Category Archives: Racism

The Other Side Of Life

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Wear your helmet” said my grandma, as I kicked my scooter “and don’t argue”.

I could have argued with the POTUS, but not with my grandma. I had come to my uncle’s house to visit my grandma, with the additional attraction of eating the delicious Diwali snacks she made. I wore my helmet and scooted back as fast as I could. My duty started at eight PM in the ICU, and the resident doctor who was on duty had warned me that she had to be with her in-laws for her first Diwali with the new family. All icu beds were full, one patient was intermittently gasping, unlikely to recover, and three others were fluctuating.

Firecrackers, lighting, happy people in new clothes were all around, yet out of mind. I parked the scooter outside the ward and ran in.

“Thank you thank you” said my predecessor, and explained me the cases and ongoing treatment.

When at the bed of the patient who was intermittently worsening, she told me “Listen he’s on dobutamine drip, we don’t have it, I have borrowed two ampoules from the medical shop outside. I will pay him later. His family has no money”. Many critical drugs were not available in the icu, a common problem even today across India.

She left.

Behind the ICU building, a political party was celebrating the festival in a pandal, with repeated announcements of its achievements. Loud lewd music was playing, less irritating than the dramatised loud repitition of the party leaders’names. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Three more heart patients came in, but the ward beds were full, there already were twelve patients on the floor. This is a common scenario in almost all government hospitals across India. We begged the ward resident doctor to help us, and he agreed to shift three of his patients to the floor. The heart patients were taken on the beds outside ICU, and their medicines were started. We struggled at every step. The student nurses, enthusiastic and energetic, virtually carry half the weight of the doctor’s work upon their shoulders. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A municipal councillor walked in drunk, and started abusing the ward resident doctor for shifting “his”patient to the floor bed. Aggressive and drunk, his language was more offensive than his personality. We tried explaining to him that there were critical heart patients, but he insisted that his patient be taken on the bed. We then requested a stable young patient, who agreed reluctantly to go to the floor bed.

While this was being done, another old man was rushed in, his bronchitis/ asthma had worsened due to the excess pollution, a common problem in modern India. He was too late, his ambulance had been held in traffic. Already blue-black, he could not be saved inspite of frantic efforts. There were no relatives with him, we completed the paperwork and sent him to the mortuary.

In a few minutes, the fluctuating icu patient had a cardiac arrest. Loud noises of emergency carts, glass ampoules being broken open, and panicked cries filled up the ward. Starting CPR, we tried best to restart the silent heart. Such moments are beyond prayers, the doctor’s heart appeals through his hands, a dead patient’s heart. After a few minutes, the best sound in the world- that of a heart beating again- could be heard. Fingers crossed, we restarted his life-supports and gently informed his wife about what had happened. She was sobbing violently. I went to the doctors’ room to wash my hands.

It was then that the political pandal music could be heard again. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Our party has made this big decision. You will all have to pay a little extra, but we will give you a modern, advanced, beautiful India. We will make more advanced satellites, bridges, we will buy the best fighter jets in the world, more bullet trains and bigger statues shortly. We are already ranking very high in the world, we will continue to grow. The only major problem in India is other political parties” the speeches were heard loudly, with proud shouts of joy and claps from the pandal.

At about 5 AM, things settled down enough to sip some water. The nurses had made tea for themselves, the incharge sister Mrs Joseph lovingly ordered me to take a quick break and have a cup of tea. She read my face. (c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor, I have been in this government hospital for nearly thirty years now. Nothing changes, whichever party comes to power. No one cares about the poor patients or their life. We need millions of doctors and nurses more, we need beds, equipment, so many more medicines, but we have to keep begging to the government as if we need it for personal use. Hundreds of patients die every day due to lacknof Medical care, because they cannot get beds, medicines or critical care. I was fed up long ago and wanted to quit. I had excellent offers from middle east and even UK. But I thought, if I left, who will look after these poor patients?”. She was to retire shortly.

Thousands of excellent doctors and nurses, pharmacists, and oher hospital staff carry on caring for poor and desperate patients in government and even private hospitals all over India, they are paid peanuts, are exploited inhumanly, yet keep working through festivals and celebrations, away from their families, with a smile upon their face. Right now, millions of critical patients are being attended by thousands of doctors, nurses and other hospital staff without thinking about salary, rewards, medals, sweets, new clothes or any form of celebration. The only medical festival is a saved life.

This post is to stand up and say a heartfelt “Thank You” to these doctors and nurses who are spending this Diwali with their patients.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Please share unedited

The Tribe and The Ring

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Before coming to India, I searched a lot and bought this holy stone for you, the same one I was given as blessing for a good future. I wear exactly the same ring. As a mark of my gratitude for the treatment my son Hathim received in India, we want to make you a part of us. Please wear this ring” said Mr. Jade from Yemen.

About a month ago, he had left for Saudi Arabia, leaving his children back in India, to continue treatment. His younger son suffered from a very rare type of epilepsy (Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome) of uncontrolled fits / convulsions and was not mentally growing up well. The 16 year old elder brother cared for the younger one, as they stayed at a rental house in Pune. The case was very difficult, and I had to seek help from my teacher Dr. Sangeeta Ravat in Mumbai, who suggested crucial inputs in managing the kid. Fortunately, the fits are now controlled well, and the father arrived in India to take back the kids to Yemen.

He not only gifted a bag of perfumes, dates and sweets from his country (most Arabic patients, however poor, usually bring gifts for the doctors they visit), but also personalised the bond by bringing for me the same ring that someone had given him for a good fortune. Superstitions apart, but wishing for someone the same that one wishes for oneself is the core of almost every religious text.

Of course the major credit here is that of my teacher Dr. Ravat. I did nothing extraordinary, many doctors treat their patients with their soul, and get excellent results. The reason for this post is the pride of belonging to that tribe called “Doctors” which breaks not only the boundaries between countries, but all the walls between cultures, languages, and societies. This “Doctor”tribe has the rarest opportunity in the world: a free entry in the heart of any human being anywhere upon earth!

This ring is dedicated to that tribe: all doctors who have gifted health and life to millions.

As the beautiful kid travels back to his country, we pray for the best health and happiness for him and his entire family!

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

With Mr. Jade, Master Hatham, and a friend Ms. Arwa.

The Deadly ‘Vegetable’

The Deadly ‘Vegetable’

“How is my mother, Doctor?” The smiling politician, a tower of patience, surrounded by his impatient bouncer cronies, and a drooling doctor, asked me at the door of the critical care unit.

I examined the patient, a case of a large bleeding that had caused severe damage in the brain. Inputs were whispered in my ears by the cautious doctors of the unit. The poor lady had been treated by many excellent doctors in Mumbai and Delhi, as the family of that politico had that free facility. However, she had stopped the blood pressure medicines as some “Herbal Baba” had criticized them on National TV. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“She is conscious, but cannot understand or respond at all. Her heart is beating well, blood pressure is holding up, and her breathing is fine too. She can move her hands and legs, but it all appears meaningless movement. This may last for weeks or months, and in some cases, even permanently”.

The ‘doctor’ with that group authoritatively asked “That means she is a vegetable now?”.

“The correct word is ‘Vegetative’, the medical condition is called ‘Persistent Vegetative State’, and I cannot say as of now if this will be persistant. There are some chances of recovery” I replied with a carefully acquired masked face.

“Is there anything we can do anywhere in the world to make her brain normal again? I can take her to the best centers in the world” said the Politico. The drooling doc came forward again. His desperation to be significant was almost killing him. “Are there any medicines that can make her recover faster? We can afford anything” he asked.

I knew the exact words to reply him with.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“No Sir. Just as you cannot shorten the period of pregnancy, you cannot convert it to three months in the best of the hospitals , however rich you may be, the recovery of brain happens at its own speed. The medicines that can help her are already on”. This usually stops further discussion in that line, it did.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I went to the cafeteria to cool down. I couldn’t understand whether it was the tail-wagging doctor or the politico with ‘everything exists to serve me’ attitude that irritated me more. A cyclone of the big picture started rising in my mind.

The state of our “Government run” healthcare, is more or less the same: Vegetative. Big plans, big declarations, more investment, more land and buildings, more equipment, all surfaces, especially during elections. But the brain: good doctors in the system: is dead. No good healthcare system can be created or run by those appointed without merit, without quality. Thousands of huge set-ups declared and erected by the various governments are lying vacant, or serving far below their purpose because there are no good doctors/ technicians in most. The last battalion holding the flag of good healthcare: good medical teachers in medical college are on the verge of extinction. Best of the government-run hospitals and services are often reserved for those in power and their families. The shameless orders for “reserving ICU beds and ventilators, operation theaters etc.” for a patient known to a politician are a daily affair, they least care if someone else without an influence dies.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Appointments of drooling, medal-hungry shoelickers on various key medical posts has crippled the system. The real poor and deserving are thrown from one window to another to submit documents and applications to claim the benefits that they deserve.

The whole blame of a this deadly “Vegetable” healthcare is cunningly shifted upon those who refuse to work as ‘personal servants’ to the government, those who go into private practice, and private hospitals. Now almost all doctors complete their bonds, yet there is a gaping hole in the system that cannot retain specialists for long. Only the compromised, beginners, and failures stay for long in adverse, sycophancy based, low-cost environments. The very politicians who say “Don’t worry about money” when asking treatments for their own family, accuse the doctors of being “greedy”, when they leave govt. services.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The simple solution, the recovery of the brain, i.e induction and retaining of good, meritorious, non-shoe-licking and highly qualified specialists in the government-run healthcare departments and set-ups will probably change this scenario. But this looks impossible, now that even many doctor’s organisations have started losing their autonomy, self respect, to fall in line with the glorified slogans and to lick the bottoms of those who run such failed healthcare systems. The addictions to blow up any tiny good news, modify data to appease masses, hide the blaring failures, deficits and corruption in the healthcare have become a norm, and even our society seems to be ecstatically happy to just hear loud speeches of big plans rather than facing ground realities.

Indian Healthcare run by various governments, except for very few honourable exceptions, has become a brainless “Persistent Vegetative Healthcare System”. A ‘deadly vegetable’, for the understanding of the drooling docs. Unless someone sane and responsible in healthcare department acts quickly, we will lose this healthcare battle.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: During the writing of this article I received over 20 phone calls from patients, and 12 of them dropped, cut, hanged. This is our technical progress. Before we send men in space, can we deal with this?

Please share unedited.

Victim? Dr. Reena’s story

Victim? Dr. Reena’s story

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I am being victimised, Sir! I have tried to do my best, but my senior has developed some prejudice against me and has started to find faults with everything I do. I don’t know, I feel suicidal sometimes” the resident doctor Reena said, breaking down. She was into medicine, one of the toughest branches for post graduation.

This was a difficult situation. It is very well known that some seniors and teachers do take advantage of the situation to mistreat and misuse their students or subordinates. It is also well known that both men and women in every profession, including medicine, have strong gender biases and favouritism. Sycophancy is so essential in India, that I wonder sometimes whether an official bachelors / masters “Chamchagiri” (sycophancy) certificate will be necessary before people are selected for their jobs.

I gave her some instructions to ignore words and minor incidences, and concentrate on doing her official duties with concentration. I also counselled her about how to handle egoistic, arrogant seniors. She was supposed to follow up next week.

That weekend, I met a colleague of mine, Dr. Anand, in the coffee shop. There was no OPD, it being a Sunday. We sipped coffee in the canteen, telling each other funny stuff about other colleagues. Medicine provides great entertainment too, in the form of various types of doctors, and we start with ourselves usually. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Just then, another doctor came in, Dr. Anand invited him to join us and introduced me to him as Dr. Ashwin. “Ashwin was my junior resident” said Dr. Anand, “and one of the most brilliant students. He’s a wiz. He wanted to work for the downtrodden, so he has continued to work at the govt. hospital after his MD. Most dedicated! That’s why most girls around us liked him and we all envied him”. It is rare for Anand to praise someone this much, I was quite impressed and happy.

But Dr. Ashwin appeared quite disturbed. Dr. Anand asked him if he was ok.

“No, yaar. I am facing a big problem. There’s this girl in my unit, who has made my life hell. She has filed complaints against me to the dean, my name is all mud”.

“Complain against you?” said Dr. Anand, truly surprised “Even your wife never complains against you”. He was trying to lighten up the mood. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Yes. But you know how heavy our PG duties are. This girl, besides being lousy and careless, refuses to finish her work, constantly looks at the watch and doesn’t want to be corrected. How can we tolerate carelessness in medicine? There are patients in the ICU and this lady keeps busy with her cellphone! I gave her a warning that I will complain, but instead, she went ahead and complained that I was harassing her, implying serious charges. Fortunately my wife and the dean understand the situation, but you know some people in the campus would rather see me down. I don’t know what to do. I am thinking of resigning”.

“Can you share her name?” I asked, cautiously. The guess was correct. It indeed was Dr. Reena.

“I tried to talk to her, I requested her to call her parents. Apparently she has grown up as a pampered child, her parents refuse to even think that she can be wrong. They started complaining that their daughter didn’t get enough rest and good food, that she has always been a super genius kid and how many a times even her teachers could not understand her genius”.

Now the picture was clear, with the other side of the story revealed.

There indeed is, nowadays, a rampant tendency to play a victim, especially to cover up for one’s own failures, inadequacies and lethargy. Children who allege that their failures are either because of their parents being over disciplined or completely negligent, boys who hate their parents and refuse accepting that they fell short of hard work and dedication because of too many diversions, girls who sometimes lie about “sexual abuse”, and employees who underperform only to blame it upon a racist / pervert / prejudiced boss are classical examples when stress factors are analysed well. There was one girl who alleged abuse by her step father, just to tell me minutes later that it was probably her imagination, and that she didn’t know if it was a dream! It was her mother who then revealed that the girl had always used that ‘dream reality’ sequence whenever she wanted something and was refused. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

There indeed is rampant true victimisation in all these areas, and one must always stand by the victim. But the overflow of sympathy that drowns sense and reasoning (thank you, media and some movies!) must always be avoided. Differentiating ‘true’ and ‘pseudo’ victims is never easy especially because there always will be the social biases. Most Indian men unfortunately truly look down upon women, most seniors think that juniors cannot be more intelligent, parents often mentally overpower logic when dealing with kids etc.. Still there indeed are many who hide behind the “victim” tag, just to take advantage of the sympathy and protection it offers, using it to hide their own negative side. A lot of people use suicide threats, false complaints and other pressure tactics to emotionally exploit and threaten others. When this happens in a workplace, it poisons the whole atmosphere. There is indeed no protection for the true victims here.

Next time when Dr. Reena came to visit, I told her how I chanced upon the doctor who was “troubling” her. As expected, she cried and defended her stance, but after some gentle coaxing, when I reiterated that the actual problem must be dealt with, she agreed to have a meeting with Dr. Ashwin. I called in a female counsellor too, and in a few meetings, we could sort out the issue.

Medical career is, difficult, it is important to do every single thing perfectly and with utmost care and concentration. No one else can ever replace the life-saving responsibility of a doctor on duty. A doctor who isn’t fully attentive to everything about every patient can be dangerous.

Dr. Reena agreed to go by the duties allotted and improve her performance, while Dr. Ashwin reassured her that he had nothing personal against her, that she could always compare her duties and performance with her other batchmates. He also told her that now onwards he will mind his words better. She withdrew the complaint.

Dedicated to those such who have had this horrible experience.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Please share unedited

The Colour Of Blessings

The Colour Of Blessings

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

Carefully calculating the dose and mixing it with the intravenous fluid with precision, I told the kind old lady: “I am starting the medicine drip now. If you feel anything unpleasant, please tell me.”

Through her pain, she smiled in reply. Her son, my lecturer Dr. SK, stood beside us and reassured her too. He had to leave for the OPD, there already was a rush today. “Please take care of her and call me if you feel anything is wrong” he said and left.

Dr. SK’s mom was advised chemotherapy of a cancer. It was quite difficult to calculate its doses and prepare the right concentration for the intravenous drip. Just a month ago, my guide Dr. Pradeep (PY) Muley had taught me how to accurately prepare and administer it, so when Dr. SK’s mom was admitted, he requested me to do it for her too.

The drip started. After a few hours, I noticed that her urine bag needed emptying. The ‘mausi’ supposed to do it was already out for some work. Any resident doctor in India naturally replaces whoever is absent. So I wore gloves, requested a bucket from the nurse, and emptied the urobag into it. Just as I carried the bucket with urine towards the ward bathrooms, Dr. SK returned, and offered to carry it himself, but I told him it was okay and went on to keep the bucket near the bathroom where the ‘mausi’ would later clean it. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

Once the drip was over, Dr. SK invited me for a tea at a small stall outside the campus. He appeared disturbed. He said awkwardly: “Listen, please don’t misunderstand, but when I saw you carrying my mother’s urine in the bucket, I was amazed. You are a Brahmin, right? When you were away, my mom even scolded me why I allowed you to do it, she felt it was embarrassing, as we hail from the Bahujan community. I am myself a leader of our association, as you already know”.

I knew it, to be honest. His was a feared name in most circles.He was a kindly but aggressive leader of their community, but always ready to help anyone from any caste or religion, to stand by anyone oppressed, especially from the poor and discriminated backgrounds.

“I didn’t think of it Sir! She is a patient, besides that she’s your mother, and I am your student, it is my duty to do whatever is necessary. Otherwise too, my parents have always insisted that I never entertain any such differences”. I replied. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

“That’s okay, but I admit my prejudice about you has changed,” he said. “If you ever face any trouble, consider me your elder brother and let me know if I can do anything for you”. What an honest, courageous admission! Unless every Indian who thinks he / she is superior or different than any other Indian actually faces the hateful racist in the West who ill-treats them both as “browns or blacks”, they will never understand the pain of discrimination!

As fate would have it, in a few months, I had an argument with a professor about some posting. The professor then called me and said “So long as I am an examiner, don’t expect to pass your MD exams.”

I was quite worried. My parents were waiting for me to finish PG and finally start life near them, I already had a few months old son, and our financial status wasn’t robust. I could not afford to waste six months. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

I went to Dr. SK. He asked all details. Then he came with me to the threatening professor. He first asked me to apologise to the professor for having argued, which I did. Then he told the professor: “Rajas is my younger brother. Please don’t threaten him ever. Pass him if he deserves, fail him if he performs poor. But don’t fail him if he performs well. I will ask other examiners”.

The professor then told me that he had threatened me “in a fit of rage”, and it was all over.

With the grace of God, good teachers and hard work, I did pass my MD in first attempt. When I went to touch his feet, Dr. SK took me to his mom, who showered her loving blessings upon me once again, and gifted me a Hundred rupee note from her secret pouch. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

Like most other students, I’ve had friends from all social folds at all times in school and colleges. I had excellent relations with the leaders of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Association, and twice in my life they have jumped in to help me in my fight against injustice when everyone else had refused. I love the most fierce weapon of all that Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar himself carried: the fountain pen!

No amount of fights will ever resolve any problems between any two communities, the only way forward is to respectfully walk together and find solutions. Fortunately, no doctor, even in India, thinks about any patient in the terms of their religion or caste. (© Dr Rajas Deshpande). Just like the Judge in the court premises, humanity is the single supreme authority in any medical premises. Blood or heart, brain or breathing are not exclusive to any religion or community. Just like the bigger brain, a bigger heart is also the sign of evolution.

I so much wish that the black clouds of disharmony between different communities are forever gone. The only hope is that our students can open any doors and break any walls, so long as they do not grow up into egoistic stiffs. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

I am proud to belong to the medical cult of those who never entertain any discrimination. A patient’s blessing has no coloured flags attached! Even outside my profession, I deeply believe that the very God I pray exists in every single human being I meet. If at all anyone asks me, I am happy to say that:

My religion, my caste and my duty as a doctor are all one: Humanity first!

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune

Please Share Unedited

The Proud Indian

 

The Proud Indian
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I was a man of action. It hurts me inside when I look at myself now” said the huge gentleman.
It was indeed sad to see the state he was in. Parkinson’s disease not only slows the body, but also makes one quite stiff, as if the body is made of some heavy stone. The side effects of levodopa, the most common medicine used in Parkinson’s disease patients, was also causing too many abnormal movements.I told him that some changes were required in his doses, and that I needed his cooperation and patience. He agreed, then I wrote him a new prescription.

“By the way, Doctor, if any of your poor patients needs any help with treatment or medicines, please let me know. I will arrange” he said once I finished with the instructions. Always needy for this cause, I took down his details.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He came over a month later, happy. This time he donated for an orphanage I often wrote about. I was more than happy, and told him he did not have to pay my fees ever.

“Thank you, Doctor, but you must let me help your poor patients” said Mr. Abdulkadar Mulla.

Over a period of time, I came to know that he donates medicines and free check up kits required for the treatment of young girls from interior adiwasi areas. He spends thousands of rupees every year, since many years, to help run health camps for such children, mostly through the BKL Walawalkar hospital at Dervan in Ratnagiri district.

This time Mr. Abdulkadar Mulla came over, I tried to understand why he is going out of the way to help out children from the interior.

“Because most people are interested in the kind of show-off charity. When you donate to famous organizations in the big cities, your contributions are recognized and published instantly. That is one reason, charity does not often reach where it must: the interior, deprived sections of our country”.
He paused.
“I must say this, doctor, please don’t misunderstand. I feel very bad when someone thinks of me less of a patriot just because I am a Muslim. I have served in Indian police, I have been in the elite VVIP security, I have served India as my own country. It hurts me when some people loose talk that all Muslims should go to Pakistan. India is my country too, I was born and brought up here, studied alongside classmates from many other religions, I have friends in almost every religion. I have served the nation honestly in an extremely responsible position, and am now serving the society by contributing in the most impartial way I can. There are limitations to what I can do as an individual to go on proving my honesty to my country. It hurts when people accuse us without even knowing us. From film stars to cricket players, so many Muslims are making India proud, still some people generalise against us”.

I had no answer. I told him that at least doctors are bred to never entertain that discrimination, that no medical student is fit to become a doctor until he / she can see each patient only as a human life without any other tag. Whether it is policemen or criminals, dirty politicians or reporters who paint our profession in the worst shades, patient from this country or that, from one religion or another: we doctors have only one duty: save life, safeguard health. There is no religion to the happiness of a saved life, nor to the agony of a death. There is no religion to the hand that helps. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I remembered the many Muslim classmates I had through my school and medical college. In fact, I was so close to one in my medical college, that his mother loved me like her own child, and cooked me delicious ‘vegetarian’ dishes whenever I went to their home. Some of my Muslim friends now have their own hospitals treating patients from all religions, especially poor. One of my extremely religious Muslim friends, a super-specialist, treats hundreds of poor patients from all religions: without any discrimination in his treatment or approach.

All of us have been through this, everyone who truly worships God knows love for other human beings. It is very important to pass this “Indianness” on to the future generations, and not fall prey to lesser thoughts, however loud. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Mr. Mulla told me he had had a spinal surgery, during which a surgeon mentioned the charity work at Dervan hospital. “I decided to donate to this hospital at Dervan. This way my hard-earned money reaches where it is most needed” he said. This institute, presently headed by Dr. Suvarna Patil, conducts multiple health-centered activities for children on a charity basis. Many renowned doctors and other professionals from India and abroad participate in their activities.

“Saare Jahan Se Achcha Hindosta Hamara” by the poet Iqbal brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it! I am proud to meet the likes of Mr. Abdulkadar Mulla, who prove by their silent actions who they truly are. I am also proud to belong to the community of doctors, for whom human life is beyond any discrimination.

Jai Hind! Happy Republic Day!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Please share unedited.

 

The Bleeding Curse of an Extraordinary Doctor

22886306_1454137794681544_4590057867307928830_n

The Bleeding Curse of an Extraordinary Doctor
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I cannot sleep well, I cannot forget what happened” said the doctor who had come to consult. I was shattered myself. My usual poise was blown to pieces listening to what this mountain of sacrifice was telling me.

As Dr. Anil Dadarao Waghmare told me about his past, I was in frightful tears.

Son of a humble education officer, he had joined MBBS on merit basis, and completed it in time. He wanted to honour the government bond for two reasons: he had an inner desire to serve rural areas in India where medical care was not available, but he also had no other source of income and had no money for investment. This is the common story of most doctors graduating in India.

He joined as a medical officer and was soon posted in a very remote tribal area, where he went beyond his duty to help the illiterate poor tribals. He worked ‪24/7‬, attended all their problems like deliveries, poisonings, snake bites etc., but also went to visit homes of those who could not reach him. He offered his designated vehicle as an ambulance whenever someone was to be taken to a higher rural hospital. His wife and children accompanying him sacrificed normal life. Two of their kids went to the local primary school, the quality of education was extremely poor but they had no option. The third child was only 9 months old. This youngest daughter was often looked after by a 12 year old girl who lived next door, and helped Dr. Anil’s wife with her chores.

One day, Dr. Anil’s wife received a phone call. The lady caller who spoke in local dialect told her that this youngest 9 month old daughter was in her possession, and threatened to kill her if a certain amount was not paid immediately. By the time they could arrange anything, the infant was found dead by suffocation. The 12 years old girl who looked after the child was found dead in a local well after three days, a huge stone tied to her body.
The murderers were soon arrested: the lady confessed to the crime, assisted by her parents, for want of money.

All the three: the murderer lady and her family were being treated by Dr. Anil for over a year, as free patients.

Dr. Anil was transferred elsewhere, and decided to still continue serving the rural population. He has now joined a postgraduate course, but he wants to keep working in rural areas.

“No one cares about a doctor’s life, family or especially security. The situation is worst in the rural areas, where illiteracy, superstition, witchcraft, murders and rapes are commonplace. Local politics is at its worst” says Dr. Anil, “I was ready to sacrifice every pleasure in life to serve rural population, I even compelled my family to sacrifice, but I did not deserve this punishment. This pain is beyond description, sometimes I feel whether my decision to go to such unsafe place with family was correct. This bleeding curse kills me every moment”.

Thank you, those who keep saying that our society considers doctors ‘like Gods’!

While air conditioned hypocrites advise doctors to go and serve in the rural areas, no one will look at the big picture: there are no facilities, but worse, there is no security. You are left at the mercy of local criminals, often politicians.

Film stars, directors, politicians and many judges will never notice this kind of a story, just as they won’t ever comment about the sickest lowly traditions in their own individual profession. Communities ripe with rapists and murderers, and onlookers who film rapes or murders rather than trying to stop them, expect the best brains to work for their healthcare at meagre salaries.

There is nothing wrong with a short term bond for service in rural areas, but while signing such a bond or joining such areas, the doctors should also ask the government a written guarantee of security. This should be the part of the bond. If security can be provided to every TDH in politics, filmdom or to even the lowest ranks in the judiciary, even some criminals, it can definitely be extended to the doctors serving in rural areas. A doctor who feels threatened cannot work and in fact should not continue to work unless adequate security is provided to him / her and family.

Dr. Anil Dadarao Waghmare, you deserve the highest medal any doctor can ever get: because you showed this selfish society how big a doctor’s heart can be, by continuing to serve in rural India. From now on when the loudmouth foghorns in politics and administration try to malign our profession, or try to cover the gaping deficits in basic facilities at rural level by pointing fingers at the doctors, we can tell them your story.

As for the loss of your 9 month old daughter murdered by your own patient, I stand up in tearful, shameful regret of the state of affairs of Indian Rural Doctors.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS
It is high time the doctors unite to take a strong stand against aggressive attitudes of society, against stupid policies and being taken for granted and spoken against by uneducated loudmouths.

This story should reach every blabbering idiot who has no doctor in the family and keeps on expecting all doctors to be servants of this society. To those among doctors who try to impress faceless media or administrators by continually talking negative about our own colleagues, this story should serve as an eye opener.

Thank you, Dr. Anil Waghmare for the courage and permission to share this story.

The Untold Slaughter

The Untold Slaughter
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

In my first year of Residency, I was waiting near the hospital elevator, with a colleague, already late at 8.30 AM. The Dean, who is the highest authority in medical campus, on his morning rounds, came with his routine flock: Medical Directors and Superintendents, Nursing Chief, and Assistant Medical Officers, and waited for the elevator. I wished him a Good Morning, he reciprocated and looked at his wrist watch. I understood. “Sorry Sir, I had an emergency last night, I left wards at 7 AM” I said. He nodded and smiled.

He was a respectable odd man out in the system at Government Hospitals then. He was clean and non-corrupt, extremely punctual and active. This reflected in cleaner wards and better services, availability of staff, medicines and devices, although the patients who benefited rarely knew who was the guardian angel behind the service. He had become Dean by a rare chance: there was no one qualified and willing to take on that responsibility, so he was given the charge. However, now those in the “good books” of power were ready to take over, and awaited the right moment.

Like most straightforward and non-corrupt officers with a spine, he was generally hated by the system. He had stopped the bribery and corruption that started from some ward assistant / ward-boy level to all the purchases, appointing committees of different heads. He had stopped the purchase of medicines and devices / catheters from dubious companies which had flourished for years around the town. “Local Cheap Pharmacies” run by the “Well Connected” or aliases of those in power were affected badly, as their whole set-up was designed to run via such government hospital purchases.

The doctors, clinicians and residents like us were happy that the patients got good quality drugs, it is otherwise horrible to witness treatment failures which can never be proven to substandard drugs or catheters. The only face to blame is that of the doctor for a politician or a patient.

Naturally, he was on the hotlist of many in power. The best weapon in politics: the caste card was being used against him. The labour organisations and staff associations that belonged to a different caste / religion than that of this Dean were continuously active to create nuisance, hoping to spread the fire and bomb the press at the first correct opportunity.

Almost all elevators at government hospitals are the basic old re-repaired ones: slow, jerky, unreliable, like many offices. As we waited, few others joined the elevator queue. Among these was a middle aged sweeper lady, who came limping.

“What happened?” asked the Dean to her.
“I fell at home, it’s just a small sprain, I am taking medicine Sir” she replied politely.
The elevator came. As patients rushed in, the Dean held open the door for her, and asked her to get in first.
“Pehle aap andar aao” he said (“You come in first”).
The lady politely replied “Nahi Sir, aap chaliye pehle” (‘No, Sir, You get in first”).
He went in, some staff went in with him, then he asked the sweeper lady to come in too, by a hand gesture.

That was enough. The next day, there was a huge agitation. The allegation was that the Dean said “Aati Kya” (“Will you come with me”) to a sweeper, and made an obscene hand gesture. There were morchas, road blocks in the campus. The sweeper lady declined to comment, her husband who was among the association leaders gave the press interviews. Some student organisations based upon caste and religion were involved, their gusto fueled by those in power. Two of the doctors who accompanied the Dean that day on the rounds also testified that the allegations were true. One of them was in fact the next in line to become the Dean. Everyone sane in the campus felt ashamed.

I was too insignificant then, just as I am today. But I went to the Dean with my female colleague, and we offered to testify what had actually happened.

He smiled through the hell he was going through.
“It was my mistake, Rajas, that I accepted the post. This is how the system works, this is the power they have. It is never any party or caste or religion, it is merely a human tendency and unfortunately, that is in abundance today. We have no chance against the majority, and if the majority chooses to be a mob, we
are helpless. Because mobs are bought and blinded, they have no logic or reasoning. The wisest thing in certain situations is to continue to survive, do your best, till you can help engineer a change”.
“But Sir, those allegations are so unfair and vulgar” my colleague said.
He looked at her straight in the eye, and said “Do you believe all that the politicians say?”.

The change happened overnight.
Disgraced and sent on leave, our Dean did not resign.
“I am the small good that must remain in the system. Twisting facts, making allegations that need no proof, exposing personal lives and relationships, misusing culture, philosophy and wisdom as per convenience are new-age essentials for most political leaders. Illiteracy is a dangerous force. The only hope is those who do not succumb to pressure, keep their eyes open and think with their own brains” he told his friends.

Two years later, when I met him to give him sweets for my passing, to touch his feet and seek blessings, I found the same sweeper lady and her husband waiting outside his office. I told him so when I went inside.

Calmly, he replied “Yes, their son has passed twelfth standard, they need some financial help for his college fees”.
I did not ask him what he would do. Doing good is an obligation with such human Gods, irrespective of what they get back in return.

That places them above every other form of human being dry-blabbering about humanity. I touched his feet thrice that day.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Please share unedited.

PS: Some facts changed to mask identity.

The Living Phoenix

The Living Phoenix
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
17264936_1241287975966528_1369522724019838059_n.jpg
“Stop treating me as if I am only a woman!” she told the bank manager, who probably did not grasp the meaning of that sentence. Little did he know who he was dealing with.
Sharon Harmon Muir is a lady to beat most men. Right from Religion to Depression, she has fought her battles with the determination to win. She indeed won them, including her last battle with suicidal-level depression.
17191123_1241287532633239_7705872540927265672_n.jpg
4 years ago I met her with her husband Harry Muir, for some mild memory issues which turned out to be the symptoms of severe stress and depression. As she revealed the details of her life, I realized what an extraordinary life she had been living. When analyzing her own thinking and her art (painting), she said things that made me realize her genius.
I gave her a compliment I had rarely used: “You are one of the most brilliant minds I ever met”.She laughed aloud, looked at her husband, and winked “I told ya!”. Mr Harry was only too happy and proud.
17098337_1241287572633235_1559919046573299259_n.jpg
Sharon was born in South USA to parents who were mill workers. She started her theatre performances at the age of 13. She sold her first painting at the age of 15. She was actively involved in civil rights movement. Once while service in the church, a black couple was denied entry in the church. Sharon quit organized religion that day, protesting against racial prejudice.
17191284_1241287779299881_5939892273805063750_n.jpg
She went to an all-male institute of design and technology, University of North Carolina and later started teaching men at the same center to use power tools and build theater sets (That was in the 1960s!). She studied various art forms, ballet, composing music, painting and much more, also working as an electrician.

17201018_1241287752633217_5609401570552730001_n.jpg
She says: my job profile was easy: whatever anyone could not do, I offered to do it for them. Working at such odd jobs, she met Harry Muir, who was a political protester within the US army. As Harry was jailed, Sharon’s family opposed the marriage. She was even labeled “carni-trash” then. Together Sharon and Harry worked as college professors, musicians, fine artists, magicians, and stood for each other. Sharon got an excellent corporate job, so Harry decided to complement it by choosing to be a house-husband, cooking and serving and looking after their daughter, and when the daughter went to school, he spent his time as a street singer.
17103690_1241288135966512_4773179670245290479_n.jpg
At the age of 50, during menopause, the first attack of depression struck Sharon. In her own words, “It wasn’t me who was sad and suicidal, it was like someone else within me. I fought those thoughts, I knew I had to overcome this”. She developed severe panic attacks that prevented her from going out of their home. So she trained a Scottish terrier who would stop the traffic for her, take her to a safe place and then find Harry!They reached India in search of spirituality, finding it at Meherabad, and settled there. She continued to work as a painter and musician. “I was lucky that I could be the head of the family” she comments, although every time she speaks of Harry now, her voice becomes tender.
Once on a flight from Atlanta to Paris, Harry collapsed and was resuscitated. He was shifted to an ICU in Paris from the airport, and was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (shrinking and progressive failure of lungs) of unknown origin. A few weeks later, they returned to India. In January 2016, Harry suddenly collapsed and passed away while in a hospital. Sharon kept on resuscitating her life partner of 50 years, till the hospital staff arrived after 8-10 minutes. She cannot forget that trauma.
17239928_1241288159299843_8331301385463399738_o.jpg
With this loss, her depression resurfaced again, stronger than ever.
The worst loss in life is not death, it is the loss of love. Once more, suicidal thoughts and severe depression engulfed Sharon. To be left alone in a foreign country at the age of 67 is not easy.
“My belief system is very strong. I know my intelligence is above average, so there was no reason I couldn’t do everything I wanted, if I just put my mind to it” she tells how she decided to overcome her depression. “I read about it all I could, tried to get help, and got it”. She is thankful for getting good medical help in India, although she adds with a wink “I didn’t want a doctor who pats my back and laughs aloud telling me not to worry. I wanted a doctor who understands me, my illness and my worries as well”.
After Harry’s death, she had to clear a lot of legal hassles and banking formalities. Her daughter helped her there. When one bank manager tried to behave high-handed thinking that she’s just a woman unable to cope up, she told him : “Stop treating me as if I am only a woman!”.
17103544_1241288189299840_4244867070508594304_n.jpg
When she visited me recently, she laughed a lot and told me: “This time again, I have chosen to defeat my depression. I will never give up. Back to life now”.
I usually keep busy, but when some patients talk, I want to listen to the beauty they create in my life. They expand my mindscape. When I asked Sharon what was her favorite subject for painting, she answered with a mysterious smile: “I paint the colors of the spirits of places”.
As I drank in the beauty of that sentence, I realized that the soul of this extraordinary woman can only have one title: “Phoenix”. The legendary bird is not imaginary, so long as we meet people like Sharon. This great magician called nature has given us the magical ability to be everything we want to be, to be happy, to win over any challenges we might face, just with a small trick: wanting to do it.
Sharon is an extraordinary example of that magic.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Thank you, Sharon Harmon Muir, for the permission to share the story of your extraordinary life.

Please share unedited for spreading awareness about fighting depression.

Sirs, Madams, Soldiers and Slaves

Sirs, Madams, Soldiers and Slaves
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
“Who will face the bullets on the border if everyone starts arguing?” shouted the officer.
He was a municipal corporation deputy chief in a metropolis. I was representing a students’ union for resident doctors, and we were demanding two major changes: that our salaries be deposited in a bank (hundreds of resident doctors, wardboys and other staff were supposed to queue up within the first three days of every month, in front of the accounts office to collect monthly salary, some could not because their duties did not allow them), and that the libraries be kept open 24 hours, as our work hours were never defined, and rooms being shared, it was not always possible to study in hostels. The demands were many years old, nothing had moved.
But this time we had decided to use a new weapon: Strike. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Sensing trouble as we had recently carried out a successful strike, the deputy chief blasted his arguing lethargic assistants who resisted every change: the hallmark of most administrations.
That’s when the deputy chief shouted upon them and ordered to comply immediately.
“Yes, Sir” they said. The next month, both these things changed in all Municipal hospitals. Threat had achieved what the system would never have allowed to happen.
 
Few years later, studying in Canada, almost every boss or senior I met insisted that we call him / her by name, and not Sir / Madam. “It stinks of slavery somehow” said a professor whose thinking affected me profoundly. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Why are so many brilliant Indian students so intimidated to openly argue, come out with suggestions or put forth a contrary opinion in front of their boss?” he once asked me, “I don’t think respect can be placed above logic. So I think fear must be involved”.
 
That set me thinking. It was true. From the parents who directly start slapping children for questioning them or talking about issues like sexuality, to the teachers who misuse their authority to suppress students by threats, failing in exams and scarring their CVs, we had grown up in the dual pressure system: cultural limitations that prevented thinking out of box, and intimidation by fear of humiliation and failure: from both family and teachers. There were rare honorable exceptions: teachers and parents who encouraged to think free.
 
What happens when someone in India argues against the prevalent system? First ridiculed, then refuted, threatened and often destroyed or outcast by the system whose malfunction he / she has questioned. From judiciary to journalism, from schools to parliament, and from doctors to labourers, his/ her own people question his / her sanity or intention. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
No wonder we have mastered the British art of establishing a foolproof slavery system.
 
Look at the scientific and literary outputs. Look at the productivity and innovation. A country that boasts of geniuses is happy to play the role of “cheap intellectual labour”, proudly flaunting the business, outsourced to it primarily for low costs, as an achievement. These super-talented brains in business or in any other field must only walk the narrow path, at the speed of one of the slowest systems, limited by humungous paperwork, red tapism, favouritism and corruption. . Public condemnation and humiliation await those who differ in their opinion.
 
What happens when one follows all the rules of argument in such a system?
 
Suppose a soldier tired of his heavy duty without adequate food complains about it to his superior, what is the typical answer he will get? Is it too difficult to imagine what will happen to his career? How many are the chances that a military superior, a government officer or your own boss will say “You are right, my dear, I am sorry you had to face inconvenience, we will correct this immediately” and do it? Sorry. We grow up with incessant reminders of how we are second to, under, helpless, and lesser than the people we work for, including our administrations. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
We live in a fool’s paradise. We like to stay hidden behind the fears of our little sins and mistakes (who doesn’t commit some?) being exposed, our socio cultural apple cart being upset and our perpetual orgasm with comfort zone being threatened.
 
When the hallmarks of slavery: calling everyone “Sir” or “Madam”, standing up, bowing, compulsory greeting, applauding and agreeing without pausing to think or argue are so perfectly blended with cultural traditions of respecting the elders, we create a foolproof prison for thought. It is indeed a mystery why a country which has so many elders, and so many respectable people, is yet to be at the top in any field! Do all these “Sirs and Madams” truly behave or achieve to match that respect?
 
A country where seniority, relation, political strength and connections, nuisance value, money and age surpass all other intellectual criteria of leading and promotion by merit, do we really dream of becoming number one in the world? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Every genuine intellectual, artist, scientist (and there will be many who will throttle up their throats to praise the existing system for obvious rewards) will dislike being tied down by limitations. The ones who have spent their youth standing up and saluting “Sirs and Madams” have had their time. It is high time we start thinking of the youth and the future generations.
 
When I returned from Canada, I had changed. I knew I could not change the system, but I could definitely change myself. I have since then never expected or insisted anyone calls me “Sir”, respects me out of context, or stands up / greets me. I prefer people, even students calling me by my name, and it has never taken away the affectionate relationship we share. I have always encouraged my children, my students and the scanty number of friends to be completely free in their thinking, to think of the whole world as their home and humanity as their culture, to politely argue without arrogance or spite, and to accept what is right without thinking who said it. Those who presume that “uncontrolled freedom will always go in wrong direction” confuse between misuse of freedom and non adherence to civil duties.
 
This small contribution to eradicate slavery of thought was one of my many duties towards life.
 
As for the soldiers on the borders of any country, who just “take orders from people sitting in air-conditioned offices, to face bullets,”, let us at least gather some courage to stand up to the sacrifice they make in the name of their country, and try to realize the meaning of this precious word : Freedom.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
PS:
Only for free thinking intellectuals.
Please share unedited in the interest of future generations.