18 Monday
May 2020
Are good intentions enough to govern a nation?

I grew up on the notion that actions speak louder than words; so I try not to be impressed with speeches, announcements, pledges and promises until I have seen them deliver the end result.

Needless to say, I’m terribly disappointed with the present government. If you are a BJP supporter, I suggest you stop reading now… my views won’t make you happy, and it’s in our mutual interest that you exit this article. To those of you who expect more from your elected representatives, read on.

Demonetisation was supposed to be a master stroke against black money, terrorism funding and fake currency. It’s poor implementation, endless tweaking of rules ended up as a nation wide chaos. Lakhs of people stood in km long queues for 50 days to access 4000₹ from their own bank accounts. Eventually it ended up slowing the economy, made 4 lakh people lose their jobs and not a dent was made on black money, terrorism or fake currency. What may have started with good intentions and grand standing, was a total disaster. NOTHING came out of it except some middle men making a lot of money by changing notes.

Long queues outside bank ATMs 2016 November

GST was something that BJP opposed when they were in the opposition, supported when they came to power and instead of a single simplified tax went on make the most complex tax system on record. The federal tax system has crumbled with centre not disbursing states’ share of GST over several months and states having to resort to higher excise on fuel, the one thing being kept out of GST. Several home run businesses with turnover of less than a lakh a month shut down as cost of keeping an accountant to file 3 forms of GST every month was more than the profit they were accruing. More unemployment followed.

Doing business in India has always been a challenge for international players.Now when China has become a global pariah, India is still not the top destination for foreign investors inspite of cheap labour. We would love to become the electronics manufacturing hub of the world…. but will our reputation defeat our goals? Will Make in India or Atmanirbhar Bharat achieve its lofty goals or become another lost opportunity. Only time will tell.

Revocation of article 370 in Kashmir was something I whole heartedly supported, as did the entire nation. But 285 days after revocation, the valley still has limited internet, no tourism or industry and no concrete steps have been taken to open up the economy of Kashmir. The social, economic and mental crisis affecting people of the entire state has been forgotten by mainstream media and the parliament. How do they plan to normalise and integrate the people of Kashmir. No one knows.

Indians have had a taste of a prolonged lockdown. We were extremely grateful to be locked safely at home until we began to see the food crisis unfold in the urban poor. The government’s distribution network was unable to provide food to everyone despite surplus reserves and the civil society has been feeding more people than the government in most states. A society that pays taxes should not be needing charity. But every crisis from floods to terrorist attacks to pandemics,asks and sometimes forces citizens to donate to the government’s unaudited funds.

The dillydallying on providing public transport saw the trickle of migrants increase to a stream until it has become a national crisis in itself. After 2 months of being stuffed in one room tenements the workers have no money, no food, no patience and no belief in deliverance and have set about heading home- by trains, buses, trucks, cycles or even on foot. The nation has been seeing heart breaking visuals of poor migrants heading home with children on their backs. What can citizens do except set up food and water kiosks on the way? Anything more significant has to be organised by the people we chose to govern us.

Walking home on foot.

We people are easy to please. Give us grand words, eloquent dreams and then nothing else is needed. No one holds the government accountable for anything they promised. We expect to be fooled and let down. We do not hold our Councillors, MLAs,MPs or PM to higher standards. We understand that our duty is to pay taxes and theirs is to make promises and not deliver. That is why they don’t need to work too hard. Election after election is won on grand standing, sloganeering, pitching one community or caste against another.And all pre-election promises forgotten in the 5 years of governance.

We refuse to ask questions, do not demand answers. So afraid we are of standing up, that we forget we deserve better. Can we, a nation of 138 crore people produce leaders who can govern us better? Or have we simply stopped looking for excellence?

Jai hind.
Dr.Sarika Verma
ENT surgeon,Gurgaon.

02 Saturday
May 2020
The story of my Lockdown.

There are all sorts of people in this world. Some who are happy to enjoy their relaxed pace of life, sip chai, read newspapers, breathe easy. I am not one of those people. I have always been happiest running from one job to another, seeing patients, answering calls, getting home -work done, attending a meeting, writing a blog on a flight and running to OPD after touchdown. So imagine what an intense life changing event this Covid 19 induced lockdown has been for me.

The one thing that’s helped me cope is Gratitude. The moment I open my eyes, before I get out of bed, I name the things I’m most grateful for : a comfortable home, food on the table, healthy family members. I take a moment to think of the lakhs of people stranded in tiny rooms away from their families, without jobs, rent or food. Let’s never take what we have in our lives for granted.

Spending time with family has been the biggest upside of lockdown. None of us remember when everyone was home without an agenda.There are a lot of Chess, Othello, Monopoly, Blokus, Scrabble and Boggle matches happening in our home. The kids took a while to understand that their parents were really going to remain at home all the time!! My son misses cricket and friends, but he tells me the best part of lockdown is having us at his beck and call.

My personal target is to ensure the children get out of lockdown thinking this was one of the nicest times ever! They have online classes; the studies give them a sense of purpose, something to wake up for. We avoid watching news and never discuss the world pandemic numbers with them. We are creating a lifetime of memories for all of us.

The idea of doing nothing productive is not a part of my genetic makeup .I have been writing articles, a few have been published in news papers, the rest on Facebook. After reading about the multiple attacks on doctors and health workers I started an online petition on #StopAttacksOnDoctors which has garnered 2,22,000 signatures. I have appeared on multiple news channels through videoconferencing urging people to stop attacking healthcare workers and asking politicians to make such attacks a non-bailable offence. We even had a nationwide tweetstorm to garner support for this cause. With the IMA and RDA pressurising the home ministry, the government has made an ordinance making attacking doctors a non bailable and cognisable offense with upto 7 years in jail and a fine of ₹2 lakhs.

I have attended a few webinars and do hope that even after lockdown withdrawal we will do away with physical CMEs and continue this time saving, convenient and less expensive way of spreading medical knowledge.

I have hand stitched denim covers to re-purpose school water bottles. Painted two Krishna theme oils on canvas.I have volunteered to do telemedicine consults for Gurugram administration. I continue to see few emergency patients wearing gear that until now I had never imagined wearing in an outpatient department. I even turned radio jockey for a day in our building’s community music hour.

There has been a transformation in the pace of my life- there is time to meditate, time to look out of the window, to watch the skies change hues. When was the last time we sat admiring the sky? Probably back in school days. I am awed at the earth’s transformation. Factories are shut, hardly any vehicles on the road, no air travel. Look how clean the air has become, our rivers are healing. Human consumption has become a disease, it is heartening to see the damage reverse in front of our eyes.

The fear of becoming unfit has made us follow a rigorous indoor fitness program complete with music, crunches, weights, cardio and skipping. These days my family is making new personal records in skipping, ranging from 600-10,000 a day!

The exercise allows ice cream and lots of desserts that we have been trying out. I have started cooking again after decades. My kids are amused that their mother does know how to cook- infact they have themselves started entering the kitchen and chocolate muffins, oatmeal cookies, caramel custard cooking demonstrations have happened! My husband has prepared breakfast on many days.

It’s a great time to inculcate good habits; children learn a lot by watching us. Picking up plates, clearing the table, heating food, picking up dirty clothes, washing an occasional utensil, doing up beds. I don’t think we could have a better time to teach them life skills.

How to handle difficult situations? How to manage life’s unpredictability? How to accept things over which we have no control? To be able to remain cheerful through the lockdown despite the despondency, deaths and financial difficulty. A practical realization that life is more important than money. When the world locked down, the only thing we needed was food, family and love.

The fact that being in a rich developed nation did not reduce the chances of catching the disease. That as human beings we do care about the less fortunate and many people reached out to help and support those who needed food in this difficult time.

Until now, all of us have been working for money, power, fame, designer labels: clothes, bags, shoes, watches and fancy cars. None of these things mattered when there was a virus on the loose. All the power in the world could not keep prime ministers and movie stars free of disease. Being human is the one redeeming quality of our race.

We would all do well to remember these values long after the lockdown is history. Until then, keep your chin up, have a smile on your face and play a nice board game. This too shall pass.

Dr.Sarika Verma
ENT Surgeon,Gurgaon.