Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Is it a Hilarius story or a Boring one?

Seeing as I am the lone surgeon in the hospital for some time, with my colleague Dr. Lurstep taking a well-deserved break after all my gallivanting, I realise there will be not much time to go on and on as I usually do on a post. So this is just to share with you one of the incidents that made my long and slightly stressful day easier to bear. I was seeing out-patients with Dr. Mohan Mathew John, a dear friend from college. Things were going on just like any normal OPD when I saw him do a double-take right after I had called out the name of a patient. Having been in Shillong for 2 years, I am now quite used to some interesting names that some of our patients have been christened with! In respect their owners, I will not recall any here, but suffice to say, that there are some extreme examples of strange names! So when I saw the name of the patient I had just called upon, I realised it was funny all right, but nowhere near some of the examples I had come across over the two years! Hilarius S.... I smiled to myself for a brief second and then got back to the business at hand. But when I called the next patient, I had to stop and laugh for a bit at the irony of the situation! For his name was Boring S...!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Linkorama 19/4/11

One of the results of my re-prioritisation was a decision to reduce the number of Linkos. But sometimes, there's a link or two that I just have to share and then there will always be a few more to fill it up. So here are today's links.

PANTRY-CAR HERO: Here's the story of Mr. Pawan Kumar whose presence of mind in a crisis saved the lives of many members of the Rajdhani Express from Mumbai which caught fire early on Monday morning. Considering all I have seen on my recent train journeys, it's amazing that there were no casualties.

ONE-LEGGED WRESTLING CHAMP: This is one of the most inspiring stories I have yet come across. Anthony Robles, who was born without one leg recently won the US National College College wrestling championship in his weight class. This young man has proved yet again that there are no real barriers to reach our dreams. (HT: Vit Z)

MORE ON THE TIGER MOTHER: The story of Amy Chua and her strong views on parenting has created much controversy. Here is a review of her book by Albert Mohler in which he says that while Christians should share some of her concerns on the prevalent style of parenting in the West, it is her goals that are questionable. Should we aim to make our children merely 'achievers' of high grades, degrees and musical expertise or should we be parenting our children for 'deployment in the Kingdom of God. A good review and view-point.

WHY GOD CREATED ALLERGIES: I just spent the whole day in theatre sneezing and wheezing away - something that always happens to me after a journey. Today it was so bad that my mask kept filling up and dripping secretions onto my gown!! Hope my patients don't catch anything!! This is a tongue-in-cheek offering by a fellow-sufferer who wonders why God created allergies!!

WINDOWS IN DANGER: This article talks about the way the iPad is eating into the PC market. I haven't held one in my hands yet, but I've seen quite a few being used. The last one I saw was in the hands of a friend's daughter - all of nine years old!! I guess I'm just behind the times!! (And also, I haven't stumbled across a gold mine yet!!)

DAILY DOSE OF CALVIN: Speaking of parenting, my appreciation of Calvin's Dad continues!!

TODAY'S VIDEO: I was keeping this video for a post on marriage, but it's been waiting too long! Enjoy!! (HT: Pradeep)

Mozart's Miserere and Stephen Wiltshire - strokes of genius

During the Holy Week, I am always reminded of the story of the Miserere mei, Deus, (Have mercy on me, Oh God) the beautiful choral work composed by Gregorio Allegri. It is a setting of Psalm 51 and is performed in the Sistine Chapel during matins on Wednesday and Friday of the Holy Week. Soon after it's first publication, the Vatican ordered that it be performed only at those 2 services and forbade anyone from copying the work. The punishment for its performance or replication was excommunication. At the age of 14, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart visited Rome and heard the Wednesday performance. Possessed of a character that was naturally set against authority and rules, he went home and transcribed the whole piece from memory. He then went for the Friday service with his music and corrected his mistakes. Later on during his travels, he met and Englishman who took the piece from him and published it. It is said that when the Pope heard of Mozart's feat, he was so amazed at the young man's genius that he forgave him and lifted the ban on the piece. Now while this piece from the Renaissance period is not as elaborate as some of the choral works from the Baroque and Romantic periods of music, this feat is still an amazing example of Mozart's musical genius and memory. 

And recently I came across the story of another young man with a similarly amazing memory though in a different sphere of art. Known as the Human Camera, Stephen Wilshire has become world-renowned for his ability to draw cityscapes in great detail, purely from memory. He also amazing musical memory and the rare ability to identify the exact pitch of a single note. He has published 3 books and has been appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to art. And he also happens to be autistic, speaking his first word 'paper' only at the age of 5. It is truly a humbling and inspiring story. This is his website and following is the video of one of his feats of memory. (HT: Challies)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Crazy drivers!

In keeping with my plans to reduce time spent on blogging, I have been holding of posting any linkoramas! But here's some funny stuff to get you through the weekend! And I post this with all due respect to the fairer sex! These things just happen, I guess!!

picture of woman driver incident

picture of woman driver incident

picture of woman driver incident
Abhe - Ultaa hai!!!

picture of something stupid

I must say again, these things could happen to anyone...... But here are some that could only happen to a woman - especially concerning hair and make-up!

picture of woman driver incident

picture of something stupid

And before I finish, just to make everyone involved feel a little better, here are some interesting male drivers!
picture of something stupid

picture of something stupid

Have a great week-end!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How jobless am I?!!

Recently I met an old friend of mine. After we had caught up on all that had been happening since we last met, he said - I hear you write a blog very regularly. Of course, I perked up a lot at this and putting on (what I hope is) my most modest expression, I said - Well, not all that regularly, but yes. He then put on his advisory face (being old friends gives him that privilege, I guess!!) and said - Yes, I wanted to tell you that you should not write everyday. It will appear to everyone that you are jobless!!

You can imagine my chagrin!! So much for the compliments I was expecting! But he certainly did have a point - something which I have heard from a few people in the past as well. And so I began to consider if I was really as jobless as I was accused of being!

And as I examined the extent of joblessness of my life, I realised that our state of mind is what determines how 'busy' we are. In fact, my father, who is probably my greatest inspiration, does not believe in using the word 'busy'. He prefers to call himself 'pleasantly occupied' even when his life runs at a pace most of us would be totally unable to handle! And I guess that's what I would call myself too. It does not matter that work begins at half past 7 and often ends after 9 or 10 at night. Nor that during that time, the only real break will be when we gobble down the Maggi or poori that suffices for lunch. For at the end of the day, as I have said before, the tiredness melts away into a feeling of being happy and fulfilled. And this provides enough energy to sit at the computer and hack away at a post without pausing to consider either my 'tiredness' or that someone out there will think I have too much time on my hands!! Blogging is a relaxation, it is true. And if the price I have to pay for a blog post is for my friends to think I am jobless, well, so be it!! And to those of you kind enough to read and respond, thank you - it means a lot.

P.S. Apologies for the 'rant' once again!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The terrible things we doctors do....

The government has recently launched the Rashtriya Swasthiya Bhima Yojana (RSBY), an innovative insurance scheme that will cover hospital bills for people under the poverty line. I will not delve too deep into the details - those interested can read about them here. Suffice to say it is a scheme whereby hospitals will be reimbursed by the government for procedures on poor patients who are treated completely free. As this applies to private and government hospitals it has been hailed as yet another of the poor-friendly schemes this government has brought in. But for every government scheme in India, there will a certain group of Indians who will identify loopholes they can milk for money. And in this instance it is the doctors who are the culprits. I write this with a sense of disbelief and shame that members of my profession can stoop to such levels, but I realise how strong the pull of money is on the Indian psyche and know that incredible though they sound, these things are certainly possible.

It seems that there are many ways that the system can be corrupted. The first and easiest method is of course to perform unnecessary procedures on poor and illiterate patients who have very little clue about what happens to them in a hospital. In fact, before the advent of RSBY, it is probable that some of them would never have dared to darken the portals of a private hospital due to the prohibitive costs involved even to just meet a doctor. This of course, is a time-honoured tradition of milking an insurance system and is practiced, I believe, in all corners of this planet. Then we move to the more innovative schemes that our Indian doctors have devised. A common one is to bill the unsuspecting patient for a different (and more expensive) procedure than he or she actually recieved. A patient may have gone in for a lymph node biopsy, but is told he had a thyroidectomy, or at least, is billed for one. This may cause some problems in the future if he did at some point actually require a thyroidectomy, but that would be his problem of course.

And today, I heard of the most 'enterprising' scheme of all. It seems there is a  huge network of touts, whose job it is to bring patients with the insurance card to the hospital, for which they get paid a cut. This of course, is yet another well-known Indian tradition. There are touts operating even in supposed Meccas of good medical prcatice like CMC, Vellore. But one senior surgeon decided to reduce the stress on the touts. And in the process, increase his profits! So he told the touts to bring him just the cards, without the patients! And then entered their names in his register and billed them for a variety of procedures! This may have continued for many years had he not gotten too greedy. Questions were asked when the numbers emanating from his clinic were hugely different from the numbers of the other practitioners in his town and after about a year of this lucrative enterprise, he was finally caught. Of course, by then he had made more than enough money for his get-out-of-jail-free card and is back in his practice now with hardly any repercussions.

This post sounds a little like a rant, and I apologise. The more I see the way my profession is headed, the more scared I am for its future. We are already at the stage when money and perks define nearly every decision of a doctor from the time he or she steps out after internship. And we seem to be fast reaching the stage when the desperate desire for money and more money make us silence even the little that is left of our conscience after the world of modern medicine has twisted and warped it. Can we ever return to the days when medicine was a noble profession and its practitioners were the moral leaders of society? Will doctors ever return to the Hippocratic Oath that we so hypocritically swear to? Or is our profession doomed to wallow for ever in the murky mires of greed and avarice? Only time will tell, but the signs are not too good.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Mathew Family News Update

I sometimes have the tendency to speak a little too much too soon! Believe it or not, after all I said about the trains in my last post, I had to take a 34 hour journey the very next day! Now I am back in the geographical, political and spiritual centre of India - Uttar Pradesh for a short visit before I return to Shillong. But that's not the news I want to share. After 2 wonderful years amidst the beauty of Meghalaya, the time has come to leave it all behind and pack up. Amy has qualified for a post-graduate programme in anaesthesia at her Alma Mater, CMC, Ludhiana. She has already joined and I have the lonely job of packing up, saying good-bye and shifting over the next month or so. I will probably have some more reflections on our time in the days to come, but my initial feeling, as I prepare to begin the 'leaving process' is of amazement and gratitude at the journey we have had. I had never considered the North-East as a possible place of work until our wedding - my mind would always drift in the BIMAROU direction. But what a wonderful 2 years we have spent here. The beauty of the place, the warmth of the people, the excellent opportunities at work and the growth of our relationship have been just a few of the blessings we have encountered in these last 2 years. So though we are loath to leave, we are grateful for the clear guidance as to our next step. And we greatly look forward to the next phase in our journey of life knowing that the God who has been so good and faithful to us so far will continue to lead the way as long as we are ready to follow. Thank you all for being a part of our lives through this blog. We look forward to your continued prayers and accompaniment as we make this shift. And the welcome to visit beautiful Shillong still stands, though the window of opportunity to do it while we are there is now closing! Just one month to go!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Oh the joys of Indian Railways.....

At the end of each bout of travelling, when I get back home, I take a bath, jump into bed, heave a long sigh and promise myself never to do it again. Especially if the travel has been in the loving arms of Indian Railways. But of course, such promises are never meant to be kept and it's not very long before the process repeats itself. Of course, by then, the stresses and strains that brought forth that firm resolve in the first place have been long forgotten. And the astronomical air-fares that jump out at me from my computer screen (a fact of life given that the planning for most of my journeys is usually postponed till the very last possible moment) send me scurrying back to the afore-mentioned loving arms. And that love is not just a metaphorical feeling. It is translated into action and demonstrated in the gifts it bestows - at the end of the journey in the lap of this kind mother, a large portion of the dirt and grime that were previously in her possession have been lovingly passed on to you - and so strongly that it takes a thorough exfoliation down to the deeper layers of skin to finally rid yourself of this gift!

The stories I could tell of my experiences in trains range from the hilarious to the bizarre. Like waking up in the middle of the night in a train that was slowly exiting the platform, desperately gathering my things and jumping off, only to realise it was the wrong station. Or pushing my way into a hugely overcrowded unreserved compartment only to be slowly and inexorably pushed further and further in until I found myself inside the toilet which was where I was forced to spend the rest of the long journey as further movement in any direction was rendered impossible by the teeming and irritated masses. For sure, I have had my share of unforgettable train experiences, just like any other self-respecting Indian. These stories will hopefully keep on ice until they find utterance in the pages of the literary masterpiece that my ever-hopeful soul believes is germinating somewhere deep within (though stories like that would probably make it unlikely to be ever classified as a masterpiece!). Today I tell the story of my latest journey - a two day adventure from Ludhiana to Guwahati.

It started at the unearthly hour of 2:30 am when I bid a sad farewell to my beloved wife (who is, by the way, now a permanent resident of Ludhiana) and wended my teary way to the Ludhiana railway station. In the past, there have been major disruptions to my sang froid when, having overslept on the day of a journey, I would find myself left with a bare minimum amount of time to get to the portal of departure before the mode of transportation left me behind. Having learnt my lessons from these experiences I resolved to refrain from falling into the temptation and stayed awake until I had to leave. After all, I had 2 long days ahead of me where I could catch up on all the sleep I had lost and possibly, even make some sleep-deposits for the future! But I had not reckoned on the various roadblocks that our beloved Indian Railways would erect on my path to a peaceful journey.

The first of those came up when I entered the compartment only to find there were 2 gentlemen on the seat I had thought would be mine. Of course, I had an inkling that I would have had to share my berth as, in accordance with my usual policy and practice in these events, I had booked my ticket at the last possible minute and hence had been relegated to the ranks of 'waiting list'. Thanks to the hundreds of people who change their minds every day about long distance travel, my position had moved slowly to RAC (reservation against cancellation), which means that you can get onto the train, but you may have to share a berth with another passenger. So far, I have travelled this way only once, about 7 years ago when I was working in Jharkhand, and my co-passenger and I spent a day in great much tension and mutual antipathy, until he slipped the TT (Ticket Collector) some money and got himself a berth of his own. After that experience, I was prepared for the worst, but when I got on the train, I realised I was hardly prepared at all.

For, as I mentioned, on my berth there was not one, but two young gentlemen! It seems that they were travelling together with waiting-list tickets and only one of them had been upgraded to RAC. So that meant that I had to share with not one, but two people! Fortunately, unlike the last time, all of us were ready to 'adjust' (don't you love the way that word takes on such a new meaning in the Indian context!!) and so we spent a peaceful, though uncomfortable and slightly cold night together. But the morning brought with it and even more interesting situation. All RAC passengers are allotted the side lower berths, and during the day, the person on the side-upper berth comes down to sit at the window! So now there were four of us on the berth, squeezed together like sardines, a jumble of (dirty) legs, hands and sweaty bodies! And just to make things more conducive to enjoyable travel (!!), there was no electricity in the compartment, which meant that there were no fans to at least dry up the sweat that was flowing freely from all of us, given the heat of the day in Uttar Pradesh! At intervals, we would try to shift positions, if only to bring back sensation to various parts of our bodies that had gone to sleep, thanks to the unyielding pressure of each other, but these shifts involved such contortions and convolutions that they were few and far between. By the middle of the afternoon, I was quite dreading the thought of spending even another hour in this situation, let alone the 30 odd hours that remained of the journey.

And then, just when I thought there were no more muscles in my body that could go into spasm due to the cramped position, a miracle happened. A family travelling with us offered me a berth! Now, this family had booked 6 tickets, but 2 of their members had changed their plans at the last moment and so they had 2 extra seats. I had noticed this and had thought of telling the TT, but something had prevented me. Looking back, I realise that had I told the TT, it is likely the berth would have been given to someone who had increased the weight in his pocket rather than me! Other passengers too had noticed this, but anyone who attempted to even sit in the empty seat was chased away with strong words and raised voices. But somehow, seeing my plight, this family had decided to have mercy on me! The train was jam-packed (though not as badly as the one in the picture!!). Each bogie had at least 40% more passengers than it was built to accomodate. The passages were all lined with bags and people and even a few bathrooms had been requisitioned to hold baggage! (This was possible as, for most of the journey, there was no water!!) But in this packed train, it just so happened that the only 2 empty berths were right in our own coupe! I cannot explain this except to wonder in gratitude at God's surprising provisions in all circumstances.

And so, I spent the rest of the journey in the upper berth they had offered me. The heat of the day , the cold of the night, the lateness of the train and the interminable stops as we neared Guwahati bothered me little. I could not stop shaking my head in wonder at the amazing way I was reminded that whatever the situation, and whatever my mistakes (like booking late!), I was still remembered by my Heavenly Father and offered unexpected blessings from unexpected sources. It is experiences like this that make life so exciting and give me so much to look forward to. I know there will be many who will be happy to put it down to coincidence, but I no longer believe there is such a thing. I know that there was Someone watching over me, who knew I was nearing the end of my tether and put it in the hearts of those people to offer me their berth. My faith is still much smaller than a mustard seed, but experiences like this are slowly, but surely, making it grow.

And as for our beloved Indian Railways, many though the discomforts are, I still greatly appreciate this  behemoth that transports such vast numbers across huge distances in ever-shortening periods of time. And remind myself, as I have written before, that every time I travel by it, I am taught something new - about my country, about myself and about my great and loving God.

Apologies and thanks!

I have been off the blogosphere for nearly a month now, expect for very few short, intermittent patches as I have been travelling. My sincere apologies to those of you who continue to check in despite my lay-off and are . And a word of thanks as well. I made a re-evaluation of my priorities recently, and realised the blog was being given a tad too much time in my already full days. I would probably have signed off completely had it not been for those of you who regularly visit, as well as the number of people who have been kind enough to tell me they appreciate it in various ways. Thank you for your mails, messages on Facebook and verbal/telephonic encouragements. They have certainly meant a lot to me. I may not get back to the high output that I was generating sometime back, but I will continue to put down some varied thoughts every now and again. If there's nothing for a few days, do check out the old stuff!! And of course, I look forward to your comments and criticisms, they make my day!!