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Carry On Doctor

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The man who wrote Perineum: Nether Parts of the Empire — a clutch of narratives about the sexual underside of the colonial empire published last year — leaves the room “to slip into something more comfortable.” Isn’t that what happens in psycho films and books? Someone says “I’ll be back,” only to never return. And then, there is blood.
Luckily, he re-enters in a respectable red kurta, with a bowl of sabudana vada and mango chutney, made by his grandma. No, there is no Hannibal Lecter here. But Satwik is no ordinary man either. “I’m inherently perverse,” declares the endoscopy specialist at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital about his literary persona. “In a way, my book looked at the perineum as an interface to history, because I deal with genitals most of the time.”
Satwik is one of the newest medics on the writers’ block. He is part of a tribe that successfully divides time between the stethoscope and the pen. Examples abound. Lonavla-based doctor Kavery Nambisan has published five novels. Kalpana Swaminathan, a Bombay-based surgeon and literary critic, has authored two books in a murder series called the Lalli Mysteries.
Anirban Bose, a kidney specialist at Calcutta’s Rabindranath Tagore International Institute for Cardiac Sciences, is set to make his literary debut later this year with Bombay Rains — Bombay Girls, a book about studying in a medical college in the late ’80s. Dr Devdutt Pattanaik of Mumbai specialises in mythological writings.
“There is no law that says doctors cannot write. Perhaps the boom in publishing has now made the space for various types of writers and writing to flourish in India,” rumbles literary critic Ira Pande. Concurs Saugata Mukherjee, senior commissioning editor of HarperCollins, which will publish Anirban Bose. “It’s a bit like what happened after Chetan Bhagat wrote Five Point Someone. Almost immediately we had plenty of IITians churning out manuscripts. But in many cases they are just good writers who happen to be doctors.”






BOOKWATCH: (From left) Dr Kavery Nambisan, Dr Ambarish Satwik and Dr Anirban Bose

Doctors abroad aren’t to be left behind either. Cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar records his initiation into the medical profession in America in Intern. Skin cancer specialist Sharad Paul, based in New Zealand, digs into his Tamil roots in Cool Cut.
Atul Gawande and Abraham Verghese are among the “biggies” in the US. Gawande’s bestseller Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes On An Imperfect Science, a warts-and-all portrait of the medical field in the US, was a National Book Award finalist in the US in 2003. His new book Better: A Surgeon’s Note On Performance was out last year.
But does being a doctor give one the edge? Does knowing the inside stories of people provide grist to their fictive mills?
From the outset, many such docs — like Sharad Paul — admit to having “grown up with books.” In Paul’s case it took the shape of rediscovering his own origins. Pattanaik remembers growing up with tales from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. His new book, The Pregnant King, published by Penguin earlier this year, is a “conscious reinterpretation” of mythological narratives.
Motivations differ. Bose, who says he went through “roughly 200 rejections” before being accepted by HarperCollins, was inspired by a patient’s complaint. “She burst into tears saying that her in-laws were pressurising her to put on weight and that led to marital conflict. It’s the opposite for which people rail and rant. It inspired me to write a short story,” he says. “Often, my work as a doctor makes me question assumptions.”
Some believe that doctors get a sharper insight into people because of their relationship with a multitude of patients with problems. “The special perspective medicine offers a writer is a heightened sensitivity — you become the world’s nerve in vinegar, to quote W.B. Yeats,” says Kalpana Swaminathan. But, she feels, being close to a patient doesn’t guarantee an insider’s view. “Just because I’ve handled your spleen, doesn’t mean I know you.”

Courtesy: The Telegraph
 


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