Monday, March 31, 2014

Stop with the Back-slaps.

Stop with the Back-slaps.

So on Saturday I was at a colleagues’ farewell party, said colleague leaving the city to re-locate in a different place with family in tow and all of us co-workers got together to throw him a small party before he left to show him a little appreciation for the years he had worked with us. In the midst of the party which I had helped organize the conversation somehow veered around to my latest exploits work wise.  For those not in the know (not reading this blog regularly) I have been having a quite productive first quarter and nothing is respected more by my peer circle than professional (and financial) success. So there were plenty of congratulations coming my way all evening which I was accepting with good grace except for the added twist of patting forcefully on my back with a hearty “great job” which seemed by far the most popular means of approval among my peers. 

I for one would have preferred a simple handshake or even a nod to all this back slaps and pats. But I had to perforce go through with it every time someone wanted to appreciate me again which they kept doing again and again as the evening progressed. When I finally escaped the party venue and headed home I sighed with relief.  Unfortunately the relief proved to be short lived for when I woke up on Sunday morning my back was pretty sore with all those hearty slaps given by heavy hands. I, like the next man, appreciate being recognized for my good work but can we at least from next time keep it down a mite? A good, hearty handshake, maybe? Spare the back and just give the praise, people. Ok?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Compromise Is Not a Dirty Word

Compromise Is Not a Dirty Word, is it?

Last night I was chatting with a young friend - a facebook friend who is a final year student in an engineering college and we were discussing her life after college. Somehow the talk accidentally veered around to romance (I swear I didn’t bring it up) and she was explaining in length about the kind of guy she wanted in her life. I confess that I did find it a bit amusing to hear her list out her requirements of an ideal man and it was long list too. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about what she said at the fag end of our chat when she mentioned that despite her long list of requirements she was willing to be flexible and give them all up if she found the right person -even if he didn’t tick all the boxes on her checklist. And that’s what got me thinking that this topic deserves a whole blog-post.

I generally get to meet a lot of people my age who keep talking about their conditions and their requirements and their necessities but rarely do they even think about how others might have similar requirements and how most of the time the two wont sync. Especially my single friends who have inflexible requirements for their prospective boyfriends and girlfriends and rarely or almost never do they compromise on their conditions. They justify their uncompromising stances on the theory that "why should I compromise? I deserve everything I desire and more".

But my point of view is that our achievements and qualities are all relative - what we think of as our crowning glory might not necessarily be on the top of the list of someone else. They might not value what we value. We should take a realistic look at our assets from others point of view too- that will help us decide if we really are all that we think ourselves to be. Most of the time we fool ourselves about our real worth to others. We have an inflated sense of our own importance and achievements and rarely do we benchmark ourselves honestly with other similar achievers. Honesty is the single most valuable ingredient when it comes to self-appraisal and for that reason rarely indulged in.

Having an inflated sense of self-worth is the leading cause of demanding all these inflexible conditions. Men who look to get super models as their girlfriends never ask themselves if they are fit enough to sustain such a relationship. Women who drool over handsome guys never realize that their dream boys spend more on cosmetics for a month than they do for a year. It’s all hidden behind the facade of an illusion. And what seems a perfect fit for your requirements is in reality just a hollow shell when you get to know the real self.

And that’s why compromise should not be a dirty word in   anyone’s dictionary. Being inflexible and holding out for what you deserve is all well and good if you are lucky enough to get it- which very few are. But for most of us normal human beings it’s better to be a little flexible and adjusting when it comes to the non-essentials if we are indeed looking for a happy life instead of just feeding our ego. Adjusting to alternatives and compromising on conditions is the wisest way to go when it comes to relationships.

And god forbid, when and if, true love happens, when you look into the eyes of someone and feel an instant deep connect and you know that she or he is the right person for you and to then reject them because they don’t fit your requirements is a sign of madness. No compromise is greater than true love when you meet your soul mate. Using your brain instead of your heart (when your heart truly knows) is the highest form of egoism and stupidity and destined for a sad and lonely ending to your life.

So to conclude this post, let’s all follow the example of my friend who despite being just a young kid showed me that she is far more clever and mature than many of us, including me. When the right person comes along let’s tear that list up and just go with our hearts. So what do you say? Do you agree with me? Or not?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Art, For Arts Sake

Art, For Arts Sake

So today I was in the OT- operation theater- where I was working on the lip of a patient using a laser when a colleague from another specialty wandered over to watch behind my shoulder. After a few minutes of close observation he told me "niceeee, you use the laser on the patients face like an artist uses a brush" before he went away. Although I didn’t show it then i really was pleased by his candid praise for one of the highest compliments you can get is from fellow practitioners and colleagues who actually know what they are seeing, know the difference between routine drudge work and high art and can understand how difficult it is to work on a moving canvas of soft flesh which is always wet and bleeding. That’s why I treasure praise from my colleagues more than from patients.

Another reason i felt happy was because I remembered someone telling me long ago, long, long ago, advising me that art will always tell and you cannot suppress creativity. When I was young I used to do a lot of amateur artistic stuff- draw, paint and even do caricatures and cartoons for the school magazine and other children's magazines. I was good with my hands so I kind of ventured into heavy duty stuff as I grew up - I won competitions for carving- soap carving, candle carving and I even started making art work from stainless steel wires and rods using a soldering gun - my own little art installations. But the pressures of studying for a professional degree soon had another victim and I had to perforce give up all my artistic inclinations and concentrate on studying, passing exams and getting my degrees. Pretty soon I had reconciled myself with the thought that my childish pretensions of artistic talents were behind me and now that I am a responsible adult I should do nothing which doesn’t pay well.

That’s why I was surprised at my colleague’s comment- it seems that I have now found a way to make my suppressed artistic talents shine again. The creative juices are flowing again and this time they are actually earning for me. So now i believe that saying I told you about - art does find a way through, doesn’t it? However bizarre and unexpected the route may be - it still finds a way through the shell to grow and shine brightly. And because of that compliment I have been smiling all day.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Angie gets my BP up....

Why Angie gets my BP up....

 So this morning while signing the attendance register i ran into a friend of mine from another specialty- a surgical oncologist- which is the medical term for a surgeon who deals with cancer patients and we ended up walking together to the canteen to get our early morning booster shot of caffeine before heading to our respective departments to start the work day. Among all the medical specialties I have the greatest respect for cancer specialists as oncology is one of the toughest specialties to practice if you are a caring doctor. There is so much you wish you can do for your patients but you are unable to do much practically and you have to be satisfied with just small victories. I have known oncologists who celebrate their patients 5 year survival rates (still alive 5 years after surgery) as big celebrations. As i said i respect them very much but I wouldn't like to be one of them, for i feel too much for my patients to ever develop the detachment to watch a two year old child die slowly before my eyes in such pain. That’s just not me.

Anyway after exchanging personal updates on each other’s lives the talk slowly veered around to the latest stunt pulled by that stupid "celebrity"(this wasn’t the first or the tenth word i typed, but this is a family friendly blog hence all those other words describing her were censored) Angelina Jolie who is singlehandedly doing such a disservice to cancer care everywhere (read my earlier post here on her breast cancer stunt). The news is- for her next stunt Angie is going to get her uterus removed even though she doesn’t have uterine cancer. What does one say about a woman who goes on an organ removal spree just because a genetic test indicated a "possibility", I repeat "only a possibility" that she may develop cancer sometime in the future or far future?  And what does one say about doctors who pander to her depraved wishes? Well, let’s leave it at that.

As i was sipping a strong filter coffee and chatting with my oncologist friend the talk veered around to the newer tests being developed for cancer diagnosis- the BRCA gene test and stuff like that. As I had written in my earlier blogpost, the economics of such tests prices them out of the reach of the average Indian patients especially as they are just screening tests and offer no conclusive (strong) diagnosis. It’s quite a gamble to spend lakhs and lakhs of rupees just to screen yourself on the possibility of being diagnosed for cancer when there are other better tests available for economic (Indian) rates. And this enormous economic disparity also extends to the availability of therapeutic drugs (treatment). Right now as we speak, there are tests available which can suggest medicines perfectly suited for your individual body cells but unfortunately they are not yet available in India or even affordable to us for they cost a minimum of 25 lakhs a pop to tell us which medicine works faster for our body.

To explain this further I would like to give you a brief overview on the treatment for cancer. Feel free to skip this para and move on directly to the next if you are not interested. As you know cancer cells are just normal body cells gone wild due to a variety of causes, none of which we can state with certainty right now. And currently we have three options to treat cancer cells - we can surgically cut and remove the diseased cancer cells or sometimes the whole organ to prevent the caner from spreading to the nearby cells. Or we can give massive doses of radiation -designed to kill all living cells in the vicinity of the cancer cells hoping to kill the cancer cells along with the surrounding normal cells. Or we can give what’s called chemotherapy- drugs which kill the cancer cells - by targeting the growing cells and as cancer cells are the fastest growing cells in the body they are killed far faster than the other growing cells in the body like the hair, nail and tooth cells - which is why cancer patients often have a bald look.

What the Americans have done recently is they have manufactured a test whereby small bits of cancer cells taken from a patient’s body are treated with small drops of the different cancer drugs. Based on the test report which shows which drug kills the cancer cells of the patient's the fastest that drug alone can be given to the patient instead of giving the other drugs one by one on a trial and error basis as we do right now. This targeted delivery of drugs help in faster cure rates but unfortunately the cost is prohibitive - it costs upwards of 25-30 lakhs of rupees to just find out which drug works best and then you have to factor in the cost of the drug itself and the total treatment becomes very costly for the average cancer patient. So we muddle along as we always do and only hope that the newer tests become cheaper with time for us to use.

So after talking with my friend on cancer trends what do I advise the average patient? Simple. Cancer is easily deductible in its earlier stages. Any general health check up done at regular intervals can easily pick up the earliest signs of cancer before they metastasize (spread) throughout the body. At the earliest stage it is easy to kill the cancer cells and cure the patients fully. So just like the western countries do, we Indians should make a habit of having annual health checkups. In fact it’s even more necessary for us Indians because unlike the Americans we don’t have an affordable health care act (heard of Obamacare?) to take care of all our medical bills free. Here we pay our own bills and most medical care is un-affordable for the average Indian salaries. So be wise and get that check up done. End of advice session. As for Angelina Jolie, oh hell, I got nothing to say.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Jews Run New York, Don’t They?

The Jews Run New York, Don’t They?

Sometimes you have the funniest conversation with the relations of patients and sometimes they are infuriating too. Case in point - an elderly relative of a young female patient of mine who proved the point that age does not beget wisdom and a bigot ever changes his colors. This gentleman had recently done an all expenses paid trip across the united states of America courtesy a son who is working there as a software engineer. The gentleman kept up a constant running monologue on the wonders of America and I, lost in my work with the girl, rarely heard the droning buzz until something he said struck a chord within me and I stopped abruptly and turned around to stare at the man.

What he said was this (verbatim) "New York alone is not nice - it is just like India and is so chaotic. And that’s because it is full of Jews everywhere. In fact, the Jews run New York, I heard". Now I have never met a single Jew in my life and I don’t know how they are in reality but generalizations based on stereotypes I have met all my life and fought against vehemently. All South Indians do not say "Aiyyo Rama" for everything nor do they love idlis and eat them all the time- breakfast, lunch and dinner. All Punjabis are not good hearted patriotic persons and nor are the Sardarjis cheats if you go by just your experience of Delhi's taxi drivers. You get the drift of what i am saying?

Anyway the old man who had been misinformed about the Jews had obviously not bothered to take the time to find out if his assumptions were true. Growing up in socialist India all our reading materials were full of Indian-Arab solidarity and the popular media in India often had a pro-Palestinian slant (Yasser Arafat was a much feted national hero in India)and it was all about the apartheid in the occupied lands and west bank and how the intifada was a war for freedom. It wasn’t until later, much later, when i started reading independent sources off the Internet (thank god for Google search) and especially after watching Schindler's List I realized that maybe the Jews had a reason for doing what they were doing. I could see their side of the equation too even if I didn’t sympathize with it. I came to the conclusion that blaming the Jews for the atrocities of the Israeli state in the West bank of the Jordan (occupied Palestinian territories) is as stupid as blaming me for the Indian state's atrocities in the North East States like Manipur or Nagaland for instance. People are just people everywhere; they have absolutely no say in what their rulers do in their name.

And to make such sweeping generalizations based on a two month tour of a land is indicative of inborn bigotry and race baiting. When you are born and grow up in a clannish way with an inherent sense of entitlement you never take the opportunity to cross over the aisle and see a different view point. The loss is the bigots for they go to their graves with a warped world view and never realize the world is a far more nuanced place than their beliefs allow them to see. As for the old gentleman in my clinic i turned around at his Jews run New York comment and asked him "why not? If someone has to run it why not the Jews? Who else would you want to be running it? Us, Indians? Did you see the streets outside? its nearly 80 years since the British left and we have been running things all that time with this effect" and I turned back to my work conscious that maybe i had spoken too much or too sharply. But it turned out good for it shut him up until the time came for to present my Fee List. And that is a different story for another time.