It’s that time of the month again!… Rather than writing about something surreal and beautiful, (not unexpectedly) I thought of doing some reality check.
It might also give future medical students and doctors something to think about.
Recently I was asked by GMC (General Medical Council) to attend one of their “Welcome to UK” Courses in London as a prelude to a FB Live Event coming up in Manchester. Following this I was asked a few questions and also asked to write a blog of my experience as an overseas doctor arriving in London.
What transpired from all this was the lack of a Governing/Regulatory Body for the doctors in India.
We are all aware of the media headlines about assault and physical violence towards doctors in India. They feel largely exposed and helpless and this was one (but not the only) reason that propelled me to look for greener pastures abroad.
However, I have seen the other side of it when my father (and my great uncle too) became a patient in India. I was shocked by most of the doctors’ attitude. The utter lack of respect, dignity and confidentiality loomed large. The very doctors who are so vociferous about physical assaults towards them these days, had once been my seniors in Med School. I have seen them slap women around in labour rooms when they cried in pain and agony during delivery! This is my first-hand experience.
For those who are reading this might be largely divided into two groups by now and I can relate to both.
However, just because I am a doctor I will not blindly take their side!
More than a month ago, I was abused on social media for mistakenly confusing a Spanish guy as Dr Shetty (the cardiologist) because apparently Dr Shetty is considered to be “God”.
Shortly afterwards I found one of my FB Friends addressing her GP husband as “God”, again something I did not agree with and said so. She was fine with it but, it did not go down very well with the arrogant GP.
Both their arguments were that doctors are very dedicated group of professionals, working long hours and many do charitable work etc etc.
May I remind people that most doctors put in those hours because they get paid for it! Just like a lawyer would. When it comes to charity, there are many other professionals who give up a major share for charity-be it time, money or both. Cristiano Ronaldo donates blood regularly which means he cannot have any tattoos (which, footballers are rather fond of); he sold his Golden Boot, which is really no small matter and I can go on about his charitable contributions and still people never called him “God” despite his achievements as a footballer.
A doctor is no different from an engineer, lawyer, technician, scientist etc- we have knowingly chosen this profession to “serve” people. Patients put all their faith and trust in us and we should respect that by providing the care they deserve. In the UK, the most trusted profession, until recently was doctor (91% votes) which has now been replaced by nurses (94% votes). We are no “God” and GMC is always there to remind us of that.
And that’s exactly what is lacking in India. If India had a governing/regulatory body it would protect the patients as well as the doctors today.
… More The Calling
My parents lived in the suburbs, which had then been an oasis of sweeping paddy fields, mango groves and children diving gleefully in the waters of the ponds around us. A large part of that has now been replaced with houses to keep up with the ever-growing population.
I grew up in boarding school in Calcutta (GMGS) and then lived in the campus hostel whilst in Med School.
It was a 2 hours commute to Calcutta on the local train from home and then a hike on the bus.
I absolutely hated that commute!
Notwithstanding the heat, sweaty bodies or grime, it could get worse.
The commuters consisted predominantly of suburban men (only 1 carriage of that heaving train was allocated to “ladies”). Men and women were kept separated from time immemorial and there has to be a cause be a cause for that. And it is not modesty.
It is molestation.
I first started commuting (accompanied by an adult male of course) at the age of 9yrs.
From that tender age onwards I had been the victim of “dirty hands”. Being with an adult male I had no option but to board and commute in the “general” carriages. It was not until my days in Med School (infact after I graduated) that I had the huge benefit of commuting on my own in the “ladies” carriage.
Hands were everywhere, touching my top as well as bottom. I had endured it in silence taking shelter in the arms of my mejdadu or my dad. I started raising my voice much later as an older teenager, but, soon learnt that there was a downside to that too. If you catch one perpetrator, another one is lurking behind, salivating for his chance.
Tables would soon be turned against you and you will be named and shamed for seeking out a molester in everyone. Sadly that is actually the case, otherwise why assign a “ladies only” carriage?!
After I moved to the UK and started commuting here (and have been doing so for the past 15 yrs), packed like sardines in the rush hour, not once have I experienced anything remotely similar to what I had in India.
Of course, in the heightened irritability of the commuters during rush hours (taking into account train cancellations, delays, flooding, fire, terrorism) there has been many arguments, but, molestation and sexual predators- Never!
And yes! No separate “ladies” carriages here either. That says a lot, doesn’t it.
The Jyoti Singh case in 2012 in New Delhi is a burning example where she was gang-raped on the bus (assisted by the driver) and murdered, despite being with another man.
And then we come to paedophiles again, for I was a child when this all started- innocent and scared to raise my voice. It felt horrendously filthy and shameful. I could not fathom what was happening.
We are all aware (although whether we want to admit it or not is a different matter) that platform and station-dwelling children are always a target for child-trafficking. This message was loud and clear in the 2016 film Lion based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley.
There had been an outcry that “poverty is being marketed to promote a film” missing the whole point of the issues highlighted.
When do we start acknowledging that we have a problem? The first step towards changes is acknowledgement. Can we endeavour to do that atleast?
… More Ladies’ Compartment
I arrived alone in London with 2 suitcases and in an oversized coat on a dreary spring day. I was excited and looking forward to discover England just as I had imagined in Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries.
My dreams were (not surprisingly) soon crushed as I landed head first in England in 2003 rather than 1950. Struggling to cook up anything decent in a rundown rented kitchen in Eastham, where the refrigerator did not work (and found a place in the overgrown garden) and a ceiling which leaked bathroom water, I desperately prayed and hoped things can be better than this! I learnt very quickly that if I had to survive on my own I have to adapt fast and soak everything in like a sponge.
I didn’t find a job for 6 months whilst I watched the money that my parents had sent steadily dwindle! To make matters worse, my dad’s best friend (whom he had shared rooms with throughout their sojourn at NRS Medical College) who was supposed to help me, decided to cut all ties with me because, I got “friendly” with his Irish cleaner!!! All the poor lady did was to have offered to help me with her car to move houses, because she felt sorry for me! Technically this should have come from him in the first place, being the owner of 3 cars……….As if that was not enough my dad’s other friend gave me an earful over the phone whilst I was enquiring about any possible job break, with “Look I have plenty of Indian doctors asking me for jobs everyday, one of them is a gold-medallist and of course I have to look after him, rather than you.” I stopped asking anyone for favours again or even expecting any help from fellow Indians.
I must say my prayers were answered and I was indeed luckier than my 2 very close friends who had to return to India (after being jobless for 6 months) when GMC pulled the plug on recruitment of non-EU Doctors.
I had to learn English all over again. It seemed whatever I had learnt did not quite go in the country where this language originated. My social skills and communication were so inferior, that my medical knowledge did nothing to make up for it and my grades suffered.
It was a constant struggle and effort to prove myself. I had never been lucky and my journey had never been smooth. Whatever I achieved in life had to be hard-earned.
Eventually in 2010, I got my break (it was a déjà vu feeling of “Mera Number Kab Ayega??”). I was summoned by no other than Queen’s Square NHNN, the leading Neurosciences centre to take up a locum job as Registrar. From then on, I never had to look back. I trained as a Neurophysiologist, became a consultant in a much sought-after field working alongside and helping the neurosurgeons, epileptologists and intensivists. When my skills were recognised and my opinion being sought after, it was an exhilarating experience. When the certificate of Excellence as a reviewer landed in my mail-box from none other than the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, it was worth every struggle, every hurdle that I had to overcome and I remember my eyes moistened…..
Therefore, no matter how hard life may seem and how lonely it might feel, believe me you will be rewarded if you persevere. It might not seem that way at the time, but, it does happen.
And most importantly if no one had helped you achieve what you have, then no one can claim any contribution for you success, isn’t that good ?! 😊
… More Too Cold Outside for The Angels to Fly…