Monday, September 6, 2010

Article in the Indian Express - Septermber 4, 2010

This article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in the New Indian Express yesterday.

Harimohan Paruvu

We Indians have always known that a Superbug exists in India, much before the other report came out. Our Superbug is not just resistant to antibiotics – it is resistant to all super medicines manufactured by super pharmaceutical companies for our super hospitals. Our Great Indian Superbug has some distinct features that differentiate it from the other bugs mentioned in the report. For one, it affects a miniscule population only, making it a bad commercial proposition, and secondly, we already have a cure for that.
Our Superbug (named Super Humbug by our local researchers for reasons unknown) does not strike normal people. It lurks at courthouses and police stations, watching carefully. It judiciously exempts poor, ordinary souls, quickly zeroes in on its clientele and then strikes - the rich and famous, the powerful and moneyed. The classic symptoms of Super Humbug attacks show up within moments of their arrest, conviction, or a hint of being sent to jail - the affected parties clutch at their hearts complaining of severe chest pain. Hushed whispers go around - The Super Humbug Strikes! Cops wheel out wheel chairs with great alacrity, having seen the Super Humbug at play many times before, seat the healthy frames of the Humbug-affected and wheel them to Super Hospitals round the corner. Affecting mainly those suspected of scams, murders and other crimes, the Super Humbug is a creature of justice, laying its victims low at the court itself.
The Super Humbug-affected are taken through what appears to be a well-oiled procedure (i.e. well-oiled wheel chairs and stretchers). Well-oiled hospital staff await the affected at the front door, or at the city gates even, with their best well-oiled doctors leading from the front. They begin treatment right away by proclaiming that the party cannot be moved until further orders. No interviews, no stress. The Super Humbug may get irritated. Patience pays, they say. And, soon we all realize that it indeed does.
Everyone waits – the police, the public, the judiciary – as the Super Humbug resists everything from antibiotics to injections, doctors to investigating agencies. Slowly but steadily the Humbug wins the battle, confining affected parties to a life time in hospitals, rendering patients too weak to go to the courthouse. However they are fine enough to continue all sorts of other activities like meeting friends, family, lawyers etc and running parallel lives. It is a kind thing, our Super Humbug.
Unfortunately doctors cannot predict the Humbug’s behavior. In fact the Super Humbug appears to affect doctors as well, as they contradict themselves, over a period of time. First they aver that the only known treatment is a long rest in the best rooms in the hospital, and the next day they send the affected home.
No one knows when modern medicine will finally find a cure to the Great Indian Super Humbug. For medical answers, it might be wiser to increase research-spending to find out - it would be much cheaper (scams included) than the cost of deploying cops, doctors etc at the disposal of the affected. And one way or another, until a medical cure is found for the patients (or doctors), the Super Humbug will remain a pain in several parts of the body for the public.
Luckily in India, we have an alternative cure for the Super Humbug. Not proven scientifically or anything of course. Our cure is called ‘Bail’. It works like magic on this Humbug. Patients are up on their feet in two days they say! So take that Super Humbug, we got your number. And we will get you soon.

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