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where have all the toppers gone?


Its result time once more , and the news papers are full of proud toppers and their even more proud parents. Pictures of beaming kids surrounded by their proud parents, aunties uncles and muhalla walas. Each picture comes with its own tale of tireless strife and grim determination. ‘I studied long hours’ ‘I missed out on all the movies’ ‘I didn’t see any IPL matches’ ‘I left home at 4 in the morning for coaching classes’.
I went to OPD this morning and while waiting for the first patient, I glanced at the head line ‘Science topper wants to be doctor.’ I smiled. The sisters and working staff inquired why I was smiling, but I just said “nothing.” A few doctor friends asked why I was smiling, and I said ,” the topper wants to be a doctor.” We all smiled, some smirked, some grunted and some out right guffawed. It’s an inside joke.
Its been exactly 10 years since I passed my twelvth standard exam, and I wonder what the ‘topper’ will feel after ten years if she ever does become a doctor.
Most of the toppers start out with noble cause, I will… I want…. , and I wouldn’t want to take that away from them. If the topper had maybe been more worldly aware, had actually seen a few IPL matches, or the latest episode of Satyamev Jayate she would have given caution to her dreams.
The fact is people would spend more on a hair cut than they would for a doctors consultation. Some patients ask why a particular vaccination costs so much when the MRP reads cheaper. It’s not just the injection you pay for, but the knowledge of how and when to give it. For that knowledge someone spent ten years of their youth, a youth which they could have spent watching IPL matches or bollywood movies.
Some patients take the injection vial to the doctors and say ‘Laga do.’ I wonder if they ever went to a beauty parlour and took the facial creams and said ‘laga do.’ They give more respect and credence to the personal hygienist than to the physician. That’s the raw truth.
The ‘cream’ of the passing out class, tends to get ‘sour’.
Be it a longer lunch break taken by doctors, strike by doctors which leave the country coughing and wheezing, or the gross negligence by unethical doctors, we are held accountable. Accountability is important in every field. The bai is accountable for the dishes, the dhobi is accountable for the clothes, the politicians and bankers and policemen all are accountable. But for the mistake of a few don’t blame the game , blame the player. When an engineer drives by in a Mercedes, we say ‘ wow he did well, his company is doing well.’ When a doctor drives by in even a Honda city people raise their eyebrows and their suspicions. How can a noble profession which is supposed to only serve actually make money, if they wanted to make money they should have chosen another field.
Yes that is the crux of it all; at the end of every argument, we are told we should have chosen different.
Every one wants a profession which gives respect, money, name and fame. A topper especially has the privilege to choose from the widest array of professions. Some might say there is no profession which has the best of all worlds. I think different.
I know of a profession which gives you tremendous respect (temples to your name, people hanging on to your words on Sunday afternoons and on quiz shows), you can not only get to see all the IPL you want but you can own a team too. A profession which allows you the recognition amongst peers and public, allows you to donate money and time to good causes, allows you to even do raunchy numbers and then receive national awards and be praised for liberating women. The money , fame, name, and respect is unparalleled. Aamir Khan was right when he says ‘satya meva jayate’ because the truth shall prevail.
I am just waiting for the day when a beaming parent will hold her child close and say
,” My daughter has topped in the board exams and she wants to be a movie star.” J

Comments

bkunal said…
Another Profession, which you have closely seen, is An Army officer. No other profession take oath to give his life under the order of senior, with out asking questions. He never asks what would happen to my wife, my parents, my son , my daughters. It is very sad the respect for the Army Officers in the society are weaning out, by the pressure of modern life.
icyHighs said…
When I first saw the headline, I actually thought u meant why aren't more "toppers" becoming doctors?

I'm so surprised by the number of standout science students from school who seem to have become "IT professionals". I'm sure its very rewarding in its own way but I guess I thought they would go on and invent awesome things or discover new countries or something.
Ashwin Mohan said…
Quite an emotional blog... but really the grass is not greener on the other side... I am a resident surgeon in one of India's top eye hospitals... I have had the time of my life during my MBBS... enjoyed all the parties... went out drinking... dated women... came back to my locality and enjoyed all the respect... respect right from age 18... no engineer can ever ever experience that... Now I do surgeries and experience the ultimate submission, respect, gratitude, obedience and goodwill a human can ever experience... patients ready to lie down on an operation table and let you cut them open... listen to whatever you ask them to do... and most importantly I really enjoy my work... if you don't enjoy what you do... you will never be happy in any profession you get into... now talk about engineers... 6 figure annual pay at age 27... 5 day week... sat/sun off... you must think they are happy.... they bloody well be right? ... now imagine their work when they join... you never get to take decisions... you are constantly playing dirty politics with your peers to get one up on them and impress your boss... whatever you do... faults are taken out... you have to do the same mundane work staring at a computer screen... get develop obesity and back problems and stress and stagnation... now it dosnt seem all rosy does it? the crux... enjoy what you do and u'll never care about where the toppers go... what others say... and I'm glad i topped the CET after my 12th so I could get into medicine on merit and into a good government college...
Ashwin Mohan said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said…
Super blog...good comments by am..keep it up..what about top ten ug toppers migrating to USA.
Unknown said…
Irrespective of what Aamir Khan may say, no other profession gets you so much respect as you get in the medical profession. This applies to whichever part of India that you may go to.
That respect has to come with the burden of accountability, not only for the respect itself, but also for the fact that doctors deal with health of their patients.
If you, and you as a doctor rightly should, consider that health care is of paramount importance, you have to accept the accountability that must come with the profession.
There can be no two ways about it.
The truth is nobody raises an eyebrow at a doctor's wealth really; even sometimes the administration turns a blind eye to the lucrative illegal private practices that doctors build up, while being lucratively employed in government hospitals.
The question I want to pose here is that when you have the benefit of respect as well as money in your profession, why do you shy from accountability?
Superbly written! Lot of wisdom so early in the career!
My own advice to kids not to choose medicine is looked at oddly! But atleast 3 of those who didn't heed my words have regretted not listening to me, while struggling at various phases of study/practice!
I don't have the face for the movies, but surely I would want to go back in time and be someone else, though by all standards, I'm a successful doc.
Oh, btw! I hope the cynicism stays in the blog. Life is otherwise beautiful!
Certainly a valid question. Couple of points though.
1. Way too much is made out on this 'respect' business. People are deferential to you just because they never know when they would need you. Sitting around coffee tables even friends don't deconstruct your profession as much as they would do to a techie or an accountant. Honestly, I don't need the respect, gimme a luxury yacht anyday!
2. The syndrome is actually this: even very idealistic doctors lose their sensitivity over years looking at the fact that, no one else seems to be accountable. Today a politician, a bureaucrat and even a lawyer is expected to be crooked. And if you go to the plush city clubs these are hugely respected. So, after a while, the integrity crumbles.
3. Many times, it is the system that introduces the virus: the pharma company, a patient who wants a bogus medical certificate, a lab which offers kickbacks on referrals often initiate and embolden a new recruit!

So, while technically no one would shirk accountability, what doctors would want is, let everyone else follow the rules too. Have you ever waited for a traffic light to turn green, when everyone else is going through the red light, because no cop is around?! How many can hold their ground here?
Shiva said…
Your article is well written but you have taken Aamir's message in the wrong way.. he says not to earn money by fraud in this profession.. he says not all doctors are cheating and so we should extend our support to the good ones and help each other in cleaning the mess which MCI and Mafias have created. Aamir show is to bring out the bad practises in our society and not target any particular person or profession.. please watch the show again with a calm mind without feeling defensive about anything. He and we all respect all doctors except that the frauds need to be shown the exit..it's abt the negativity in the bad practises and merely using the word doctor doesn't mean all doctors, which even Aamir mentions.. Vent your anger for the better and pressurize the Govt. to intoriduce subsidies and rebates on Medical treatments by introducing Govt. and Private health schemes. You being in the profession can gather the like minded and write letters, petitions and blogs for the corruption in MCI, the bribes being paid for getting into Medical field and the notorious practises of Mafia and teh corruopted doctors, if you know people doing bad practises and getting into this profession by fluke, then report it to the CBI and henceforth. Research on how what steps developed nations have taken to increase the living standards and gross GDP and medical subsidized schemes, write abt that, forward those letters to teh chiefs, the law makers and the likes. Take steps in spreading more positivity about teh profession by taking actions against the wrong people, merely calling aamir the moolah will not help.. at least he brought out the toipic for discussion and did soem honest research on these scandals.. If we want to blame soemone then why not crucify the MCI chief whose sheepish smile and baseless promises shows he is neevr going to correct anything in near future. Also that he is so famous for taking bribes.. lets teach him and all..be it any profession to earn by respect and fair means, not by fraud and weaknesses. I wish you will write about this and much more in your coming blogs as words written down can take very powerful shape and enforce action. Please bear the responsibility of being the healer.. the one who can heal all.. amir and the MCI chief alike..including the dying and starved population...
shraddha said…
very well written, kuheli:) after reading the above, i have realised that only those who have made numerous sacrifices and strived hard to bcom a good doctor and still doing a good job, are the ones who are really hurt by the latest satyameva jayate episode and can truely relate to the emotions behind ur blog..keep up the good writing!!:)
kuheli said…
bkunal, yes the armed forces is also targetted, often in movies aswell. In war they are the heroes, but in peace they are known as the scam masters.
I guess the grass is greener on every one elses field, rather than our own.
Yet the fact remains, that I am an ophthalmologist, but unlike ashwin Mohan feel that I made a few more sacrifeices than I wanted to. Like Dr Mohan I too am at a premier institution, and I am sure the world eyes me with respect, yet even after postgraduation, I earn 6000 (after paying hostel fees ). we had an OPD of over 400 today and as mind over medicine says , after some time the 'dil se' treating patients just fades.
kuheli said…
evryone speaks about respect, and at the end of the day, that's all we doctors have. our trump card, our unique selling point. The sad part was Aamir Khanwent on a rampage, which took away even our respect, and that too he made biased allegations.If it was just another man on the road, we might not have bothered but Aamir Khan is well respected (just like us doctors) and he should be held accountable to his actions (just like us doctors).
Anonymous said…
I agree to your points but the example you gave for facial is incorrect according to me. When we go to a parlour, they treat us well, we are customers there and at the same time, when we visit a hospital it feels even though we are paying its a big favour they are doing in treating us.
And would also like to add that its only the doctor who work hard. I being an engineer in a multinational company in US knows how much work an engineer do. We don enjoy 5 day per week quite often. And we too have to sit overnight sometimes to complete some project work. Beside this the forum that you are currently using to express yourself ie blog is also a hard work done by some group of engineers. So engineering is not a profession where you enjoy high pay without working, Please this myth.
Sanjay Upadhyay said…
I thought I will add a bit from my profession - coding, http://t.co/NkeDqwsf -

Here's what I've seen work:

1. Embrace the Suck
2. Do It in Public
3. Pick Stuff That Matters

no one is a saint and lets admit our mistakes for the good of our own.
Sanjay Upadhyay said…
while your blog is pretty thoughtful, I guess the comments show that you are hurt by Satyamev Jayte:


>"evryone speaks about respect, and at the end of the day, that's all we doctors have. our trump card, our unique selling point."

I guess this is pretty wrong thinking. trump card is seva bhav which this profession demands above all other professions. respect follows.

>The sad part was Aamir Khanwent on a rampage, which took away even our respect, and that too he made biased allegations.

This is again a pretty wrong assessment. He was pointing out about the wrongs of the bad doctors and which is a pretty sad truth today. You can connect to the common man and see for that.


>If it was just another man on the road, we might not have bothered but Aamir Khan is well respected (just like us doctors) and he should be held accountable to his actions (just like us doctors).

uncalled for at the end of the day, its not we the doctors or we the others. Doctors is the most privileged and respectable of all professions and demands a ethics much higher than other professions. Its the society which is degrading from where the Dr's are coming. However, its the first step at least in asking a group of society to retrospect themselves.
Anonymous said…
lets go back to basics... n leave the temptations of fame, money ,to be respected by others etc... we do our work n are able to sleep with satisfaction of doing something good during the day.. we don't need to prove anything to anybody.. hope all others do justice to their profession.. especially the politicians or leaders, bureaucrats, govt school teachers..

we don't need to say anything we don't need any apology. we are what we do.. we are lifesavers
Nimisha said…
Sorry dear, i disagree on this
"the politicians and bankers and policemen all are accountable."

Politicians are unfortunately not accountable. India has been thrown into this malaise (6.5% GDP growth speaks of itself) because of our politicians. And worst of all, we don't see any other good options around. The programme should have built up a stronger case for asking the govt. to increase the % of GDP allocation to health services.

Its slighly out of context, but the current MCI chief seems to be a useless fellow. Kept on saying on the show that I am here only for 7-9 months. Man, what have you done in the last 7-9 months? We engineers, have our appraisal every 6 months!!
Nimisha said…
Sorry dear, i disagree on this
"the politicians and bankers and policemen all are accountable."

Politicians are unfortunately not accountable. India has been thrown into this malaise (6.5% GDP growth speaks of itself) because of our politicians. And worst of all, we don't see any other good options around. The programme should have built up a stronger case for asking the govt. to increase the % of GDP allocation to health services.

Its slighly out of context, but the current MCI chief seems to be a useless fellow. Kept on saying on the show that I am here only for 7-9 months. Man, what have you done in the last 7-9 months? We engineers, have our appraisal every 6 months!!
Anonymous said…
I m saying the doctors save life n they do this with best of their abilities.. we don't need to prove anything to those who are corrupt...

we do our job n are satisfied with the outcome of our efforts..

it is for other people in other professions to see if they are doing what they are paid for.. are they able to sleep for their non performance..

Regardng Appraisals.. if you are from IT profession Nimisha , I am aware of what actually happens in these appraisals through my friends ... may be we never ask ourselves do we really deserve what we are getting for what we do.. the appraisals are more or less SHAM
RJ said…
Not sure if I am capable to say you have written it well or not so good ..Just want to say I am waiting for the day when people say that I want to grow up and be happy ...thats it. Things will fall in place.
kuheli said…
No one says- I want to grow up and be sad. Its understood, every one wants to be happy. It's just that we dont know what will make us happy. And it's ok, fine not to know, after all the rishi munis, and budhha took years to find out what is happiness and true peace of mind.

Someone said that one shouldn't compare to facials, because those guys make you feel special. so? Hey do you feel doctors are unkind to you? If so you have gone to the wrong doctor. Most doctors are respectful and they will treat you, your disease. They might not pamper you with a glass of lemonade, but they do their job.

Yes engineers do their job. Who is denying that, I never said Doctgors are the best profession there is, far from it. Infact neither is engineering. We guys should get together, swith to arts and take up acting, Thats where the real respect and mullah is. :) And they work hard too, dance in freezing cold, wear funny clothes and dance on buses, but the return on principal is phenomenal. :)

I have nothing against AAmir Khan, I respect him, his work. Hey I don't have TV in the hostel, yet watched the previous episodes of SMJ on you tube really slow internet too...
Varun said…
hiiii kuheli...
your blog depicts real painful picture of a doctor...that only a doctor can understand...after long yrs of hardwork, spending lots of money and despite all capabilities people expect a highly accountable gesture from a doctor...but they expect that he/she has no any right to earn money (even by leagal means)....i agree that some black-sheeps are among us...but most of us are devoted and accountable...and we should not feel dishonored...if we are not guilty...

I really suspect intention of parents and kins of "toppers"...in expressing desire to pushing them to be a doctor...does they really meant for a social service or a social status???

ultimate culprit of all these corruption in health system is politicos and government...but we, doctors also cant deny our ill-intentions of making money...we should try to balance things as being most sensible element of society...
Pratish said…
Ms. Kuheli, I write this with utmost respect to medical profession, because firstly in my view it is a profession as equal as others are and secondly I treat Doctor as Doctor and not God. You started your blog by putting up a very funny example “a science topper says that he wants to be a doctor”. Did you expect a arts/maths/commerce student to say it. After reading your blog it seems that, it is only in medical profession people toil and lose their youth in achieving what they want to. Engineers, actors, business owners etc. just achieve wealth/respect/honour by whiling away and watching IPL matches. To be successful doctors if one needs to put in 10 years of rigorous work so be it why such hullabaloo about it, after all it was a personal and well informed choice and not a compulsion.

I would like to mention that neither I am engineer nor an accountant nor any way associated with SMJ. Am writing this because you very shrewdly depreciated what engineers, accountant, businessperson, actors do and holding medical profession holier-than-thou. An actor doing a raunchy number or a show on social issue is his/her profession. One hour of episode made so much turbulence that doctors are not even ready to see the muck in their own backyard. Neither the show mentioned this nor does a common person like me believe this that all medical professional’s carry unethical practice. I hope someday you understand that it is not about profession but about few individuals.

Your defence is as hollow as politicians defence against corruption.

Someone tried to make mockery of engineers and of their work culture in comments above. My friend you feel proud in seeing people ready to lie down on operation table and you experience ultimate submission.....what else do you expect that patients should start arguing there. They do it because they put faith in you. What you do post that is your profession. It is an unfortunate practice in this country of placing doctors equal to God. No human can be given that status, doctor too is a human and is there to perform his duties as police officer, lawyer, or engineer is.

Pratish Shukla
Anonymous said…
The point here is not to criticize something over another and be sarcastic, the point here is to come together and do something about it.
If you see someone practicing evil in any profession, the person should be punished and for someone doing great and working hard should be praised and given recognition. Whether u have been a topper or not, enjoyed your life partying or not, as long as u enjoy your work and stand by your principles and do your work, your self respect and dignity shall prevail.
Sou said…
Loved it ..the way put things into words is commendable .. but i like to believe " this struggling period will get over and frankly the respect a doctor fetches can be matched by none"
Anonymous said…
Very true :-):-).
Amar said…
A wellwritten blog.Very intresting to read the comments also.

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