Tag Archives: Soldier

A Soldier’s Real Pain

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“There’s immense pain, Sir, in my thigh. I cannot bear it. I want to kill myself. Please do something” said the elderly man, with tears. A proud soldier from the army, he had fought three wars with bravery, and won many medals. Once a bullet had hit him in the lower back and had caused severe injury that bruised his nerves which control the leg sensation. The back wound healed, but the leg pain had stayed. Many drugs and injections had failed.

I somehow noticed that the brave soldier avoided to look at people directly in the eyes, and there appeared to be some unknown sadness behind this. I asked him openly about it. “Yes, I feel sad, but I don’t know why” he replied.

With his consent, I added an antidepressant (they are excellent in controlling pain too). He started responding well. In about ten days, he started to walk without support. Very happy about the pain being controlled, he expressed it with heaped praises for the doctors.

Once when I visited him, he was alone in the room. He was looking at a photo album.

“Come doctor, I was just remembering you” he said, “This is an old picture when I returned to our army base after an incident. There was a firing from the other side, we were not able to see the enemy soldier. It was a dense hilly area packed with trees. We started to move sideways and formed a “V” shape, moving towards where the firing was coming from. We spotted a hidden tank, and three camouflaged soldiers hiding behind it. They would climb up the tank and fire occasionally. Once we located them, it was all easy. We shot them down one by one in few minutes. Apparently, there were two more of their soldiers hiding at some distance, they started to fire. We fired back, they were injured, but managed to ran away. We took this picture just after that victory”.

Then he kept the album down.

“I was very happy then.But last few years, as I grew old, I often think about those I killed. I have no fear or guilt. Yet I feel bad about them. They must have had families and children. They must have left home with promises to return. Their parents, spouses and children must have prayed to the same God for their safety and return. I lost my colleagues too and I know how their families suffer till date. I am second to none in patriotism, but I think we must now evolve to resolve things without having to kill people. I love my country more than any politician, but I will be happy if the politicos of any country stand with the army at the border when declaring a war, handle a gun and feel the pain of having to kill another human being. That is what makes me sad”.

I remembered what one of my neurosurgery professors had once described in frustration after a marathon 8 hour brain surgery: “It takes our team such a huge skill, investment and scary hard work to be able to remove one bullet from someone’s brain without endangering the patient’s life. I can’t believe that we live in a world that still makes, sells and uses bullets and allows killing”.

A doctor is married to humanity. No doctor in the world will speak in favour of injuring or killing someone. A live being’s body is too precious to be cut through. It is indeed necessary to eliminate terrorists who kill others indiscriminately, or to defend the country’s safety, but to be “Proud of killing” someone is difficult to understand atleast for me. Just as I cannot understand the enemy’s happiness and pride if they kill a soldier on this side.

I understood the sadness in his eyes better now. I told him he was just doing his duty, he had no choice. He laughed and replied “I wonder if the ones who ran away injured are also suffering this same pain in their country. If they are, I wish they recover too, because it is difficult to live with this pain”. I told him I appreciated his benevolent statement.

One of the most influential sentences in human history has been said by Mahatma Gandhi: “An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind”. The likes of Einstein were in awe of this Indian who advanced humanity. There indeed are countries which have resolved issues between themselves and for decades have had peace, investing in health and development rather than defense. Patriotism and politics mixed will only pollute patriotism. If peace has a chance, it must be the only choice.

Life of every soldier is as precious as that of every decision-making politician in any two countries going to war. Many injuries last lifelong, many soldiers are disabled, many thousand are paraplegics who do not get help or healthcare access. Many a soldier’s families suffer in poverty. They have done their duty: gone ahead and fought with their life at risk, but the country does not seem to have enough resources to handle the requirements of injured soldiers, or support their families.

As in the case of every other social issue, there are thousands of “pseudopatriots” who shout and speak about their love for the country, encourage war and killing, but when told about the injured soldier’s woes, wisely avoid the topic. Every country respects a fighting soldier, but there are few countries which also take care of the injured soldiers and their families, or support a dead soldier’s family.

As doctors, we sincerely stand by those injured and suffering, and pray that there are no more injuries and deaths anywhere in the world. There is no difference in any two human beings for a doctor.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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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.
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