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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 12, october 1-15, 2009
Short 'N' Snappy

Requiem for the family doctor

"Do you know of any good general practitioner who comes home?" asked a friend of The Man from Madras Musings. It was only then that MMM realised that this species has become almost extinct.

Where is the good old GP who would call at home whenever someone was below the weather? He would drive up and first have a cup of coffee (in those days there was plenty of coffee; no one thought seven or eight cups a day was bad for health).

Then he would be waylaid by hypochondriac grandmother whom he knew would live up to a hundred without any medical help but still needed what is today called TLC (tender loving care), especially from a doctor. On days when Grandmother was feeling particularly low, he would even give her an injection after which she would immediately perk up though we all suspected that the syringe probably contained just mineral water. Then he would deal with the rest of us. En route, he would discuss family events – weddings, breakups, childbirths and funerals, enough material for him – to start a conversation at the neighbour’s. The doctor had plenty of time and so did the patients. In this process, recalls MMM, everyone was happy.

True, the GP believed more in a form of rough and ready diagnosis, but he brought the psychological element into medical treatment which, MMM feels, made all the difference. Above all, he could be consulted over the phone and he knew everyone at home well enough to immediately know who was being consulted about – from the watchman at the gate with the varicose veins to the cook who always had a bout of hysterics each time there was a Full Moon.

What has happened to this species, MMM wonders. Why have they been replaced with these modern, efficient machines for whom every patient is a docket number on a card which is to be fished out each time the patient visits? And as for diagnosis, just forget the doctor who can come to a conclusion after a simple physical examination. Today, according to what MMM hears, if you step into a clinic with a pain in the foot, you are referred at once to a specialist who in turn asks you to immediately turn around, go to a ‘recommended’ lab where you are to submit yourself to a battery of tests, beginning with your head (after all, it is connected to the foot) and ending in your wallet. These tests invariably throw up some finding or the other, most often unconnected with your pain in the foot but entirely related to a field in which the specialist is an expert and treatment immediately begins for the new ailment, the pain in the foot all the while worsening. Then, when the pain has come to a stage which cannot be borne any longer, treatment begins for both simultaneously, by two different specialists, which will cause a third problem as a side effect and, soon, before you knew it, your pain in the foot has travelled upwards and become a pain in the ——. All the while you have the satisfaction of having consulted the best specialists in town. Damn the GP.

Saturnine moves

Saturn must be a happy planet. His movements are now gaining the kind of attention that Princess Di used to get from the paparazzi. The Man from Madras Musings was informed through letter, leaflet, e-mail and sms that Saturn was shifting homes on a particular day and that it would be best if MMM, in whose horoscope Saturn was a permanent fixture and always malefic, paid his respects and generally helped in the move. Wonder how the homes are up there? Airy, well-ventilated villas or gated communities or housing board tenements? Whatever it is, Saturn would be the kind of resident who would make life miserable for the building association, not paying his dues and refusing to contribute to the repair cost of the lift and the water-pump. No wonder he moves with such regularity.

To come back to the story, this was, anyway, the day when MMM made his weekly visit to the temple and so he went along. It also being the Navaratri festival, the crowds were immense (Saturn being Saturn had no doubt selected this particular date with all intentions of creating chaos), with everyone jostling everyone else in trying to get in. Someone had spread the story that Saturn could be propitiated on this day only by lighting 108 oil lamps and in all the pushing and pulling, the oil lamps had a field day, staining clothes and making the entire courtyard as slippery as an eel. The longest queues were in front of Saturn’s sanctum and the financially savvy temple authorities had decided to extract a fee for a darshan of Saturn.

Rs. 25 enabled you to have a distant dekho, Rs. 50 meant you could get closer, after being shoved hither and thither, and Rs. 100 ensured that you, after being jostled, pushed, pulled and shoved (in Disney­land you would pay $10 just for this thrill) get close enough to personally offer your prayers to Saturn.

MMM was amazed. On most normal days, Saturn was left alone in a corner and often had only MMM as a worshipper. He and MMM would spend a moment or two in silent communion before MMM moved on, hoping Saturn too would. On this day, not wanting to pay any money for meeting someone with whom MMM could claim a close relationship, MMM simply hung around. The crowds suddenly parted and he could see Saturn, just for a second. It may have been MMM’s imagination, but he thinks Saturn grinned hugely and winked at MMM.

Golu Flu

Are your feet aching continuously? Do you find that you are seeing steps with dolls on them when none exists? Are you suffering from a surfeit of horsegram, Bengalgram and all other forms of grams cooked into what is called sundal? Are you, if female, harassed at trying to manage logistics of travelling between Nilankarai, T Nagar, San Thomé, Mylapore, Ashok Nagar, KK Nagar and, perhaps, even George Town, all in one evening, at the same time having to be at home because visitors are likely to drop in? Are you also, if female once again, harassed with trying to lay out different sets of clothes and jewellery to match for each individual outing and complaining that you have nothing to wear? Then, the chances are that you are suffering from Golu Flu.

If so, let The Man from Madras Musings assure you that this is an entirely manageable illness for which you need no surgical masks, injections or medicines. This is a malaise that hits you, only if you have been in Madras that is Chennai for a longish period of time and have acquired a set of clay dolls which you have an irrepressible urge to display on steps each time Navaratri comes calling. And it runs its course and is usually gone in nine days. But mark you, once you have been bitten by this bug, rather like the old Colonials with their touch of malaria, it will keep coming back each year at the same time. The only possibly harmful side-effect is likely to come from eating Bengalgram. And that you can handle through a good digestive.



In this issue

The road ahead...
Twists and turns...
During Madras Week...
A blogger's view...
Historic Residences...
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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