When “world’s heaviest woman” Eman Ahmed’s doctor Aparna Bhasker quit her case, with an emotional post on Facebook saying she felt unappreciated by her Egyptian patient’s family, my first reaction was that as a doctor, she should simply do her job and not care about rewards or brickbats. But only a couple of hours later, I was discussing the inherent wisdom in keeping an arm’s length from anyone who was unappreciative, since one should be smart enough to know better. It made me wonder why the same logic shouldn’t apply to doctors.
In our parents’ generation, when joint families were the norm, duty reigned supreme. Nobody thanked anyone if they were asked to pass the salt on the dinner table, unlike today. Feeling underappreciated, taken for granted were not words associated with that generation, as they looked after extended families and put siblings, and sometimes an entire village, through school. Ours is a generation known for knee-jerk reactions, instant gratification and settling scores. I decided to resort to some pop psychology, courtesy Google (what else?), and found that most tips are for inculcating the spirit of gratitude, which is apparently also good for our psychological health. But there’s not much about being at the receiving end of ingratitude. Except the satisfaction of knowing that karma is a bitch and it will come back to bite the evil wrongdoers. But what about taking the moral high road? Or as former US First Lady Michelle Obama famously said last year, “When they go low, we go high.”
Times like these, when one is feeling let down, are a real challenge. As a religiously challenged person (not atheistic, not agnostic, not really anything) and also without a therapist to fall back on, I usually resort to my own analysis. Ultimately, it helps to realise that we are all but a speck in the universe and after a point, not even that remains, so how important is someone being ungrateful in the larger scheme of things? And as the wonderful people we aspire or claim to be, should we even be expecting anything in exchange for a good deed? Ideally, no, but in reality, nobody wants to feel…you get it, underappreciated. Besides the fact that our sense of self is the most important reality in our lives.
I remember having interviewed a motivational speaker, who remarked that when employees quit jobs, it’s simply people leaving people. Ultimately, it all comes down to the quality of your relationships and our attitudes towards those we meet. So, naturally, people—including doctors—will get upset at some point and quit cases.
Here’s a telling quote, credited to the Dalai Lama, “For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of tolerance is essential, and for that, an enemy is indispensable. So we should be grateful to our enemies, for it is they who can best help us develop a tranquil mind.” In other words, the end goal is achieving personal growth and a calm mind. With that in focus, maybe it’s time for Eman Ahmed’s doctors to “go high”, since eventually, we’re only answerable to ourselves, after all!