Posts Tagged ‘Doctors’

One of the several challenges of advancing age is the kind of vague pessimism which starts creeping upon us. The soul awakens us to some deeper realities of life. The mind takes a jaundiced view of Fate bearing gifts. The body, an old creaky jalopy that it becomes, needs to undergo more frequent bouts of denting and servicing.

Different body parts, of which we were blissfully unaware so far, start giving up their life long silence and start a ‘Me-Too’ kind of a campaign, demanding exclusive attention. The engine starts firing only on four out of its six cylinders. The fuel pump starts developing blockages. The carburettor needs cleaning more often. The radiator starts leaking. The battery charge keeps getting depleted faster.  The nervous circuitry starts letting us down. The lining of the stomach starts registering a protest as and when greed takes over prudence on the dining table; no longer can it match the relative youth of one’s taste buds which keep making one drool over deep fried stuff and gorging upon it with gay abandon.

Every 3 to 5 years, a new pill has to be popped up, adding to the existing array of pills and capsules of different hues to be put down the hatch at regular intervals. 

But howsoever dark the clouds may be, P. G. Wodehouse is there to help us to maintain a chin-up attitude!    

A Cardiac Challenge

Fifteen years after I had undergone a cardiac bye pass surgery, a condition of gradually unstable angina again caught up with me recently. I would spare the hapless reader of this piece from the medical and technical details of what exactly transpired. Suffice it to say that a complex array of cardiac tests were done using menacingly hissing gigantic equipment which made one feel sympathetic towards the character played by Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible series of flicks. After some of these tests, one was put on a drip, wired to a noisily beeping monitor and left to reflect on one’s life. The adventurous trauma finally ended with an angioplasty when a doctor with a stiff upper lip announced having sneaked in two stents inside the heart.

The process left one feeling like a much-punctured and deflated balloon, devoid of all vitality. In any case, at the best of times, one enters a hospital with a sense of deep trepidation. The fear of the unknown gnaws at one’s insides, leaving one wondering if someone sinister like Roderick Spode had eventually succeeded in turning one inside out and had then gleefully jumped upon the innards with hob-nailed boots.

But the adventure was not without its perks. Since one is willy-nilly forced to surrender to higher powers, one tends to become more spiritual. One learns to be more ‘patient’. One also runs into a delightful array of doctors, nurses and patients, almost all of different hues, ranks, sizes, shapes and temperament. 

Some Doctors That I Ran Into

One of the doctors I ran into was built along the lines of Doctor E. Jimpson Murgatroyd of Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen fame. His looks could easily send one’s spirits down in the basement. He had sad and brooding eyes and looked like someone who had been looking on the dark side of life since he was a toddler. Nevertheless, his advice was sane, frank and honest, though brutal.

Yet another I came across sounded more like Doctor George Mulliner. He was a caring and compassionate doctor whose brow was perennially worried about his patients. Whether consulting or doing a procedure, he would intermittently flash a reassuring smile, arresting a sudden spike in the adrenaline coursing through the veins of the hapless patient.  He gave an impression of someone who would be thinking beautiful thoughts while in bed but only after having read aloud a kids’ story from the oeuvre of someone like P. G. Wodehouse to his younger ones.

I also met Doctor Sally Smith who was not a generalist in this case but a junior cardiac specialist. I found her to be calm, empathic and fair. She placed a premium on understanding the psychology of the patient and genuinely tried to understand his/her concerns and address these to the best of her ability. When something critical was pointed out to her, her shapely eyebrows did not flicker even a fraction of an inch, making one remind of Reginald Jeeves. I am reasonably certain that during childhood, her doting mother had fed her with ample supply of salmon. She was a living proof of the fact that a woman cardiac specialist need not of necessity be an ugly duckling with steel-rimmed spectacles and a wash-leather complexion. In fact, she reminded one of Drew Barrymore of Charlie’s Angels fame, radiating charming competence of a high order.  

Initially, I also ran into someone like Emerald Stoker. She was one of those soothing, sympathetic kind of doctors you can take your troubles to, confident of having your hand held and your head patted. She was quite young but there was a sort of motherliness about her which one found comforting and restful. One could ask her any question about the impending procedure and she would answer it with empathy and patience. When one left her cabin, the sagging spirits had soared and the brow was not as burrowed as before; the soul was no longer in as much of a torment as it happened to be in earlier.   

The Nursing Angels

Some of you may remember Amelia Bingham of Bachelors Anonymous fame. She had fussed over Mr. Ivor Llewellyn, head of the Superba-Llewellyn studio of Hollywood, so very well that the latter ended up proposing to her, much against his own resolve to cease and desist from making impulsive marriage proposals.

Luckily, unlike Mr. Ivor Llewellyn, I do not head any Hollywood studio. Nor do I have a track record of having suffered through as many as five divorces. I am merely a widower. So, if any of you suspect my having fallen for one of the many nurses I ran into while in the process of getting an angioplasty done, you could not be more off the mark. One has one’s code, you see: The Code of the Bhatias!

If one of the nursing angels was like a Florence Nightingale who ensured that I kept getting adequate nourishment during my stay at the hospital, another was like Aunt Agatha who took sadistic pleasure in pricking the hands at all the wrong spots, eventually finding an appropriate vein in the forearms where a cannula had to be put. All of them had their own methods of removing the cannula and other sticky plasters. Some preferred to zip up the proceedings by doing it in a flash of a second, leaving one all shaken and stirred, ruing the painful loss of some body hair. Others went about it gradually, in slow motion as it were, making the proceedings somewhat painful, though for a longer duration.

However, in some aspects, their behaviour was pretty consistent. All of them kept treating me like an errant school kid who needs to be cautioned to have all his medications on time. When it came to checking blood sugar levels, all of them insisted upon puncturing one of the tender fingers. My repeated pleas to draw instead a sample from the cannula fell on deaf ears.

Patient care and comfort was, of course, their first priority. This included an ever-smiling visage as and when they entered the enclosure allotted to me. Some of them resorted to small talk, making decent and unobtrusive enquiries about one’s family members. When leaning over across the body to attach some leads, they would often apologize.       

Some were cast in the mould of Mary Anthony of Absent Treatment fame. They were tall, had a ton and a half of red-gold hair, grey/blue eyes, and one of those determined chins. Few showed signs of superior intelligence, capable of such feats as supporting a team in burgling banks, like Jill Willard of Do Butlers Burgle Banks? One, with a lissom and willowy profile, came across as Audrey Blake (The Little Nugget), who could have aroused romantic thoughts in the hearts of some of her patients.

The Common Thread

For all medicos, the patient comes first and foremost. When working in a public hospital, the pressure of revenue generation is singularly absent. Their exposure to a large number of patients with a wide spectrum of ailments makes them hotter at their jobs. Their professionalism only grows and matures over time, benefiting humanity at large. They facilitate the process of longevity and make us happy in the process. Their methods may be rough at times, but, as Jeeves says, one has to break a few eggs to make an omelette.  

It may be noted that there was a specific reason I did not carry any book of P. G. Wodehouse while being in the hospital. With all the tubes and monitors one was often connected to, one did not wish to add to medical complications by bringing about bouts of uncontrollable mirth. Guffawing, laughing out loudly and falling out of beds allotted to one would have raised many an eyebrow. Mere memories of his works and the delightful range of eccentric characters and goofy situations he has unleashed upon us are enough to help one to face the harsh slings and arrows of Fate. 

I confess I underwent the traumatic experience only thanks to the support received from my family and owing to Plum’s works. He has left behind for all of us a world which is so very soothing and comforting that one could undergo any difficult experience in life and yet experience happiness.

After all, in Something Fresh, he has himself said that:

As we grow older and realize more clearly the limitations of human happiness, we come to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to give pleasure to other people.

Sure enough, he delivers on his promise!

(Allusions to nurses are courtesy Neil Midkiff; Caricature of yours truly is courtesy Suvarna Sanyal)

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An Anonymous Doctor

Yet another medical practitioner who wishes to remain anonymous specializes in the realm of diet and nutrition. Like all good doctors, he advises those who have been disappointed in love to eat frugally. Fail to do this, and the result is as inevitable as the climax of a Greek tragedy. No man, however gifted his gastric juices, can go on indefinitely brooding over a lost love and sailing into the starchy foods simultaneously. If so, indigestion grips him soon enough, making him consult a physician like the one alluded to here.

His solutions to cure a soul in torment may sound drastic, but are invariably effective. He is apt to put one on a diet comprising nothing else but the juice of an orange.

He may advise the patient thus: ‘Precisely. Take your orange. Divide it into two equal parts. Squeeze on a squeezer. Pour into a…

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The World Health Organisation, as the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations system, adheres to the UN values of integrity, professionalism and respect for diversity. It upholds such values as human rights, universality and equity established not only in WHO’s Constitution but also in its ethical standards.

In order to further strengthen the team of medical as well as paramedical professionals associated with us, we are hereby pleased to announce the immediate empanelment of the following experts drawn from Plumsville.

Sir Roderick Glossop

The high-priced loony doctor, with a bald head resembling the dome of St. Paul’s cathedral and two ferocious eyebrows which give his eyes a piercing look, has a pleasant baritone voice. He is expected to counsel all those who happen to be in quarantine to make creative use of their time while curbing their tendency to indulge in gambling, getting otherwise…

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An Anonymous Doctor

Yet another medical practitioner who wishes to remain anonymous specializes in the realm of diet and nutrition. Like all good doctors, he advises those who have been disappointed in love to eat frugally. Fail to do this, and the result is as inevitable as the climax of a Greek tragedy. No man, however gifted his gastric juices, can go on indefinitely brooding over a lost love and sailing into the starchy foods simultaneously. If so, indigestion grips him soon enough, making him consult a physician like the one alluded to here.

His solutions to cure a soul in torment may sound drastic, but are invariably effective. He is apt to put one on a diet comprising nothing else but the juice of an orange.

He may advise the patient thus: ‘Precisely. Take your orange. Divide it into two equal parts. Squeeze on a squeezer. Pour into a glass … or cup,’ he added, for he was not the man to be finicky about small details, ‘and drink.’

(The Juice Of An Orange; Blandings Castle… and elsewhere)

Laura Pyke

When it comes to maintaining your digestive system in the pink of its health, yet another dietary expert, Laura Pyke, could assist you. Some may consider her to be a food crank but she is a professional who thinks most of us not only eat too much but also too quickly. She recommends a diet comprising only parsnips and other greens. Alcohol, she maintains, corrodes the stomach tissues.

She is apt to gaze at you like a high priestess imparting instructions to her favourite, though erring, disciple, while describing the manner in which you are ruining the lining of your stomach when you keep eating stuff lacking in fat-soluble vitamins. She would speak freely of proteins, carbohydrates, and the physiological requirements of the average individual.

When you shift to any of her diet plans, your immunity levels are bound to go up, thereby reducing the probability of getting afflicted with viruses of any kind.

It is always wiser to consult her either online or by physically popping up at her clinic, if you have the permission of the concerned authorities. Inviting her to your home, even if she happens to be an old school chum of your spouse, is best avoided.

(Jeeves and the Old School Chum; Very Good, Jeeves)



Wilfred Mulliner, a brother of Mr Mulliner, is a chemist and is the inventor of various creams, lotions, and tonics, known in the trade as Mulliner’s Magic Marvels.

Many of you may recall the following creams, lotions, and tonics invented by Wilfred Mulliner which are specifically mentioned in various narratives dished out by P G Wodehouse.

  1. Mulliner’s Raven Gypsy Face Cream.
  2. Snow of the Mountains Lotion
  3. Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo
  4. Mulliner’s Reduc-o, the recognized specific for obesity. Available in the form of tablets (3d the tin) or liquid (5s6p a flask).
  5. Mulliner’s Ease-o, cures the most stubborn case of lumbago in six days.

Of these, Buck-u-Uppo is a tonic invented ‘primarily with the object of providing Indian Rajahs with a specific (concoction) which would encourage their elephants to face a tiger of the jungle with a jaunty sang-froid.’ It works directly on the corpuscles. The dose for an adult elephant is a teaspoonful mixed with the elephant’s morning mash. If consumed by Home sapiens in glassfuls, it makes them far more confident and assertive, making them succeed in life, whether personally or professionally.

In these times, when work-from-home is the norm, spouses who get persuaded to try a small dose of this concoction may not venture out to paint statues pink. Bishops may refrain from frequenting nightclubs dressed in Sinbad the Sailor costumes.

But long term pending projects at home, such as mowing a lawn, clearing snow off the driveway, garage cleaning, painting a room blue while awaiting the arrival of the stork to deliver the next baby, spending quality time with family members, wearing skirts for a change, tidying up the fridge, doing dishes and mopping the floor, would get attended to with much enthusiasm and aplomb; much to the delight of the party of the other part which had since long given up nagging of the party of the first part on such issues and had instead decided to take a spiritual view of things.

(Buck-U-Uppo features in three Mulliner stories: ‘Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo’, ‘The Bishop’s Move’ and ‘Gala Night’.)

Dentists I. J. Zizzbaum, B K Burwash and the like

Merry laughs and gay quips make Doctor I. J. Zizzbaum the life and soul of the party at the annual dentists’ convention. But this does not guarantee his behavior when approached in his white-coat-upholstered professional role.

If his trade rival B K Burwash, who is also in the business of teeth management, has landed a prize catch in the form of a celebrity client like Joey Cooley, the 12-year-old movie star and darling of all American mothers, you could find him to be a gloomy cove, appearing like a dentist with a secret sorrow. This could leave you shuddering even more while seated in his pin-cushioned dentists’ chair.

Dr B K Burwash has a reassuring smile and is rather used to handling celebrity clients who could amount to free advertisement worth about a thousand dollars in the olden days, besides the heavy fee he pockets even otherwise.

Then we have the dentist in Shrewsury who wishes to render his services anonymously.

(Laughing Gas, Leave it to Psmith)


Some of the Veterenians

Dr Smithers is a veterinary surgeon who gets called in to investigate the sudden onset of asceticism upon the Empress of Blandings after her keeper Cyril Wellbeloved goes out of action, so much so that she, a hearty feeder, starts refusing any form of nourishment. Somehow, he is baffled by this sudden change in her dietary habits.

 (Blandings Castle, elsewhere)

Banks is yet another vet who gives a clean bill of health to the Empress even when she refuses to accept a potato offered by Lord Emsworth.

(Pelican at Blandings)


Webber is another vet who gets called in when the Empress ends up gobbling Gally’s memoirs.

(Heavy Weather) 

Lord Emsworth may have a poor opinion of all these gentlemen. However, we learn from reliable sources that they are capable persons who can bring relief and succor to many of the species known to mankind.

Augustus Whiffle

Residents of Plumsville would fondly recall the dietary requirements of the Empress of Blandings, as prescribed by Whiffle, an authority on all matters porcine. According to him, her daily nourishment should not be less than fifty-seven thousand eight hundred calories, these calories consisting of barley meal, maize meal, linseed mail, potatoes and separated buttermilk.

In order to assist vets and pet owners of all kinds, Augustus Whiffle (or Whipple), the well-known author of Lord Emsworth’s favourite book, The Care of the Pig, has been roped in to promptly dish out his advice on handling pets of other species as well, covering dogs, cats, horses, cows, lions and the like. This, it is hoped, will cheer up pet owners and exert a soothing influence on them when they suspect their pets to be suffering physically in any way. Moreover, the communication gap between a white hunter and a lion which has just been shot, as to whether the latter is dead or alive, could become a thing of the past.

An elderly man with a thin, reedy voice, Mr Whipple is a member of the Athenaeum club and is so impressed by what he hears of the Empress of Blandings. Our office has already contacted Lord Emsworth to request his permission to enable his wish to be fulfilled. We hope a gesture of this kind would enthuse Mr Whipple to churn out his advice in respect of other species without much delay.

(Blandings Castle, elsewhere)

It is hoped that the steps taken by us would assist humans as well as members of other species to attain the highest possible level of health. WHO would keep making its unique contribution towards promoting health, keeping the world safe from pandemics and serving the vulnerable, with measurable impact for people at country level. As always, we are individually and collectively committed to put these values into practice.


Illustrations of some of the characters have been dished out by Suvarna Sanyal, a retired (but not at all tired) banker who has a flair for dealing with figures. Illustration of the E of B courtesy the www.


Inputs from the following fans of PGW are gratefully acknowledged:

Abhik Majumdar

Arun Krish

Bommireddipalli RamaKrishna

Devadas Mallya

Mahesh Sankaran

Morten Arnesen

Gopalakrishna Annavarapu

Pradeep Swaminathan

Ryk Westwood

Satish Pande

Sudhakar Ravindranath

Sudheer Tambe

Ted Fontenot


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The World Health Organisation, as the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations system, adheres to the UN values of integrity, professionalism and respect for diversity. It upholds such values as human rights, universality and equity established not only in WHO’s Constitution but also in its ethical standards.

In order to further strengthen the team of medical as well as paramedical professionals associated with us, we are hereby pleased to announce the immediate empanelment of the following experts drawn from Plumsville.

Sir Roderick Glossop

The high-priced loony doctor, with a bald head resembling the dome of St. Paul’s cathedral and two ferocious eyebrows which give his eyes a piercing look, has a pleasant baritone voice. He is expected to counsel all those who happen to be in quarantine to make creative use of their time while curbing their tendency to indulge in gambling, getting otherwise sloshed by liberal doses of their favourite tissue restoratives and consuming tobacco in any form whatsoever. He would advise all and sundry to refrain from drinking coffee as he feels that it is the root cause for half the nervous troubles of the world. He has already issued a forceful appeal to governments all over the world to ban the item at least during the time humanity is fighting the dreaded Corona virus.

Given his serious-mindedness in all matters professional, he could be often found surreptitiously observing people under stress in the garb of a butler. Those who have already fixed an appointment with him are best advised not to carry any musical instruments with themselves. Nor does he tolerate pets of any kind, specifically cats.

(Thank You, Jeeves; Very Good, Jeeves; elsewhere)

Sir Hugo Drake

He is yet another famous nerve specialist, assisting those suffering from acute stress generated by country-wide lockdowns which are the norm these days. He is said to be tall but stout.

His passion for the game of golf is well known. He has a deep respect for transatlantic golf. He is never a man who pays much attention to women’s looks. What matters to him is the professional merit of the party of the other part, whether medical or otherwise. He also dishes out books which are found wonderful by such general practitioners as Doctor Sally Smith.

(Doctor Sally)

Doctor Sally Smith

She is a general practitioner from USA. While handling medical emergencies, she is always calm, empathic and fair. She places a premium on understanding the psychology of the patient.

She detests the fact that the male mind does not appear to be able to grasp immediately the fact that a woman doctor need not of necessity be a gargoyle with steel-rimmed spectacles and a wash-leather complexion.

She is averse to getting proposed to by potential suitors while being on duty. She takes a dim view of men who have simply inherited their wealth, preferring instead those who work hard for eking out a living.

(Doctor Sally)

Doctor E. Jimpson Murgatroyd

Your first sight of this capable doctor may not put you at ease. He happens to be a gloomy old buster. He has sad, brooding eyes and long whiskers, and his resemblance to a frog which has been looking on the dark side since it was a slip of a tadpole is apt to send your spirits right down into the basement. He has bushy eyebrows which accentuate the effect of his sounding like a minor prophet about to rebuke the sins of the people. He has this habit of scratching his nose with his stethoscope at frequent intervals.

However, his check ups are thorough. He would weigh you first. He would then proceed to check your blood pressure and pulse. Thereafter, he would tap you all over like a whiskered woodpecker.

His diagnosis is invariably accurate, especially when it comes to red spots popping up in any region of your physical body. His advice to you could be frank and honest but brutal, barring you from such stimulants as alcohol and tobacco. Your irregular hours may get criticized. Your not getting enough exercise may get commented upon. Once the lock down gets relaxed, you may be advised to give up your unwholesome metropolitan life, move to the country, breathe fresh air, go to bed early and also to get plenty of exercise.

(Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen)

The Anonymous Speech Therapist

Those who have fallen in love and are unable to articulate their tender feelings to the party of the other part due to their terrible stammer and overcome their shyness in these virus-ridden times may consider consulting the specialist on Harley Street. He is a kindly man with moth-eaten whiskers and an eye like a meditative cod-fish. He may benevolently advise you to speak to three complete strangers a day.

‘Many people,’ he may explain, ‘who are unable to articulate clearly in ordinary speech find themselves lucid and bell-like when they burst into song….stammering,’ he may add, ‘is mainly mental and is caused by shyness, which is caused by the inferiority complex, which in its turn is caused by suppressed desires or introverted inhibitions or something. The advice I give to all young men who come in here behaving like soda-water siphons is to go out and make a point of speaking to at least three perfect strangers every day. Engage these strangers in conversation, persevering no matter how priceless a chump you may feel, and before many weeks are out you will find that the little daily dose has had its effect. Shyness will wear off, and with it the stammer.’

(The Truth About George; Meet Mr Mulliner)

Doctor Hailsham

Many of you may have a tendency to overeat when stressed out due to prolonged confinement in isolation wards or when quarantined at home. You may have recently put on extra layers of fat on your persona. Comely girl-friends who have a marked distaste for bulging eyes, triple chins and a pear-shaped body may already be registering protest, threatening to put you in cold store and redirecting their affections elsewhere. The cane chairs you normally sit upon might already be creaking and complaining about the harsh treatment being received at your hands.

If so, you may choose to spend some time at the place run by Doctor Hailsham. By way of tissue restoratives, it offers parsnip juice, followed by either stewed lettuce or an orange. On special days, you could be lucky enough to find some exotic items to be put down your hatch, like potassium broth and grated carrots, followed by a refreshing cup of dandelion coffee. You can also go in for seaweed soup, if you prefer.

Doctor Hailsham guarantees to take a pound a day off you, if you follow his regimen faithfully. He also cautions you to make proper arrangements for your travel to his camp, perhaps hiding in a cargo van ferrying fresh fruits and vegetables.

(The Fat of the Land; A Few Quick Ones)

Dr Ambrose Gussett

If you are twiddling your thumbs trying to figure out how to have your rival-in-love returned to store, leaving the field clear for you and your beloved, Doctor Ambrose Gussett would be the right person to consult. He happens to be a thorough professional and a person with deep reserves of tact and resource.

He is a well-liked young doctor, and a golfer with a handicap of two. Some of you may recall that he had once fallen in love with Evangeline Tewkesbury, who had come to the community visiting her aunt. The Oldest Member had then entertained doubts if Ambrose should consider proposing to Evangeline, since she played tennis and not golf, but Ambrose felt that he loved her anyway.

When his tormentor and rival-in-love, Dwight, had fallen sick after an overdose of alcoholic stimulants, Ambrose had lost no time and had acted like a true medico. Dwight had then also got annoyed by a parrot which had been delivered to his house, though he did not remember having ordered one. Ambrose had advised him to rest.

At Evangeline’s place, her aunt had told Ambrose that the former was upset, because nobody had remembered her birthday, though Dwight had promised to buy a parrot for her. Convincing Dwight to let go of the parrot, gifting it to her lady love and then proposing to her had come easy to him. She was hesitant but had eventually agreed.

This is the kind of professional attitude, tact and resource medicos need to handle the multitude of patients afflicted by the dreaded virus these days.

(Up From the Depths; Nothing Serious)

Doctor George Mulliner

He is a caring and compassionate doctor whose brow is often furrowed worrying about the likes of Nurse Wilks, an old nanny of the family. Senior citizens of all hues, sizes and shapes are hereby advised to turn to him for palliative and geriatric care.

The fact that he asks his brother, Frederick, to visit their 85-year old Nurse Wilks, despite knowing that she is as autocratic now as she was during their childhood when she used to shut them up in cupboards for stealing jam, goes on to establish his credentials even in the field of community medicine. Since her heart is weak, Frederick is advised to do whatever she wants him to, including partaking boiled eggs and taking off his shoes; in short, getting treated by her as a school going kid.

Eventual reward for Frederick is a happy reunion with the object of his affections.

(The Portrait of a Disciplinarian; Meet Mr Mulliner)



Illustration courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, a retired (but not at all tired) banker who has a flair for dealing with and drawing up figures.

Inputs from the following fans of PGW are gratefully acknowledged:

Abhik Majumdar

Arun Krish

Bommireddipalli RamaKrishna

Devadas Mallya

Mahesh Sankaran

Morten Arnesen

Gopalakrishna Annavarapu

Pradeep Swaminathan

Ryk Westwood

Satish Pande

Sudhakar Ravindranath

Sudheer Tambe

Ted Fontenot


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Those who happen to be offering medical succour in the private mode at Pondicherry are always a delighted lot. The city and its environs enable a steady supply of patients to them at all times of the year.

Absence of adequate parks and public spaces discourages long brisk walks. Ready availability of tissue restoratives of an alcoholic nature further compounds the problem. Pleasures of the table often override other considerations.

An early onset of diabetes sets in, leaving the few cardiac specialists, endocrinologists and diabetologists in the pink of financial health. Those practicing general medicine and dentistry can be found twiddling their thumbs, trying to manage the crowds of eager patients rushing to their doorsteps. Ophthalmologists, nephrologists and urologists also have no reason to complain of any slackness in business.

Couples in the reproductive age group do not shy away from their bounden duty to keep the species of Homo sapiens alive and kicking. This explains the overflowing waiting rooms in the clinics of those who specialize in obstetrics and gynaecology. It follows that practicing pediatricians are never short of customers willing to top up their coffers.

The wide range of cuisine that is on offer is exotic indeed. Owners of eateries, roadside stalls and lavishly furnished dining halls of jazzy restaurants and hotels can be found laughing all the way to their banks. But Pondicherry’s gifts to our gastric juices also end up enriching another tribe – that of gastroenterologists.

The municipal authorities ensure that pavements in key shopping areas of Pondicherry either remain cluttered with start-ups of all kinds peddling their wares or are in a perennial state of disrepair. The primary benefit of these uneven pavements reaches the limited number of orthopedic doctors and clinics in the town.

Add to this the singular reluctance of two-wheeler drivers to wear helmets, and one realizes why the hapless neurosurgeons also wear a constipated look and have dark circles below their eyes most of the times.

The per capita availability of educational seats and the corresponding jobs available to the youth of Pondicherry continue to be inversely related. Frustration builds up early. Understandably, the place gets labeled as the suicide capital of India. But practicing psychiatrists could be seen pulling their own hair out in their tax consultant’s offices year after year, trying to minimize their tax payouts.

Trying to make a career choice these days? Consider the option of becoming a doctor and setting up shop in Pondicherry. You shall be handsomely rewarded.

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When a loved one suddenly falls sick, our first reaction is that of disbelief. Then comes denial.Caring Michelangelo's_Pieta Superior powers get questioned as to why they thought it fit to bestow the loved one with such a challenge. Gradually, acceptance dawns and one moulds the activities of one’s life around the new core of reality. The health challenge could be either an accident or a serious ailment or even a lifestyle disease which behaves like an unbidden guest who refuses to go away.

How does one manage a change of this nature? Well, here are seven habits which can be cultivated to transform a wide-eyed and bewildered soul into an effective Caregiver.

Communicating as per the Psychology of the Patient

There are patients who prefer to show off their illnesses to any and all who express concern. They would prefer to wear their ailments on their sleeves, much like a Chopard watch. Then there are those who would consider an illness a strictly private affair, not to be discussed even within their close circle of friends. Based on the category under which one’s loved one falls, a Caregiver would tailor his/her communication to those around accordingly.

When it comes to communicating with a patient, there could be occasions on which the Caregiver can choose to be a hypocrite. Even if the Caregiver harbors a seething anger and a burning anxiety within his/her bosom, it helps to maintain the sang froid, so to say. A calm exterior and a cheerful disposition on the Caregiver’s part radiates a youthful energy all around, thereby lessening the level of anxiety and the fear of the unknown felt by the loved one.

Expecting the Unexpected

Lifestyle diseases are silent killers. These tend to accelerate the ageing process. Since all organs of the body are interconnected, complications involving other vital organs of the body could start popping up at unexpected times. It surely helps to have a prognosis and a crisis handling plan in place so as to minimize the subsequent setbacks, if any.

Cultivating a Circle of Doctors

The leisurely days of having a single family doctor are no longer with us. Considering the prognosis of the disease, it helps to have a circle of three kinds of medical experts. A specialist who addresses the core sickness, a generalist who can advise on side effects of drugs and can take care of peripheral issues as and when these come up and a group of friendly doctors which can be counted upon to provide a second opinion and whose help can be invaluable in case of an emergency.     

Being Prepared for a Long Haul

Lifestyle diseases creep in on one rather quietly. Once these settle down in the body, it is notPatient Medicines easy to wish these away. Yes, a sustained effort supported by exercise, meditation, medication and a positive mindset do help to keep these under check. One therefore needs to be prepared for a long haul, needing a strong will power and perseverance, especially on the Caregiver’s part.

Mind over Matter

It is critical to ensure that the patient remains relaxed and happy. Thus, it is important to create a stress-free environment with as much fun and frolic thrown in as possible. Knowing what makes the person happy and arranging the same is of crucial importance. A Caregiver needs to be prepared to make sacrifices to give up his/her own beliefs and individual fancies to ensure that the patient remains in a positive frame of mind.

Advising Wisely

The worst thing a Caregiver can do is to compare the condition of the patient with that of another afflicted with the same disease. Each individual is uniquely configured. Even though the broad principle of a treatment may be the same, there could be many variations based on the individual condition and temperament of the patient.

Advice should be given only when it is sought. Unsolicited inputs end up confusing and demoralizing the patient. Heresy dressed up as wise counsel often comes in from those who come calling on the patient. A Caregiver’s role is that of a filter which ensures that the patient receives a feedback which is balanced and objective.

Taking Care of Oneself

A Caregiver cannot afford the luxury of being sick himself/herself! The primary responsibility Caring Michelangelo_pietà_rondaniniis to take care of oneself, so the support provided to the patient does not get diluted.

Such habits, if inculcated by the Caregiver consciously, can help the patient to recover faster and better.

Overall, an important issue is that of the will and faith of the patient. If the patient believes that all will be well, good health is quite likely to follow. Faith in the doctor, as also in the medicine being taken, can work wonders. The Caregiver’s primary task is to create and sustain this belief in a realistic manner.

Those of you who face a similar challenge in life may like to comment and add a few more habits which they find useful. 

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In a majority of movies churned out by Bollywood, doctors and nurses have only been on the fringes of the narrative. But there are some which have highlighted the professional trials and tribulations faced by our healers. Few have even commented upon the complex challenges of poverty, malnutrition and scarce resources faced by doctors and nurses in a developing country like India.

Keeping in tune with the times, the depiction has also undergone a major transformation. As our society has become more self-centered, so has the general character of the doctors and nurses shown in the Bollywood flicks. The self-sacrificing doctors of yesteryears have slowly but steadily given way to glamorous ones playing second fiddle to a mostly romantic script at hand.

Risking Their Own Lives

In the pre-independence era prior to 1947, we had self-sacrificing doctors who rendered their services in alien lands, serving the Poster Dr_Kotnis_ki_Amar_Kahanipeople affected by war and plague. Old timers may remember Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946, V. Shantaram, ‘The Immortal Saga of Dr. Kotnis’) which was based on the true life-story of Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis who was sent to China during World War II. Dr. Kotnis helps the people of China during the Japanese invasion. Rendering a selfless service, he marries and settles down there itself but eventually dies of plague.

Post-independence, we had Dil Ek Mandir (1963, C. V. Sridhar, ‘Heart is a Temple’), where the doctor performs a successful surgery but ends up collapsing due to the tireless effort he puts in preparing for the same. Aman (1967, Mohan Kumar, ‘Peace’) was inspired by the story of Dr. Kotnis. The hero gets inspired to serve humanity after meeting Sir Bertrand Russell and goes to Japan to serve the victims of nuclear holocaust.

In Selfless Service  

In movies like Anuradha (1960, Hrishikesh Mukherjee) and Khushboo (1975, Gulazar, ‘The Fragrance’), the heroes are doctors Poster Khamoshiwho decide to serve poor villagers in the interiors of India. Risking their own health and welfare, they keep busy with their work and neglect their family and personal lives. In Anuradha, the wife eventually ends up sacrificing her urbane musical ambitions to support the husband. In Khushboo, the wife does so but not before she has questioned his lack of initiative in inviting her to live with him. Both movies had finely chiseled performances by the lead actors – Balraj Sahni, Leela Naidu, Jeetendra and Hema Malini.

Khamoshi (1969, Asit Sen, ‘Silence’) had the inimitable Waheeda Rehman playing a nurse in a mental asylum. She falls in love with a patient who gets well and moves out without reciprocating her sentiments. Impressed by her success, the doctor-in-charge entrusts yet another patient to her care. She falls in love with him as well but loses her own mental balance when he is cured. The moral of the story: a medical professional should not get personally involved with a patient. Easier said than done!

Battling the Big C

In the 1970s, Bollywood came out with several movies which had a medical problem as the cornerstone. In quite a few movies, cancer took over from TB as the real villain. Most of these movies tugged at our heartstrings. One, there was the inevitability of death. Two, the sheer helplessness of a doctor made the narration even more poignant. Audiences loved them nevertheless and often came out of theatres with drenched handkerchiefs.

Safar (1970, Asit Sen, ‘The Journey’) had a doctor facing the charge of intentionally killing someone dear to her. The story was Poster Anandessentially a love triangle. The underlying theme was that of jealousy of the doctor’s husband, guilt of the doctor wife and reconciliation with the fact of impending death by the wife’s close friend who is afflicted with cancer.

Anand (1971, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, ‘Bliss’) was a landmark film which touched upon several facets of a doctor’s life. Indian health care system’s discrimination between the haves and the have-nots of the society was one of the facets. Yet another was the transformation of an atheist doctor into someone who starts  believing in the power of prayer to heal. The need to have a positive attitude towards life, howsoever short it may be, was the basic message of the movie.

Commercial and Legal Dilemmas

Tere Mere Sapne (1971, Vijay Anand, ‘Your Dreams, My Dreams’) narrated the story of a doctor who migrates to a city after Poster Tere Mere Sapnehaving suffered professional as well as personal setbacks in a rural setting. His transformation into a money spinning professional in an urban environment is well captured. Eventually, he migrates back to the village and regains his sense of good values and ethical practices in healthcare.

Achanak (1973, Gulzar, ‘All of a sudden’) posed an interesting dilemma faced by a doctor at times. Does it make sense for a doctor to strive hard to save the life of a convict who is to be sent to the gallows? The movie answers this question in the affirmative.

The Fringe Benefits of Healthcare

In Silsila, we had a hapless doctor (Sanjeev Kumar) trying to figure out how to handle the post-marital affair of his wife (Rekha). In Satte Pe Satta, we had the heroine (Hema Malini) playing a gutsy nurse, though only in the first few reels.  Salman Khan in Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, Abhishek Bacchhan in Dostana, Kareena Kapoor in 3 Idiots, Vidya Balan in Pa and Aishwarya Rai in Guzaarish were all glitzy characters playing to the gallery, with their medical talents appearing only on the fringes of the main narrative.  

Healthcare with Bear Hugs

Munna Bhai MBBS (2003, Rajkumar Hirani) was a hilarious take on the medical profession. It touched upon the mixed up Poster-Munna_Bhai_M.B.B.S.priorities in hospitals where patients lack a personal healing touch and where procedures take precedence over urgent medical issues. Quite a few of our aspiring and practicing doctors would have drawn inspiration from the movie to improve the healthcare system by according better priority to compassion, empathy and liveliness in treating patients!

Summer 2007 (2008, Suhail Tatari) raised the issue of lack of awareness amongst medicos about the social ills and absence of any healthcare delivery service in India’s rural areas. Greedy moneylenders and power-hungry politicians rule the roost. A group of medical interns attempts to cope with the daunting challenges facing villagers.

Waiting for Medical Blockbusters!

The wide variety of healthcare related issues touched upon in these movies is commendable. However, one still waits for an in-depth poster comatreatment of the field of medicine at the hands of Bollywood. There is immense scope for medical thrillers based on patent rights of gene based therapies, moral dilemmas raised by the new frontiers of medicine, whistle blowers exposing corrupt practices in the pharmaceutical industry, shortages of critical vaccines and contemporary challenges on providing universal healthcare services in India.

In the last decade, Bollywood has demonstrated its capacity to make shorter movies based on innovative themes. Hopefully, the field of medicine would also get better attention with script-writers and directors coming out with a Coma, a Strong Medicine, a Virus and, possibly, even an Erin Brockovich in not too distant a future!

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As we celebrate this year’s Doctor’s Day, one’s thoughts inevitably turn to the string of doctors who have treated oneself as also near and dear ones at some point of time or the other. A word of gratitude is surely in order. For these are the people who show us light when we are enveloped by the darkness of ill-health. They give us hope when we need it the most. They have the capacity to ease our minds, make us worry less about our sickness and do their very best to lessen our pain and suffering.Doctors Day

They have to necessarily cope with patients of all sizes, shapes and temperaments whose income and curiosity levels also vary. Some patients are content with merely following instructions, whereas others who believe in self-medication and suffer from ‘Googlitis’ merely come to see a doctor to get a confirmation of the sickness they already believe they are suffering from. If the doctor comes up with an unfamiliar name of illness, orders a new test or prescribes a hitherto unheard of  medicine, such patients go back quite convinced that the doctor is a ‘good’ one!

If one has a complaint, it is only that they work too hard, often neglecting their own well-being in the process. One silently admires their chin-up attitude; despite remaining surrounded by human misery in possibly its worst form, they continue to smile and keep their focus on the task at hand. The poor souls have family responsibilities just like all of us. However, for a vast majority of them, patients are always the first priority, virtually 24X7.

The Angels in White

Same can be said of the nurses, technicians and other para-medics who are eternally vigilant in taking care of the patients under theirFlorence_Nightingale charge. The angels in white uniforms ensure that the right medicines are being taken at the right time. They also grapple with issues facing several patients at any point in time, coordinating with each of the doctors concerned and ensuring that relevant instructions are rigorously followed.

Nurses play an important role in maintaining the morale of the patients as well as the relatives at an appropriate level. Often, they have to bear with patients who have a foul temper. A caring and compassionate nature, coupled with a high Emotional Quotient, helps them to handle their complex task.

The Patient Patients

It is rather baffling that while we celebrate a Doctor’s Day (July 1 in India, March 30 in US) as also a Nurse’s Day (May 12 internationally), we do not spare a thought for the hapless patients. Their contribution to the field of medical science is no less; the entire medical fraternity owes its existence to patients! Moreover, besides being sick, they have to show remarkable patience while undergoing the trauma of getting treated – in getting an appointment with the doctor, endlessly waiting in queues to see one, pushing around to get all kinds of diagnostic tests done, rushing back to the doctor to get medicines prescribed and then going through the whole treatment.

In case a surgery becomes necessary, the immediate family gets involved. In these days of nuclear families, the support of theCartoon Dr Patient family’s social network becomes critical. The fear of impending surgery gnaws at the inner being of the patient, whose energy gets all the more depleted in the process. The fact that the he/she is causing so much trouble to all near and dear ones goes on to add to his/her agony. Post-surgery, pain and trauma have to be faced to which all others can only be mere spectators. Back home, an endless routine of visitors starts, with some of them making uncharitable and insensitive comments which make the poor patient suffer even more mental anguish.

The Silent Sufferers – Attendants

And what about the hapless attendants? They have to practice multi-tasking no end. Answering calls from anxious but distant relatives while procuring medicines is only one facet of the challenge. Organizing food which strikes a delicate balance between what is wanted and what is needed by the patient is another one. If admitted to a hospital, lot of formalities and paper work may become necessary. Round-the-clock surveillance becomes necessary. Skills in house-keeping come in handy, because prior to the scheduled visit of the doctors on rounds, the nurse with a stiff upper lip keeps nagging the attendant till the time the patient is in a ‘presentable’ condition and the room is tidy and orderly. Naturally, the fairer of the species fit into such roles with much ease!

For an attendant, PR skills are a sine qua non, because an endless stream of visitors has to be managed. In most cases, patients treatMother_Teresa_memorial_plaque the number of visitors as a clear measure of their personal popularity index. Nothing would cheer them up more than to keep a tally of the kind of fruits and goodies brought in by various visitors, so the favor may be returned at some future date in a proportionate manner. On their part, some of the visitors leave the hospital in a cheerful mood, thanking the Divine for not putting them in the patient’s predicament.

One would propose that as a caring society, we seriously consider declaring days earmarked to celebrate a World Patient Day as well as a World Attendant Day. The European Union has already taken a lead in this direction, with May 15 being observed as a Patient’s Rights Day. One sincerely hopes that other forward-looking countries would not only declare Patient Days but also honor the nameless attendants who silently slog and bring some relief and succour to the ailing patients. This would ensure an equitable treatment to all those who play a crucial role in the well-being of Homo sapiens!

Medicine-related blogs on this site:

  1. 1.   ‘A First Hand Experience in Medical Tourism’, published December 14, 2012
  2. 2.   ‘The Miracle of Alternative Therapies’, published March 31, 2012

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