Friday, September 5, 2008


I do not know what my intentions are while i write but i just wanted to put some thoughts down. Today, is the 5th of September, i’m nearly five months into my service obligation, for which i’m happy about. The country is celebrating Teachers day. It was instituted on the birthday of a great Indian philosopher, Vice-President and also President Dr. Radhakrishnan.
Dr. Radhakrishnan, often linked to Voorhees, Vellore and MMC, Madras was this great Indian educationist and philosopher. He was principal of the Manchester college, Oxford in the 1920’s for nearly 10 years. An Indian as principal of a British educational institution of such high repute really rings a bell, in an age when half the country was dying in famine and India was supposedly at its lowest ebb, being exploited under the Raj. Nor was Dr. Radhakrishnan a Christian, infact he was Professor of Indian philosophy and Hindu philosophy. This puts in front of me two ideas. One is either Dr. Radhakrishnan was a diplomat of the highest order (which he probably was since he went on to become President of the country) or the British then, weren’t as bad as they are projected to be. There was acceptance for pure brilliance. It seems to be quiet possible that both the above ideas hold true.

The next question that cropped up is, ‘‘What is Philosophy?’’ The Greeks called it, ‘The love of wisdom’. Though there are alot of arguments about what it really is, it’s simply looking at a subject in some systematic way. Putting an order to life, putting an order to religion, to thinking, to medicine, to environment or finance or to sheer existence.

Are things really systematic? I pondered about this question a few days ago, when one of my patients flew away home. I had gone through alot with him, through his hospital stay struggling with hospital authorities and disease at the same time. Where each day we would await the end. Then .. while we watched his dramatic improvement he slipped back again... deteriorating. With some new medicational support he regained his lost ground to wellness again. But finally, another of his organs that was bearing the brunt of the toxic barrage of medications gave way and in a day he flew away. A day before he died i was happily contemplating a discharge. It was a victory of medicine, a victory of the so called ... philosophy of medicine. When i look into the next room, i see a patient. Literally written off... with probably no hope of survival when she arrived. Where we suspected her to have a gut perforation and in complete inflammation of the abdomen, thought she had less than a day to survive. I see her ... i watch her sitting up 4 days down the line and asking for tea, saying she is hungry. What medicine did we practice? Nothing. We didn’t give her anything ... other than IV fluids and a simple useless antibiotic ( used so commonly that probably all the organisms are resistant to now). We didn’t even run any test on her, as she was so badly written off! What is the Philosophy here? Whats the answer? Why this stark difference ... this inequality that i witness?
When i’m talking philosophy, where is the systematicism in the medicine? Isn’t it logical, the better the medical support the better should be the survival?

Often when in this situation .. humans tend to shift philosophy. Immediately the philosophy would shift to religion and God. I really seem ill equipped to comment deeply in this issue. But as it seems .. God controls the situation and is incharge.
Through the sands of time as it passed people continued to dig into the philosophies, finding some reason, somewhere. Different religions cropped up, different groups and movements were born. But, what was achieved? A world full of paedophile priests, corrupt bishops (a pain in the butt to all below them especially poor bond candidates without a say), instigatory sermons, religious fanaticism, hatred and war. All but the original idea of systematically driving to the good of all mankind by religious philosophy taking a backseat. Swami Vivekanand once said, ‘‘ They ask for bread but we give them stones.’’ How can you solve the problem of war, famine, disease, poverty, inequality, corruption by sitting in meetings and preaching salvation? With all these years and years of it ... what difference has it really made?

So .. really ... is there something called philosophy.. is there really any point in breaking your back and mind for years studying philosophy of some subject or the other. Or is it just that things .. happen .. sort of randomly, sometimes appearing like miracles or sometimes the wrath of God. I really don’t know.
When we study and practise medicine, what do we do? We actually study commonality, best practise out of years of study. We study the natural course of disease and how medicines alter it. Everything so scientific. But in true life ... what we see is randomness, when you least want it. You could give the best medicine, but cannot have the joy of a favourable outcome each time. Sometimes i wonder, whats the point? Why should we strive, study and practise .. if really nothing we do would help?

Well, 2 days ago i was on this beautiful 4 laned highway with an acquaintance. We were travelling to visit a mission hospital. 10 min into the journey we were travelling at 100km per hour and discussing animals straying onto the highway particularly dogs. It was such a hypothetical discussion and i was really in it cause i had to make some conversation. It was just about 5 min later on a zebra crossing, at a bend on the road, the car infront of us which was actually slower rammed a full grown white mongrel straying infront of it, squashing its spinal cord under the wheels. The poor creature went into de-cortication posturing right before my eyes.
Immediately something struck me, other than the veniality of life, it was the discussion that we were having ten minutes earlier. I was being told that the only way to avoid servering of the road and injuring ourselves was to run over the creature. I don’t know what would have happened if it were our car and the dog.
But what i definitely was seeing that how some hypothetical yet practical discussion could translate into reality.

Instantly i am drawn back to the previous paragraph. Why should we strive, study and practise the philosophy of hypothetical science? I don’t know the true answer to it, but from this incident of 2 days ago .. i think its because we never know when we may need it. And so i think life is a struggle, a struggle out of which arise questions and answers and only more of them ... There seems to be no definite full stop answer, but struggle we must, conform we must. But if we do have a pure heart and we do what it tells us ... surely our struggle might not solve the miseries of this world, surely we would not add to it.

1 comment:

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