Wednesday, September 28, 2011


There are two kinds of Dreams. The first one is the kind that one has during day time, when one is fully awake and conscious; the kind that our former People’s President of India Abdul Kalam extolled the younger generation to have. His advice that unless you have dreams about your future you cannot achieve anything in life, is so very true.

The more ambitious your Dream, and the more challenging, certainly makes life more interesting. Relentless pursuit of one`s dreams will certainly help achieve success in life. As was proved by that people’s businessman; industrialist (Late)Dhrubhai Ambani, of Reliance fame. A man with humble beginnings, he went on to build one of the biggest industrial empires in the country. What Tatas & Birlas took a century to build, he did it in 25 years. It is another matter that he fully exploited the loopholes in our system and the avarice and greed of the `Babus` who run the country. The fact is that he had big dreams and he realized them in his lifetime! No wonder you will find signboards carrying the slogan, “If you can dream it, you can make it” in every corner and in every establishment his group owns.

For the second kind of dream (Zzz..); you have to be fast asleep; and you have no control over what dreams you are likely to get. The kind most of us have almost every night and forget the next morning!

I have regular dreams; some of them pleasant where my fantasies come true. But many of them, which keep recurring, are bizarre! Like the times I find myself flying in the sky, looking down at the earth below like a bird. It is said that, when a person dies, his soul hovers over the body for some time, seeing all that is happening around! I am also told that many of our Yogis achieved this status when they were deep in meditation. Whatever it is, I am happy that I am still alive and kicking in spite of the ‘flying’ experiences in my dreams!

Another dream which keeps recurring is the one where I am walking on the road and suddenly find myself without any dress- almost in my birthday suit! Everybody is staring and laughing at me. And I am running away from the crowd with both my hands trying to cover myself!!

The latest dream which has been haunting me repeatedly during the last couple of months goes like this. I am abroad visiting a new country or a new place and suddenly discover that my tickets and passport are missing. I am desperately running from pillar to post trying to locate them.

I don’t know what to make out of such dreams.

There are occasions when I am woken up by my wife asking me why I was howling in my sleep. Invariably it would be a bad dream- either a beast chasing me or somebody trying to attack me- what a relief to realize that it is after all just a dream.

I think I got the dream bug from my mother. Almost every day she would have some dream, which she would then describe vividly, to anyone who cared to listen. If the dream came to her early in the morning and if it was a bad dream, she would be tense the whole day. There was a belief among the older generation that the dreams you have early in the morning, will come true! She had many such theories for both good and bad dreams.

In her last days, when she was bedridden, she had a recurrent dream of a burglar entering the bedroom when she was asleep. Hearing her screams, we would rush to her, to find her awake and sweating with fear. She would complain that a burgler had entered the room through the window and was trying to kill her! We would laugh it off and reassure her that no burglar can ever enter the room through the window. Satisfied that it was just a dream she would go back to sleep.

But it is strange that years after she passed away, a burglar did enter our house on a Sunday morning through a window in the drawing room, by carefully removing the grill!

After all my mother’s early morning dream did come true!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Family Doctor

As a boy growing up in the chawls of Bombay, when anyone in the family suffered from a health problem, be it the common cold, fever, cough or minor cuts / burns, the first person to be consulted was the family Doctor – the General Practitioner or GP as he was well known in the medical world then. Such GPs with an MBBS degree and an additional FRCS qualification were found on every street of Matunga, where we lived.

Most of the GP’s landed up converting one of the rooms in their residence into a clinic, with an attached dispensary manned by the ubiquitous Compounder; a breed which has completely vanished today. The doctor would sit behind a table and a long bench adjacent to him was used for the physical examination!

Every time, the patient`s weight would be checked; temperature, BP readings taken and the lungs or heart examined with the stethoscope. Invariably every patient would be asked to open the mouth (say aah!) and put his tongue out so that the doctor could check for tonsillitis or other throat infections. If it was a stomach problem, he would ask the patient to lie on the bench and physically inspect the stomach by pressing the different sections to identify the exact location of the pain or any growth. Then he would pull out a pad and write a prescription and ask you to collect the medicine from the Compounder, whose job was to `dispense` the medicines prescribed by the Doctor.

This guy would take your prescription and vanish behind a partition in the dispensary. He would come back with a standard vertical rectangle shaped bottle containing a `Mixture` (a combination of medicines in liquid form) and a brown envelope containing certain no. of paper packets with either tablets or medicines in powdered form. The bottle would have the dosage indication on a paper label pasted to one side. The label would indicate the quantity of each dosage and the number of doses in the bottle. Very rarely would the doctor recommend branded medicines back in those days!

The patient not only had to wait patiently in the queue for a consultation with the doctor but also wait for the compounder to deliver the medicines. I wonder if the word ‘patient’ was coined by some bright guy, waiting patiently at one such clinic!

If the problem was serious, then the GP would invariably refer him/her to a hospital – private or public for further investigation and treatment by specialists who were available only in the hospitals. Unlike now, where we find specialists for every part of the body, in every street corner in all the cities and towns!!

Apart from the more common Cardiologist, Oncologist, Orthopedic, Nephrologist or even Dentist; we have today under Orthopedics doctors who specialize in specific limbs of the body! A dentist who only does extraction of teeth (Pal Pidungi as he is called in Tamil), while somebody else who is a specialist in root canal treatment.

The danger of going to a specialist directly is that you will be forced to undergo several tests (many of them totally unrelated to the problem under investigation). The specialist gets his cut from the laboratory or the Diagnosis Centre, to whom he refers the patients for tests. Such specialists refuse to accept reports from any other diagnostic centre . Ofcourse, there are good and honest specialists with impeccable reputations but they are exceptions!

An even greater danger awaits an otherwise normal patient who goes for a routine check up to a five star hospital. The check up invariably unearths one or two blocks in the heart and the patient will be offered a package deal; which includes a By-Pass surgery at a concessional rate and also a five star comfortable stay in the hospital for the patient and his attendee. Depending on the availability of rooms the patient will be detained for a few weeks or dispatched home within a couple of days. The poor patient will not be given a choice by the family who would have been already blackmailed by the cardiologist that if the patient walks out of the hospital without undergoing the surgery, he is likely to drop dead at the door step!

My advice to anyone who is willing to listen – please have a family doctor – a GP who attends to all the routine complaints and knows the health history of every member of the family. Even a specialist in your area can become your family doctor. Like my family doctor is a Diabetologist but looks after several families in the area and is available on call whenever a patient urgently needs him. Only if he suggests go for further investigation or consult a specialist referred to. Chances of your getting ripped off by a specialist, when you carry a reference letter from your family doctor are much less than when you go directly. It is another matter if your family doctor is the greedy type, in which case only God can help you!

But even God cannot help those patients who try to get more insight into their problems by `Googling` their specific complaint. They will invariably find that their specific problem could be the indication of some bigger problem connected with anyone or more parts of the body. Armed with the knowledge, the enlightened patient tries to directly consult every possible specialist related to the problem!

Well, you can`t complain against the present medical system, if today`s enlightened patients willingly submit themselves to the exploitation by specialists!

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