else from making their craft, or do not stand in the way of others, one cannot blame nepotism. Why should we presume that the son of a great singer cannot be a greater singer if given a chance?

Unless everyone in our society is mature enough to swear not to help their own family and friends and follow that, unless we eliminate nepotism by laws that apply to everyone, we cannot selectively blame one profession or other about it. While we evolve away from it, we must also accept that near and dear ones will always be the favoured ones as a human tendency, with rare exceptions. If a woman is rich enough, she can buy a Mercedes for her daughter, and her neighbour has no case crying nepotism because their kid was denied a Merc. However, if the neighbouring child’s toy is snatched, then alone there can (and should) be an argument. A true anti-nepotism sentiment should be to help every hungry and homeless kid we see on the roads, as they need food and home more than our overfed kids do. Is that happening?

Most of the politicians, businessmen, and even doctors who have reached heights in their careers have tried to rope in their own near and dear ones in their field of expertise. That has never prevented outsiders in any field from reaching where they are destined to reach with their hard work. In fact, outsiders are often seen reaching higher and farther than those who get help and support early on. I have very strong feelings about those with money buying out medical undergraduate and postgraduate seats while those without money and just merit having to let their valid claim vanish. What money does when it changes hands is far worse than what nepotism does in any field. There are other vices far worse than nepotism in every profession. Taking advantage of gender, power and connections to disrepute, defame or emotionally torture others are far worse. There’s nothing wrong in helping one’s own, but it should not be at the cost of destroying others. If a doctor has established a great hospital with his life’s blood and sweat, he will obviously want his own child to own it rather than conducting an international survey for researching the most eligible person to run it. I am not at all in favour of Nepotism, but I strongly feel about the misuse of this term by those who openly practice cronyism, favoritism and shoelickism.

To choose a vice that suits one’s immediate cause and ignore one’s own ‘bypasses’ to success, being thankless to those few who made one successful is a creepy tendency. Many who accuse others of having ‘Godfathers’ gladly indulge in other types of ‘push-pull’ tactics for utterly selfish gains. In medicine too, while we gradually become more objective, we should try and also eliminate our own faults before raising fingers at others. Every doctor should be graceful enough to be above short term attention seeking. If we don’t understand good and bad mentalities, who will? The best we can do is to concentrate on the good we can do, while fighting with a smile those who suppress others. We can never forget that there indeed were people who helped us.

Nepotism will create only a transient glitter. The beautiful spirit of eternity is never affected by it.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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