Category Archives: Poetry

“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