Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Whither the Hippocratic oath?

They are supposed to be healers but modern day doctors seem to have forgotten what the Hippocratic oath is. Healing and administering is not a calling; it’s a job, a profession. And the aim? Very simple…make as much moolah as you can, line your pockets and build your fancy house, drive your swank car, take that foreign holiday…at the cost of fleecing others out of their life savings and their homes. Compassion, empathy, caring…that’s all forgotten in the mad racket of lining their pockets.
Look at the corporate ‘five-star’ hospitals. These monstrosities have only one objective in mind – forget all those oh-so-touching ads, posters and brochures with lines like ‘We care about you’ or some other sickly sweet lines dished out by some agency copywriter. Their only care is maximising profits at the cost of anyone. Batteries and batteries of tests are prescribed. Hapless patients with only lay knowledge have no choice but to comply with these greedy and lazy doctors who send them spinning to labs and scan rooms. God help if you decide you’ve had enough and go to another hospital. The doctor there needs to make his/her cut and the hospital has to meet its own targets so off you are sent off, very often, to redo all those very same tests. If you protest, they politely ask you to go somewhere else.
Recently, a friend was in hospital. Apparently at least ten doctors came and ‘checked’ on him. Except for a couple, the rest just read his chart or came and peered at him for a few seconds. Per doctor’s visit he was charged between Rs.300 and Rs.500 for each. How do these doctors sleep at night with a clear conscience when they are cheating patients – spending 5 seconds and earning mega bucks on the patient’s suffering and helplessness.
Apart from their callousness and greed, we come to the next point – their utter arrogance and complete disregard for a patient’s time. At one ENT hospital in the city, the appointment schedule goes like this – for every time slot, there are 4 patients, and each time slot has a five-minute gap. So, to give an example, for 4pm, there are 4 patients, for 4.05pm there are another 4 and so on it goes. Sometimes, you end up waiting for three to four hours for your appointment. But then, docs think they are God and yeah, they are playing with our lives and, when we are sick, our life is in their hands so they take advantage of that mercilessly.
These days it’s rare to find doctors who really care for their patients, who are willing to spend quality time with them. Most of them, especially those in the big hospitals are concerned with only one thing…money, money and more money. It’s sick!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Calling in Vain

Calling in Vain

"Good morning/afternoon/ evening. How can I help you?" And thus starts the long-winded often traumatic process of speaking to a Customer Care Executive from a Call Centre for your bank, telephone company or mobile company (to name just a few). Frankly, I’d prefer the old system any day. Yes, I know some of you may point out that getting through to speak to someone was difficult…the lines were constantly engaged etc. But then, have things changed with Call Centres? Hardly! First you go through an interminable process where a disembodied voice instructs you to press the ’star button’ or ’hash’, then options for English, Hindi and Tamil, and then you have to listen (im)patiently while you are instructed on which button to press to have your queries answered. And finally, comes what you have been waiting for - "Please press Nine to speak to our Customer Care Executive". A sense of elation overcomes you and within seconds you come crashing back to earth thanks to the next message - "Our customer care officers are busy. Please stay on hold" - or "Your wait time is 4 minutes 35 seconds" And then you wait, all the while listening to the bank or mobile company advertising their latest products either through the disembodied voice or by playing a jingle. By then you are ready to shoot someone! If you are unlucky, all of a sudden said voice will inform you sagely - "Due to technical reasons, your call cannot be completed now." You gaze at your watch in desperation and realise that the call has taken up ten minutes and you are back to square one - dial, listen to menu, press buttons, listen to litany of ads…and if you are lucky second time around, you may be able to speak to a human voice. In today’s hi-tech world, the least one expects is high standards of efficiency. No such luck. Most executives have been trained to parrot a precise set of lines meant to soothe irate customers. But very often they are clueless as to how to deal with complex problems because they don’t know enough about the product or the company or complexities arising due to these. They just cluck and reassure you that the problem will be sorted out. If it isn’t, you call the next day and what happens? You get another executive and you are made to repeat the entire problem again, only to get the same standard reassurances. Each time you call you have a new voice and you reiterate the same problem, though some lucky ones finally get their problems solved. Anyway, as these Customer Care Executives say when they sign off, "Have a good day!" That’s all we can hope for in these days of ghostly voices and parrot-like executives!
This article of mine appeared in Madras Plus in 2006. Am just reproducing it here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The human fiend

Why do people label murderers, paedophiles and rapists etc as ‘animals’? It always puzzles me. Animals are not inherently cruel; human beings are. Animals kill for survival and attack out of fear, or again for survival.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that we are oh-so-evolved. The sad truth is, we are not. We, human beings, are possibly the cruelest race on the planet. We kill out of greed, jealousy and revenge. We have perverts who rape, maim and torture other human beings out of lust, anger or even sadistic pleasure. Take the case of paedophiles – these beasts, monsters really, prey on young innocent children, scarring them psychologically for life. For rapists it is a power game; for women who are raped, the scars remain, always under the surface. Life may go on, but it is a life that is scarred forever because of the actions of monsters.
In India, female infanticide is horrifyingly common. Do we, and can we, call our society civilised when female children are routinely killed at birth just because of their gender? What about eve teasers – men who lech and grope at women? Another set of beasts.
Even in the 21st century, people are going to war and human beings routinely kill each other in the name of patriotism when most often it is the greed of politicians and dictators that have brought on the war. Religious fanatics think it is perfectly all right to blow up innocent people who do not share their religious beliefs. And, these fanatics actually believe they have a one-way ticket to heaven because of their dastardly actsSo let’s shed this notion about us being ‘civilised’ and ‘evolved’. And please, let’s not insult animals by calling these dregs of human society ‘animals’. They are lesser than animals; they are monsters who deserve the death penalty

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I am a politician. I am above the law

Yesterday as I drove through the busy Aminjikarai area at close to peak time, one of the arterial roads connecting Aminjikarari and Sheny Nagar was virtually blocked off with a stage and chairs. Huge posters of MK, Stalin and assorted DMK souls were plastered all over and huge, I mean really huge, huge-enough-for-rock-concert-type speakers were blaring out Tamil music. Our ineffectual cops, those poor lackeys, were hanging around and watching the whole tamasha. A couple of them were listlessly directing traffic through the narrow lane to the side of the makeshift stage for traffic to go.
Our politicians, we all know, are corrupt megalomaniacs. But isn’t there a limit to their idiocy? Who puts up stuff like this on a busy road and disrupts peak hour traffic? Doesn’t the inconvenience caused to motorists bother them? What about all the poor sods in the area who were being ‘treated’ to super loud music? And, I presume, once the visiting politician came, he would have made a loud raucous speech, shouting and screeching into the microphone. Are there no parks in this city or grounds that can be used? Why the roadside show?
The Supreme Court has defined clear laws for noise pollution but the biggest polluters are political parties, who couldn’t care less about the laws. ‘Stuff them’ is their attitude. All they care is about their power and their own self-aggrandisement even if it causes inconvenience to others. No wonder, religious institutions in this city have taken up after our illustrious politicians and blare music on loudspeakers and disturb the peace of those around. For politicians, they are bigger than the law; for religious institutions, their God is bigger than the laws of the land.
Until our politicians start by following the laws of the land, there’s no hope for this country. And our cops, are like puppets on a string, ineffectual toothless fairies who will jump to do anything a politician asks. Pathetic!