Category Archives: doctors (Indian)

In Britain, abuse will be tolerated

Compared to the old days, writes Dalrymple, England

has managed the difficult trick of being both much richer and much nastier.

He remembers an Indian doctor in the hospital where he worked half a century ago,

whose exceptional sweetness of character inspired the instant affection of all who met him, telling me that he considered Britain the most civilised country.

No one, Dalrymple points out,

could make that mistake now, not for an instant, for even at the airport at which he arrived he will have noticed prominent written warnings to the British public that violence or abusive behaviour towards staff will not be tolerated: meaning, of course, that in most instances it will be ignored.

From having been among the most self-controlled populations in the world, the British

have gone in half a century to being among the least self-controlled.

Dalrymple notes that the British population is also

the most spied-upon. Britain has almost as many closed-circuit television cameras installed as the rest of the world put together, but they seem to have hardly any effect on the general level of civility. Testifying quite often in court as an expert witness in murder trials, I am astonished to discover in the course of those trials just how much of British life now takes place on camera: every Briton, indeed, spends more time on screen than the most ubiquitous of film stars, whether he knows and approves of it or not.

At the same time,

menace and incompetence have become the twin characteristics of British officialdom.

Dalrymple reflects that societies fall apart when (among other causes)

their ruling élites, political and intellectual, lose faith in their own right or duty to prescribe standards. They become Hamlet-like: the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and they become persuaded that generosity of spirit and broad-mindedness are the only true virtues, even if they result in paralysis in the face of disorder, with all the accompanying miseries of those who suffer it.

As you are a doctor

Travelling in India, Dalrymple falls ill — enlarged liver, swollen ankles, unnatural lethargy. He is referred to a pathologist who

carried on her practice surrounded by domestic concerns, in the midst of children, mynah birds in cages, servants requesting instructions for luncheon, visiting friends, holy men, carpet salesmen.

The doctor is about to take Dalrymple’s blood

by means of a needle that was blunt from use and none too clean

when Dalrymple mentions that he too is a doctor.

Reluctantly she removed the dirty needle from the syringe and searched in her drawer, amongst the ink-pads, forms, old pens and rubber stamps, for a new, disposable needle.

As you are a doctor,’ she said, with the air of conferring an inestimable benefit.

The qualities needed in a young doctor

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 17.32.03Dalrymple receives an application for a clinical attachment by an Indian doctor newly arrived in England, a country which, Dalrymple points out, is entirely parasitic on the rest of the world for its medical and nursing staff. The application is written, Dalrymple recounts,

in old-fashioned English, greatly the superior in charm to anything written by young British doctors. There is a touching naivety: despite all the applicant must have seen in his homeland, far grimmer physically than anything to be found in the UK, he is not street-smart in the modern sense, and is much the better for it. He sounds as if he has character rather than its debased and shallow modern equivalent, personality.

The applicant tells Dalrymple that

I have learnt from experience that honesty and diligence always pay off. Reliability, teamwork and love for my fellow beings has been my motto.

Dalrymple comments:

I doubt that this is boasting or mere vanity, of the kind that is now officially encouraged among, indeed required of, medical staff in compulsory self-appraisals, in the government’s plan to reduce the medical profession to its own ethical level.

The applicant writes:

Parents and teachers are my inspirers.

Dalrymple asks:

What young Briton would dare to write such a thing nowadays, even in the unlikely event that he felt it? Yet what civilisation can survive without such modest respect for elders and for the accumulated wisdom and experience of the past?

The applicant is

aware of my limitations but have a strong belief and faith in my capabilities.

That, says Dalrymple,

is just what one wants of a young doctor.

If this is naivety, says Dalrymple,

it is naivety that will lead in the end to far greater mental, cultural, emotional and spiritual sophistication than the trivial, smart-alec culture of modern Britain.

Indian doctors, says Dalrymple, have

  • better manners than their young British counterparts
  • a truer appreciation of life
  • a subtler and deeper sense of humour
  • an attractive sense of irony born of an instinctive understanding of the inherent limitations of human existence, which is now almost completely lost in the British population