Doctors without borders

Chat went beyond the confines of the ER and into the literary passages of Dostoevsky and the likes.

Who said that a get-together of doctors must be dictated by talks of symptoms, diagnosis and medicines? When Dr. Vikram Paralkar and Dr. Hemant Morparia sat along with Gayatri Pahlajani at the David Sassoon Library for the ongoing Kala Ghoda festival, the chat went beyond the confines of the ER and into the literary passages of Dostoevsky and the likes. For both, oncologist Paralkar and radiologist Morparia are published writers. The former has authored a book titled The Afflictions, which is a fiction novel with a largely medical context and the latter is a cartoonist with one of the city's popular tabloids.

Very often, it is his medical background that nudges the writer in him, says Dr Vikram. “The study of medicine instils in you a certain discipline that that helps you in the writing process. For me, the only thing I know is medicine, so they will find a way to seep into my writing. If I were a banker, I’d probably have written about the world of finance, but it’s medicine for now,” he says.

Keeping a patient’s story confidential is one of any doctor's foremost obligations. But that isn't absolute, insists Dr Morparia whose patients have often made it to his cartoons - including the serving Prime Minister of the time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He says, “Everyone knew that the PM was in the city for a knee operation. The information was in the public domain. So it wasn't like I crossed a line when I showed in my strip the next day, a man asking Mr Vajpayee, ‘what’s it this time? The left knee, right knee or Advani?’

While this particular piece was met with much cheer by the audience at the talk as well his readers, not all have had such luck. He explains, “The time I drew a caricature of Hrithik with two thumbs, for instance. People thought it was insensitive of me to ‘make fun’ of someone’s ‘disability’. But how is it a disability?”

When does a doctor know that he or she can write? “One learns to read and write before one learns the ropes of medicine. So in that sense, we’re all writers before we’re doctors or anything else for that matter," they convey, in unison.

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