My name should have been Mrigank Journalistwala.
We write. Working for the Times of India is my family business. I should have been one amongst the Merchants, Lakdawalas and Furniturewalas of this city, choosing a profession that comes to me both naturally and from my forefathers.
And then I went and took up medicine.
Journalists report acts while doctors act on reports. One brings the past to the present while the other ensures your present has a future. A good scribe may be prophetic while a good clinician can be prophylactic. The latter talks to anxious listeners while the former listens anxiously to those willing to talk.
Different sides of different coins of different currencies.
I’ve turned a tradition right on its head, don’t you think? After a year of medical college, I’m not so sure anymore.
Doctors are the original journalists – they fill medical journals with pages of well-researched facts. Sometimes, journalists reciprocate by doctoring facts they have researched.
They are often the first to arrive at the site of emergency – erratic working hours bring the two closer together. Buildings do not give three months’ notice before collapsing and babies are inconsiderate of an obstetrician’s sleep cycles. This often forces them to improvise – information is garnered from unlikely sources and infants have been delivered in unlikelier places. Stress is the direct result of these working conditions – rare is the physician or journo who doesn’t smoke and drink. Staid as rocks, on rocky territory and One on The Rocks please.
They are more effective than the best detectives – journos investigate scams while docs investigate symptoms. Both rely on intuition – they unearth and diagnose what interrogation and X-rays could not. They constantly have their fingers on the pulse of an individual or that of society. Keeping their eyes and ears open for hidden clues and unusual sounds are what makes them excel. Both specialise in what they excel – journalists choose and stick to a particular beat and doctors choose the organ they’d most like to mess around with. Some go even further by volunteering to be embedded in mobilised battalions to get both the news and the boys safely back home.
They are consummate diplomats; smooth-talking is necessary to coax details out of a source or patient and confidentiality is critical to protect their identities. Both ask uncomfortable questions to ascertain more about the history of a case. They must speak in a language that is clear to the average reading and recuperating person and must be sure to furnish the best they can do. Placebos are used to pacify dissatisfied patients and a corrigendum is issued to placate furious targets. Medical negligence and libel suits can land both in prison and relieve them of a considerable sum of money. After all, the things they hate most are deadlines they couldn’t meet and lines of the dead they couldn’t treat.
Surgeons position organs and editors position articles. Both often make money from legal and illegal advertisements. Ethics are an important issue in both professions – freebies are thrown at them at the rate of millions to a Modi. Doctors fiercely compete to establish a more thriving practice while journalists trip over themselves to be the one that writes the scoop. Is it any wonder then that both medicine and journalism have been at different times the most honoured and hated professions in the world?
It’s an old boy’s club and a man’s world in both fields. Everyone knows everyone else and everyone knows that the only position a woman is likely to get, is as an anaesthetist or writing about Page 3. Every newbie needs a mentor to learn from, though they all realise that experience is the best of teachers. As the years roll by, both become more cynical or optimistic than those with other careers. And lastly, neither stops making contacts and keeping up with the latest because try as he might, the inveterate doctor or journalist never retires. Honorary surgeon, consulting editor, anyone?
Professions and diseases are both hereditary. But I dropped my pen and picked up my sword, sterilised and all. I made a choice.
My grandfather was a journalist. My father is a journalist. The fact that you are still reading this means that I could have been one too.
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