Cracking the Code

Thursday, April 01, 2010 F.H 7 Comments Category :

Among the many mysteries that surround the healing arts, the most compelling and time-consumingly distracting is of course one that’s the most obvious and makes no sense whatsoever: namely, when do you become a doctor? To put it more philosophically, when does a neophyte know that the proverbial moment of truth has arrived in his life? That he has finally been initiated into the much revered, Hippocratic pantheon of healers? How can he tell? When does he know? (If you think that the vocabulary’s suffocatingly over-bearing and that your eyes are bleeding from the verbose, far-flung philosophy, go sue Dan Brown! I’m reading The Lost Symbol nowadays and he does have an irritatingly contagious propensity for writing like this)

So… back to the million dollar question. If your life were plotted on graph paper, what would be that one point when a golden halo would materialize atop your head and you’d go, “Hey what do you know! I’m a doctor! I have powers! I can heal! World, here I come!” Being the hopeless cynic that I am and given the current status of my stagnant academic condition, I don’t think I’d ever be able to tell. So I turned to the people around me for some enlightenment on this very fundamental quandary of a medical student who’s got nothing better to do.

My parents, being the altruistic renegades that they are, think it’s when the patient you operated on the previous night, sleeps out the anesthesia the next day and says his first words. Then you know. But that’s almost too noble! They are too old (and too wise perhaps?) to understand.

Dr. Jalal-ud-din Gohar of the Anatomy Dept. thinks it’s when after a 6-month house-job, you’re able to tell, with eyes closed, just how many bricks are missing from the northern wall of North Surgery ward. (Awww sir, that’s so cute but we’re being philosophical here and philosophy, you see has no place for cuteness)

My friends, who have a penchant for stating the obvious think the initiation is complete the day someone calls you Doctor Saab (or if you’re living in the Punjab, Daakh Saab) as in, “Daakh Saab…yes I’m talking to you Daakh Saab! Get out of my class” or better still “Proxy? Bench pe kharay ho jyen Daakh Saab!”

So you see, the bottom-line is that nobody knows! It’s all conjecture. And what does that say about the charge of pseudo-divinity that has been conferred by ‘lesser mortals’ into out unwilling hands? What of the demigods we’ve become in the eyes of people who expect to see no error, no lapse of negligence, no mistake, no uncertainty from the messiahs whose hands they readily put their lives in? And what happens when suddenly their numinous little bubble pops and they realize that their gods too are creatures of the flesh, shackled by the constraints of morality, mortality and morbidity the same way as they are. That their messiahs too would bleed and cry out in pain when the nails of attrition and hatred are pushed through their mortal flesh at the Cross? What happens then? What happens then, is what happened yesterday at Jinnah Hospital, Lahore.

Without getting into the debate of who among the three parties – the media, the doctors, the patients and their attendants – should be made to bear the brunt of the incident, I’d just say that the future looks grim; for as any aspiring doctor will tell you, what we really want in exchange for our slavish toiling, sleepless nights and mindless slogging is not money or power or rank. It’s respect and awe and admiration. It is only the One True God after all, Whom Arabic calls Samad. All the rest of us can ever hope to be are stone idols, craving reverence and subservience, both fearing and faring on the ‘great expectations’ of their worshippers.



  1. A very good post :)

    To talk about the basic question "When do you become a doctor?" i'd adopt a Wittgensteinian approach: the word "Doctor" is just too broadly and vaguely used to make a logically precise answer possible. To be able to answer the question, we need to define "doctor" precisely. A Final year student whose result is just announced and a Professor of Medicine with 30 years of experience are both "Doctors", yet there is hell of a difference between both.

    There are two ways in which 'Doctor' is used. One is Legal: you become a doctor when you get an MBBS degree. The other is Professional: you become a doctor when you acquire the skills of medicine. And the acquisition of skills is a process, it cannot be defined by a "moment". The process begins while you are in the medical college and continues even after specialization. To pick any one moment out of all these would be a philosophically arbitrary choice.

  2. Good 1 dude!
    Well I think its official when u get ur degree- license 2 kill!!! ;D hehehe
    But personally 4me it wd b the day I, by myself, manage2 save a life!I know that sounds all too melodramatic but yeah...
    But will that day ever come? Will I b prepared 4 it? how wd it go if it did? DUNNO! bt thats when my conscience wd b ok with the word 'doctor'!

  3. very nice post faiza.

    The funny (everything's funny as long as it occurs to someone else)part of yesterday's incident was when the police was called to rescue the victimized generalists , instead of stopping the outrageous young doctors, they, too,started beating them.(secretly i think they deserve it too,though i still condemn the way these young daakh saab reacted)The generalists have began a propaganda against doctors and the police.They create a storm in a tea cup by promoting even the minor issues with mirch masala.They have no moral codes left to follow.So inshort such situations are inevitable till the media learns to behave decently.

  4. nice flow of heavy creative energy(muscles of my brain shouted for more oxygen to get grip of concept engulfed in heavy vocabulary.but i managed.otherwise a good post. :-) )
    Is doctor a person who save lives-firefighters can also save! doctor is a person who can save lives by curing a disease with medicine-quacks too can do that too( i respect healers using alternative medicine-homeopaths , i didnt include them in quacks .otherwise they too say themselves doctors).then who is a doctor?
    For me doctor is a person who can prescribe right medicine for a disease understanding its complete mechanism of action ,complications and side effects.if the life gets saved its benevolance of god.otherwise sometimes best doctors with complete understanding,prescribing the bst meds cant save lives.

  5. Bravo, Faiza! Brilliant, as usual :P

    I agree with Awais on 'process', not 'point'.

    You acquire the bare minimum when you get a degree, or the title 'Dr.'. Then, it is- as in many other facets of life- a constant process of learning, making mistakes, evaluating and re-evaluating, evolving, and ultimately becoming Just a Doctor...or a Good one.

  6. My family started calling me a doctor while i was doing my pre-med. My teachers started doing that from the day i entered ke but deep inside i dont feel like a still waiting for that moment....

  7. Hey thanks a lot everyone for liking the post:)
    Your comments have certainly been very interesting, to say the least!:)