Saturday, April 22, 2017

To lose one's soul.....

Slaves are a necessity. In all communities from very ancient times people understood this. So someway or other slaves were brought into the scene and things magically resolved. Dirty work got done, messes got cleared up and things just happened. Maybe not all the slaves were in captivity but being tricked into pacificity with a meagre pay was just as bad.
It maybe justly said that history as we admire it was built with the hands of slaves and shaped with their sweat.... In Africa pyramids were built and the enigmatic sphinx carved out of stone.... People argue that they actually were paid labourers and not slaves. But still you have to admit Egypt had slaves. And who would actually use paid Labour when it's there for free?  In China the great wall spans hundreds of kilometres.. and the cost may have been hundred of slaves demising in exhaustion... Mahenjodaro harappa, had slaves... The Indus valley civilisation artefacts tell us that much. Slaves were captured, slaves were sold, slaves were traded. In Europe rome and Greece were basically dependent on slaves. 
There were white Slaves, black slaves, yellow Slaves, Brown slaves.... The eligibility criteria being, being a human. Then with discovery of America and the colonies, slavery went to America... Transatlantic slave trade was an in thing in business world. Whilst slavery was prohibited in England, English merchants freely participated in slave trade transporting and selling mainly african slaves to the colonies across the great ocean. And in England poor people worked under forced labour conditions which were not very dissimilar to slavery...  And then slavery was abolished in america as well and throughout the world Labour rights movements started. In russia serfs were emancipated.
Today we read "roots", and about the underground railroad,  and visit the horrors of Workhouses with "Dickens".... And sigh that it's so great that the world is a better place today...
But is It? Doesn't slavery exist???
Welcome to the narrative of a life of a slave, from a modern-day slave...
Yes, that's right. I'm a modern-day slave. In other words, I'm an intern doctor in a third world country with the utopian dream of free health to all!
    I work in a medical ward with a total of 55 beds. But in any given date we have between 90 to 100+ patients in the ward. So where do we keep them? Don't ask.
 Because the work load is too much for a single person to handle alone, both interns (that's us) have to work 7 day's a week. And one person stays on call working 24 hrs every other day. So on average I work about 120 hrs and 144 hrs a week. We don't get holidays. Most of the days we are too busy for breakfast or lunch. Actually it's a choice. You either have the breakfast or the lunch, but never both. And we earn about 0.54 $ an hour!! Amounting to between 12$ to 6$ a day.
 But the worst and the most gruelling aspect of the job that I noted was the vindictiveness which was obvious flowing down the hierarchy. This was no fraternity.  This was a cloak and dagger game where your immediate senior is your worst nightmare until it came to the top level. As everybody's underdog,  we had to take all the shit flowing down the hierarchy...
    The fanciful idea of being a romanticized "apprentice of the healer " became more like being the in-ward slave.
And all the while something seemed amiss.. Almost all the senior doctors were surely tempered and grumpy all the while they were in the ward. They shouted at patients, nagged nurses and universally detested us. Morning ward rounds were so demoralizing that I almost always felt like quitting afterwards. At first I thought they were just plain rotten.
And that was when I started suspecting if that's not the whole story.

How do they make a killer out of a human? How do they train soldiers to become perfect lethal machines? The Spartans knew the secret and they boasted of one of the most ruthless armies in the ancient times. From very early childhood thespartan boys were subjected to the most gruelling and ruthless training. And they grew up to be ruthless men, judging by the few accounts of the Spartan Army.
It's a psychological phenomenon that the more harsh your conditions are, the more severe the stress you are subjected to, the more prominent your self preservation instincts become. And your happy part is downplayed until you really find no reason to be legitimately happy about.
  5 months into my internship I was aware of the subtle changes... Tempers started to become less and less flexible. Conversations with 60 + men and women started to become higher exercises in patience. If we couldn't get a straight history we tended to label the patient as possibly psychiatric. And we became less eager to help. The meaner side which offers a higher chance of survival started to show up.
On the outside there was all the glamour of becoming an increasingly experienced intern. But all the time alarm bells were ringing. In the wards some people had started to dump all the shit on the nurses and the minor staff. And the same patient who got shouted at by the consultant tended to get nagged by the interns too. And they smiled rarely (except for the fun pics they posted on fb).
So maybe the gruelling training actually has a say in moulding a man into something else. Something which is capable of handling stresses and reacting to situations but with a poorer handling of more tender of the human temperaments. Something with less empathy and compassion. Which is a formula for an effective soldier or an assassin or a secret service agent or a.... oh well you get the idea. But I wouldn't be quite comfortable knowing that doctors in my country are going through the same soul wrenching training.
And obviously this whole scenario depends on the specific internship station. ie the place u work. In some stations there's less heavy work with more humane colleagues and seniors and then life is better. But for the majority internship is a soul changing experience..
So why doesn't anyone speak up. After all every senior doctor actually rose through this gruelling period. So its not a secret at all. The reason is the need to hand down suffering across the generations with the thought of "I went through it so you have to go through it too"... And the vindictiveness passed on and on.
The interns, the only people who really care about the situation won't speak up out of fear of being denied Medical council registration. They of course have everything to the wise people stay silent and never speak up; bear with the shit of the seniors; and somehow survive the year... only fools fight.
And since nobody is actually embarrased that the health care system in my country is actually dependant upon slaves it shows that slavery is ok.


  1. that was an incredible read. Thanks for sharing your experience on the wards.

  2. Thank you very much. I'm so glad you appreciate it.