Duty calls, whether you like it or not

“ I can’t say anything till I see an ultrasound, a thyroid report & a blood test report. Come next week with all the reports.  I am available every Tuesday from 11:30 to 12:30pm. Take an earlier appointment, say, at around 11:30, so that I can spend more time with you”
My eyes travelled from the doctor’s green-blue eyes to the clock. It was 11:45 am, and  I had been in the room for exactly 7 minutes, out of which 4 were spent with the doctor speaking to her intern, and the remaining three with her ‘listening’ to me speak, punctuated by vibrations of her phone, and she had reached a conclusion. Either she was really good, or she didn’t find me interesting. Either way, I forked out Rs 500 to the dour looking cashier seated very conveniently outside and left, not one bit cured.

The very same evening, I battled the rain and walked to my family doctor, who patiently listened to everything I said, prescribed pills and asked me to come back after three days for a follow up. Within three days I was back to normal, and my doctor simply smiled and told me to cut down on caffeine.

But wait, am not quite finished. If I had seen doctors who were money minded, I had also seen doctors who were more worried about me than myself, and not in a good way.. A government doctor I knew packed me off to the hospital for an “eye operation” because she predicted that a boil on my eyelid was “ poisonous” and would make me blind within three days. That day my father brought home a distraught daughter who was convinced that she would be blind by the next morning. He got up to see no boil, and a slightly guilty daughter. It has been over ten years since that happened, and there is nothing on my eyelid anymore, except a drop or two of sweat.

So it really didn’t come as a surprise when I saw so many reports of children dying due to medical negligence. It’s getting difficult to believe doctors anymore - if they find it difficult to hear us, imagine how difficult it is for us to tell them about things happening in our bodies. Hippocratic Oath, empathy, sympathy, everything just goes straight out of the window. Running for tests, necessary or unnecessary, taking medicines, unnecessary or necessary has just become the order of the day. Who listens to patients anymore?

There was a time, a time maybe in the era of my now 70 year old GP’s, where doctors were not merely people who handed medicines, but who also listened to what you had to say. They were people whom one took into confidence, who they entrusted with their secrets and who, no matter what, would always do what was beneficial for them and not for their bank accounts.

Let alone doctors, no profession is noble anymore. Teaching was a noble profession, people said, yet all teachers seem to be caring about is how many tuition they should take in order to rake up more money. Journalism was a calling, they said, yet there is hardly any news today that benefits the common man without dividing him by his religion or political choice.  More than half of the people in a newsroom are either stuck in the job,  just there for the heck of it or for the power of being the press. Some are even there just to pull the others down, establishing their supremacy & displaying their enviable talent of sycophancy.

Maybe its time for all of us to get a reality check the size of Antarctica. Maybe its time to prioritize. Maybe its time for us to think beyond our bank accounts, beyond our salaries, beyond petty office politics and really work. Maybe it’s time for us doctors to focus less on becoming chartered accountants and more of healers, for teachers to remember that the future of the country is under their tutelage and for the media to remember that stories come from people and that listening rather than shouting, is always an asset. Just let’s not forget what our duty is. We may not like being a doctor, or a journalist or even an engineer, but if we have a duty towards something, that must be done, fully & perfectly. 


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