One of my most significant childhood memories is from when I was eight. I remember being a bright kid in class, full of hopes and dreams. One of my dreams was to be like my aunt – a doctor who saves people’s lives. (I grew up to realise she was an Ayurvedic practitioner, but that’s a debate for a different day!)
One day, all of us were hurriedly rushed home from school. We were given that whole week off. Why? Because our school was associated with Singhania Hospital, and a senior politician had passed away due to old age in that hospital. ‘Friends’ of the politician then proceeded to burn down the hospital – destroying property worth Rs 25 crore; then they burned buses (a trademark move if you’re aware of Maharashtra politics) and finally attacked our school.
I distinctly remember the colourful melange of emotions I experienced.
Confusion – why would they react like this?
Happiness – a week off is still a week off.
But the most significant feeling was the mental destruction of my ‘Doctor dreams.’ Even as an 8-year-old it was clear to me: What’s the point of saving people’s lives when the same people are harming mine?
I’m thankful that nobler people than me exist. And judging by what’s happening in recent times, I’m also thankful of the choice I made. I decided to forget being a doctor, and ended up becoming a stand-up comedian, telling myself that laughter still counts as the best medicine.
In all seriousness, I am grateful for my profession. I don’t have to work 18 hours a day because I’m doing a “selfless service”. I don’t have to spend half my life and lakhs of rupees before I actually get onstage to make money. And most importantly, as ruthless as being a comedian is, at least my audience won’t try to set me on fire if a joke fails.
But, enough about me. This is about Indian doctors – the only profession that’s more attractive on matrimonial websites than in real life.
The biggest news of late has been about the repeated attacks on doctors and their strike in response. Unfortunately, if you’re following our media, chances are that you know more about the 15 times that Ranveer Singh yawned with his eyes closed, than about the continuous oppression and vilification of doctors.
So here’s a recap – Last week, 40,000 medical practitioners went on a strike to protest the rising amounts of attacks on doctors. Many of them were given eviction notices in response. The Maharashtra CM intervened, but when it didn’t work, threatened them with legal action.
There have been three more cases of assault against doctors since then. In protest, doctors at AIIMS attended the hospital in helmets. You know your country is in trouble when a hospital looks like a show of MTV Roadies. Except, instead of getting a bike in the end you just get eviction notices, legal threats and even more violence. As ridiculous as it sounds, it is incredibly disheartening that the profession we like to call “noble” is being forced into doing such things to guarantee the most basic human right – safety.
The High Court eloquently said, “Shame on you”. Even the Chief Minister gave a statement where he implied that the doctors harming patients by not working were as bad as the people who were beating doctors. This is the problematic part. When you label a profession as “noble” and “selfless”, you tend to forget that it is a profession. One that takes a ridiculous investment of time and effort. The least we can do is treat them like human beings. According to an IMA study, more than 75% of the doctors have faced some sort of violence from the patient. That is an incredible statistic. No doctor deserves a slap at work. Except perhaps Dr Vijay Mallya. (Ooh la la la la OUCH.)
Let us all introspect. It isn’t just the assaulters who are at fault. By making an emotional argument and blaming the doctors for being on strike, or even by remaining silent, we are part of the problem, because we contribute to this illusion of “noble selfless service”, instead of focusing on strengthening our healthcare system. Let’s recognise that doctors are human beings who just don’t want to get beaten up. And remember, an idiot a day keeps the doctor away.
Image Credit: The New Indian Express