Indian medicine is bitter. We do not deny that. Dead people kept artificially alive on ventilators so you can inflate the bill even as relatives cling to vanished tendrils of hope. Doctors with reference quotas to complete so that their billing echoes that of lawyers.
But against all the frequent inhuman acts that are photographed and dispatched as ‘shocking’ revelations, some seem to be more than mildly questionable.
Take this horrendous latest story of the Ranchi Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Jharkhand serving food to a patient on the floor because there were no plates.
The story comes replete with a blurred and indistinct shot of the back of the patient Palmati Devi who has a fractured hand in plaster and she is allegedly eating rice off the floor.
Grotesque? Of course, it is.
But the point is, why? One sometimes gets the feeling these incidents are stage managed. Palmati Devi would probably have had half a dozen relatives camped in the lobby armed with food. Even if she was alone there is no shortage of newspapers, cartons etc. to replace the shortage of plates. Eating off a paper is common. We do it in buses, on trains, even upmarket fast food restaurants. Banana leaves. Any leaf?
At picnics, lunch breaks, parathas with potatoes in them.
There is always paper.
Again, in the picture are scores of people watching. This is not something where getting involved means asking for trouble. You are not going to be beaten up. It is just not possible that while she tamely ate the food off the floor people sauntering past were not offended. Doctors, nurses, other patients, security guards, none of them stopped it.
The reason why this is suspect is that as a nation we are pretty big on food and generally give it respect. It is such an intrinsic part of our lives whether bribing the gods or marking propitious moments or simply engaging in gluttony that it goes against the grain (literally) to place food on the floor.
And then that one photograph that was taken from the back of the lady in question and made viral.
Why couldn’t the photographer have taken a video, a whole high definition series of shots instead of this one indistinct photo in which the food has to be circled so that the viewer can figure it out?
Which then makes one wonder aloud if the news is not being manufactured to titillate and horrify. In the case of the man who had to lift his wife’s body and walk 12 km people did not know what was in the sewn cloth so they can be given the benefit of doubt.
In this case, food on the floor goes so against Indian sensibilities that I would accept the aberration if the evidence hadn’t been so cagey and arguably contrived.
What stopped anyone of the scores of people in the hospital armed with mobile phones from taking the face to face shot instead of this singular snap.
We take a ratatat series of pictures of everything these days.
You get something as mean-spirited as this and there is only a single grainy shot.
In a corridor of a public hospital, the largest in the state…it would have had the traffic of a railway station.
Maybe it did happen. But one has to begin to get a little chary about how much of this sort of stuff is engineered because someone’s imagination is running wild?
Ask yourself as the whole world watches this photo and the story goes global and embarrasses us by underscoring our savagery if you were in that corridor and saw someone eating food off the floor, fractured hand or not, would you keep walking?