Tag Archives: Poverty

Respect: The Depreciating Indian Salary

Respect: The Depreciating Indian Salary
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Over 1.5 Crore Every Year! That becomes more than ten lacs per month! Wow!!” my student showed me the news that some brilliant engineering students passing out from India were hired by some software biggies in Campus Interviews, “They will start their careers at that salary. That’s life!”

I felt proud, as always, these news and similar have always made me feel that the Indian academic talent has always been looked up to and rewarded by the developed world. The tiny speck of jealousy that we earlier felt for our classmates who went for engineering and had their own homes and cars while we were still finishing internships has faded away long ago. The only regret that sometimes peeps out from the past is that of never having fully enjoyed our teens and youth. The fact that most doctors from India also earn huge salaries in the west as well as the middle east speaks a lot about the flaws in our “Indian” thinking.

“Doctors get respect and that is the best that you can get in life. People think of doctors as Gods. You should never think about money” told every sore-throated, pot bellied and self proclaimed socialist who did not become a doctor, and mostly had no doctor in family. This ranged from our own classmates to the highest administrators in the country.

Over the years, I now feel that even the engineering or other stream’s graduates are almost in the same boat. I cannot wish upon the newer generations what we went through.
What is really making us proud here? That India cannot afford to use its own best talent in any field? That the best in all fields are taken away, because what the best Indian companies can offer them is nowhere near what the world outside offers them? That the best salaries in all government jobs are reserved for bootlickers above the age of 55? That in no field can the government find the young talents superior to white haired yes men? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Or boast with a shameless pride that the most revered Satya Nadellas and Sundar Pichais made in India cannot find career scope in their own country?

Or, while proclaiming “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam” (The World Is My Family) on one hand, are we going to perpetually cry the same song of socialism and patriotism, expecting all of them to only follow the examples of the rare (and respectable) ones who chose to shed material life for the country? India needs a million good volunteers in every field who will live and die poor while serving the society. But to force this upon all those who graduate from India is to invite them to leave the country. From politics and administration to Judiciary and lawyers, we need people who will work free or low cost, because the main disease: poverty and illiteracy, is a never ending curse in India. These are the people who choose the governments who throw “low cost everything” crumbs at the society, rather than uplifting the society to respectable self sustaining, paying capacity. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande The lifelong perks of representatives elected for even five years, from any political party are regularly updated, but the salaries and pensions of doctors and other employees who work lifelong are never upgraded without agitations and then only with allegations of greed!

No doctor wants to be a bad doctor, but no doctor wants to spend life in poverty and insecurity.

If at all a doctor decides to do charity and see all patients free/ concessional all his / her life, not only will they be lost to poverty and anonymity, but our government or media will never notice them. All they get is more paperwork to comply with every day, fear of suspension humiliation by the administrators and a salary that’s a shame given their talent and hard work.

There is this curious tendency in India: to force or to beg in the name of charity, social service or patriotism rather than rewarding the talent. There are very few examples of honesty, hard work and talent rewarded without political connections. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Are the medical students any less talented than their counterparts in engineering or other streams? Don’t they study equally hard and work 24/7 many more years before they qualify? Even after that, the highest salary that the government offers the starting doctor (even engineer) is laughable, and if they wish to work at a private/ corporate hospital, they cannot decide the rules of payment strategies. If they must start their own set up, they need huge investments, over fifty permissions, many recurring, every one requiring bribe in some form or other. And whichever one they choose from the three career options above, from day one the society and media will have already presumed them guilty of extracting money from patients, the government and even some judges urging them to understand the feelings of relatives beating up doctors. I wonder how many ministers , judges or media bosses would like to understand the feelings of those who beat them up for something their client/ petitioner didn’t like. The most pathetic part is that while all of the above officers are inaccessible to common man, they still have armed security, and the junior most doctor who faces armed relatives is denied security even by law! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Most top medical graduates and postgraduates, like almost all other streams from India are leaving voluntarily because of this situation. To deal with this, the best options that some governments came up with were long term bonds to force govt. service (without telling anyone where the govt. spends so much on medical education), and canceling permissions to leave India even after the bond is completed. Bravo! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Hon’ble PM has time and again declared many institutes like AIIMS to be opened across India. This is welcome, but we must also look at the state of conditions and staff in the existing health institutes run by the government. That needs billions for repairs, facilities and hiring better staff. Unless the salary structure for young and talented medical specialists increases , there are no chances of any AIIMS-like institutes running efficiently, they will soon become dirty buildings with low budget staff, where desperate patients are chronically dissatisfied and mobs find chances to vent anger.

Earlier I had immense respect and pride for every doctor who decided to return to India with a positive attitude and a wish to serve the society, their only expectation being living a modestly good life. Now I doubt if they are doing justice to themselves or their family, by choosing a life of financial and personal compromises, where they not only sacrifice, but are still looked upon as “looters”, face a violent society and a prejudiced government.

Ten years ago, I would have told this student of mine “let go of a good life, stay in India, we have a lot to do for our country”. Today, I don’t interfere with their decisions to make a career outside India. Because I love my India as much as any soldier would,and I also love the talented people in it.

Jai Hind!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Please Share Unedited.

My Earning As A Doctor

My Earning As A Doctor
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
It was an emergency night, and we were trying to cope up with the excessive load that every government hospital must accommodate. One of my early postgraduate emergencies. The living, the dead and those in between were being rushed in continuously, and we were dealing with the emotional ups and downs at an almost impossible pace. In the same moment we were Gods and heroes for some, and devilish villains for others.
 
Nature, age, illness, delays, illiteracy and poverty are easy to fight with sometimes, but not what people expect from a doctor.
 
I was writing on the ward desk, filling up the necessary paperwork, an irritating interruption in a clinician’s life. Trying to recall something, I stared for a moment at the long stretch of that huge ward. My senior resident Dr. Sunil was performing a procedure called pleural tap, where fluid is removed from the chest. He was from a very poor and rural background, but had excellent merit. Most people made fun of his looks and language, that made him silent and aloof. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
An old man came out of the toilet, accompanied with his wife. He was about 80, was admitted and had recovered from a stroke. He was scheduled to be discharged next morning.
While walking to his bed, this old man suddenly collapsed, his wife unable to hold him. He was about 10 metres away from me. Sunil and myself reached there immediately, shouting for the crash cart, and started resuscitation. We tried for many minutes, as the patient’s wife stood a few metres away, sobbing.
 
He was dead. He had had a sudden cardiac arrest.
It was the third death in the ward that day, among the thirty emergencies admitted.
 
Dr. Sunil went to the patient’s wife. and informed her. He got her some water, and sat with her for some time. Then when he resumed the paperwork, I noticed he was feeling sad and tearful too, like myself. The old man and his wife had both been so nice to us. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Only a doctor knows the traumatic feelings of having to resuscitate someone who was talking to them a few moments ago. Believe it or not, almost every death certificate makes a scar on a sensitive doctor’s mind. The trauma is perpetual, hidden, but also real.
 
As we arranged for their transport (the couple had no relatives and were from a nearby village), the old lady sat by her husband, touching his face and crying. When she left, she said “God bless you, you people still tried so much. We are both old, what can you do! This is my destiny. I hope God takes me up quickly too, I have no purpose in life now”.
 
Sunil went to the doctor’s room and broke down. This was unusual. I tried to console him, myself feeling very sad. Then, Sunil looked out of the window and said in a heavy voice: “My mother died exactly like this, in a hospital ward, when I was a child. I was with her. That is when I decided to become a doctor and save lives. At such times I feel very hopeless”.
 
“Oh”, I said, not knowing how to react, “Where is your father now?”
“He passed away long before my mother, he had fever, but they did not have money to take him to a hospital. He died at home.” Said Dr. Sunil.
In some time, we went for a tea and composed ourselves again. The night was to bring many more who needed us stable, so we returned in few minutes.
 
The next day, we presented to our professor the forty two cases admitted in emergency, a usual count at most medicine emergencies. Going home after over 36 hours, I could not eat that day. A doctor should not be too emotional, but then no one makes themselves, one can only control reactions. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Fast forward to the future: my father, one afternoon at home, collapsed suddenly and was taken to the nearest hospital three minutes away, but could not be resuscitated. I was in Mumbai, far away from him. That phone call still rings in my ears. Sometimes I have to sit down at the memory of that call, it breaks me.
 
I did not curse that doctor to whom my dad was taken. I did not blame anyone. I did not go to the press or police. I did not think that the doctor was wrong or was working for money when someone was dying. It is impossible. One who thinks that a doctor will think of money in the face of a dying patient is probably also the one who never fully believed in God, and also questioned their own mother’s love for themselves!
 
Like almost every sensitive doctor, like Dr. Sunil, the only way for me to forget the agony of losing my dear ones was to prevent this from happening in anyone else’s life.
 
So what if most of them think I worked for money, so what if they refuse to ever acknowledge gratitude in words or in deed. So what if they only look at the money I earn through my hard work.
 
My real earning, like that of every sensible doctor, is the reduced burden of suffering in the human world. The tax I pay is my blood and sweat. Those who do not use these currencies will never know their value.
 
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Please Share Unedited

The Remedy of Trust

The Remedy of Trust
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
I entered the ICU in a torn and angry frame of mind. An old patient had had fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure all night, and was on the thin line between life and death. Irregular heart beats had clotted his blood and he had developed a paralysis.
 
I had had a terrible argument with family that morning, and had left home without a breakfast, thinking that I will catch up in the canteen if hungry. The traffic on the way was as usual bad, it further worsened my mood. Messages kept pouring in: pending bills and health enquiries that were an attempt to avoid a proper consultation. One can ignore, but sometimes ignoring is stressful too!© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
As I entered the hospital, I was told about some machine not working. The technician had commented that it was beyond repair now. New one would cost over 30 lacs minimum, and this machine was required on a daily basis. My head started pounding. Another loan now, another recovery period!
As I passed the billing counter, an imposing rogue with a group stopped me. “Sir, the bill is too high, do something”. It was an open threat worded technically as a request. The relatives who folded hands to save the patient till yesterday were standing behind that rogue, looking unconcerned, not even happy that the patient was alive and being discharged after a life threatening illness. I sent them to the charity cell.
I entered the ICU, staring into my cellphone where angry messages of argument kept pouring in, a dear friend was upset that I was not available to see his relatives in another hospital immediately. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
The old patient was sleeping. A glance at the monitor revealed that the patient’s BP was now stable. His heart rate was regular too. What a relief!
The patient’s wife got up, she was in her 80s. Fair, all white hair, and the confidence of culture upon her face, she smiled through her wrinkles and troubles. The Kumkum on her forehead was bright and fresh. She wore a torn saree, and had no ornaments except a thin thread with black beads that made her Mangalsutra. She was bending forward due to age.
She then said “He spoke to me this morning. He is feeling better than yesterday. I know he is old, but please give him the best treatment. We have been together since childhood.” Her eyes became wet.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Then she made an attempt to touch my feet, something that woke me up with a shock. A tingling feeling ran through my body. I held her hand and asked her it was ok, and returned the gesture by touching her feet too. I told her I will try my best, and her husband appeared out of danger at that moment.
She gently prodded the patient: “Look, our doctor is here. He says you are getting better. Do you recognize our doctor? Say Namaskar to him”.
 
Confused for a moment, the old man stared first at his wife, then at me.
 
He then tried to lift both hands, but only one went up, which he raised to his forehead and whispered “Namaskar”.
 
The old couple, the age of my parents, was saying Namaskar to me and touching me feet, many decades younger to them, because I was a Doctor. They never knew me until two days ago, but had trusted everything I said. They did not question my ability or intention. I like to be professional, but that should never compromise my manners.
I switched off my cellphone.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
I suddenly felt ashamed of the mood that I was in. They did not deserve it. Their complete faith was to me the best return and reward of my efforts of so many years to become a good doctor. No amount of money ‘thrown at me’ by those who think of ‘buying me services’ would actually be my interest or aim. This was.
 
I smiled at the old lady, and told her that should she have any concerns, she can ask the staff to call me anytime, I would be glad to come over. Then, to repay her for bringing my smile back, I wrote on the billing sheet: “No charges for me in the case”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
When I walked out of the ICU, I was feeling proud and smiling. The faith of this patient and his wife had cured me of my bad mood too. I was prepared again to forget my personal woes, to take over the faithless hundreds, still do them good, in an attempt to reach out to the really deserving faithful, who knew their doctor would only do them good. That is the essence of my profession, my education, and my intention.
 
A patient who trusts a doctor earns for himself the best in that doctor. Always. Although we do not expect it to be understood by everyone.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
 

The Doctor India Needs Most

The Doctor India Needs Most.Photo 13-11-15, 23 58 36a

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“It’s high time you dropped a big stone upon her head” said the doctor.

Shocked to the core, I looked up to find all three of them heartily laughing: the doctor, the patient and the relative.

This was a 92 year old lady, who had seen Doctor P. D. Purandare for most of her adult life as her primary care physician. She was still healthy otherwise, but often complained of “feeling not perfect, occasional headaches, lack of sleep, reduced appetite etc.”, mostly age related and chronic complaints resistant to most commonly used medicines. The daughter in law, obedient and polite, but fed up with her “whining” mother in law, had asked doctor PDP if he couldn’t “permanently cure” her symptoms. The ever smiling, 70 year old family physician who was known to make even patients on their deathbeds laugh, had replied “It’s high time you dropped a stone upon her head”.

The old lady was unaffected. Education and “legal awareness” had not yet spoiled the friendly doctor-patient relationship by then. She touched the doctor’s face with gratitude. “I am sure I will not die as long as you are around, Doctor. Don’t teach such things to my Sunbai (Bahu / Daughter in law)” replied the old lady, laughing out of her edentulous mouth, a cute laughter that offends nobody, a privilege only of the very old.

I was on a vacation after my final year MBBS exams, and having no daytime friends (explainations later), went to one of the most favourite people in my life: Dr. P. D. Purandare, a general practitioner and family physician who practiced in the small and (then) backward / orthodox town of Nanded. His clinic was an open-for- all walk-in all 7 days, 11 AM till 11 PM. The only rule was the waiting number system. Next patient was the only VIP, whoever you happened to be.

At around every midnight, Dr. PDP dropped me home after the last patient left. There was never any haste at all, the last patient got the same fresh and relaxed doctor that the first one did. Dr. PDP lived his life in his medical practice. Once I asked him why he chose to practice in Nanded while his hometown was the big and developed famous city of Pune. His answer had no flavoured ego, pride or hypocrisy: “Because there was only one family physician here, there was a need for more, given the population” he replied.

He had studied his Medicine in Lucknow. He practiced a few years in East Africa, then returned to India. A scholar in many disciplines especially music and philosophy, extremely well read, fluent in most Indian major languages, he was the only person I have seen
who entered anyone’s hPhoto 13-11-15, 23 56 34aeart freely and spread joy there.

My parents took me to him right from my infancy for any health issues. Vaccination onwards, he had grown me up to a robust health. Whenever I had holidays while in Medical College, I went to attend his OPD. There was so much to learn about humanity and medicine from him. In spite of being a very scientific doctor and a royal human being, he treated everyone as his equal. I have never seen him disturbed or angry. Like James Bond, his humour sprung forth like a fountain in the most unlikely and disturbing situations, and it was only later that people realised that it was that humour which broke the ill spell on that moment. Never cheap but never also mild, his stinging comments usually made people blush. He donned the magic of good sarcasm that left no bruised egos.

He never asked for money from any patient. Most patients went themselves and paid to his compounder HariSingh. Regularly following up patients were supposed to make entries in their own diaries about how much they owed to the doctor and pay as and when possible. People usually paid once or twice in a year, he never saw their books. HariSingh collected the money and hande
d it over to Dr. PDP. Of course many people duped him. Even in that pre-cellphone era, people called him up on all days and nights, and visited his home for emergency and ease both, but his calm was seldom offended.

One very poor man came with his daughter of about 21, told the doctor about her constant headaches, also adding details about his financial status, that her marriage was held up thanks to his poverty. Dr. PDP wrote the prescription after examining the young girl, now visibly embarrassed by her father’s disclosure. The father pulled out his reluctant wallet from the depths of his clothes. “How much?” he asked. Dr. PDP, with no high-handed expression upon his face, said “Don’t worry.. You don’t pay.” As the hefty farmer father started sobbing out of gratitude, Dr. Purandare asked him if he can please borrow some betel nuts (supari) from him, which had accompanied the wallet from his pocket. Laughing and crying at the same time, the father gave the “supari” to Dr. PDP and touched his feet, asked his daughter to do the same, and told her “This is where they say God is”.

One of the best habits I learned from Dr. PDP was to never count the money someone handed over in good faith. Trust was his second na
ture, and patients swore by his integrity. “It will all stay here, not with you or me” he winked when anyone requested him to count the money.

A visibly shaking Sikh man, walked in, bending forwards and walking very slowly, his actions frozen intermittently, and voice almost inaudibly low. Dr PDP explained to me the classical symptoms of Parkinsonism. A decade later, learning advanced Neurology in Canada, I often wondered how exact and ahead of time was this general practitioner in a small town in India, and what a sad destiny that there was no one around him then to applaud all the talent he had! This, I know even now, is the case of so many excellent clinicians, general practitioners and family physicians in India, whose medical talent goes unnoticed and unacknowledged just because the society is yet to wake up to it.
****
“Your son is unlikely to survive”
I heard the physician (Dr. AA) tell my parents. I heard my mother wail and my father sob, and in a few minutes my mom was frantically calling one of our neighbours: “Please get a rickshaw and go to Dr. Purandare, ask him I have begged him to run here at once”. Mr. Raghvendra Katti, my father’s favourite student, went in heavy rains upon his Luna moped to fetch Dr. PDP.

It was just after my second year MBBS exam. I had developed typhoid fever, and late during recovery the fever had suddenly shot up one day, and I had become delirious. My consciousness was fluctuating, and highest antibiotics were on. There was a suspicion that something was wrong, but nobody could identify what. Three specialists had already asked my parents to shift me to civil hospital ICU, fearing bad outcome. Fever went upto 105 dF.

Dr. PDP came, all wet and tense. After going through all details and examining me, he asked the treating doctor to give me a shot of steroid. “But he may worsen with steroid” said the treating doc who had a higher degree, and refused to give me the injection. As my mom insisted, he wrote a note on paper that Dr. PDP will be responsible for any consequences. Everyone signed it. Then they gave me a shot. Within an hour, the fever started subsiding. By three hours, I was feeling better. He sat besides me, whistling.

“Chai pilao (Get me some tea)” he smiled as he told my crying parents “Ye saala wapas aagaya (This idiot has returned)”. The physician apologised to him for the “legal” note. “It’s ok, doc, he has reacted to something. Recurring typhoid fever does not shoot up this sudden”. Dr. PDP said. It was later found that the IV fluid was impure. Just changing that made a difference (The company was later banned).

He gave me his old “Savill’s” textbook of clinical medicine as a birthday gift. It is one of the most beautiful clinical textbooks I ever read!

“Har Bandar ka Madaari (A magician who handles all types of monkeys)” was his favourite expression to describe himself as a general practitioner. “You must know basic treatments of everything” he taught me. India needs many many thousand Dr. Prabhakar Purandares today, and also the same patient-doctor relationship where the patient had equal responsibility of faith and trust as the doctor, and both carried it graciously.

He initiated me during my undergraduate days into philosophy, with Jiddu Krisnamurthy, Ashtavakra Geeta, Osho Rajneesh and then Stephen Hawking. When I told him I actually met Dr Stephen Hawking, he was as happy and proud as my father would be. He still prays, meditates and laughs everyday, and makes everyone around him laugh too. He has retired, and lives happily in Nanded.

Everytime we meet, he turns into the Master once again:
“When you realize that all the diseases and diagnoses are not in the books, you become a mature doctor. The disease in mind is far more difficult to treat than that in the body. The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions”. His teachings are etched upon my brain.

Once in a very bad, low phase of life, deserted and hurt by the way I was treated by my own, I went to him and broke down. This feeling of being isolated and tortured for being different in my thinking is unbearable. He just sat besides me, didn’t say a word till I stopped crying.

Then he said:
“Pick up the immortals among those who you want your certificates from”.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Hide, Don’t Seek

Hide, Don’t Seek
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We are all experts in this.

Mr. SP suffered a stroke, lost his job. Still has to run a family that has kids in engineering college. Since last six months he is looking for work, and is freelancing as an interior designer. To go to work he needs special vehicle. To buy it he needs loan. Bank does not give loan because he does not have a job. RTO will not issue license unless the vehicle is in his own name. He is ineligible for a handicapped- job opportunity because he cannot get a certificate, because there is a huge line for the same in only one center in a large city like Pune, where the handicapped people are expected to queue up starting 4 AM in the morning, without a place to sit or a shade. He has been in this queue for umpteen times, but could not reach the clerk as only limited number of people are taken in. He keeps on spending on the autorickshaw fares, his own medicines, physiotherapy, and limps his way through life cursing his fate. He has already decided that his children will not settle in India.

All that India has learnt in it’s recent evolution is to address him as “Man with special needs” or “Physically challenged” instead of handicapped.

Now he awaits Mr. Mark Zuckerberg or Mr. Tim Cook or Mr. Obama to digitally reach out and solve his problem.

In our evolution as the strongest and the most invested nation, we have shoved below the carpet the facts that we have highest number of unhealthy people who cannot reach or afford basic medical care, hunger deaths, a government-run healthcare system that is worse than dysfunctional at best, a valley of inadequate resources created by senseless laws / rules / red-tapism that mock the possibility of a comfortable living of an honest citizen, where bribe is the basis of any function at almost all levels. Traffic kills not only those on the road, but also those in an ambulance.

This even as we pay one of the highest income tax, and probably the highest duties on almost everything.

Neither women nor children are safe, the political backing encourages hooligans to do away with all the eve-teasing they want. Richest of the rich revel in their 100 and 500 crore successes, multimillion ventures and billionaire statuses in Forbes, while there is no answer to innumerable suicides of poverty ridden populace.
Now we will digitally connect them.

We have learnt the western language in an attempt to impress the western press. With our huge population, there always are enough positive numbers to impress the world, while we hide the negative numbers from the world’s eyes. We have learnt perfectly the eternal art of beautifully colouring a home from outside, while there still are decaying crimes, mountains of unsolved legal / procedural basic issues that eat up the lives of those who live within. The rich-poor gap is at its worst, and the onus is upon the citizen to find legal / illegal solutions to their problems. Audacious corruption stinks in almost every govt. office, but we will sing songs of our own greatness and history. We will die to establish an arrogant historic fact rather than help a dying needy in the present.

We need human connections first. We need internal reforms first.

What will an old sick parent “thrown up by children” do with internet? What will a heart attack patient stuck in traffic do with digitalisation, when there are no sufficient paramedics, and they can’t reach him? How will internet, another “profit-based” venture, provide for food and medicines to those who don’t have money?

Will all this internet access / digitalization solve the issues like rehabilitation of thousands of orphans in the country, rehabilitation of women who have suffered rape, whistle blowers being beaten up and killed in open daylight, a perpetually deficient healthcare scenario with increasing gap between doctor and patient, further widened by draconian laws against the tiny number of remaining doctors?

Just Hide, Don’t Seek answers.

Let us all dress up our best for our new girlfriend: the affluent, civilized western world.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: I am strongly pro-digitalization, but it is the wrong God to bank upon for a positive change in our country.