26 Monday
November 2018
Calling out a spade.

We Indians are not comfortable with looking at things for what they are, acknowledging them and then accepting them without hurting our personal egos and fragile self pride. We would rather smear a brush of false praise and then hope that what we are saying will change the memory of what had really happened. And over time, reality, fact , truth, untruth , perception, false pretenses , all gather up and make an unclear jumble of history, where no one knows for sure what happened, and those who were not present have absolutely no idea of the truth.

I have in the last one year attended a few conferences where I saw this happen. Today I see a pattern emerging and it hurts me… not because I was present, and know the truth, but because the false praises are becoming a routine. When we praise a poor show, we give no incentive for future organizers to work better, to plan ahead, to market well, to improve the quality of the content, to give the speaker an audience.

None of us need another trophy on an already crowded clinic shelf. The reason one attends conferences is to learn or to teach. If during the 3 hours when the invited faculty are giving talks, one sends the post graduates to present their free papers in another hall, we deny these post graduates a chance to hear, learn or ignite a spark by being exposed to new speakers who are experts in their fields.

Please don’t get me wrong. My idea is not to belittle the organisers’ efforts in planning, inviting, executing , mobilizing funds. It takes months of effort and I know how difficult it is. I appreciate the effort put in, but I don’t see any reason why we cannot try to understand what went wrong, and how we can improve, because for that we would have to accept that things in their present form were not perfect.

I went to a National conference a few months back, changing two flights and leaving practice for 2 days, only to see about 70 registered delegates and then the audience further distributed into multiple halls. The sad part was I saw congratulatory messages on conference Whatsapp groups for a well organized and excellent show. Then I saw a repeat in a recent state conference. I just want to understand, what is the point of having so many conferences? What is our aim of organizing them? And are we satisfied with where we are, or do we aspire to do better? For me, the only way society can improve is when it can see the truth in the mirror and accept what it is….that is the first step. It is my painful duty to hold the mirror to the ENT fraternity as a whole and say, please look at yourselves for once with honesty. Accept it. Think how we can improve ourselves. And then start working towards getting better. Otherwise with every decade the quality of training will keep coming down and the post graduates will mock their teachers when they compare what is praised in India, as they get exposed to the West.

Whether it is Indian history or current economics, we prefer to change the numbers and figures, instead of letting truth be an inviolate absolute barometer. We would rather fudge facts, change figures, alter reality to make our present efforts look acceptable and save our skin. This is why India still treats its 1.3 billion population as a burden and has shifted into the category of lower income groups of countries, while China has used its population to its advantage, creating jobs, skills and talent and become the manufacturing hub and financial giant of the world. I will not go back decades and find someone to blame for the mess that is currently India, I’d much rather focus on seeing India for what it is: a large mass of humanity, waiting for our leadership to help us find our rightful place in the top rungs of the world order.

But until we accept that we are imperfect, we cut corners on quality, we turn a blind eye to our weaknesses and failures, we say untruths in public; our research is treated with scorn by the west; we bungle facts and figures; we lie. We, who were once the largest exporters of silk and muslin to the world, who had the best set of ship makers and craftsmen, weavers, embroiderers. We had one of the oldest world universities in the heart of India are now giving degrees just on paper instead of imparting meaningful education.

We have talent. We are hard working. We work using any kind of inventive jugaad to find success. But we have let our standards fall. We accept mediocrity instead of giving merit it’s due. Our future generations need us to become the best versions of ourselves, to find the best amongst us to lead and show the way. A young country with an illustrious history; we 1.3 billion people have immense ability to become the best in the world.

But only when we stop celebrating mediocracy.

Dr Sarika Verma.

09 Friday
November 2018
Dear Mr Khattar,Let’s talk about Gurgaon’s air.

Chief Minister, I write to you as the person with maximum authority in my state Haryana. I find the environment choking up,air becoming visibly hazy and more and more patients coming in with pollution related respiratory diseases. The air quality indices are rising every day and Gurgaon recently won the dubious tag of being “Most Polluted City” in India, stealing the title from the Hon. Prime Minister’s own constituency Varanasi.

We have been witnessing a cyclical rise in air pollution levels over the past decade. Your predecessor Mr. Hooda did nothing to control the stubble burning, and neither have you. Giving radio ads asking farmers not to burn stubble DOES NOT constitute definitive action. Your directive for citizens to remain indoors for the next 10 days is laughable, as everyone who has a job will not be able to follow your advice. What steps have you taken to ensure that the farmers have an alternative to stubble burning? Have you arranged Harvesters for them? Have you created a team of administration in every district to help the farmers to be provided with adequate infrastructure, so they need not resort to burning their fields? What have you done sir to ensure that the people who elected you are not choking their lungs in October/November every year?

As you are well aware, Haryana has the lowest forest cover among all the states in India. A mere 3% compared to the minimum requirement of 9%, less than even the desert state of Rajasthan. What steps has your government taken in the past 4 years to ensure that this value goes up to the requisite levels? As of last month, you have allowed the NHAI to cut 10,000 fully grown trees on Sohna Road. Sir, Human beings are consuming the earth, and people in power have a responsibility to the future generation to ensure that we leave them a world worth living in. I cannot understand how such a decision can be taken without ensuring that all those trees are not killed, but removed as a whole and replanted elsewhere in the vicinity. No cost is too high when the health of your people is concerned.

The Aravalli Biodiversity park is home to 184 species of birds. It is a patch of lungs within the concrete city of Gurgaon. Your government has given a go ahead to NHAI to destroy more than one third of this forest to build another road between Delhi and Gurgaon. When will you wake up to the fact that we barely have any eco-systems left to be preserved and this really in the last straw for the people of Gurgaon?? How many more children have to be nebulised for bronchitis and how many elderly have to be admitted in the ICU before you understand the magnanimity of the calamity you are permitting?? The air quality is so bad that the meters cannot measure the particulate matter anymore! How long will you let it worsen?

The Aravalli range is the one demarcation between the deserts of Rajasthan and South Haryana. With the unprecedented mining that is happening despite all laws in place, hill upon hill is disappearing from the face of the earth. 28 hills have completely disappeared and a patch of flat land remains where a mighty Aravalli stood for centuries. If you let this continue without a check, the desertification of Haryana will happen in our lifetime.

I implore you to please wake up to the real and present danger of toxic air shortening decades of lifespan for your citizens. What is the point of having a Millenium City, when performers like Bryan Adams find their silhouette being projected on the dust and smog over the audience? We are not only damaging our international reputation, we are turning away tourists and investors, and hurting our economy.

There is so much you can do, Chief Minister. Please ensure that the agencies use technology to replant grown trees like in Dubai, and there is absolutely NO CHOPPING OF TREES IN GURGAON. Please ensure that you can #savearvallibiodiversitypark and say a firm #notonhai. Please see that every sector and colony has e-waste pick up points, and the public is made aware that anything that runs on a battery or electricity should not be put in the normal dust bin, but in e-waste bins. Please ensure that garbage segregation at source is made mandatory in every house of Gurgaon, and organic waste is composted locally to reduce the garbage going to landfills. These steps are already being carried out by so many condominiums in their private capacity;you only have to give orders for replication of this on a larger scale. Prove for once that you are worth being the Chief Minister of such a beautiful state in the heart of India. Otherwise, 2019 is election year, and we will look for an alternative. #ForGurgaon#ForHaryana#ForOurLungs

Jai Hind.
Dr.Sarika Verma
ENT Surgeon & Allergy Specialist