( A piece of humor Ashutosh Tiwari and Mabi Singh)
Doctors and long-distance bus drivers have much in common in Nepal. Both are responsible for other people’s lives. Yet, both often fail in their duty. Just as our highways are littered with squashed men, women and children for whom the light at the end of the tunnel was that of an oncoming bus they failed to dodge, our hospital cabins and nursing home-rooms are filled with patients –overmedicated, over-ignored …
and overcharged, and, singing a “knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s door”.
If you want to learn more about drivers, hitch a ride on the rattling Sajha Bus to Dang from Kathmandu. If you want to get the inside dope – no, not THAT dope, silly — on Nepali doctors, read on.
Dr. SIGNBOARD-ONLY: This doctor is more interested in keeping his degree-studded, Shyam-Arts-painted brown signboard outside his clinic cleaner than your lungs. More a salesman than a doctor,
he knows how to fudge a routine, ordinary and even necessary two-week-long post graduate training in Poona as an impressive-sounding degree on his beloved signboard.
When you visit him as a patient, just watch him: He has absolutely no idea what in Nepal is wrong with you. Yet, in a serious voice, he intones that you take Cetamol twice a day, each time with a glass of Aqua Mineral water. And ladies, don’t ever let him squeeze your breasts just because he seems a little too obsessed about curing your
headache. How this guy exists as a doctor says wonderful stuff about our Nepal Medical Association and the Nepal Medical Council.
Dr. ALL-IN-ONE: This doctor acts as though he were the direct descendant of Mr. Hippocrates of Athens. He knows all about medicine, and he wants you to know that he knows all about medicine. Even in casual conversations, he makes references both to the New England Journal of Medicine and the Kamana magazine’s health columns. The word “referral” is alien to him: He’d rather kill you than send you over to someone more qualified in Nepal.
This guy, being Dr. All-in-one, practices all kinds of medicine. On Sundays, he deals with mere mortals like you and me. On Mondays, he operates on your newly-rich neighbor’s dog. And he spends the rest of the week, peddling cod-liver oil from his wife-managed drugstore. Oh, in between, he has plenty of time, not to mention cash, to rush his relatives to Delhi or Vellore, even if they have as much as a sneezing problem.
Dr. NO SOURCE-FORCE: Remember that wide-eyed, bushy-tailed ASCol classmate from Urma VDC in Kailali zilla, who drove you nuts with his “tapai ka tapai” salutation and oh-so-formal spoken Nepali? Well, guess what. The guy wiped his nose clean, studied hard, got a Colmbo Plan scholarship to study medicine, and has now become a football — kicked around by the Ministry of Health.
Since this doctor, then as now, lacks connections that matter, the bureaucrats keep on transferring him from one remote zilla to another, ordering him to fill in the “rural service quota” of yet another slick Kathmandu medical boy who enjoys the benefits of his Papa’s right connections. Yet, our No ‘Source Force’ hero uncomplainingly moves on — like the mighty Hercules holding Atlas, dreaming of those juicy government scholarships to Edinburgh, Dublin or Dhaka. But, alas, those never arrive, leaving our “daktar-shaheb” spend his working days in places like Khalanga, Jajarkot — playing cards all day with the peons, stealing “chuskis” of banned raksi, and being reduced to massaging broken jaws of the Maobadis.
Dr. NO ETHICS: There exist at least three variants of this mutant medico species in our beloved Nepal. The first variant worships money. To that end, he’s always ready to make arbitrary diagnosis, go for unjustifiably expensive procedures, and prescribe back-breaking nostrum which he wants you to buy at the drugstore of which he is a shareholder, if not the owner. He pockets commissions from pathology
labs and much else besides.
The second variant, though officially an employee at a state hospital, will only see you at his private clinic, where, up on a wall-papered panel, hangs his license to kill. Always busy, he treats you as though you were a Hero Honda motorbike, whirring over to him for a quick tune-up. “Roll on, roll on”, he seems to say, “and hand over the money to my brother-in-law outside.”
The third variant practices medicine by becoming skilled at politics – both local and national. Acting as advisors to
political parties, he, together with his comrades and “jai nepal” friends tears medical fraternities apart — choosing to operate on the patients only with (choose one) a Congressi or an RPP or an UML or a Maoist knife.
Ah, such and more are the hidden tales from the medical land. At least, the bus driver hasn’t made us swim out of the Trishuli yet!
(Originally published in The Kathmandu Post; circa 1999).