Category Archives: Film

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

Gulabo Sitabo Review: A Feast Of Class


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When you want trivial and mundane, you hit the streets, but when you want class, you dress up first and look for the best place you can afford to go to.
To grasp the intonations of various emotions, the prosody of dialogue and the language of the eyes, the depth of thoughts behind the imagery on the screen is a rare feast for the fortunate to enjoy. Steve Jobs taught the world what it should want, rather than catering to what it wanted. Similarly Indian cinema has started moving away from the traditional, more often to loudly shock the audience, but at some other rare times to surprise them with a classic.
Gulabo Sitabo is such a surprise. I couldn’t help but write this, out of my field.

Once during my MD Medicine days, I broke down and confided to my professor Dr. P. Y. Mulay that I am not able to digest the helpless inability to end the incessant suffering, the flow of patients is never ending, it continues in spite of whatever we do. He asked me about my icons. Of course one name among many (Einstein, Sant Dnyaneshwar, Mahatma Gandhi, Stephen Hawking, etc.) was Amitabh Bachchan, he had taught my generation the pride of being upright and the passion to achieve especially against odds.
My professor smiled and told me: “Have you seen that movie where he has a tumour and gets a convulsion? He has convulsed actually as a patient would! It is not easy, one has to observe, immerse oneself in the details. People may think it was just another bit of acting, but even medically his convulsion was nearly perfect. His body language is as perfect as his pronunciation and diction. This needs immense work. One has to accept a lot of pain to achieve whatever one sets out to achieve, that pain and suffering on the way are in fact the part of achievement. Only when you cross this negativity, you will be able to save lives, to end suffering of many. Those words changed my attitude forever.

Now, after about two decades, I got a chance to watch Mr. Amitabh Bachchan’s movie today on its day of release. The legend has grown beyond itself. His voice, his demeanour and his eyes make one realise how far away he has come from the iconic screen image(s) he had made for himself, to perform Mirza. He not only embodies, but appears to be enjoying every bit of being this mischievous old man.
One must imagine the difficulty in maintaining the doubly crooked curvature of Mirza’s (Mr. Bachchan’s character) back, the tilt on one side, the difference between movements of two legs while walking, the postural twist of neck and the difficulty of holding this all together while the face shows a spectrum of every emotion of an expressive old man. This tall man has, all through the movie, bent forward in lower back and then to speak to other characters, has had to turn his neck up. Try doing that (at your own risk)! The wet hoarseness in his voice and the breathless pauses between angry sentences are not only consistent, they underline his oneness with this role. Even the giddiness and falls are portrayed excellently, exactly as they happen in this age group. As he crosses all the bounds of expectations and anticipation, you start to understand why Mr. Amitabh Bachchan is beyond reviews. He probably enjoys acting far more than our opinions about it. Zen! He proves yet again in this film that he is far above any actor in commercial as well as non commercial/ art films in Indian cinema.

Mr. Ayushmann Khurana has played his confident yet frustrated simpleton so naturally that those who have come from poor families will readily identify with the defiant stance of a young man forced by compulsions of life without much money. Very talented and never dramatic.
Mirza’s wife, Begum, played by Mrs. Farrukh Jafar impressed with her nonchalant dialogue delivery.
Everyone else, especially Srishti Shrivastava has done their job really well, complimenting the major duo.

A word for the director Mr. Shoojit Sircar: this movie reflects a very courageous and strong will to overcome the superficial, glazed culture of fast paced but meaningless, noisy filmy clutter catering to a jaded social mindset. Instead, this is a classy feast for those who long for the art called drama, acting and visual expression with infinite colours, sounds, words, beats and silences, enhancing the effect of every moment, and meaningfully so. Not everyone dares break the cliches of dancing to the tunes of times (public), a rare few make a mark upon it.

This film is not for those who want fast and furious, item songs, or loud dramatic expressions of normal. Like I said earlier, dress up for class, open your faculties of perception of the subtle. If you understand the beauty of depth of an effort, the intensity of something so simple as an old man’s love for his possessions, you will thoroughly enjoy this movie.

I am not qualified to review or rate this movie. I am entitled only to express my gratitude for an extremely pleasant feeling of “not all is lost to cheap drama” that this film gave me. After the long lockdown and perpetual hospital stress, this film also reminded me how beautiful past can be, compared to the old age we will all meet one day. We need to reboot our perceptions or the world around us, and redefine our definitions of happiness and possessions. And yes, we need to learn also that we are still amongst icons who work hard to ride their passions, to rise to every challenge and win over it, defying all odds.

Waiting for your next hit, Mr. Bachchan, Sir!

Thank You!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Amitabh Bachchan

Disoriented


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doc, he appears confused. He has delusions. He was very methodical and logical earlier. He had excellent deduction and was considered a genius among his colleagues. Yet now he himself does not understand that he is making gross mistakes in making simple decisions. He appears completely disoriented…” the lady gave me an update in a deeply concerned voice. The devastating fear of mental, intellectual decline of a beloved is not grasped by all. For want of simplicity, we term it dementia. However, the meaning of this term is far broader and deeper than what most people can grasp, and the mental agony that the spouse goes through is beyond many a people’s emotional basket too. Infections and low sodium levels can often worsen the mental-cognitive personality of the elderly. I advised her a few tests to be done urgently and returned to my quarantine chores.

Her words kept on echoing for some time in my mind. This pandemic has challenged what the humanity perceived as truth till date. Disoriented, demented, illogical, delusional: isn’t that what the whole humanity has become today? Hasn’t this virus uncovered our intellectual, emotional limitations and selfish vulnerabilities? Have we not become exactly what the best human souls taught us never to become: money minded selfish humanoids hiding behind facades of clever and intelligent, politically correct wordplays, fatally attracted to glamour and clamour, emotionally cut off from the world, concentrating upon our families, cults, religions and regions? And of course, intermittently well-crafting the social service façade by donations, our signature face on every penny.

Financial success and numbers have become the new, hidden definition of life. Some wisely hide the word ‘Financial’ in the prior sentence. We won’t be able to name any financially unsuccessful / poor geniuses from the fields of medicine, science, art and even sports. I do not hate capitalism, in fact I believe that wealth creators are the ones who fuel the world. But among these are the compassionate and human who would rather be a million short of their billion rather than destroying a competitor and his/ her business. Squeezing-twisting every arm in the giant machinery that governs laws to finish everyone else and engulf everything with a gluttony that is hailed as business acumen is a real tragedy unfolding right now. We very gladly become the proud cogwheels of such ‘man-eating’ giant machineries that bleed competitors to a certain death.

While never being able to make peace with our neighbours we speak of world peace. We cannot bring ourselves to acknowledge the good in our competitors and enemies, we cannot deal with those with a different religion or country, come what may! While excepting ourselves from laws and rules we blame and blast those others who break laws. While secretly cultivating the filthy “money is all that matters” gene in our next generation, we encourage blindness towards the moral, ethical bypasses required to earn humungous money. The amount of real happiness, truth and honesty that needs to be sacrificed to be extremely rich is the worst inheritance our next generations will have to suffer from. Clever Wordplays is the sociopolitical success mantra of today!

I had never thought that I will witness anything more emotionally traumatic after seeing the hundreds of dead bodies and bleeding, broken-bone victims during the Killari earthquake. Today’s migrant crisis appears to cause deeper wounds than that upon our soul. This is a very tragic question, but what causes more hurt: witnessing dead bodies or extreme suffering of the living? Millions of migrants facing the worst wrath of fate, walking under a scorching sun towards a faraway home with their children, some dying, some delivering on the roads, strong men and women labourers breaking down and wailing – will be a shameful and guilty memory which I will carry for the rest of my life. We have excess caps and shoes; they are walking in rude heat bare headed and barefoot for hundreds of miles. We are discovering new cooking skills, they are discovering new depths of hunger. We are complaining about broken air conditioners, they are gasping for a glimpse of their beloveds in their zuggi-zopdi. We are too comfortable and grateful knowing that we are not them.

That India is overpopulated appears to be our strength on social media. We can show how many million fans, hits and likes there are, but we cannot speak a word about a tragedy which happens right in our backyard. We are scared of the worst: socio-political ostracisation, defamation, destruction of a hard-earned reputation and closure of financial support for survival. An intellectual is more scared of losing freedom of creativity, giving his best to the world and so mostly decides to be a silent spectator around strongmen with their invisible socio-political weaponry. Society as a whole has never protected or rewarded its intellectuals, especially in backward countries.

This pandemic will go. Few will have changed their perceptions of the world. Few understand that anything requiring a crowd must please a crowd’s intelligence quotient. Because crowds gather for hate easier than for love. Look at what content gets the best response: hate mongering, roasts, nudity, vulgar language and sloganeering. None of these is a proud achievement of humanity, yet these are the top hits. Pleasing a crowd can entertain, can earn one money, fame and votes too, but cannot ever bring this world health, happiness or peace. Entertainment, although critically essential for a stress-free mind, although soul-awakening, will never be among the first essentials of reducing hunger, pain, disease and suffering. There indeed was a time when entertainment was creative, with art, literature, acting, music and sports, fulfilling for the soul, but now only the superficial, jaded antics and the gaudy glitter with numbers remains the identity of most entertainment forms.

We indeed are disoriented. Yes, I too am guilty of some such disorientation. I have consciously decided to change. I do not have all answers right now, but I better appreciate the bigger picture now. My perceptions of what matters most have further changed. My faith in human nature has been deeply wounded, but my hope has always won, and I will help it heal even now. The current crises just told me what human race truly needs. My wish to make everyone understand has decided to take a back seat. My wish to do what I can is in the driving seat now. My contribution will be probably too small, but I have started.

I want to be well oriented for the rest of my life.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Women’s Day and A Frightening Secret

Women’s Day and A Frightening Secret
©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A well respected senior, a social celebrity, walked in with his daughter. Cultured, proud people. Probably highly educated and rich. While he was richly dressed in a traditional Indian attire, she wore a saree. Many phone calls had told me since a day prior that he was very important, and that I must make sure he doesn’t have to wait. They sat down cautiously, the daughter in her late twenties looking at the floor.

“Doctor, my daughter is behaving strangely, she is not speaking normally with any of us, and seems lost since last two months. She has a lot of giddiness and has not slept for many days now. We have seen many doctors, done all the tests advised, but no one has been able to tell us what’s wrong. You see her and tell me if you can help.” Somehow the father was intimidating. I asked the patient her name. The father replied. I asked her about her complaints. He replied again. It is often very difficult to make a woman speak in the Indian scenario. I politely asked the father: “Could you please let her reply?”.

She replied in single words, mostly yes or no. She appeared to have given up. It is indeed tough to deal with such ‘mentally closed’ patients. I obtained her permission for a clinical examination and found nothing abnormal.

“Are you stressed ?” I asked what was inevitable now. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The father repied promptly: “There’s nothing to stress about, doctor. She works as a lecturer at a prestigious institute, we are quite well off, and although we want her to marry soon, she refuses to meet anyone. We are okay with that too, we are in no hurry. I dont think there’s any stress here. She just needs to be mentally strong. She has lost her will power”.

At this point the daughter looked up at her father, begging him to stop.”I have done whatever you asked. I came to every doctor you took me to. I am not weak. Please stop all this now, I will recover in few days”. I sensed something wrong here. I asked her if she wanted to speak in privacy and confidence, offering a nurse to attend instead of her father. Her father was visibly annoyed at the suggestion, and terribly surprised when she said yes. With a firm face, she said “Can I speak with the doctor alone for a few minutes, Baba?”. Her father walked out. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doc, I don’t know what to do. I am in a terrible situation. As you see, everyone is scared of my father, so no one tried to speak to me in privacy prior. To be able to trust you, I need your word that you will never tell my father about this discussion. If you cannot keep that word, it is best that I don’t speak with you about my problem”. This was a common request. A doctor’s first loyalty is to his / her patient. I reassured her that whatever she speaks won’t go beyond me, and also told her that she should be completely honest and open, that I was not here to judge her but to help her.

She paused, embarassed. The stress and shame of what she was going to say reddened her face. She sipped some water and took a deep breath.

“Okay doc. Five years ago, I was in love with a classmate of mine. He is from a well known politician’s family, and we were very close. We were planning to marry after a few years. He had alcohol frequently, but had promised me he would stop after marriage.”

She paused again, now tears in her eyes. “Please don’t misunderstand doc, but like all other lovers of our age we exchanged naked pictures and video clips. We also recorded some of our own, making love. As my father often checked my phone, I deleted everything immediately. I told him too to delete them, but apparently he stored them. After a few months I found out that his alcohol addiction had become worse, and he was going around with another girl, so I stopped seeing him immediately. He never cared, and he married someone his parents had chosen”.

“However, three months ago, out of the blue he called me and asked me to meet at his home as his wife had left him. I refused. Now he is threatening that if I do not meet him he will upload my nude pics and videos on the internet. Their’s is a very strong and rich political family, I know he can do anything and get away with it. You just met my father, you can imagine his reaction to this. My family is proud of me, but they will never accept or forgive me for what I have done. I feel ashamed, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. I am loved where I work, my students look up to me as a teacher. All is on the verge of being lost for me now. I feel like I should permanently disappear. I don’t know what to do” and she let out all the sobs she had held for months.
©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This wasn’t new to me. While virtual exchange of ‘love’ in form of nudity and self recorded sex between couples is a reality of current times, it strongly contrasts with the social preparedness for it. Our society is not only orthodox, but shamefully, violently critical of anything that offends their cultural tastes that vary from family to family. An exchange of such nudity between couples in love is their personal choice and preference, no one should feel offended by it. However the dilemma of its correctness arises when situations of such blackmail as mentioned above create catastrophic consequences.

Many women (and I am sure even men) face threats of their privately exchanged nudity being exposed. This rampant blackmail that extorts anything from money, sexual favours etc. to various other compulsions are a nightmare turning into a reality now. Although the cyber-crime cells admirably track down the culprits, the victims still go through a lot of humiliation till then. Many victims do not know where to get help, and women’s organisations, NGOs need to reassuringly come forth with plans that ensure complete privacy and confidentiality of the sufferer. What offends most is the callous allegations of cheapness, wrongdoing , shame and derision with which our society criticises the victim. Some people and many in media actually take a perverted interest in exploring private nudity and sex, as if looking for certificates of their own piousness in someone else’s ‘moral adventures’. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I told my patient that we could help her, and handed over the case to a female counsellor who is well versed with such cases. Although she has proper connections in the cyber crime department, usually this is not required, as the threatening cowards usually come to their knees oncethey know that the victim has someone’s support. The last I heard, the matter is resolved.

Stronger laws to respect privacy, stronger punishments for those who use such threats to their ex-lovers and a social revolution to accept the realities of today and reassure the victims rather than shaming them are essential. A complete ban on reporting of such cases as “Spicy News”in media is awaited.

On this Women’s day, I humbly bow to the higher gender, the mother and the sister, the wife and the best friend called woman. Only what a man learns from a woman makes him the man that he is, and in that, she is the teacher: of patience, of modesty, of hard work and sacrifise, and the soul of true love.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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P.S.
Partly Imaginary story.
I truly respect a woman’s freedom, and her ability and right to defend it. My views above are to express that respect. I am not a socio-cultural legal expert and certainly not a moral judge. Never mean to offend anyone.

Doctors and Religion?

Doctors and Religion?

Abdul Majid, (middle) my classmate, stayed across my room in the boys hostel, all 5 years of MBBS. I have never seen him sleeping or eating. Whenever we saw his room door open, he was either studying or offering prayers. I have often borrowed his luna moped to go for a tea in late nights. He comes from a very humble family, and had always been among the toppers in every batch: MBBS, MD, and then DM. We have attended many cases together before he finally settled in Aurangabad and made a big name for himself. I have not seen a more hardworking doctor than Dr. Majid.
Ateeq-Ur-Rehman (Right) is another such brilliant doctor, coming from my small town called Nanded, who has scaled highest levels of education in India with sheer merit, and has now settled as a successful Neuro-Intervention specialist in Hyderabad.
While I treat hundreds of Muslim patients who come with complete faith and trust without thinking about my religion, Dr. Majid and Dr. Ateeq have also served thousands of patients from all religions including Hindus, who have complete faith and trust in their ability and acumen.
Whichever religion, state or country a doctor may come from, there never is any thought about religion or caste when we treat patients. Humanity, compassion and Scientific logic is the ground upon which medical science is based. There’s no place for any discrimination, racism or even enmity. Thousands of doctors from all religions: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christians, Buddhist, and many others treat millions of
Indian patients every day. We doctors take pride in rising above all differences, thinking of all humans as one and equal, and in the trust that our patients show in us, irrespective of our names and external appearance. Inside, every doctor, whichever religion or country they may belong to, represents only one principle: the desire to do the best for those suffering.

I am proud to belong to this medical culture and tradition of unity.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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An Interview With a Neurology Legend

An Interview With a Neurology Legend

Dr. Satish Khadilkar

MD, DM, DNBE, FIAN, FICP, FAMS, FRCP (London)

Dean and Professor and Head, Department of Neurology,

Bombay Hospital Institute of Medical Sciences, Mumbai.

He is a living legend, one of the best neurologists anywhere, a stunning example of what an ideal doctor should be like.

He needs no introduction to those in the medical world: he has carved his golden name in global neurosciences with his passion for Neurology and especially NeuroMuscular diseases, pioneering this specialty in India. I am grateful to Dr. Satish Khadilkar for agreeing to guide us all.

Q: How does it feel at the top?

A: Grateful to life!

In the health pyramid, ‘top’ really means ‘more useful’! And there are at least three parts to being useful: providing service, teaching and conducting research. Indeed, I am grateful to life for having provided me with the opportunities to be useful to colleagues and disease sufferers in all the three spheres.

Q: What are the most essential qualities that a doctor must possess?

A: As mentioned above; service, teaching and research are the three main pillars of medical careers. Each of these requires different virtues. Service requires patience, availability, affordability and the capacity to empathize with the sufferers. Teaching requires clarity of ideas and the ability to be inspirational to the new entrants and younger colleagues. And research requires an analytical mind to understand questions, be unbiased to design experiments in search of the answer.

Depending upon which field you choose, relevant qualities will need to be enhanced. In my mind now, as I have gone on, service has emerged as the noblest frontier for the medicine man. So the essential qualities are compassion, knowledge and the desire to help.

Q: What do you suggest we do to improve the clinical sense among newer generations of doctors?

A: Simple answer: bedside clinics by masters of clinical medicine and shadowing them to see how they utilize the limited resources.

Q: How do you deal with the ever widening knowledgebase while effectively practising as one of the busiest practitioners in the country?

A: Knowledge is of two types, one to know it yourself and the other, to know where to find it! In the present times; we have moved on to the second mode. The great thing about this era is that knowledge is freely available. We only need to develop the ability to design the search to get rapid answers to our questions. There are courses available to this effect.

While this is true for problem-based daily issues, in one’s own area of interest, one has to acquire all the manuscripts and threadbare them, assimilate them and understand them, for deeper knowledge.

Q: How do you handle the incessant negativity which doctors face while dealing with so many incurable conditions and gradually deteriorating patients?

A: Negativity in the doctor’s mind stems from the perceived personal inability to help or to provide solutions. Doctors need to appreciate that their role is limited to being knowledgeable helpers. If we keep in mind the inadequacies of medicine as a science and our restricted role, negativity is less likely to take roots.

Q: What is your take on making holidays, vacation compulsory for doctors to overcome stress?

A: Personally, I do not see the need to take holidays, as my daily work itself is a never ending holiday! I do not remember taking a holiday in last three decades. The better you gel with your work, less it stresses you and less is the need to break.

Having said that, as our work relates to human life, we have to make sure that we take adequate rest and are “on the top of our game” for the hours that we work, as our shortcomings can have consequences.

Q: What advice will you give about handling family responsibilities and duties to the new generation doctors?

A: Human relationships take very long to build and only one indiscretion is enough to undo these. So, in relationships and family, equal attention needs to be given, as you would in your profession. In today’s competitive India, we tend to take the family granted and actually end up doing the least for those who matter most!

It is best to think of this early on while planning the professional career.

Q: What best can be done to stop the exodus of doctors from India?

A: Talented Indian doctors need to be appreciated by the society and the health system in India. System needs to be more humane and responsive to the doctors’ needs. Doctors also need to understand the process of medicine, its goals, trials and tribulations. Till this happens, we shall see movement to greener pastures, where this process has evolved better.

Q: Your guiding thoughts for future Indian Doctors?

A: Let us all remember that we are in medicine to help suffering people. That is the core of medicine. We are healers and scientists. If we don’t veer from this ideal and have patience, all material wants and requirements will automatically fall in place. So to understand medicine, one must never forget that this is the noblest of all professions. I have chosen its nobility as a guiding principle for myself. I found my solace in drowning myself deep in the vast oceans of knowledge about neuromuscular disorders and using it in the service of suffering multitudes.

©️Dr. Satish Khadilkar & Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Mumbai Diary -1. Deeply Yours

Mumbai Diary-1

Deeply Yours

After finishing the day-long opd at Lilavati Hospital Mumbai, I rushed out with an intention of driving back to Pune in four hours. An old friend- a junior doctor from Mumbai (don’t think too much in depth about her) was waiting for me in the lobby.

“There’s a Starbucks in the next lane. Have a coffee before you take off” she said. I am not a sinner to decline a coffee. And this beautiful genius doctor always enriched my soul in magical ways. Usually a double shot kenya roast espresso shoots up my IQ by a few hundred points and makes my brain tap-dance for atleast three hours. She sat in the car and we went to the coffee shop. There was no place to park, so she went in to get take-away cups and I waited in the car. The bandstand seashore was only three minutes away, We decided to go there. With Shahrukh and Salman living there, no one bothers to look at us in that area, and we can thus have a cool few minutes for coffee etc. (I repeat, don’t think too deeply about this).

Just a few feet away, an elderly fruit vendor with a ripened straight proud face, white hair and a thick white moustache was sitting with his legs folded backwards. The heaps in front of him were full, most likely he hadn’t had much business today. He stared at nothing in front of him, completely unaware of the rush hour noise.

I felt for him. I wanted to see him happy, help him without hurting his pride.

When my friend returned, I requested her “Hey, could you please do me a favour and get two kg apples from that uncle over there? Give him this, and ask him to keep the balance. Make it look polite and casual, as if at the spur of the moment“. I gave her some notes. We didn’t need to impress anyone, she would have naturally done it herself too, that’s the reason we have been friends for so long.

My friend returned with the apples, and I waited a few moments to sip some coffee, actually I wanted to witness the smile on that old fruit vendor’s face. He counted the money twice, smiled and came to our car, knocking at her window.

“Beta (my child), I have enough by the grace of God. I am happy. One has to account up there for everything they take without working for it” he pointed at the sky. Then he kept a large custard apple in my friend’s hands, and said “This if from me to you and your friend with the necktie”.

Then, smiling proudly, he went back and sat in his place.

Now, please think in depth about that.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Mumbai/ Pune

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Survival Of The Quickest

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This young and brilliant man, Adil Masalawala, suddenly appeared to have changed. His behaviour became different and unusual. He started mumbling and replying irrelevantly. He also had fever intermittently. His caring and worried wife Mrs. Venus consulted a physician who sent them to a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist checked Adil and advised him admission. He started with some medicines, but suddenly Adil’s behaviour became hyper, his body started becoming stiff. Then he became drowsy, and his body started shaking violently. An MRI of the brain was reported normal. That’s when the psychiatrist advised a reference for neurologist.

When I first saw the patient, he had many features that could also be caused by side effects of some medicines. Sometimes it is impossible to conclude whether it is the disease or the medicine which is causing certain symptoms. I suggested that we stop all antipsychotic medicines. That could also be a dangerous decision. The family was counselled, and they agreed. Adil’s drowsiness improved, but he became very agitated, and his stiffness and shaking worsened.

There are many neurological diseases of the brain which start as abnormal behaviour. Strokes, some infections, tumors and swellings are examples of treatable, but there are many untreatable and dangerous conditions too. The only way was to urgently investigate the patient further. Although the family was baffled and panicked, Mrs. Venus expressed complete trust in our decisions, and allowed us to shift the patient to the ICU. I could not answer many of their questions, I did not clearly understand what exactly was happening, but this uncertainty and challenge is what medicine is all about.

There is fluid in and around the brain, which nourishes the brain and also acts as shock absorber between the skull bone and the brain. Many diseases like cancers and infections can be diagnosed by studying this fluid, which can be taken out by inserting a needle in the lower (lumbar) spine. We checked this fluid, and we got the first clue: that we were possibly dealing with a viral infection of the brain. Many more costly blood tests were required to find out which virus was causing this. The family clearly stated “Do whatever is needed in your opinion”. We sent the tests and found the answer: Adil had one of the most rare and dangerous viral infection of the brain, called Japanese Encephalitis.

About 30-40 percent of patients with this diagnosis do not survive. There is no definite treatment for this virus, but many of the manifestations can be treated and excessive care is required to avoid life threatening complications of the swelling that it can cause in the brain.

On the fourth day, Adil had convulsions. His condition worsened. We kept on treating each complication as fast as possible and tried to balance the effects and side effects of the many strong medicines that were being used to control convulsions, shaking, and the brain swelling. Besides knowledge, wisdom and experience, our major strength was the trust of patient’s family who never questioned any decisions.

Many patients who develop abnormal behaviour are mistreated as having a psychiatric problem. Most qualified psychiatrists are aware of the red flags and refer patients for a Neurologist’s opinion. However, a majority of patients with psychiatric problems in India are first taken to quacks, magic healers, mantrik-tantriks, who delay the whole process of correct evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. This leads to many deaths, and this is worst in case of cancers treatable in earlier stages.

False advertisements, some even approved by highly placed offices, celebrities and authorities attract people from all classes and cause severe delay in initiation of the correct scientific treatment. While our governments rightly pressurise allopaths to write generic medicines, they mostly turn a blind eye towards rampant misleading false advertisements claiming cures of incurable diseases and centers that flourish reaping from the hope of millions of illiterates.

We almost thought we had lost this case to a permanent disability. Adil’s body had become completely stiff, his memory had become unreliable to a great extent, and he had an incapacitating tremor. After a few days we could gradually stabilise his general condition and shift him out of the ICU. In a few weeks he was discharged, improving slowly. His family, especially his wife fought for his normalcy like a true warrior, and once he resumed his senses, Adil too made every possible effort to recover fast. One day after a few months, he was back to normal again, we declared him cured and fit, physically and mentally. He resumed his job.

Today after about ten years, Mr. Adil Masalawala and his wife Mrs. Venus came over for some trivial issue, and we recalled the horror that we went through and his victory over it. In this case, I thought it was the “Survival Of The Fastest” as the family did not waste any time in quacks, arguments, objections or mistrust, and let us doctors do the best for the patient in the fastest possible way. We are grateful to the family for this trust, and Adil’s survival and recovery itself is our reward. God bless the couple with a long and healthy life!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Real Story, Real Names, With Patient’s Express Permission. Grateful to Mr. Adil and Mrs. Venus for the permission to share the story of their victorious battle.

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The Beautiful Secret

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I found her outside the public toilets near sassoon hospital” the lady said almost as a whisper after her daughter left the room. “She does not know. Nobody knows. Please don’t tell her ever”.

That 15 year old girl Teju was brought to me over 10 years ago, with uncontrolled fits. Not all fits / seizures are convulsions, there are many different types. Teju would suddenly behave abnormally without knowing it for a few minutes and then start crying. Her studies were affected as she had such episodes many times a day. She had been to some excellent doctors, but as she did not tolerate the medicines she had stopped them and refused to go to a doctor. Her mother Latha had somehow convinced her to meet a neurologist only once, so they were here.

Latha was a single, middle aged lady, who worked at a few homes all through the day mostly as a cook. Her husband had died long ago, and she barely managed to maintain her livelihood while living with Teju in a chawl. She narrated Teju’s history to me, but when I asked about parents having any fits or other neurological illness, Latha winked at me and said “No, I am okay, even her father was okay”. Then she asked Teju to get her a bottle of water from the canteen, and just as Teju closed the door behind herself, stunned me with her words: “I found Teju outside the public lavatory near sassoon hospital . She does not know. Nobody knows. Please don’t tell her ever”.

Then she explained in a hurry: “Doctor, you are like a brother, I will not lie to you. I had run away to marry my husband, but he was an alcoholic. He died in a road accident. I had no one left in life, and wanted to die myself. One night I was returning home from my job, and went to the public toilet on the way. There in a large heap of waste I saw this girl, only a few weeks old, almost dead. I took her to a doctor, told she was my sister’s daughter, and got her treated. Then I could not think of letting her go, I had found my purpose in life. I am a good cook and get by with salary from cooking at over 5 homes now. I want her to study well, but this epilepsy has been our curse now. I wish I was rich so I could treat her well”.

That last sentence hurt me. One, she was rich. Two, she thought good treatment needs one to be rich.

Teju had reentered, so we changed topic. I explained Teju her diagnosis in medical, scientific terms, and the reasons why this illness happens, how we can control it with the right medicines, and how her quality of life will be far better if her fits were controlled. “You will be able to look after yourself and even your mom well in the future if you are self sufficient” I used the trump card. She agreed to take treatment.

“Secondly, never worry about fees. You are a free case now onwards. You can even get discounted medicines at some pharmacies”. I told them addresses. Latha hesitated: “Doctor, we will pay, we don’t want to take advantage. We don’t want you to hush up because we don’t pay”. Their concern was genuine, and I assured them that I will do my best for them. No good doctor will turn away a treatable patient for want of money, I know many who treat poor patients free, unfortunately it never comes on record.

That was long ago. We were able to control Teju’s fits in a few weeks, and bring her drugs to a single dose of medicine. She followed up every six months regularly, each time with her mother. She gew up well, and always topped her class.

Only last month, she came alone.

“Doctor, I have a good news. I have been selected by a software giant in the USA. They have offered me a gorgeous salary too. I am leaving in a week’s time. I have come to tell you two things: first, please take care of my mother for a year, I am planning to take her with me to USA after that. Secondly, I can now pay the fees for both myself and my mom. I am rich now! So please tell your receptionist to make a bill for all my consultations till now.”

I laughed and congratulated her. “Well. I have promised your mom something, I will sort out about the fees issue later with her. As for her medical care, don’t worry I am here. I am glad you are taking her with you, many can’t”.

“Oh never! I can’t dream of leaving mom alone here. She has grown me up alone after my dad died. I know how hard she has worked for her daughter” shesaid, with wet eyes.

I had an emotional moment, a sudden urge to tell Teju the truth. But I refrained. This indeed was the truth now. Latha was Teju’s mom, and I had no right to change that. I regained my composure.

When she touched my feet, she asked “Do you want anything from the USA doc?”

“Thank you, I have everything I want with God’s grace” I told her the truth. Indeed, He had given me the ability to change lives positively, to contribute to humanity in innumerable ways, to help people live better lives, nay – the best lives they could. What more could I ask for?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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True Story, names changed.

The Fairy And The Prince

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The beautiful radiant lady wheeled in the patient’s chair and wished me with a pleasant smile. Some smiles, however beautiful, have a tragic shade. I looked at the patient Rohan. A very well built fair young man in his late twenties, must have been very handsome in the past. He sat paralysed below the shoulders, one eye closed, face twisted, and a large surgical scar upon his head, partially covered by a cap. He could not speak. Any movement would cause violent tremors. He was wheelchair bound and had to be assisted even for toilet.

Rohan and Riya had married just two years ago, against the wish of their parents. Both from very affluent, but uneducated families. Both worked at the same office. In a few months after marriage, Rohan had developed high blood pressure, and was advised treatment. Unfortunately, he got carried away with some false claims about some herbal medicines shown on National Television channels and stopped the BP medicines. The obvious happened: one of the blood vessels in his brain ruptured due to high BP, and there was a huge bleeding. A Neurosurgeon had done an excellent job by taking this high-risk case on operation table in emergency, to suck out the blood clots and save his life. However, the damage was already done by then, much of his brain was damaged on one side. Riya had been caring for him since then. She looked after him just as a mother cares for her newborn.

“Doctor, we know his paralysis will not improve now. But he is brilliant, I know his brain thinks fast and accurate. Since this stroke he cannot speak. We have come with some hope for his speech. If he could just tell me what he feels, if something is bothering him, what he wants, etc., I will be very grateful” his wife said.

We started treatment. In a few days, Rohan could speak legibly, so she was very happy. Rohan’s parents were very happy too. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

One day, Riya’s father came with her. He asked her to wait outside my room for a few minutes, she reluctantly left. With folded hands and tears, he spoke: “Doctor sahab, my daughter married against our wish. I have forgiven her now. But I cannot see her spending her life like this. She was the most brilliant girl in our town, she had even rejected job offers to go to America because Rohan wanted to stay in India. You can see that she is still young and beautiful. Anyone will marry her; she is one in a million. I’m not saying this because she is my daughter, but you can see for yourself from how she cares for her husband. She has become his attendant now. What is her fault? How can a father see his daughter wasting away her youth like this? They have no family life. I cannot even speak to her about this. Her mother tried but Riya refused to speak. She speaks very highly of you, so I have come with this hope. Please help us”.

This was very difficult, but a duty too. If not me, who could even attempt to resolve this?

“Let us ask her about her thoughts” I told her father and requested him not to react when she spoke. We called her in. I told her in short how her father felt. She sat straight. Her face became distorted and she wept silently. Her father kept on patting her while weeping himself.

“Papa, when Rohan could recently speak after so many months, the first thing he told me was to leave him and marry someone else. He refused to eat his medicines, saying that I should leave him. Then I promised him that I will leave him after two years. That was a lie. I know he will die if I leave. I could feel his love even when he could not speak, that’s something more precious to me than whatever you think I will get if I marry someone else. Till the day he had this bleeding in the brain, he made sure I was best taken care of. He never had his food before me. How can I spend even one happy moment with anyone else knowing that Rohan is suffering in this same world? Would you be proud of me if I did that? Did you teach me to be so selfish?” She broke down. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Her father did not say anything. They left.

In a few weeks, Rohan followed up again with Riya. He is now gradually learning to operate a computer. He plans to start his own online business. Riya is helping him do that, while continuing to work. They are now planning for a child soon.

This fairy I met was more beautiful than any other in the dreamy stories I had heard all through my childhood. I am glad that I am a witness to this divine fairytale.

I know even of another couple, where the girl had developed a paralysis in her college days. I had counselled her and her boyfriend about future uncertainties and a possibility of a compromised married life, given her illness. “That’s not the most important thing for us” he had said. They married. Today, about 8 years since then, they have a healthy, happy kid, and he still cares for her as much, now when she is in a wheelchair. This knight lives in a rented house, runs a small grocery store, rides a bicycle, wears the simplest of clothes, yet has a heart that would put to shame many a real princes!

My world as a doctor is full of beautiful fairies and knights, named caretakers. It is because of them that thousands of patients are surviving with dignity today. Medical care is so incomplete without them! I remember my favourite author Richard Bach’s words from “The Bridge Across Forever”: “Princesses, Knights, Enchantments and Dragons, Mystery and Adventure… not only are they here and now, they’re all that EVER lived on earth!” How true!! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Among the stories of sadness and suffering, most doctors also come across best of the human hearts and minds, highest forms of love and care. Such patients and relatives reinforce our own trust and faith in the ability of human efforts to heal. Thanks to what I learn from my patients, my gratitude for being a doctor is endless!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to all caretakers, young and old, who silently sacrifice much of their life caring for their loved ones.

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