An unsent letter to the HT Editor

This was a letter to editor of HT written by me 2 yrs ago..never emailed..
The Editor,
Hindustan times,
New Delhi.

Subject—a doctor’s response to “IT’s getting worrisome”

Respected Sir/ma’am,

This is in response to the article “IT’s getting worrisome” on page 12 on Sunday the 4th of may 2008. I really appreciate the writer manoj sharma who has given the story a very catchy heading & started the article with an almost macabre story about the flip side of the hefty pay-packages in the IT industry. He has also collected interesting figures about depression, suicide, divorces etc from professional sources like NIMHANS, lawyers in connection to the IT industry. Every middle class Indian wants his son to make it to the IIT & finally into this IT industry offering hefty packages, so showing the flipside is a good idea. That’s the real reason for the readers interest in your story ”what goes behind the scenes in the life of these fast earning computer geeks?”
If your purpose is not just a catchy news article but drawing the attention of the masses towards an alarming problem, then why not take up a less glamorous but more prevalent cause?? The DOCTORS.

In the recent years more and more articles are focused on the IT industry—life style changes due to hefty pay packages, stress due to long working hours, books by engineers etc etc. I think it’s due to  M factor—money, money & more money. so it will give you more readership. why has everybody forgotten the man (err…no gender bias here,indicates the species) with the healing touch?

The last few yrs have shown a steady decline in those who take up biology in school, a fall in the no. of PMT aspirants, a rise in rate of doctors wanting to work abroad, a rise in dissatisfaction among doctors, a rise in doctors trying to crack the CAT & pursuing MBA, a decline in no. of PG seats due to reservation, a rise in delayed marriages for doctors, more stringent laws for doctors—be it practice or post graduation or migration to USA or UK—and add to it the lovely suggestion by the attention seeking health minister that doctors should work as interns for 2yrs & out of which 1yr in rural area.
Scene1—-“you sat together in school ,shared tiffins, shared experiences happily with your classmate who if not less intelligent than you but may be at par in studies…then your sections changed when you took up biology intending to become a physician & he took up maths intending to become an engineer…you remained in touch happily— tuition tales, then selection parties, then college fest stories, school reunions etc… till one day your graduation was about to finish in 6 months & you were pondering that how will I juggle working hours as an intern (which will fetch a stipend of about 5000 Rs per month) with PG preparation? when your old pal calls you up to inform that he has shifted to U.S./Bangalore/U.K. & is earning about 10 lac per annum in the IT industry. You congratulate him happily…but you suddenly feel that just after graduation he is earning ten lac and you not even 1 lac.. Even after PG (which is becoming more difficult to crack day by day) you wont earn that much for yrs to come”

You are not jealous of your pal but are merely comparing the scenario in terms of money. This is one cause of growing dissatisfaction among doctors. so they are turning towards MBA

Scene2—“As a resident in surgery or obs-gyn or medicine one can tell you the endless nights per week they don’t sleep at all or sleep for 2 hrs at most and then the next day work till midnight again. They are scolded constantly by the senior residents or consultants…they are human beings too. They vent their frustration on unsuspecting friends, relatives…they cant visit their home towns for months…..they are stressed out & depressed… Patients visit quacks who spoil the cases and when the patient is about to die he is brought to the casualty of a govt. hospital where despite prompt medical help the patient dies but these villagers blame the residents in the hospital and beat them up….all this too adds to the doctors’ woes”But since they are not as famous as the high earning software professionals sitting in Air-conditioned rooms no reporter wants to write about them

Scene3—“a depressed resident commits suicide, a medicine undergraduate commits suicide….but no history of psychiatric consultation is found. Though its said that depressed people tend to seek help before resorting to suicide…they may have found it difficult to consult a fellow doctor about their personal issues & frustrations….his colleagues are coping well he thinks….there is cut throat competition in medical world too & it definitely takes its toll on a doctors life…supposed to be strong but they are also fragile human beings…also exposing their problems to a psychiatrist they know may be embarrassing unlike for other people who would hesitate less before meeting a psychiatrist” There are big articles about rising suicides in IIT but not much of an issue if increasing no. of medicos attempt 2 end their lives…..they are meant to heal the wounded but no one notices that they may be wounded healers themselves

Scene4—“front page news—BAPIO gets a court order that Indian doctors in UK can work there with Europeans……hey!wait a sec!what forced these doctors to alien lands?? a search for a better life & good pay—because in India life for doctors is not that easy…also why are we bothered about the plight of Indian doctors working in US &UK when we don’t have time to think about the problems facing young Indian doctors in India itself? because it’s a foreign land and so we can point a finger at them to say you are mistreating Indians & make it an issue of racial discrimination for good readership. And also because “blame-game” is a pet Indian pass time . the rules of the game do not allow Indians to introspect and see our own troubles but the neighbor’s family feud is worth a talk.

Scene5—despite getting married many medicos pursuing post graduation are living separately in different cities…….they meet just once in months…when they start a family (which would be delayed of coarse) its difficult for them also to juggle between work & family…marital discord & divorces are as rampant in their lives but why bother about the bedroom of a doctor who is meant to serve the ailing souls when we have IPL and redskins to bother about? Big IT firms organize picnics, get together, counseling, yoga etc for their computer geeks but not many hospitals plan such activities for overworked residents….the ministers are more bothered about the smoke around shahrukh khan than the fact that frustrated medicos despite knowing the hazards of smoking are among the top consumers of cigarettes . instead of providing better infrastructure in rural areas doctors after yrs of toil in a medical college should land up in a village. where should the doctors kids study? in village pathshaala of coarse!! I don’t say that doctors should not serve the rural India(real India—rural India!) but just notice the effect it has on the doctors life too. Provision of better facilities will help the villagers first. Clean drinking water will bring down diarrhea deaths in villages but instead of focusing on these things ministers want to send interns to villages for a year…..why not make it compulsory for engineers to work for a year in rural India for better roads, electricity,computer connectivity to villages etc ?why not send MPs, MLAs to atleast visit the villages in their constituencies once a yr? why not ask reporters to write about villagers&their problems instead of writing about salman rushdie’s divorce?

Scene6—kidney kingpin caught —amazing headlines. patient dies on gate of private hospital—another news. These are merely the black sheep of the family of physicians. But these are given front page status& a small mistake by a doctor is hyped in news. I agree that mistakes on part of doctors may be life threatening for a patient, but then why not focus a little on the doctors life? ease his burden a little….look at him from a humanitarian point of view…focus not only on his mistakes but also on his accomplishments& problems. Only extremely rare cases treated by doctors or an innovative surgical technique make it to news headlines whereas a doctor cures scores of patients &saves lives constantly…

To conclude I would quote erich segal , author of the novel-doctors “Do not forget that Though they treat the wounded they may be wounded healers themselves…..”

Thanking you,
Dr. Sonal

same article is also available on my blog

28 thoughts on “An unsent letter to the HT Editor

  1. u have really summed up the entire life of a doc in these lines….everyone 4gets that we r human too…wanting a comfortable life after all the hardwork that we have put in…but we r not expected to take holidays or lookafter r kids or have a family life…it is taken as if we are not sincere and dedicated if we wish to strike a balance in personal and professional world.

  2. Great work Sonal!! …this needs to be printed!!so truthfully shows the unfortunate plight of doctors in our country..


    few more suicides in medical institutes.. we r losing young,talented budding doctors…
    both news states medico takes extreme step due 2 depression

    what the hell is happening in indian medical world??

    btw thanx fr ur comments dr.mahima & dr.gaurav

  4. Well said Dr Sonal.
    This article must get publised..
    This is the holy shit of our society,and if this scenario would continue as such,docs’ population is going to be decreased day by day…

  5. Scene 7:
    Reading this post, for not only the editor, in fact, for everyone it will work as an eye-opener. I COMPLETELY AGREE!
    CAN BRING THE CHANGE, I believe.

  6. thanx fr ur response dr.surbhi…u r very correct!! doctors hv started feeling so for their kids–which is so sad!! but if things improve by our collective efforts –we ll b glad to advice any1 to join medicine…

    i am posting some comments of people who read this same article on my blog

    Nishant Tyagi said…
    That’s bitter reality !! I have lost a friend in front of my eyes in PG, we used to go for lunch together, his door was locked from inside, we broke open , he was on bed silent, forearm had scalp-vein set, on the floor was neuromuscular blocker inj. Reason – in the morning round HOD said “I will fail you”

    Why this is unsend ??
    April 8, 2010 10:01 PM

    Dr Roshan R said…
    awesome post.. agree with every point uve put up
    April 14, 2010 11:54 AM

    Dr Roshan R said…
    will b sending it to my friends too to read..
    April 16, 2010 8:02 AM

    Anees said…
    u said it.. its tooo real… these r the things going thru my mind.. almost everyday.. even am dng my PG.. n gettng screwd royally n gonna loose 6 months cos of my boss’s EGO… u should somehow tke this topic out….. will surely post it to my friends..
    April 16, 2010 7:22 PM

    Dr Roshan R said…
    seriously.. the irony is I and my roommate always talk about how after I’m done with my Pg, I’ll write this big scathing post on the sad state of doctors here in India and how we are treated… now, there’s nothing left for me to say. You’ve said it best. Anything I say will only end up a poor copy of your excellent article.
    You’re right .. this would never come in an editorial.. it deserved to be a full article itself in HT
    April 16, 2010 7:57 PM

    black coffee said…
    Thanks Roshan for giving me a link to this article.

    Sonal, you said it so well that there is nothing else to add. Only I know and I guess you know “their” reaction as well. NOBODY CARES.


    Lovely write-up! My fiance and all of my closest friends are in IT. The irony is never lost on me.
    April 16, 2010 9:07 PM

    Shalini said…
    An appreciable write up Sonal.
    This is the truth…the hardcore truth. And it is necessary to toil thru those 6 years to get to it. Why, I am done with my PG and still struggling..Hav had hospitals offering me an honorary post when I apply cos they say it’ll help me build up. Yeah the irony is when my own sibling earns in lakhs.
    No matter how much of truth this conveys, I suppose the days are far off when young doctors of our age get recognision for the hard work we put in.
    April 17, 2010 12:13 AM

  7. Hi,Dr. Sonal,
    ur article is damn gud and so true..I can bet that any dr.will identify with the situations u hav quoted ….But cant understand y hav u not posted it to HT….Yes I seriously feel that choosing medicine as a profession I did a big mistake and dont want my kids to enter into this line…..

  8. thanx for ur comments dr.Asmita..we medicos need to unite first so that people listen to us!! intellectual people lose out on govt. agencies bcos of lack of unity i feel..

    thanx for ur responses mr.omesh & mr.vipin..
    we r not comparing engineering versus medical here.. sorry!if u felt so!! i have 2many engineering pals to feel badly abt sm tirade is focused against those who r giving more importance to one profession over&above the other..each has its importance..
    but we all know lot of news articles r printed abt iitians’ problems off & on..but doctors’ “REAL” issues dont get printed ever!! doctors make it to news pages for a strike/female foeticide/miracle drug once in ages!!

    i knew rewards r less & later in life when i chose medical side over engineering..but u see respect is more!!we r proud to be saviours of life but since there is a lack of awareness abt our problems i decided to write abt it.. nothing personal here!! i am coping well like all other doctors.. but decided to voice a concern& am glad 2c so many doctors feel same..

    there r lot of IITians in india also who are leaving engineering –the golden egg they began their career with& going into social services,media,finances,&few off beat tracks…

    all professions r gr8 !! one needs to identify one’s calling and fight for one’s cause if there comes a problem ever!!
    thanx again fr ur responses 🙂

  9. Hello Dr. Sonal,

    You have done an excellent job of reporting the plight of Indians in the medical profession. It might have been difficult for you to put together the article because it is tough to not feel the pain. My heartfelt sympathies at the gross injustice that is perpetrated by the system!

    I feel that the issue is one of human rights, more than the inequality between the lives of doctors and engineers. Now, I can see what the desired end might be. But, how can we get there: a question, which I was unable to answer. Your thoughts will be appreciated.


  10. Hi Sonal…sorry Dr. Sonal :-).

    This was sad.

    Ironically, it was the same reason i chose to be an engineer than to be a doctor ( i had bio+maths). The was reason to earn more and earn fast.

    The thing is that, things have drastically changed after year 2000. The indian students are more oriented toward money than their predecessor, because of the impact of a opened up economy and a media – marketing forced consumerism. Big words, i know. But i couldn’t summarize it in a better way.

    Let me tell you the story of IITians who graduated 15 years ago. They are clueless, They are rich, but they are freaking clueless of what to do with their lives. They have house, car, filthy rich bank account but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. What mattered was the question, were you happy with what you did today? I can say with confidence that you “computer geeks” will beg to differ, he /she wont say it to you but he/she knows that himself.

    Money, though buys alot of things, it just cant buy happiness. Cliched , but true.

    I would suggest you should try and publish this in JAM Mag, give it to Outlook, India Today, Indian Express, The Hindu. These are the journals which i think will publish your side of the story.

    – Vipin Kumar

  11. Hi Dr.Sonal,
    Excellent article !!!
    Agree with it totally.
    Doctors are soft targets for media & patients alike

  12. thanx for ur responses dr.bhanu , dr.harpal singh & dr.rohit arora..
    if u get time do read my next write -up on my blog(in detail) and short version here on bakaristan. .the title is “I AM AN INDIAN DOCTOR PLS”
    i am extremely happy that u read my letter and have responded.. the idea mooted by dr.rohit to start an online forum is an excellent one.. pls contact me on my blog/here if u all actually mean to start such a thing–i wanna participate actively too 🙂

    i believe in every word i ve written & its high time doctors stand up for themselves..thanx fr ur comments 🙂 hope my efforts bring some results in form of unity atleast among medical fraternity

  13. Completely agree with each word. To add, even a thought of slapping a doctor makes evryone feel like being amitabh bacchan. I think the politeness and consideration inherent in this profession is taken for granted by all. Nobody thinks twice in shelling out Rs 400 on one meal at any regular food joint but same 400 invoke a cost analysis aspect if it is for doctor’s consultation. The medical system in india needs serious restructuring at this point of time else the people in need will have to either go abroad for every cough and cold or be on the mercy of juggling of quacks.

  14. Dear Sonal,

    Excellent piece of writing. I agree with your thoughts and words. I shall also add, once again, against this ethic issue of gifts and support from pharma companies.

    Why is that all morality is left for doctors in this society. Why are they equating us with God when we do not enjoy that status in society anymore. All companies in all kind of business give incentives, commissions etc why stop only doctors!!!!

    In consumer act, electricity connection, house tax and so forth we are commercial establishment but when it comes to ethics we are serving the society. We have to come out of this dual standards.

  15. Hi Dr. Sonal,
    Its the truth we all are facing or have faced in the past. I now never recommend anyone to be a Doc no matter how-so-much respectful this profession may look from outside.
    Kudos to you for coming up with such an inspiring and eye-opening letter and the mere fact that it was rejected for publication by a leading national daily goes to show the state of affairs for the Doc.
    I would further propose to start an online forum where the problems of Docs can be addressed and concerned authorities notified.

    Dr.Rohit Arora

  16. thanx manish..u know no one will post it in thier newspaper/neithr they wil put it on news bcos doctors are taken fr granted unless we do STRIKE en masse.. haha..such is life!! pls increase awareness by sending link 2 others..thanx fr ur response

  17. dr.m.c.gupta, dr.m.kbaruah, dr.mayank, dr.rajender sharma i thank u all from the core of my heart for taking time 2read my long unsent email and responding 2 it..i am writing some more articles about the issues tht concern doctor’s lives..thanx for ur support..and by sending the link 2others we are all creating awarenes its high time sm1 noticed our issues also.. warm regards and all doctors must keep in touch!!

  18. Dear Dr Sonal,
    Yr unmailed letter was mailed in egroup by Dr MC Gupta. I totally agree with your views, and did my bit by forwarding it to all my colleagues and friends.
    Dr MK Baruah

  19. Dear Dr Sonal,
    very well put , I agree with you fully . The society has given us the lolly pop of ‘next to God’ tag and thinks that it has done its duty . Media will never highlight the achievements or the plight of the doctors because it doesn’t make catchy news !. media thrives on negative news and sensationalism. Anyway it is comforting to know that many amongst us feel anguished and someone like you expresses it . Thanks dear .
    Rajender Sharma

  20. thanx dr,shirish!but i am not doing this for publicity..i felt and expressed it..if doctors who agree wd me spread d word it may help us later or future generation of doctors..sm1 has 2 raise a voice..i began wd a letter!!

  21. Dear Dr Sonal, you have hit the nail on the head with this hard hitting letter.
    many of us feel as you do, but we are perhaps not so articulate as you are. hope this gets the deserved publicity, my best wishes for you!

  22. yeah thanx for the suggestion dr.swapnil.. lets send it and see!!what happens!!no 1 will print it i think…but thank u so much for the comments

  23. Hiii,

    Dr Sonal, I think we all should send this to the editor of TOI and dare them to print this thing “as it is” on thier front page. Lets see what they do.

    If u permit, i will do my best for the same.

  24. Hi Dr Sonal,
    Excellent blog, loved every bit. Each and every inch of it is true. Gone through the same plight in my professional life too.

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