Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I Party in Bed on New Year’s Eve….

I Party in Bed on New Year’s Eve…. 

The Christmas to New Year season is one of the few times in the year when I wish I could avoid the Internet completely. This is not only due to the innumerable party pictures my friends post on line but also because of the many invitations I receive to join them in such parties. Now before you ask me what’s wrong with partying let me add a brief personal reminiscence. Sometime ago in the past I was a complete party animal. I had a large group of friends who were all A-listers in the party scene – offspring of movers and shakers, film-folk, fashion-folk etc and we used to hop around from party to party all over the town never staying at one place long enough to get bored. In fact, it became such a routine part of life that pretty soon there never was a weekend without any action if you know what I mean.

People were bent on discovering the newest and hottest party spots- they change as often as a month before falling out of favor with the hep crowd who simply moved on- and they wouldn't stop before dragging you around to show their newest discovery where you can have the best party ever. But after sometime it all becomes a blur as you go around hugging and air-kissing the same crowd of strangers masquerading as friends and flirting with women who you know you won’t dare proceed with any further and in turn being hit upon by girls you barely know and won’t be caught dead with in the real world- it was all a strange surreal experience and it took place every Saturday night, till you came home exhausted at 3am the next day to hit the sack and sleep till noon.

After a certain period of this- I rebelled- I didn’t want to continue this fast life anymore. I decided I was gonna clean up my act, get rid of this partying addiction and get on with my normal everyday life. But it wasn’t as easy as that. Kicking my addiction to a night out every Saturday night was one of the hardest things to do. It took every ounce of will power I had to turn down invitation after invitation from well meaning friends who often as not sounded genuinely puzzled on why I was avoiding them (had I moved up a higher scale in social standing?) and even used flattery to tempt you saying "But you are the life of the party- it wouldn't be the same without you".

And at least initially it used to leave me at a dead end wondering what the hell I was going to do with my suddenly free weekend and there was a subconscious itch somewhere whenever I remembered that other people were out there on the town having fun while I was holed up in bed with a book. But I took it on manfully and I beat my temptations and I no longer had the craving to live just for the weekends. Saturday became just another day and Mondays turned exciting- I turned into a total workaholic- and work and more work became the raison d’ĂȘtre of a good life.

Anyway it’s been many years since I gave up my partying lifestyle and I am proud to say that I have steadfastly refused to succumb anytime I was tempted to just have one last fling. But you know what, however long you stay off the stuff- the memories never go away, the memories of the good times you had in the past always stay there at the back of the mind and every time you show the slightest interest in nostalgia it takes it for a sign of weakness and starts tempting again. And you end up having to fight the good fight again and again- especially during the holiday season when others post their party pictures. Bu the thought that if you give in for just one more time- a final fling- very soon you will be again coming back home at 3AM on Sunday morning regularly acts as a timely warning to keep you on the straight and narrow road. And that is definitely not something to look forward to at this age.

So every year between Christmas and New Year I stay off the internet because having seen the so-called good life, I know by now that it is not really that good and so am quite happy to read a book or watch TV at home on New Year’s Eve. And if you are out there partying, I wish you a Happy New Year, 2014 and do have one on me….  

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Year End Rant - IIT Salaries And Idiot Doctors

A Year End Rant  - IIT Salaries And Idiot Doctors

The other day my dad was reading the paper aloud in the morning hoping to catch my attention with the news "IIT student gets 1 crore starting salary (that’s like 10 million dollars in American currency) in a software job" he said and looked slyly at me as I was tying up my shoe laces preparatory to leaving the house for work. I didn’t say anything to the obvious sarcasm, for what could I say? An amount that big? To tell the truth I haven’t even seen such a big amount of money leave alone make it even after so many years of working and earning and here was a kid just out of his teens earning such an obscenely huge amount every year. Point made to his satisfaction my dad went back to reading the rest of his paper.

All day that day i felt an irritating itch in the back of my mind that i was a failure in life and to avoid explanations for my gloomy face i spent time alone -whenever i could get away from the crowds outside- analyzing where i went wrong in my life to end up here - among those who didn’t earn one crore a year. Of course it was blindingly obvious where it had all started going wrong - in my utterly stupid (in hindsight) choice of education and career. And to think that i had turned down an engineering admission to select a career in medicine is what made it all the more galling. If only I had had more sense at that age. If only I had not lusted after those stupid two words "Dr" in front of my name. If only i had not been seduced by the coolness of wearing that white coat. If only i had been clever enough and selfish enough (like those IIT students) to put myself first rather than some abstract concept called society or people, I too could have been making a crore an year. Hell I could have made even more given that i am not exactly a dunce and was more than a match for any engineer when it comes to intelligence.

The fact is on an average basis doctors are as good as and intelligent as any other field of specialists- like software engineers, like nuclear physicists etc. Besides doctors are trained to work long hours continuously without complaining, to get by with whatever is available at the moment by employing their initiative and to make difficult decisions in real time and implement them confidently. Pop a doctor into any unfamiliar work environment and he or she will most probably pull their weight around far sooner than you expect.

This is because the medical profession has not only a very steep selection process they also train the hell out of you to mange any kind of situation coolly- a skill which is translatable to any field. Despite the long, hard, years and years of training even the best doctors- even those at the top of the profession- never get to make the kind of money you read about in the papers as being offered to young software engineers in their twenties. Face it, even a cardio-thoracic surgeon or a heart doctor who can remove a dead heart and replace it with a live heart bringing a dead person back to life- never makes the kind of money offered to a fresh software engineer- for think about it, how many patients have to actually get an heart attack (and nearly die) for the doctor to make so much money in the same period?

And can you honestly say that the value to society of a senior and talented cardio-thoracic surgeon is less than that of a kid who just graduated with a engineering degree. Such easy money offered as starting salaries to beginners has another un-looked for effect on society beyond the obvious financial implications. For kids who see and hear about the humongous salaries being paid by IT jobs will naturally gravitate towards such jobs - and even those who don’t have an engineering degree want to work in the IT field as support staff for services. For face it, who would say no to more money? As time passes the other professions like medicine, science and even finance would attract less and less intelligent people. In fact I already see this in my field- most of the new practitioners in the field of medicine are those who already have a secure job at home - either their fathers/extended families own large/multiple hospital chains and wouldn’t mind paying any amount of capitation fees to make their kids a doctor (to carry on the family business) whether the kid is interested or has an aptitude for medicine or not.

Intelligent kids with no family background in medicine are already avoiding joining the medical profession. I myself have personally advised two of my neighborhood  kids - bright fellows- to avoid joining medicine at all costs but to go join any engineering college/course and to get an software job -because there is no future in medicine. If after a certain period of time all the intelligent kids go away to become software engineers and only the dumb ones become doctors think how society would be? If god forbid you fall sick and you have an absolute moron operating on you -who only became a doctor because his dad could afford to pay whatever money was required to make him one? This is not a farfetched scenario- it is happening even as we speak.

And this is an inexorable process- no one can stop it. If the market determines every individual’s value then people who have value will naturally gravitate towards the highest bidder. For a large salary translates into a comfortable life, a good profile in the marriage market - haven’t you seen those ads in the matrimony columns of newspapers specifying grooms with MS degree/Green cards and onsite in USA? - and maybe a house in the city with a vacation home for the weekend- the perfect American dream in a poor country like India where other people struggle to find a tiny flat on rent as they cannot afford the high rent rates being charged by householders who assume that everyone is a software engineer and earn such large salaries- a perfect recipe for social disturbance. And that’s why I feel that disproportionate salaries in an otherwise poor country where everyone else earns very less is a recipe for disaster.

And let me conclude by talking about what many of you who read this will be itching (are your fingers already poised over the comments column?) to advice me- that medicine is a noble profession and i should be happy to serve people even  if i make no money and such feel-good dialogues designed to make me feel better. The truth is those who say that medicine is a noble profession and doctors should not mind serving the poor for free - those people who mouth such empty platitudes - are most often those who earn in crores too. It is easy to preach moralistic platitudes on behalf of others and tougher to practice it. Those who earn in 7 and 6 figures are those who advice others to be happy with 3 or 4 figure salaries. That’s why I always avoid anyone who tries to preach to me about "MY" duties as a doctor. Hell, I already know them all, for i chose to become one didn’t i? While you who preach to us did not opt to. 

Let me remind you that doctors are human beings too- we need to eat too, to buy/wear clothes and take care of our families and those who depend on us. You cannot force anyone else to sacrifice himself for society- maybe one or two saints will be there like that- but the majority of doctors would like to manage a comfortable living along with their social responsibilities. A working balance between ethics and earnings is what all doctors’ aim for and any disruption of this will lead to adverse events like overcharging and unnecessary treatments - something we are already beginning to see everywhere. So instead of blaming the medical profession for not standing up to the arbitrary standards of "noble profession" determined by society let society too reflect on why doctors are necessary for societal well being and why chasing kids away from medicine as a profession would be a bad idea for the further generations. Please think on that- a future where everyone is a software engineer and there are no doctors.

And as for me personally, having thought all day about it, I can only come to the conclusion that my dad is right. Society respects money and as long as doctors make less money than, say software technicians, we will always be seen as second class citizens with no real respect from anyone in the society. To regain respect from people I feel I have no other option except to resign my job, tear up my degree certificates and using my high school qualifications- apply again for an engineering degree- to start from the basics again. And four years into the future - I will probably be offered a software job with a starting salary in the crores too. That seems the wisest course right now- a mid-life course correction for an error made when young and innocent. So what do you think? Can I become a software engineer now? Or is it too late to do so?    

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Killing With Kindness

Killing With Kindness

I am sorry to say this Mr.So-and-so but i think your wife wants to kill you. Nothing else explains what you just told me.

But doctor I don’t understand, why should she?

How would i know? Have you recently insured yourself for a large amount?

No doctor, nothing like that.

So does she hate you for any reason at all? Have you had an affair with anyone? Like her sister for instance?

No doctor, that is not my weakness at all. I don’t go much for women.

Yes i understand from what you told me that eating well is your weakness (even if you just stuff food inside you mindlessly). So can you think of any reason, any reason at all, that your wife wants you dead?

No doctor I can’t think of a single reason why she wants me to die. But are you sure that I will die if I continue like this?

I am damn sure of it... there can be no other possible explanation to it based on what you yourself told me. Well let me summarize the facts for you again and let’s see if i got it correctly.

You are already overweight and obese and have no time to exercise. But every day  when you sit down to dinner and your wife makes Dosas for you, you don’t know the number of Dosas you eat, you don’t bother to count them but you keep eating as many of them as your wife keeps putting on your plate- which she does continuously telling you that you need your strength.

And if by a miraculous attack of conscience halfway through you get up and refuse to eat anymore- telling her the doctor advised you to control your diet, then your wife fights with you or bursts into tears and forces you to eat all the dosas she has made, right?

That means there is only possible answer- your wife wants to stuff you enough to make sure you get diabetes, kidney failure, hypertension, cholesterol, heart attack and die pretty soon- that is why she keeps giving you hot, hot dosas straight from the stove, what else can explain her behavior and your over eating?

Any other explanations people?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

This Day That Date –Tsunami Memories

This Day That Date –Tsunami Memories

This day that date- I was there. I didn’t want to be. I didn’t even know what I was getting into. They didn’t ask for volunteers, they just asked “coming?”. So I went. Many are the day, nights especially, when I had wished I had had the courage or the presence of mind to say “No, I wont come”. But I went anyway. I went as a group with my classmates from college. All the way down we talked about it but we didn’t realize. We didn’t realize what we were going to see there. No one had any idea. A good thing I might say. Even our wildest nightmares wouldn’t have prepared us for what we saw. We reached late- after all Cuddalore is quite a distance from Chennai. And by the time we got there it was all over- except to line up the bodies for identification and then burial. That’s all we did- checked the bodies to make sure they were dead. All the bodies which the sea washed back to us- back to land. The same cruel sea which had come in to take them away that morning and buried them in one huge mass of water in seconds. Yes, I was there. I was there on Tsunami Day- 26th December……a day etched in memory forever.