Author’s Note: One of my close friends commented on one of my previous articles– “I guess man must have chosen arrogance earlier.” All I could reply was, “Yes, when he created God.”
A few years ago, I had read this article where someone asked the anthropologist Margaret Mead what she considered to be the first evidence of civilization. Her answer was a human thigh bone with a healed fracture found in an archaeological site. It was neither a weapon nor a religious artefact. She suggested that the first indication of civilization is to care for someone who is broken and is in need, over a period of time. But of course, health care workers (HCWs) do not believe in all this humbug.
Being a doctor is about power, or so has been etched on our minds since childhood. Let us call it a typical Indian middle-class childhood. Being a doctor is about fame, position, money, and most importantly, power. A person comes to you at his most vulnerable time, seeking help from you, and providing payment in return. Is this not limitless power? Being a nurse is being one step better (or worse). They will be with you at your birth, and probably at your death. They will care for you and clean after you. You are at their mercy for every fluid that may go in or out of your body. Is this not power?
Are you aware who else has such power? Of course, God. We go to a religious place, seek help, and pay him in one or more of the multiple ways (if you are offended by this, the word I really wanted to use was ‘bribe’). So, am I suggesting that all these people who are at this very moment working incessantly for the health of people and giving hope to them, keeping none for themselves, are similar to God? No, I am actually suggesting that they are superior to him. Some might say that this is a God complex, deep-rooted in the psyche of a health care worker, but I don’t think it is.
We routinely come across news about temples being vandalized and mosques being demolished (just another day in the life of a democracy). I wholeheartedly believe that gods reside in these places (this is sarcasm, everyone knows that God lives in heaven, beyond the clouds, in the stratosphere). When their houses are demolished, do they linger around? Do they turn up for work the next day? Where do we find them otherwise? Do we then turn to other praying places, as people defect to other political parties?
Just to digress, when something goes wrong with you, are you able to find the political leaders whose devotee you are? Trust me you will find an HCW, and that’s the problem. They are gods you can see, touch, and therefore, they are gods you can make bleed. This is why they are easy targets. They are gods who cry, complain, and then return to work the next day. Why? Is this about money or power?
People, in general, do not know how many hours of duties HCWs put in and how much an average nurse earns. Some might argue that they chose the profession. Yes, they did, but they did not sign for the physical, mental, and emotional abuse.
HCWs being blamed for not providing beds, ventilators, oxygen, medication, and vaccines is like blaming God for the poor lighting in a religious place, no nice incense, and no sweet prasad. Trust me, no doctor hoards ventilators at home so that he can use it when the air conditioner breaks down, no pharmacist stocks medicines in his closet because they are his favourite chewing gum. Some might argue that there are some rotten apples, and I agree with them. There have been such dirty people even in the pantheons of gods across all religions and across all centuries.
Unlike God who wants his devotees to campaign to raise money so that he could have a grand house in a specific city, what are these HCWs asking for? More hospitals so that patients do not have to sleep on floors while being treated, more appointments of doctors, nurses amongst others so that the HCW: patient ratio is not skewed. They demand more money to be invested, not for them, but for the same ventilators, vaccines, and medication.
One thing which I surely must appreciate is that Gods, in spite of standing or sitting in the same position forever and listening to the bickering of their devotees, never look tired or exhausted. Have you looked at an HCW after a 24-hour shift with a mask and the PPE kits? If you have seen one and felt nothing, don’t worry, there are millions like you. And if you have not seen one yet, in person or on the media, I think you reside in an alternate universe. Amidst this chaos, deprivation, and disrespect, these HCWs are losing something more valuable.
Even Superman mentioned that in his world ‘S’ stood for hope. In our world, ‘S’ is for superheroes; it also stands for science. It may also stand for soul, spirit, strength, and support. At this moment, the HCWs are losing that one thing they are best at- giving people hope. Last week, a very dedicated colleague, a doctor working in rural areas, treating patients for free if necessary, procuring their medication himself, tried to commit suicide out of frustration. Maybe he was depressed because he was unable to accept his inability to help more people in the manner he wished. He felt that nothing else mattered. He is a god this world needs but unfortunately does not deserve.