Category Archives: Poetry

A Fountain Of Youth


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

From college days, a single habit, which I am probably most obsessive about, has saved me from a lot of trouble while facing so many difficult bad phases. Above exercise, I have loved my meditation.

It is indeed emotionally fatiguing to listen to same and new health complaints practically every day of your life, year after year. Add consoling crying and angry, panicked patients and their relatives, frustrated with themselves, with life, and also sometimes with the doctor. Who other than doctors can know the helplessness while receiving and delivering a bad news? To bear all this one needs immense emotional strength, patience and mental stability. Almost every doctor tries to help and soothe the patient. But the more sensitive, deeply thinking doctors bear the brunt of this emotional overload differently: it affects them negatively.

A common advice given to most such “sensitive and emotional” doctors is ‘detach yourself’, do not involve your feelings much, try and just do what is scientifically, professionally correct. How is it possible to squeeze out the pain that reaches your blood? To learn to be able to deal with this, I needed a major effort, and after a lot of suffering and speaking with some evolved medical and spiritual souls, I could devise a mental platform to deal with this. To be able to clean the slate before the next patient walks in is an art that needs dense practice. A doctor who can ignore and detach from pain and its expression cannot be a good doctor, although I understand that not everyone will agree with this. To their credit, I have also seen many dry, non-conversant and short tempered doctors who actually are far more receptive to their patient’s pain.

Vienna has excellently preserved the home of the great Sigmund Freud. His furniture, papers, books, fossil art and even clothes are maintained well. Freud sat for long hours on his high backed chair, looking at the dense greens outside his window, while fathoming the complicated, layered depths of human minds. In his office, there is a glass cabinet displaying his hand written application for financial support towards higher education, requesting grants. If that genius had to seek financial support by applying to far less intellectuals in his time, where do mere mortals like me stand? There were many times when my finances were in doldrums. Most of the hands that help usually usurp far more than their help in future, so I had to also make a long bucket list of what I did not want. However, my fate was as stubborn as myself, and it gave me enough with its blessed hands always.

It is not possible to be a good doctor if one harbours negativity, sadness, anger, depression and especially regrets within oneself. That’s where meditation saved me for years. If I want to think deep at length about something, I visit my rendezvous where I get a secluded corner and unlimited black coffee. As for this daily meditation though, not much is required. I just sit in a quiet place, switch off all gadgets and lock myself away from human reach. Then I just tell myself: I am completely forgiving everyone who hurt me, misbehaved or cheated me, without any conditions. I will not carry any negatives about them in my heart. In fact I do not want their apologies and I don’t care whether they regret what they did or nor, whether they change or not. Even today, I will meet many who will take advantage, speak arrogantly, misbehave or try to show me down, but I will have already forgiven them, ensuring to protect myself and my work. I will not lose my temper today. I will take excess precautions not to hurt anyone with my word or deed. If I do commit a mistake, I will apologise immediately. What people do is not my problem. How I react is indeed my responsibility. So when I finish my day, I come back with no anger, irritability, frustration or chaos in my mind. Things that are most important for me: my patient’s health, my student’s skills and my writing- I will protect them from any disturbances that may dilute their perfection. I want to satisfy my ego in the greatness and success of my work, the intensity and beauty of everything that I do, not by showing anyone else down. I will return today with a clean and fresh mind.

This simple reminder every morning helps me defeat any diversions from internal peace while working in the highly tense hospital atmosphere. This simple meditation takes me only five minutes, and usually my Alta Rica Black makes my meditation deliciously bittersweet. My accompanying picture is during one such meditation, but as censor boards would object, I have filtered the image.

To be able to forgive the whole world is probably the best thing I ever learnt! It is extremely tough and taxing to forgive the near and dear ones who usually top the list of those who hurt you, but it is equally rewarding too. Please do try it, it will make you at least ten years younger.. and if you can master the art of forgiving yourself for all your mistakes too, then probably you will enter the fountain of youth.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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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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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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“Dev Borem Korum” (Thank You)

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As the plane landed, I called up the driver who was scheduled to pick me up from Goa airport.

“Hullo, Mr. Clement? I’m Dr. Rajas”

“Haan daktar. Tu aaya kya? Bahar nikalke miss call de mai ayega” (Have you arrived? Come out and give me a missed call, I will come there”) . He would have said the same sentence to the President as well. Goans are least hung up on artificial flowery language, they are the friendliest lot as a society. It was after a year, that the same Clement said to me: “Tere liye apun jaan bhi dega parwa nai” (“I can give my life away for you without any hassles”), when I thanked him for something.

Goa has some excellent Neurologists, and my visiting is actually redundant. Yet somehow, maybe because they keep quite busy, or sometimes patients seek a second opinion, I have been seeing a good number of patients every visit. In the very first visit, after I saw an elderly lady and explained her the treatment, she bowed and said “Dev Borem Korum Doctor”. That means “Thank You Doctor”.

Then I pleasantly noticed: irrespective of what was the diagnosis, what treatment was given, whether there was treatment for the patient’s condition or not, whether the patient improved or not, almost every patient said either “Dev Borem Korum” (Thank You) or “God Bless You Doctor”. Even if surgery was advised, even if there were side effects of medicines, even if the outcome was not as expected in rare cases, the “Thank You”and “God Bless You” never changed. It had nothing to do with any particular social class. The rich, the poor, the educated as well as the uneducated, people from every religion, every age group said it. It is a part of that culture: the Goan culture.

Late one night after the OPD, when we were driving on a beautiful long empty Goa road near the beach, I mentioned this fact to my friend Dr. Samuel (God Bless Him for the exotic dinners he takes me to!), he stopped his car and looked quite affected. “I wondered whether anyone else had noticed that. It feels so beautiful! When the patient is grateful and brings you blessings, you automatically feel responsible to do the best for them. Money never matters in that relationship. We must never take patient’s kindness for granted. So many of them actually say Thank You, God Bless you, but sometimes we are too preoccupied with work, anger, ego and other things to reciprocate and encourage that kindness”.

I told him about my late Professor Dr. Sorab Bhabha, who stood up and greeted every time a patient entered or left his cabin. The onus of initiating a good doctor-patient relationship primarily lies upon the doctor, and it is extremely essential to follow the best of manners and etiquette, kindest of language when dealing with patients.

A very sweet girl who followed up for epilepsy recently told me that she visited me not only for medical purpose but because she was inspired by the way I appear calm and composed, the fact that I never raised my voice and always spoke compassionately with everyone. I had to tell her the truth. “Thank you mam, but I am quite short tempered outside the hospital. Even the junior doctors working with me sometimes find me intimidating. But I have to change when I am with a patient. I don’t think that any patient comes to me because I am any better than anyone else in the profession. I prefer to think that they choose me because they trust I can solve their problem. Will you be rude to someone seeking your help? Then how can I get angry with a patient? Every patient coming to me has that hidden trust, which I must justify. Only rarely, if the patient misbehaves or says something insulting, do I lose my calm.”.

“That’s what I like. So humble!” she had to have the last word!

Yes! The day I bring my ego inside the hospital, I will no more be a good doctor. Even the most illiterate patient understands when the doctor is being rude or artificial. Only when it is genuine, the patient will feel the warmth of my compassion and care. It has nothing to do with sweet talking or a show of affection. The only way to do this is to actually incorporate it within one’s depths so that it becomes one’s originality. Kindness and compassion must be the original, genuine qualities of every doctor who expects gratitude from each one of his patients. It does work in most cases.

After dinner, Dr. Sam took me with two other friends to the beach and we silently stared at the luminous moon for a long time. The music of those waves matched the dance of that moonlight upon the ocean. Just as one can feel the glow of the moonlight upon one’s skin, I could feel those numerous blessings keeping my soul warm and happy.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Poverty Vow

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Long day. Came home. Ritual steamy hot bath to wash away the hospital feel, followed by steaming hot dinner. Switched on jazz, and I picked up the pasta. Heaven descended upon my tongue.

“How perfect this moment is!” I thought, and that’s where I was wrong. The phone rang.

“Sir, 18 year old buy, had fever since a day, took some tablets, became unconscious, now comatose. Vitals are stable, although he is coughing occasionally. No past history significant. Poor family, cannot afford treatment. Father is a labourer. What should I do?”

“Get him into the ICU, intubate if required and stabilise. Arrange for an MRI”

“OK Sir, but Sir they don’t even have a deposit. They had first gone to the government hospital, but as they were not happy there they have come here”. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“We will work something out. I am on my way” I replied.

In an hour, after examining the boy and seeing his MRI and other tests, we concluded that he had viral encephalitis. The standard medicines were started.

The boy’s father, an obvious poor slum dweller, was in a state of shock. The mother, sobbing, told me the history. I reassured them. When I explained the diagnosis and treatment they asked some questions.

“We don’t understand anything, we are illiterate and poor. Do anything Sir, Just save my son, Sir” the father folded his hands together. Private hospitals have a quota for free patients, but usually it is always overloaded. I requested the hospital management to please make this a free case, they accepted.

The next day, the child opened his eyes. On the third day he started responding. I was quite elated to have his mother speak with him. However, his respiration was still shallow, and blood presure very low. His heart rate was fluctuating due to the effect of viral infection. He was still critical. I spoke to his parents twice every day, specifically reassuring them. Poor patients must never feel that they are not equally cared for. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

That evening, as I attended my patients in the OPD, the patient’s father came in, requested that he wanted to have a word. He came in with six other people. None of them could possibly be poor, given their get ups.

“Yes?”I asked.

The patient’s father looked at the giant next to him. “You ask” he said to the giant.

The giant, chewing his gutkha, askked me “What’s wrong with his son?”

“I have explained them thrice”I replied, “he has viral infection of the brain. There’s a lot of swelling upon his brain”.

“How come he is not improving? His BP was normal when he came. He did not have any heart problems. Now you tell us his heart is not functioning well” asked another medical superstar with white linen and gold teeth. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Yes, this happens commonly with viral infections” I replied, feeling hopeless. How to teach complicated medicine to this pure- muscular class? I wondered.

“But you said he had infection in the brain. How come now he has it in the heart? Is the treatment wrong?” Asked someone similar among them, in a tone nastier than medical examiners.

I looked at the patient’s father. He was looking at the ceiling, deliberately avoiding eye contact with me.

“Listen, Sir”, I told them, “Your patient has viral infection, it has primarily affected the brain, but involvement or dysfunction of other organs is well known with such infections, this is not something new to us. We are on guard, dealing with the situation. Nothing is wrong about the treatment, in fact his brain swelling has improved, and he is conscious now. Ask his mother” I looked at her.

“I don’t know” she said, “we don’t find any improvement in my child. Nobody tells us anything”.

“Haven’t I explained you and his father patient’s condition every day?” I asked. They did not reply.

The white linen gold teeth spoke again: “We want a report. We want to show the case to another doctor”

That was a relief. I gladly wrote them a report. They went doctor-shopping all day. They returned next day. Almost everyone had asked them to continue the same treatment that we had advised, except some desperate non-specialist telling them to shift the patient immediately for a surgery at his hospital. Even our gold-toothed medical superstar understood that it was wrong! (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“We will continue treatment here only. But our patient must survive” came an open threat.

”I will do my best, but I cannot guarantee you anything. You may please transfer the patient under the care of any doctor of your choice” I told them.

“No no, you continue to treat him.But if anything goes wrong, we will file a police complaint. We will ruin this hospital”said one of them.

I am allergic to threats. I don’t allow them twice from the same source in my life. How could any doctor guarantee that there could be no complications? How could I say that the patient could not react to any medicine in such a critical condition? If every patient could have guaranteed improvement, what’s the need for a doctor?

“I am sorry, I am planning for a leave next few days. I won’t be able to see your patient. I have requested our management to transfer your case to another doctor” I told them.

There was a movie “Teesri Kasam”in which the lead character, at the end of the movie, vows never to help the character of the lead actress in the movie, because the very wish and effort to help her has shattered his life, caused him regret. Most Doctors are now being forced to take such a vow. Urban Poverty is not so simple and innocent in a hospital as it appears to the media and society. Whether it is the roadside rowdiness of slum dwellers who roam around with weapons or a maid’s drunkard husband in civilised society, we all understand the misuse of poverty status well anywhere outside hospital, but somehow when this happens in a hospital, the blame is automaytically pinned upon the hospital or the doctor.

But who among the vote-mongers will speak against the majority voting bank?

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Why Don’t You Marry Her, Doc?”

photo 19-09-16, 22 52 52
Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir, she cannot walk, she is paralysed below chest since last few days. Her husband doesn’t care, he has abandoned her. She has no money or insurance for tests or treatment. I want to help her, I don’t know what to do” I told my junior consultant, who was having his coffee break with senior consultant and the departmental secretaries. He looked at me in a nasty way, and said “Why don’t you marry her?” and they all laughed aloud. However, although my professor smiled with them, he asked me to get the patient’s papers.

She was a case of Multiple Sclerosis, in her early thirties, and had lost ability to walk. Her sensation below the waist, control over urine was also lost. This ghastly illness of the brain and spine often cripples the young. In many cases, when such disability develops, divorces follow. The world as we doctors see it is far more cruel, deceptive and dangerous than most illnesses humanity knows. She was left with a small daughter and no income. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I felt insulted, but I was in a foreign country. The junior consultant was known for his sarcastic humour and enjoyed impressing women around him, often at the cost of others, like so many dwarfs who take advantage of their chair to achieve what they otherwise cannot. I chose to ignore him, and got the papers to our boss, who called a colleague to enrol the patient in one of the upcoming research trials. That would ensure her free tests and medicines for a few years. I told her the good news. She started sobbing, then handed me a note written by her:
“I am killing myself as I have nothing left except my daughter, I cannot look after her with my disability. I have no complaints against anyone. Please look after my daughter”.
In some time, after she stabilised, she said “Doc, I had come prepared to kill myself today. My daughter is sitting in the cafeteria. If you had not told me what you did just now, believe me, I was planning to drive my wheelchair off the roof today”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We called her 10 year old daughter from the cafeteria. Little did the cute child know how lucky she was to see her mother again that day.

That evening, my boss, the senior consultant, took me out for a dinner. Once the red wine loosened strained faces, he started to speak: “Rajaas, I know you are kind and you want to help others. I know you feel for your patients. But I must caution you, don’t get carried away. Your job is clear: to listen, to advise the best line of investigations and treatment, to explain, and to compassionately guide. Don’t carry too much weight upon your shoulders”.
“Why, Sir?”I asked politely, “I feel inner peace when I walk an extra mile to help my patient. How can that cause me any harm? Didn’t this lady survive just because you helped her today?”
“Because it is a never ending burden. To be able to effectively help everyone coming to you, you must have too much money and too much time. Doctors seldom have either. I lost a lot of time and money, to realise that this cycle never ends, that newer and more people need your help every day, all your life. I almost went bankrupt, collapsed and quit under stress. Then I realised that I must limit this so I could serve them best the next day”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It felt like dry reasoning at that moment. However, boss continued to help patients beyond duty whenever I asked him. Over years, I realised how correct Boss was!

My dear british colleague Dr. Mindy was trying to help a patient through her divorce, I accompanied her. As the patient opened up, she revealed to Mindy that although she enjoyed marijuana, her husband was involved in the sale of other illicit drugs, and that was one reason that she wanted to divorce him. Dr. Mindy involved a counsellor to help her out. However, after they decided to patch up their marriage, the patient told her husband that she had confided in Dr. Mindy. The husband came over and politely threatened her to keep all the information only to herself, otherwise be prepared for dare consequences.
We all spent many a restless nights after that.

Emotionally disturbed, helpless patients, those who are treated unfair by family often depend upon a kind doctor. They get quite restless at times, worry a lot and then expect an immediate hearing and resolution from their doctor. From suicide threats to blackmails, there are messages that pour in once that channel is opened. This sometimes wreaks havoc in the doctor‘s life, because being disturbed affects clinical practice and decision making. The small time left for self and family is thus shot dead. A patient who becomes emotionally dependent upon the doctor can turn into a nightmare for the doctor. Over years, I learnt to balance this, going out of the way only for the few truly deserving patients.

Thousands of patients have survived just because their doctor emotionally supported them in time, otherwise they would have died of lack of will to carry on. No one ever credits the doctors who become emotional back-ups for their patients: a service that costs them time and stress, without any income. That is unfortunately considered a “duty” of the doctor, to be kind and available at bad times, but to be forgotten in good times. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Many actually think that good words, compliments and “a satisfaction of serving” should be sufficient compensation for the doctor. Nothing fully compensates, although kind words do sometimes make one feel good.

However, what caused worse hurt to me was some of my own colleagues who made fun of me and many other doctors who went out of their way to help patients. “Impractical, unnecessary, worthless, drama”, and so many other adjectives are used by colleagues and even seniors/ some teachers for doctors, students, residents who walk an extra mile to help their patients. I was extremely fortunate that I met some good teachers who supported my efforts without mocking me, and I continue to meet students who carry on this noble trait forwards.

When I was leaving, the junior consultant came over for the farewell too, and told me in too many words how I must learn to be “Practical”. I gave him a reply that one teacher with advanced genius had taught me years ago, for people who do less themselves and advise others a lot. This reply saves a lot of time and energy, my teacher had told me, and its beauty is that people don’t even understand that you are saying ‘those two useful words’ when you reply like this:

I just smiled at him.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Cult of Good Blood: Superhero Medical Students

The Cult of Good Blood:
Superhero Medical Students
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He grew up selling vegetables and fruits grown by his mother. He went door to door and in the village market to sell those. He also walked for two miles every day to catch a bus to a school over 20 miles away. He then enrolled in a private class that waived off his fees, because he had a passion: He desperately wanted to become a doctor.

Atul Dhakne, son of a school teacher Mr. Nivruttirao Dhakne and farmer Mrs. Mandabai Dhakne, with his hard work and merit, got admission in the prestigious B.J. Medical College in Pune.

But he wasn’t satisfied. “What about those like me who are from the poor rural background, those who have no access to good classes and education, but want to become doctors?” he worried.

Good Blood speaks, whichever soul it flows in. Young medical students of different origins, studying with him, decided to resolve this. Ketan, son of a lawyer Mr. Avinash Deshmukh (who mostly handles cases for the non-affording,) wanted to do charity like his father. Farooque Faras, whose father raised a family in one small room, was burning with the desire to give. Many others joined in (names below), and the Cult of Good Blood multiplied. They all wanted to uplift the deserving.

“Lift For Upliftment” was born, formed by the superheroes among medical students.

They printed posters and went to almost all junior colleges in Pune, appealing students from poor backgrounds to join their free tuitions / classes, to prepare for the CET /NEET. In the first round, over 40 students joined. After the medical college hours, Atul and his friends took turns to teach these poor students, give them notes, set question papers, conduct exams, assess and counsel for improvement. All expenses were borne from their own puny pocket-money.

There was no fixed place for the class. One local bakery owner, Mr. Dinesh Konde, decided to help these students. He planned the logistics and took them to the corporator Mr. Avinash Shinde, who asked for only one thing in return of his help: commitment to continue this good work. The Cult agreed whole-heartedly. With him, they approached Mrs. Meenakshi Raut, Asst. Director in the education department in Pune, who helped them get two classrooms in a Municipal school after the school hours. The classes thus became regular, every day, from 6-9 PM.

The cult lacked stationery, the huge backup of notes and question paper sets for 40 students, so they approached Mr. Sanjeevkumar Sonavne from Latur, who runs many educational institutes, helps poor students, and even pays the fees of some who cannot afford college. Mr. Shelke and Dr. Harish from Sassoon Hospitals also joined hands to help.

The results were impressive: from the first such batch, 6 students qualified for MBBS, 3 for BDS, 11 for BAMS and 2 for BHMS.

No one had earned anything, but Good Blood flowed forward. Many medical students from subsequent batches came forward to teach free, imparting their fresh acquired knowledge and skills to those who could otherwise have no access to it.

There is no discrimination while accepting junior college students for their class. They have two batches now with 60 students in each. They have also started weekend classes for poor students preparing for NEET in the extremely backward area of Maharashtra, named Melghat. These medical students go to Melghat with their own expenses, teach the rural junior college students over the weekend, and return to attend the tough schedules of medical college again!

“I learned helping others from my mother. We don’t earn anything, but we learn something precious every day” tells Atul, who has now passed MBBS. Ketan Deshmukh, Abhiraj Matre and Farooque Faras help him supervise the group. Their endless enthusiasm only reminded me of how much more I can do. I came to know of this group “LFU” during the recent “Quest Medical Academy” event arranged by Dr. Sushant Shinde.

They are naturally, perpetually short of funds.
I am not rich, but I won’t feel right about myself if I didn’t contribute. They graciously accepted.

When these students came to meet me today, I offered them dinner at a good restaurant (knowing that they stay in hostels). Farooque said “Sir, we will rather use that money to print some more question paper sets”. Farooque’s father has stopped all celebrations in the family, and sends all the money he can, from his one small room home, for the torch of humanity that his son carries forward!

When they asked for an advice, I had but one small request for them: that a Doctor should be completely free of all political and religious influence at work, in teaching, and especially while treating a patient. They assured me that “Lift For Upliftment” has decided to never be affiliated to a political or religious organization, keeping humanity as their highest ideal.

There is no better lamp than the one which carries the light from soul to soul. There is no better definition of humanity than holding hands of those who need it most. I feel very happy today, that I could contribute to this beautiful, divine cause.

Long Live the Cult Of Good Blood, and may we all find it in abundance within ourselves!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The group “LFU” also includes: Esha Agarwal, Shivkumar Thorat, Satyender, Tanvi Modi, Mayank Tripathi, Nikhil Nagpal, Sitanshu, Arvind Kumar, Nagesh Pimpre, all from the B. J. Medical College Pune.

PS: My heartfelt appeal to all medical students and doctors to contribute by starting similar activity in your region, by teaching poor students who want to become doctors, by joining this group and / or by donating for this cause.

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The Silent Murders and Medical Suffocation

The Silent Murders and Medical Suffocation
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Your grandfather is admitted and serious. Please come at once” my uncle said on the telephone.
I was in the first MBBS. This maternal grandfather was my closest relative after my father. An expert in many languages and philosophies, he was a constant source of love, wisdom and inspiration from my toddler days.

I submitted a leave application and travelled immediately to attend him. Grandpa was admitted in the general ward at the civil hospital Beed in Maharashtra. As the wards were full, he was kept with two other patients in a sort of a broad corridor, and IV antibiotics with saline were being given. He was delirious, but he managed to smile when he saw me. As civil hospitals do not have many medicines, my uncle arranged them from an outside pharmacy.

There was an elderly retired police inspector, Mr. Gaikwad, on the bed next to my Grandpa’s. He had uncontrolled sugar levels, and was slipping in and out of consciousness. His elderly wife was attending him, she was herself a patient of severe arthritis, and could not even get up or walk without excruciating pain. There were no chairs / stools or even mattresses for relatives attending the patients, so we slept on the floor besides our respective patients, upon our own bedsheets. I naturally attended the elderly couple too, I had enough time to attend humans as that was the pre cellphone era. Mrs. Gaikwad told me how her husband had spent his life without ever being corrupt, and said while she was proud that he was so clean, that also meant hardships like the one she faced. “Those who took bribes can afford to go to the private doctors in big cities and keep attendants. Our virtues translated in more hardships, the vocal rewards of words do not ease physical pain, nor pay any bills” she said with tears. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

One night at about 3 AM, while I was deep asleep, I heard a scream and got up startled. Mr. Gaikwad was having a convulsion, and his wife shouted in panic. I ran to call the nurse, but there was only one for the entire ward and she was in the washroom. By the time she came out, the convulsion had stopped. She stopped the insulin drip and called the doctor on duty, who was asleep in the casualty. He came and administered some medicines and went away, exhausted. He was on duty for over three days in a row now, tired and irritable, yet had no option but to go on. I dozed off again. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
In a few minutes, I realized Mrs. Gaikwad was waking me up again, shaking violently, because the IV needle of her husband had come out and he was bleeding. In panic I stood up. There was some water on the floor, and before I realized, I fell face down upon the bare floor. Such was the impact that my upper front tooth broke, and tore through my upper lip. It was bleeding profusely. The nurse had come and inserted another IV line to the patient by then, and the elderly lady felt quite guilty for my injury.

The nurse asked me to go to the casualty. The wardboy there refused at first to wake up the doctor on duty, saying he hadn’t slept for past two nights. However, as the bleeding continued, he took pity and woke up the doctor. Already angry, the casualty doc cleaned and sutured my lip with the available suture material, the correct one was not there. He asked me to get the painkillers and antibiotics from the pharmacy, and to fill up the necessary papers and pay the fees at the window.
With a swollen lip and an aching head, I returned to the ward and slept again. The next day, Grandpa was already feeling better, he could get a bed in a semi-private room, and discharged in two days after that.
Mr. Gaikwad, the elderly retired inspector passed away after two days, obviously a case of far less medical attention and facility. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I carry the scars till date.

Not much has changed in the civil / government run hospitals, even today. Far lesser beds and amenities, a constant lack of medicines and instruments, anarchic uncleanliness, underpaid and understaffed faculty, “sarkari” type procedural delays: overall a third-rate or worse experience in healthcare, with bribes and corruption at almost every level.
What is being projected is opposite though. The whole blame is being planted upon the medical professionals, and all the so-called reforms being made are just tightening of working conditions of the allopathic doctors. We do need reforms in medical malpractice and corruptions, and they are of course welcome, but many more thousand patients die due to apathy and lack of medicines and facilities at the government run hospitals than those who die due to medical malpractice. The number of administrators and government employees who do not attend government hospitals is a proof of the massive healthcare deficit we have everywhere in India. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Ambulances, thousands of more basic and specialty hospitals, more doctors, nurses, support staff in govt. run hospitals, better facilities and medicines are basic social requirements before any other development, advertisements or beautification is planned. However, the whole system appears to be concentrating upon the earning, eligibility and qualifications of existing allopaths.
MCI and IMA must also look into “Compulsory Basic Healthcare Facility and Patient Rights and Care” at all Civil / Govt. hospitals, specifying what the govt. must mandatorily implement in all its set-ups, what are the responsibilities of the administration. The overall (incorrect) notion that “All the problems in Indian Healthcare are because of the greed of Allopathic Doctors” is on the rise because of the “Govt. pleasing policies, comments and attitudes” by some. This will be extremely harmful in the long run. Progress can only be made in healthcare once the medical “Yes-Men” and “Yes-Women” are gone, once the voices that can boldly speak the truth are heard well.

Till then, the private practitioners must stay united in raising their voice against such “unilateral reforms” and defamation, or prepare to be forever suffocated by the system.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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The Music Called Life

The Music Called Life
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“What prize do you want”? My father asked me after I finished my tenth standard exams well.

I was desperately awaiting that question, knowing him well.

“A Sony Walkman” I replied almost instantly. I got one, the most basic Sony model, and lost myself for weeks in the stereophonic effects, collecting songs and recordings that had best quality. Right from the scratchy sound at the beginning, made by the record player needle-tip on the record disc, to the realization of different soundtracks on right and left, with separate sounds of each instrument. One favorite hobby was to select and follow only one instrument from the whole orchestra throughout the song.

Besides the music of MJ, Madonna, Beatles, the Indian stereo effect songs were a pleasure too. Ye bambai shehar haadson ka shehar hai (Kalyanji Anandji) and Pag Ghungroo Baandh, Thodi si jo pee lee hai (Bappi Lahiri) had the best stereo effects from the headphone. Kishore Kumar, Lataji, Lionel Richie, Cliff Richard, and Bee Gees became addictions. The collection grew enormously.

A cousin returning from the USA bought himself a Bose audio system, I was 18 then. I remember arranging the exact angles of the speakers, all directed towards one single chair at the center of the room, then taking turns to listen to “How Soon Is Now” (The Smiths). The strong wish that I must own the best music system for myself, make a music room in my home dawned that day, and is still thriving within me.

Much later, on a birthday, returning after ward work, I found a huge parcel at my hostel door, and the watchman told me that a fan had left it there. I had told some friends how I loved “Experiencing music”. Opening the box, I found the most advanced 8 speaker Panasonic music system, the home theatre one. That was one of the best gifts I ever received. The effectiveness of listening to music as a treatment for one’s negative moods is beyond question. I feel that good singers , those healers of soul, are better doctors than many medical degree holders,as their love songs and happy songs cure many a sad minds. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Recently when I listened to great music all the night with a very precious friend, a beautiful soul who understands that each instrument and even the voice of the singer has a different expression, other than the lyrics, who can feel music imprinted upon blood just as I do, I realized what I was missing in life. With this friend, the hear beats of life have become stereophonically audible again to me!

Technology has started drowning music into sounds, taking out meaning to be replaced by sound effects, we have almost lost the appreciation of the intricate fineries of meaningful music. The true feeling of listening to music is much like being underwater, if at all to compare: unless you drown yourself in it, you don’t feel it right!

Talking to patients, students, colleagues, this thought grew into a major revelation: we are losing our fineries not only about music, but also about feeling out other people: near and dear ones as much as strangers, both can have so much more meaning than the “bodies and words” that men and women have become now! There’s so much beauty in almost every human being who dares to preserve individuality without either copying anything or looking down upon anyone else.

An alert, feeling, self-aware mind that dwells upon the here and now is the best song nature has ever sung to me: and also the highest state a human mind can achieve. Unfortunately, we are lost in the digital-technology jungle, and take pride in either losing ourselves, escaping or running away from ourselves, or searching ourselves outside our own conscious reality. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I have decided for now: that I want to live this music experience without compromising: I want to to feel every bit and piece of the music that life brings to me, through songs and their lyrics, through the rains and the sun, through eyes, touch and silence, and above all, the resonance that it generates within me.

Only Love can match the beauty of good Music.

For the music called life is never sad, and I want to always walk towards a happy inner peace.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!
© राजस देशपांडे

ईमानदारी से अपना काम करते हो,
नेकी से घर चलाकर, परमात्मा को पूजकर
अपने बच्चों को बापू की कहानी सुनाते हो,
पर तुम्हारे पास जबतक वक़्त नहीं है नारे लगाने का..
नेता की जूती को सर आँखों पर रखकर
मेरे चुने देशभक्ति के गीत गाने का…
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

मेहनत कर, पढ़ लिख कर देश की सेवा में
पीढ़ी दर पीढ़ी तुम्हारी भले ही वैज्ञानिक बनी हो..
देश विदेश में भले ही तुम्हरी बुद्धि, और कला
देश की गरिमा-सी सराही जाती हो
पर तुम्हारे पास जबतक वक़्त नहीं है नारे लगाने का..
नेता की जूती को सर आँखों पर रखकर
मेरे चुने देशभक्ति के गीत गाने का…
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

सीमा पर लड़ता हर स्वाभिमानी जवान भले ही
लड़ रहा हो देश की खातिर, मेरी तुम्हारी खातिर,
तुम्हारे मन में भी उसके प्रति हो भाई-भगवान सी भावना
पर तुम्हारे पास जबतक वक़्त नहीं है नारे लगाने का..
नेता की जूती को सर आँखों पर रखकर
मेरे चुने देशभक्ति के गीत गाने का…
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

लाखों मरीजों को भले ही तुम ज़िन्दगी देते हो
करोड़ों विद्यार्थियों को पाठशाला में अपनेही बच्चों जैसे
बढ़ाते पढ़ाते हो, नेकी की राह और देशप्रेम सिखलाते हो
पर तुम्हारे पास जबतक वक़्त नहीं है नारे लगाने का..
नेता की जूती को सर आँखों पर रखकर
मेरे चुने देशभक्ति के गीत गाने का…
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

इंसान को रंगों में बांटकर, तलवार छुरी चलाकर
इतिहास का बदला जबतक वर्तमान से लेते नहीं हो,
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!
उबले खून की जवान नस्लों को गजरे बाँध
सोने में लथपथ लार टपकाना सिखाते नहीं हो..
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!
भेड़ बकरियों की तरह ऊँगली उठने पर सलाम नहीं करते हो..
तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!

शिवाजी, सरदार और नानक के देश का शेर होकर भी
तुम्हारे पास जबतक वक़्त नहीं है नारे लगाने का..
नेता की जूती को सर आँखों पर रखकर
देशभक्ति के गीत गाने का…तुम देशभक्त नहीं हो सकते!
राजस देशपांडे
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande