Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Professionals at Work

A few years ago I fell quite ill and was in the Incentive Care Unit (ICU) for a few days. After my discharge from the ICU, my situation had deteriorated compared to what it was before I was admitted. However, somehow, miraculously, I recovered. My doctor must have been surprised, but to my chagrin, he told me quite as a matter of fact that he had given up on me and was glad to see me alive and kicking. All the while I had been under the impression that medical professionals struggled to save lives!

Fast forward a few years and my parents and I were in the consulting room of a leading cardiologist, to discuss my father’s health. Admittedly nothing was serious and it was a routine check up, yet I was disgusted when the doctor deemed it fit to attend to a call (in the time that we were paying for) to argue about his fee not being paid. He glanced at the reports while on the phone and dismissed them. Of the time that we were there, there was little satisfaction of having been heard. Needless to say we have never been to that specialist ever again.

These are but two incidents that I have had first hand experience of and I am sure they are not the first or the last. We have all at some stage or the other read about the controversies surrounding drug formulation and clinical trials. Many of us have suffered an impact of negligent medical care. Many authors have widely written about malpractices in hospitals. Medical profession is the one entrusted with the lives of the world, unfortunately it is these lives that have become guinea pigs today in the hands of their own trustees.

Another profession entrusted with the shaping up of lives is that of education and it is rather sad to see that globally, the face of education is blemished with greed and incompetence. I have attended a dozen educational institutes (as a student), in varied parts of the world, and yet to my dismay there are very few teachers that I can remember making an impression on me. The one person that I do remember to date is my geography teacher in grade ten, Mrs Jaya Rajagopalan. Teaching for her was not a need, it was not a profession; teaching was her desire and her passion. Her engaging classes not only taught the class the lesson that the curriculum warranted, but she also showed us the way to become good human beings and women of substance. It was entirely her doing that even a restless student like me, who preferred analytical subjects, started taking a keen interest in geography. In fact she highlighted the analytical nature of the subject which had previously been hidden from the front view.

In stark contrast to Mrs Rajagopalan, I have had teachers criticising their mothers-in-law during lecture times or teachers who have had such little hold on their subjects that their lectures have flown out of the window even before hitting the ears of the class or teachers who have outrageously flirted with students during class. A number of these teachers are still teaching and that too in institutions of good repute. From the primary to the tertiary, the standard of education is falling and it is no surprise that a number of parents are opting for home schooling, especially in the west. For those who can afford, education comes at a premium, sometimes necessitating two incomes to support the household. Quality education should be the right of every child but apparently the economics ridden world seems to disagree.

Who should one turn to if one has suffered the ills of the medical profession? Who should one look to fight for ones right to education? While the simple answer would seem to be a legal professional, unfortunately even in that arena, there is little respite. Counsel and solicitors hesitate in taking challenging cases, scared of tarnishing their career record or in fear of standing against an opposing counsel they dare not irk. Even if some do take up cases, the client is serviced based on the interest of her lawyer and not her own. So when justice via the court of law becomes a near impossibility, there are people who seek justice in spite of the court.

With limited educational opportunities, the avenues to earn a living also constrict. With frugal earnings, access to medical care becomes restricted. With low incomes and poor health, incidences of crime increase. And then with limited legal support to set the wrong to right the increase in crimes is not a rationale surprise. So whether it is economics or it is ethics, in my view there needs to be the return of professionalism in the three fields of service mentioned. Otherwise equality, peace and harmony in the world will just remain dreams for the population at large.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The New Nomadic Life

A recent article in the Financial Times (http://msittig.freeshell.org/articles/FinT_TribalWorkers.html) labelled the current generation of ambitious achievers, “Tribal Workers”. It was not a belittling tag nor was the phrase used derogatorily. The author was only attempting to describe, how today’s youth, just like their tribal ancestors wants to have as little roots/commitments as possible. However, while the tribes were nomadic to hunt for food to satiate hunger, today’s youth is looking for greener pastures to satisfy intellectual curiosity. Be it relationships or be it jobs, all is meant to be transitory, teaching one in the process.

I happened to discuss this with a friend, a bright and successful hedge fund manager, and he did not accept the point of view that myriad experiences are necessary to satisfy intellectual curiosity. In his words “there is more to life than a job”. I was surprised, as in my interactions hedge fund professionals are probably the most ambitious, driven and intelligence seeking individuals around. Clearly this person, despite his life and education on three continents, seems to have a different view. I tend to agree with my friend when he says, “God has been gracious and given us a lot. It cannot just be a free lunch that we are supposed to eat and forget”.

So if I hear my friend; we need to have a life outside of the work place. But what is that life? Is it a cause that we are committed to (but that is again sort of work right?)? Is it a hobby that we are devoted to? Is it a family? Is it friends? What is that which will make life wholesome? As the weekend draws to a close slowly, I think I am starting to look for the answer leisurely.