Thank you to all my dear young friends for visiting my Blog. For all of you, I have something special here. It happened like this – last week, I was back at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore where the Class of 2006 had heard me deliver the “Go Kiss the World” speech, four years ago. I was overwhelmed with the welcome by the students last Friday, this time I had gone to read out excerpts of the book “Go Kiss the World” because it has its origin in their institution. The book reading was followed by a great question and answer session. Subsequently, over the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to see the book reading and interaction available as a MP3 file – you can listen to it at your leisure by clicking on the link below:
Before I sign off, thank you to Sritanu Chatterjee for your comment posted last Thursday. Why, you ask, did we admit our parents in government hospitals in the last leg of their journey? Weren’t we children well-to-do enough to afford better hospitals? Let me explain.
My father died of burn injury as you know. At the time of the accident, he was staying with my brother who was an IAS officer posted in Delhi. The accident occurred late at night when his clothes caught fire. He was rushed to the Safderjung Hospital – it was the closest and also happens to have a dedicated ward for handling burn injury in the Capital. Once there, it was quite clear that father had third degree burns and shifting him any place else was not going to help. The system – whatever state it was in – was just providing him as peaceful a passage as was possible under the circumstances.
Years later, the same brother was posted to Bhubaneswar in Orissa and this time, he was the Chief Secretary of the State. This once, quite coincidentally, I was serving my second stint in the US and had to leave mother in his care. It is then that she suffered a stroke. My brother, the No.1 bureaucrat in the state, had a choice: either he could have shifted her to a private hospital or taken her to the State’s main hospital run by the government. He chose the latter. His logic was simple: If the Chief Secretary of the state shifted his mother to a private hospital, it meant he did not have confidence in his own doctors. What message was it going to give to the people of the state who had to depend on the medical system run by his own administration? As a family, we do not regret that decision.
By the way, some of the best qualified, most competent, amazingly devoted doctors in India still work for the government. A government-run hospital sometimes makes up for bad amenities, poor funding, apathy, mismanagement and corruption with great talent and unimaginable sense of service. I personally know many great doctors in several Indian medical colleges, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Surgery, to name just a few. These medical professionals are as good and as devoted as their counterparts in the best equipped hospitals anywhere in the world. Yet, we all know how difficult many government hospitals can be; it is true that some of them are just living hell.
When I shared the story of my parents in Go Kiss the World, I was not highlighting either our frugality or the misery of a government hospital – the larger messages was the stoicism of these two ordinary Indians who, at the end of their journey, rose above their personal conditions to remain concerned about and connected to a larger reality. In telling you about them, I have shared their spirit with you all. It was a gift too large for me to keep; I simply did not have space enough in my heart!
By the way, in every Indian family, there is a Makhan Gopal and a Labonya Prova.
We just have to pause and behold.
Go Kiss the World,