Category Archives: psychiatry

Who Are You?

Dementia: The Brain Killer.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Just a month ago dad / mom was alright, but now replies in a word or two, appears disinterested in anything. He / she was very lively and active earlier, we are surprised that now they just sit without doing anything, usually staring out of the window, and have to be reminded for everything – food, bath and even who we are’. These words alert every doctor about dementia- a disease that is extremely scary, because the brain is slowly dying. The person suffering with this illness, if not attended in time, can deteriorate permanently and fast, forgetting even oneself, without knowing that this is happening.

What if your own brain forgets you? What if you start to complete fail to recognise your own family, children, friends, not only their names but even their faces, how much they mean to you? Worse, what if in fact you start thinking that they are after your life? Impossible, you think? Welcome to dementia, a devastating disease of the brain that shatters many of our conceptions about ourselves and the world around.

Human brain does a lot more than thinking, speaking, memorising and walking. Born nearly empty, with only basic animal instincts, it then starts filling the memory cells with whatever information is fed to it- name, caste, religion, country, culture, food habits, and also the preaching of dying for one’s own religion or country. While acquiring different skills, it starts comparing self with others, instils the cultural concepts of loving or hating others, discriminating, superiority, and even the wish for equality found in some evolved cultures. Whatever we learn and the emotional make up of our minds, is a stored data in our brain.

Add the bittersweet experiences, the eternal exposure to a mostly self-centred world and our insights, all these make up the personality of each individual, even the ego of being that person, and the addiction of thinking ‘me first’ – all of it is in fact ‘stored data’ in the cells of the brain. There’s also information necessary for communication and social interaction: from days of the week to awareness of day and night, where we are, people and environments around us and so much more.

What happens when these brain cells start dying, degenerating? All this starts fading, and the brain starts having large gaps in these storages about everything, including self. This disease starts slowly, and unless someone is having daily meaningful conversation with the patient on a daily basis, it is missed for many initial months, because the regular, hi-hullo type of conversation is preserved till late. Even the most brilliant minds start making notes and reminders, often forgetting where they kept those. They appear withdrawn, lost in thought, and often have difficulty remembering names, relationships and directions- like not knowing where the washroom is. Some of the most disciplined and cultured may also start using vulgar abuses, have spells of rage, and may accuse their beloved spouse / children of having affairs, intentions of harm and stealing. Some take off clothes in public, misbehave, leave home and get lost outside. All this because the stored memories of “What not to do” is also being lost with brain cells dying. There are many types of dementias other than Alzheimers. Some are treatable if diagnosed early.

The loved ones of such patients are usually shocked and devastated, not only with the diagnosis, but with the revelation that in many cases this is permanent. They usually think that it must be age, stress or some anger that led to this, but their frustration is usually vented at the doctor when they realise that things are progressive. Visiting quacks in various pathies who exploit hope and frustration, the patient is subjected to much experimentation, abuse and even cruelty like tying them down, beating them up, etc., thanks to our superstitious society. The real tragedy is the waste of precious time- because starting the right treatment may some parts of memory longer, and reverse some types of dementias.

The right counsellors, psychiatrists or physicians recognise the disease easily and refer the patient to a qualified neurologist in time. Certain dementias due to deficiencies of thyroid hormone, Vitamin B12 etc. and depression are reversible to a fair extent, while others may require lifelong treatment with a neurologist. If started early with the right medicines, many cases improve and sustain for months to years.

Many cases of dementia are unmasked when patients undergo surgeries, hospitalisation. Patients with dementia get scared and confused in new surroundings, change of familiar places or absence of near and dear ones. They may have many psychiatric manifestations, and even become aggressive. The most emotionally draining thing is their paranoia and accusing spouse of infidelity.

It is essential to counsel and train the family and caretakers about how to handle such patients. One needs to detach emotional interpretations of patient’s behaviour and treat them like a child. One must never force such patients- to eat, sleep, exercise or do something against their wish (unless of course if they intend to harm self or others). One must also refrain from continuously correcting them, teaching them logic and reasoning, or asking them things they cannot remember.

Who Are You? Is an extremely difficult question to answer. Whatever you are, it exists only in your brain. Take good care of it. Stay away from negative emotions of hatred and discrimination. Don’t compare yourself with others. Practice equality in its true sense, it brings calm. Eat healthy, stay happy and active. Include almonds, walnuts, fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Control blood pressure, sugars and cholesterol levels.

Avoid red meat, butter, fatty and fast food. Avoid unknown medicines.

Many consider deceit and lying as “essential diplomacies” for success, and happily sacrifice precious personal relations in a quest to succeed for money and fame. Guess who helps us when we forget who we are. Preserve your relationships, speak your mind to your close friends, near and dear ones. Share your feelings, express your desires. Shed egos and reach out to people you like, make up with them. Do this today, because tomorrow it may be too late.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neuroloigist

Pune, Mumbai.

9922753753

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Victim Versus Victim

Victim Versus Victim

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He walked in my chamber, trembling and sweating. A typical engineer, cute, nerdy and cultured, he lacked the usual poise, calm and charm that accompanies the true intellectual. Something was wrong.

“Are you ok? Do you need a glass of water?” I asked him, while glancing at the vitals that the nurse had recorded- his blood pressure was high but not in the dangerous range. His breathing was heavy, and his eyes red.

“No, Doctor, I… I .. my head..” he wasn’t able to finish his sentence. I let him relax for a few moments. Taking a deep breath in, he started: “Doc, I haven’t slept in fifteen days. My head is exploding. I feel like I will die. We did a heart check up yesterday as I had palpitations, but the cardio told me everything was normal”.

I examined him, there were no neurological findings except the extreme anxiety he was trembling with. Sometimes the mind is so troubled, it actually causes the body to manifest its suffering- causing giddiness, trembling, headaches, lack of sleep, sometimes even fatal conditions! Stress is indeed a major killer.

“Is someone with you? Are you under some stress? Where’s your family?” I asked, and he started to shake.
“I want to tell you something confidential, doc” he said, and told me one of the most horrific yet increasingly frequent stories of our times.

He is 34, married, and has a six-year-old child. His wife works too, but in a different company. He spilled out what was hijacking his mind:
“Fifteen days ago, on a weekend, my wife dozed off on the sofa besides me. Her cellphone was in the kitchen, and when I went to get a snack, a whatsapp notification appeared on her locked screen, it said ‘I love you too, can’t wait to see you. Wear white, you look beautiful ..”. The sender appeared to be a female name, but I was curious. I had complete trust in my wife and we had a very good life together. I woke up my wife and asked her to open that message, asking for details. She refused. I got very angry as she was trying to hide something. I told her that I was planning to call her father and discuss the issue. Then she told me the truth”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“She had met one of her classmates in one of those ten year class reunions which have sprouted everywhere now. He started praising her, messaging her, and she said that she had fallen in love with him. She did apologise to me. I was devastated and wanted to run away, kill myself, because I had loved my wife dearly. The only reason why I did not do anything serious was our son, who is attached to both of us.”

“After a lot of thinking I decided to forgive my wife. I told her that I was ready to start again, but she had to completely stop seeing her classmate. I also requested her that I want to meet him once. We went to meet him. He is married too, has two kids, but his wife is not aware about all this. He bluntly refused to stop seeing my wife. He and my wife together told me that they cannot stop seeing each other, and that if I create any problems, my wife will approach various associations and police and tell them that I am abusing, harassing and being violent to her. You know what happens, doc, how law can be misused, how things can be twisted to make someone a villain. I am from a very cultured, educated family, we are scared of fights and legal matters, police cases etc.”

“When we returned home, my wife told me not to worry, and that if I did not interfere with their relations, I could also have the same relation with her as earlier. Now I hate her, I do not want to see her, but the thought of what will happen to our son and his future is killing me. I cannot eat, sleep or even think normally. I had severe headache since a few days, and today I vomited. My friend gave me your number, so I am here”.

Whenever someone is fasting for long, or for any reason dehydrated, the headache that follows could be extremely dangerous. We obtained an emergency scan of his brain and found that he was already developing clots in his veins, a condition that could have killed him if not treated in time. He was admitted and treated. His wife did come and attend him. He improved and was discharged in two days. I arranged for a counsellor for them, and now they are both undergoing counselling. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Besides the facts that I should never judge someone as a doctor, and that I am not a counsellor, I was appalled at the audacious threats (and in some cases a reality) misuse of police, legal machinery and socio-political forces under various disguises to corner and target someone. Recently a big retired police officer has commented “Show me a person, anyone, and we can show you his crimes”. The selective victimization of whoever one wants to target, while playing victim oneself, is the new name of the game: Victim Versus Victim with blurred definitions is the new world we are welcoming, thanks to the umpteen legal and social immaturities.

From gender to religion, from intellectual to financial achievements, anyone can now be blamed by anyone else, claiming to be a victim after using the system to get what one would never have achieved without that very system in place. In short, we are living in a world where a thief can enter your home, kill your dear ones, steal your belongings and if you catch and punish them, can play a victim card based upon anything from gender to caste, religion, nationality or political affiliation. This certainly cannot be called evolution, as survival of the most vicious villain will never favor human race.

Meanwhile we doctors will try and maintain our sanity to be neutral and treat everyone for their best health.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Most Dangerous Indian Cancer

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Being invisible, the ability to see others without them seeing you, combined with the inexplicable curiosity about the private businesses of others (for which Indians are world-infamous) makes this an irresistible hobby. Manners and etiquette are the last attributes for which we Indians are credited anywhere, so people think it’s like our birthright to be rude, reckless, abusive and judgemental to others.

Earlier when you criticised others, people questioned your own achievements, showed your own ridiculous stupid past, and what was most feared: often proved that you are a do-nothing hypocrite idiot who likes to relish in being critical and disrespectful of others. People could show everyone what a joke your own life was, how illogical, unreasonable and irrelevant a liar you could be. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Invisibility gave all such idiots a protection. The ability to hide behind a fake social media identity and troll others as a group, mob, media, political outfit or – most dangerously- a system which has access to the private information about almost everyone- has now become the worst social cancer that India has ever faced. This is far more dangerous, ugly, vicious and destructive than religious divides (people now know that’s a politically cultivated poison), class divides or any other social disease that has disturbed human fabric especially in India.

Trolling is a deadly disease fast destroying everyone almost everywhere, but worst in India. The reason- it has support from the highest of people who have the ability and authority to stop it but won’t. The courts and the law enforcement agencies don’t seem to have noticed the cruel havoc this is already causing everywhere. A suo-moto intervention to criminalise all fake identities and trolls doesn’t appear uncalled for.

Shall we just accept this trolling cancer as a reality of our times that comes as a side effect of social media supported freedom of speech? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Does a coward who hides his / her own identity have that protected freedom of speech? Is it freedom of speech to abuse and denigrate one and all, especially the rich, famous and the respected, to use language that inflicts worse injuries than physical wounds? Is it freedom of speech to threaten murders and rapes, to threaten violence and exposing someone just because they refuse to fall into your traps of expectation and exploitation?

It can NEVER be Indian culture to threaten women with rapes and murders on social media. Which religion, which culture anywhere in the world accepts such treatment of women and kids? Where are the various Indian guardians of regional supremacy, language, culture, clothing, food, festivals etc. when the women and children are abused openly on social media in their land?

Trollers in India reached a new low by threatening a young child of a renowned sportsman recently, and the very country whose who’s who are blabbering about “Beti Bachao” appear all silent. Isn’t it a crime to threaten a child on social media anymore?

Is merely deleting those comments sufficient, is it not required to identify, shame and punish such inhuman trollers?

The idea of being able to express one’s opinion in situations like dictatorships where revealing identity could be fatal is alluring. That’s probably why freedom of speech is protected by many social media platforms. However we now know that many of these social media platforms aren’t the innocent soldiers of an individual’s rights of speech and expression, but (probably sold out) manipulators working for political, international forces which pay them well- or worse- want to spread racist hatred between classes and harbour a supremacy theory, to flaunt numbers, spy upon people and even incite mobs to loot and kill. Many leaders, businessmen, artists, actors etc. have been completely destroyed by such trolling, elections swayed in favour of some, and we boast of an illiterate populace hooked upon free internet as our national pride!

How else do we explain the incessant flow of extreme abuse which has now become a source of income and entertainment? How else do we accept that law, national and international, has kept an option of anyone to open a fake social media account?

This cancer, a “Growth” of wrong practices in the body of every nation, is destroying precious bonds between humans: because everyone has an unseen private life, not essentially criminal, but open for trolling once exposed, and one who owns most trollers will be the King! Unemployment demands increasingly crass entertainment, and the ‘kings’ know this well.

We appeal to the Supreme Court of India to please declare all fake social media accounts illegal, and bring to books the trollers who use lies, abuses and threats online.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Future Girl and Her Message


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

At about 7 PM, I was about to finish the OPD at Ruby. One last patient was waiting, I could see her in the waiting hall outside.

My N95 was on since 10 AM, and I hadn’t had an opportunity to drink even water since I entered hospital at noon. Fatigued, thirsty and heavy-headed, like most doctors today.

‘This isn’t fair’, I was thinking, ‘I don’t deserve this torture after so many years of hard work. This pandemic seems unending, this stress is piling up on my mind and body now,. The world seems to have come to an inhuman standstill’.

The last patient walked jauntily in, a young girl of 27, her eyes smiled excited. She’s been my old case of epilepsy since last three years. She works in a virology research set up, and had told me six months ago that she’s working on Corona. Her parents are working as labourers in a local government factory.

“How are you?” I asked, mustering a smile she couldn’t see.

“All fine Sir, no fits at all. I just came to share a good news. An American University has liked my virology work and offered me a job for three years. I am leaving in three days. I will begin a new life, I have decided to spend it for virology research. I just came to say bye to you. I will of course keep in touch, but I will miss you there” and she touched my feet.

“God bless you. Stay safe at all costs. I am sure you will reach great heights and win a Nobel. Don’t forget your parents. Let me know if you need anything anytime “. I said what I could.

I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy for her career leap, and sad that such a brilliant scientist was leaving India.

I was startled that she had shaken away my fatigue and the pandemic rust that was accumulating on my mind. A sign of youth, she had taken the burning world around her as an opportunity rather than being cowed down by it. She was going to wear a mask almost all her career life, and the thought didn’t seem to affect her. She had accepted the reality faster than anyone I knew. A mind made for the future, she was travelling to the US (she has reached now) at a time that the world was locked down.

The world hasn’t come to a standstill, I realised. It is picking up. It will thrive again and boom in few months. Till then I must keep all negativity away. Till then I must do whatever it takes to survive and live the best life possible even in a pandemic. She had unknowingly come to deliver that special message before she left.

She left teary eyed and yet with a smile. My tiredness was gone. My spirits felt rejuvenated, I was grateful that she visited. Like every doctor who gets up and puts on his mask every morning for seeing their patients catch on with their life again.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Standing Ovation, Doctors with Hemlock

Standing Ovation, Doctors with Hemlock
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is not new that the world has chosen to torture and kill the right and good. From Socrates to Mahatma Gandhi, the speakers of truth and advocates of good have been punished by a majority addicted to the illusions of both. Socrates, who was declared guilty and awarded death by drinking poison hemlock, had a chance to escape. He chose not to. ‘A true philosopher is not afraid of death’ he said. He chose to drink the poison.

At this very moment, thousands of young doctors all over India have chosen not to run away from the deadly virus: because they believe in the ultimate sacrifice: for saving the life of millions. They are the true heroes of India. If a soldier dies, the whole nation rises to salute the sacrifice. Nearly 400 doctors die, and our administrators said they did not have information about it in the parliament. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Digital India, where there wasn’t a day without messages about Aadhar cards, PAN linking, etc., and so many other messages reached everyone, yet unable to know tell how many doctors died. We can tell exactly how many patients were positive, how many tests were done, how many discharged or recovered, but we cannot tell how many doctors died while treating them. Shame!

Thousands of junior / PG doctors, interns and medical officers are being forced to work not only against their wish, but against all fair constitutional rights. They are being threatened and punished even after overworking. Their salaries have been cut, some have not been paid for months now. Everyday, patients too are frantically searching for good covid care beds.

Hospitals are overflowing, no beds available in some places, many centers are closing down because of lack of resources, but what we really need now is an IPL. We don’t have money to pay the doctors, create more healthcare resources for thousands of dying patients, but we can definitely watch cricket and forget all that. There’s nothing wrong with sports or entertainment, but is this the right time? Will the IPL profits be used for creating more hospitals? All through the economic crisis, I was amazed by the perpetual news of few Indians getting higher on the list of the richest in the world. I do believe that they are good at whatever they do. However, what was most ironical was that yesterday I read the news of people urging one of India’s richest businessman to buy the Man-U team. Mind you, people did not want a hospital for the dying poor, people did not ask the billionaire to pay the unpaid covid warriors, they asked him for buying a football team!

Add to this the new law about Violence against healthcare workers “During pandemic”. How can this be best described? “No murders, crimes, corruption during summer months”? Or “No stupid talking between 10 AM and 10.30 AM”?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The point is, dear Covid warrior doctors, please understand that the society does not want you, it only wants your free service without offering either respect or remuneration. The government has not even responded to our petition about human rights for doctors who have been slogging, carrying the pandemic burden on their shoulders as everyone else hogs the credit of recovering patients. Postgrad medical students have been denied education in their own branch for over six months now. They have been denied leave, permission to meet sick parents, or even a quarantine after exposure that is followed world over. They also face extremely hostile relatives and goons every day in hospitals. Many doctors who died just as they started their careers, are not even acknowledged! Just as every responsible institution in the country has taken precautions to safeguard itself from the virus, working online, just as the parliament is mulling over whether to cut short the monsoon session as some members were positive, no one wants to think about those actually dying every day facing covid patients: our doctors.

I have never felt so frustrated about the future of doctors in India. I have carried a proud torch of being an Indian medico and am blessed to have a great connection with most present generations of brilliant doctors, but I haven’t slept peacefully last few months knowing that my juniors, students are left to die in the pandemic. Every effort being made is quashed or falls on deaf ears.

I can only say to every doctor in the covid ward right now: humanity will always be grateful to you for drinking this poison hemlock just like Socrates did: bravely and in service of truth and good. If Mahatma Gandhi was alive today, he won’t have published his own achievements, instead, he would have made the country realize how indebted it is to your sacrifice. I believe in the power of one. Mobs never achieve anything. Each one of you out there is a hero saving lives, even when your own countrymen seem to have forgotten and abandoned you.

My Standing Ovation to every doctor working right now anywhere in the world, especially in India.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Picture Courtesy: By Walter Crane The story of Greece : told to boys and girls (191-?) by Macgregor, Mary, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32804549

The Good News: ‘Life Is In Brains’

Last three years we were planning a beautiful, comprehensive and patient friendly, “All under one roof” Neuroscience set-up at Ruby Hall Clinic.

Specialty Clinics for Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Epilepsy, Vertigo, Stroke, Brain Tumors, and all neurological investigations will be available here, on this floor. Also Neuropsychology, Speech Therapy and Counsellor for family members dealing with difficult illnesses.

My dynamic CEO Mr. Bomi Bhote has long dreamt of a world-class Neuroscience department at Ruby Hall.
“Give our society something to remember you for” he said often. I have tried my best to design this fully new Superspecality Neuroscience Department. After many meetings and many precious inputs from Dr. Purvez Grant, Dr. Manisha Karmarkar (COO), and Dr. Rebecca John, and the blessings of senior Doctors like Dr. Ravi Gulati, MD Dr. Sanjay Pathare we added one stop troubleshooting and convenience so that patients do not have to roam around.

Mr. Iqbal Chaney, Dr. Abhijit Rokade, Mr. Shailesh Kelkar, Mr. Avro Chatterjee, Mrs. Nilofer Shaikh, Mr. Tushar Patil, Ms. Ansha and so many others contributed to the efficient beauty of this set-up.

One item on the top of my bucket list thus ticked off: giving Pune, Maharashtra and India a Neuroscience Department to bank upon. This is just the beginning.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

One Way Relationship: I Quit.


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Let’s face it. India is not a country where politeness, manners and etiquette is considered essential or important. In fact if you have these qualities, you are looked upon as weak. The more you accept it, the more crap is piled up upon your cell and mind. Politely saying “don’t message, don’t disturb” never works, and routine cases become emergency because no one is available when people have holidays. So a relative’s health may be completely ignored all week when everyone in the family is busy, and the doctors are then screwed on weekends, with expectations of compassion and sympathy, and with two chocolates “Will pay fees”, and “You are so kind”.

If there’s an emergency, visit the nearest doctor, take the patient to the hospital and admit. Don’t look for an excuse and escape to save time and money by exploiting a doctor who has entrusted you with his / her private number in good faith. They are far busier on holidays than on the working days.

Yes, a doctor is busiest on his holiday, having to attend to umpteen chores at home that are left undone during the weekdays. The weekend stress is extremely high. Family members expect some quality time and interaction too. Even simpler Personal tasks like a haircut, Cleaning home, vehicle, shopping for essentials and completing paperwork, banking, financial supervision etc. completely consumes the weekend of every working doctor. All this has now multiplied due to the pandemic, extra tasks have been added with higher risks. Add planning for upcoming meetings, catching up with academics, and incessant calls of those who think that the doctor will be “at leisure” on a holiday to attend to anything that pops up in their mind.

The irritation of not getting a holiday even on a holiday is unbearable. Be it family or friends, very few truly respect the necessity of some peace of mind for their doctors. Just because they get the doctor’s phone number, people feel it is an open access to their private time. I have even met VIP patients who requested my private number and then told me that their secretary will call me as they cannot disclose their personal numbers. Now I regret having given out my personal number to certain friends who incessantly send reports and ask consultation almost every weekend.

I quit this one way relationship. I may lose some friends and some patients, but it is worth the peace of mind I need to serve my deserving patients well.

Sincerely requesting my patients, friends and family members to NOT message/ call / email me on personal numbers or on social media, on Saturday and Sunday🙏🏻.
No exceptions.

Wishing everyone best health and a great life.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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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The Suicide In Our Brain


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My mom once badly thrashed me up for jumping into a river for swimming (and for many other things I cannot mention here). The sadness of not getting my dream PG seat of surgery nearly killed me. A very brilliant, extremely mischievous and beautiful girlfriend of mine had to marry someone else. Years later, I went through a divorce. During each of these phases, thoughts of suicide crossed my mind like every normal person, several times. During all exams, thoughts of suicide, poetry and a rebellious dropout haunt many. After every suicide, disturbing thoughts of ‘exactly what, how and when’ haunt any sensitive mind.

During my student days, I spent an hour daily in a small space behind our boys hostel to use the double bar, the only facility for exercise. One senior, Sunil, was also a regular visitor, and we became friends. He was repeating a term. He was always smiling, calm and an introvert. Many students made sarcastic fun about his being aloof. Somehow he was nice to me, we usually spoke about stamina building.
One morning I woke up to the shocking news of his suicide. He had hung himself in his hostel room. I had met him only two days prior, and he was as smiling and quiet as ever, had exercised well, spoken in a normal tone, and while leaving had said his customary words of parting “chal bhetu parat” (okay, we’ll meet again)”.

Many theories came forward, and a professor who was always rude to many including Sunil was gossiped a lot about. It was also revealed that Sunil was under treatment for depression since a few years. Some said he was frustrated with his failure and poverty. For a good few months, I did not dare go to that double bar again. I wondered about his parents. How could he have done this? I asked one Dr. Madhu, a psychiatrist who often visited our college from UK. He replied “Well, there is no point in presumptions and allegations. How can one not think about near and dear ones, especially while doing something so drastic with themselves? Suicide is way beyond the grasp of a normal mindset. We must never forget that although immediate causes may act like triggers, usually suicidal thoughts build up over a long period”.
I started reading more about it.

Since then I know of many medicos (and others) who committed suicide for various reasons: failures, stress and negativity, depression, disturbed relationships, blackmail, boredom, harassment etc. I’ve also managed many suicide-attempt cases like burns, hanging, poisoning, drowning or self inflicted wounds. I have followed up with some of these patients for medical issues. It is indeed difficult to deal with some of those cases. To add to the problem, some (not all) anti depressants and other medicines may worsen suicidal tendencies or cause them in a patient who did not have them earlier.

The mental suffering of a genius is beyond the realms of a normal and mediocre mindset. The more extraordinary your mind is, the more it suffers, and only a better brain is able to understand that suffering. One who can feel for others suffers most. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Two other common triggers for suicide- failure and loss- are more manageable. We are so engrossed in marrying our dreams with the rude reality around us, that we create a perpetual high-friction, tense atmosphere in our own mind. Instead, we must learn to unchain our dreams and expectations from the current reality. One can always attempt to change the situation around, but that needs a healthy mind. Unfortunately we do not have gyms made for the mind.

Human brain compels to repeat. We can develop an addiction for anything: negative or positive. The thoughts of futility, ‘having no other options’ can also make home in one’s mind. To be able to catch and prevent this can help some, but not all. Suicidal thought or intention is NOT a mental weakness. No one is any braver for not killing oneself. Suicidal thinking is a state of mind not in control of the owner of that mind, and can be reversed if the right steps (seeing a psychologist) are taken in time. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

The importance we all give to complete acceptance and best success is cruel. Parents today want to grow up only gold-medal champions, who can then never be graceful in their failures, or satisfied with being the second best. Lesser success is no success today. No one achieves all that they want. To be able to accept failure must be taught from school. A different, failure-accepting attitude by parents and society during development of a child’s mindset is desperately required. Tying failure to the feeling of being inadequate and worthless is a common crime we all commit.

That brings us to the last thought of this article: we must learn to never let the behaviour of others affect our joys. The wise will get this immediately: one deliberate hurt is too many, never allow another. Exit the situation, it is not called running away, it is protecting yourself. A Mahatma Gandhi cannot feel comfortable amongst a gang of mafias. That said, if all suicides are investigated well, many others in future can be prevented: white collared and financial criminals, trust-breakers who instigate others for suicide are quite common in our society.

Sometimes it is an internal phenomenon to have suicidal thoughts, some other times a sudden emotional shock or breakdown can provoke such an action. We must take every mention of a suicide seriously, even if the person is smiling or casual while saying it. A change in behavior pattern of a beloved introvert can also be an alarm, one must spend more time with them without being intrusive. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Glamorisation of suicide is an open abuse perpetrated upon our social conscience, worst in India, and should be declared criminal, as this may fatally affect some potential young minds. The mindless repetition of suicidal news has a devastating effect on many stressed minds, and who is not stressed today?

Medicine is a difficult career: long, hard and emotionally fatiguing, with late rewards (rarely financial), and legendarily thankless. Many doctor work on the verge of thoughts about quitting. The concept for vacation, rest or good sleep is not allowed to most doctors. This drives some across the edge. The only way to stop this is that each and every doctor looks after their own stress levels, that they take adequate rest and sleep, find leisure and entertainment, every few days. Socio-federal expectations never end, while our life withers away.

A change in career is a good idea, if you feel frustrated for long. One can always excel in a PG branch once not wanted, one can reappear and pass exams, one will meet better people. Most importantly for medicos, education is not a forever state, and after passing, medicine enables us to practice anywhere we like. Let us not make drastic decisions affected by transient scenarios like bad seniors, frustrating workloads or those recurring breakup’s! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

If given a chance again, I will choose nothing but to be the Neurologist that I am today. The memories of that thrashing by mom strengthen my resolve to stand up to the unpleasant and stern parenting duties so crucial for the safety of my own children. That divorce liberated me (and her) from many more years of painful discomfort. Life, even without anything that I possess now, is still beautiful. Still, every single thing that I possess today is a dream for many, and adds to the inherent beauty of my life. That deeply roots my faith in the wisdom “Whatever happens is for good“. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

There are many glaring examples of those who turned tables to win over fate, overcame failures, deception, breakups, crises- financial and emotional, defamation, bullying and humiliation. Almost all of them have dealt with suicidal thoughts, some sought right help, and now are living proofs that this is possible only if one lives on.

I feel like whispering to every silently suffering soul out there: Dream, fight, chill, win or lose, but never give anyone the right to take away your charm. That little muscle-machine ticking in your chest right now, the insane neurochemical chatter of your neurons which makes you say ‘I think’, are miracles specifically made for you. That little hand you hold, someone’s moist eyes upon seeing you, and the enormous capacity of your coconut to imagine a beautiful future – are all precious blessings. Let’s not belittle them by asking for something more just to smile once again.
Smile NOW for what you are, smile NOW for what you have!

About that b. em.& b.. girlfriend… well I fondly miss her still, but every time I think of her, I cannot help smiling!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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