There was a time when every Indian parent's dream was to see their children to grow up and become either an engineer or a doctor. But apparently, that's not the case anymore. At least not in the case of Mr Roshan Radhakrishnan. He does have his reasons for it, and after hearing him out, you will more than agree with him.
Here is his blog post:
A pup was walking down the street when it came across a group of young boys. The leader of the group spotted the dog and pointed it out to his friends. Seeing the boys, the dog too wagged his tail and barked, looking forward to being petted and making new friends.
However,even as the pup wagged his tail, one of the boys picked up a stone. The boy turned to the others and told them how dogs are bad because another dog had bitten his grandfather years ago. As he nodded, a second boy picked up another stone even as he spoke of the incessant barking of stray dogs in his neighbourhood at night, disturbing the sleep of his family. A third spoke of how dogs are bad because of religious reasons. The others realized the wisdom in their friends' words and each picked up a stone, aware now that breeds like this could not be trusted. The pup stood where he was, confused as he watched the boys come closer to him.
By the time night had descended upon the land, the boys had dispersed and gone to their individual homes. There was a sense of accomplishment, having stopped a menace from entering their streets. Lying bloodied and brutalized, the pup that had wagged his tail in hope of giving and receiving love licked its wounds. It was too young to know that the physical wounds would heal in due time... but it was now old enough to have learned to distrust the species of stone throwers. The most selfless creature since time immemorial now knew to hate... because that was what it received for no fault of its own. For the crimes of others, it had paid with its body and soul.
That, in a nutshell, is the reason why I will never allow you, my child, to become a doctor in India.
Increasingly, I find myself watching and talking to doctors across two generations and various specialties these days. And increasingly, that sense of despair and disillusionment is writ large in their words. They find themselves wondering where things went wrong even as they struggle to bring a smile on their faces. With 0.7 doctors per 1000 Indians , the doctor:patient ratio is far below that of other comparable countries like China (1.9), United Kingdom (2.8) and United States (2.5). Spain's 4.9 seems like an absolute luxury in comparison, I must admit.
What this means in layman's terms is this - that you are always going to be swamped with patients beyond the logical human capacity in India.
Thou shalt sacrifice your time, parents, spouse and child!
Getting a 63 hours-a-week schedule (7 days x 9 hours) is a blessing and most of the young guns who join in fresh after post graduation know fully well that a 100 hours-a-week schedule is par for the course once you begin working. And sadly, this is advocated and in fact encouraged by most hospitals too - who wouldn't want to have workers in a contract which states 8 hours a day and then get them to work 14, stating that 'this is how it is for all doctors and besides, we are in the business of selfless service.'
You would never allow a taxi driver to drive you for 24 hours continuously but asking surgeons to do that every third day is fair game in India, apparently.
Wanting to do the allotted number of hours in your contract and then come home to your family is now frowned upon in our field... it implies weakness. Nay, it implies a a lack of professionalism.
Thou shalt sacrifice thy life dream!
It is a sacrifice that will take away your twenties and eat away at your thirties. You may enter the field bright-eyed at 18 but I must ask you - what happens if the dream to become a heart surgeon does not reach fruition? If for some reason, you find yourself unable to get the coveted seat or devote the 15-odd years I assume it will take to become the junior most in your department, would you be happy with your life? Would you be able to live with losing the dream or would the disappointment eat you up from within?
Who cares for the doctor?
A young surgeon working in one of the premier institutes in India spoke to me the other day. This was a doctor who was so passionate a year ago about becoming even better, working hard to get into a super specialty course. She had joined the hospital because of its awe-inspiring reputation across India, aware that the hard hours she put in would sharpen her skills and broaden her knowledge of the specialty. The woman I spoke to had lost that drive altogether.
Walking out of her home at 7 AM and returning home at 10 PM just to fall into bed and then wake up again at 5 in the morning to restart the cycle, she wondered what was the point of it all. She was losing touch with her loved ones and had become a zombie, lost between the politics within the hospital and a total lack of social life.
All this for a handsome salary of 50,000/- a month (in Mumbai) which she knew would not buy her two nights in the ICU of the very hospital she was working in.
There would be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I wanted to tell her. She would earn more in her forties than her techie friends earned in their thirties, I could have consoled her. But I did not. Because I know how she feels.
Another doctor says: do not be a sentimental fool and get blackmailed by the medical system to go work like he did... because nobody cares for your service at the end of the day. If after more than a decade in the medical field, he cannot provide as much for his family as a mobile shop owner, then why did he need to go through so much of an effort at all?
If India considers it a crime for doctors to earn money while closing their eyes when judges, lawyers and uneducated politicians magically accumulate crores, is it not the folly of the person aspiring to be a doctor? How dare he dream of providing for his family?
If the patient collapses while in your care, suddenly all these boundaries vanish. You are then the monster.
The public reads in the papers - the one who killed their loved one because of your greed to steal their money/harvest their organs/molest their ailing mother or child. Then the very same people who demanded that doctors take home a salary in 5 digits will have no problems in demanding compensation in six or seven digits. It does not matter if they are wrong... what is important is that by spoiling the doctor's reputation, you succeed in blackmailing him or the hospital into a compromise. If every death inside a hospital were to be called a case of medical negligence, why would doctors admit the patient at all?
That is what being a doctor in India is all about, in the end.
- You are forced to go to the India that India forgot, the most rural crevices and cul-de-sacs where healthcare is actually needed.
- You are asked to bang on doors and seek out the ailing.
- You are asked to bring as many of them as you can back with you.
- And then you operate on them all for the handsome fees provided by the government (Rs 650/- is given to most hospitals, I hear, though I will gladly accept any revised figure too.)
- The government cuts its costs by making you do Rs 60,000 surgeries for 600, citing rural service (which naturally does not apply to engineers and lawyers - because these areas don't need them at all.)
- The doctor carries the moral responsibility of helping as many patients as possible and so is asked to do work well beyond his physical and mental capacity.
- Generic pharmaceutical companies will pawn off their goods made in unsterile conditions at a lesser rate.
- When things go bad, the crowd will calmly ignore the government and pharmacy that cut corners for a profit and be at the doctor's doorstep with stakes and pitchforks. And celebrities will be there to tut-tut on national television about how doctors are corrupt and cutting off organs for their own profits.
As a father, you will find me as broad minded and tolerant as they get. You will have every opportunity to choose whether you want to retain your religion or change it based on what resonates within your mind. You will have every opportunity to choose the love of your life irrespective of caste, creed or even gender. I will let you have every choice in life and I will be there to support you and guide you along the way.