Sound Physician is a Demi-god
learnt from a recent email from a friend in Bangkok that
two Bangladeshis perished in a fire that gutted a hotel
in Soi 3 in Thanon Sukumvit in Bangkok. A third jumped from
the second floor and was injured. Normally this news would
not have meant much to me. Everyday Bangladeshis are dying
everywhere. A family of 11 died in a fire recently; newspapers
routinely carry stories of murders, suicides and various
unnatural deaths. News of deaths is hardly news anymore.
But the Bangkok deaths caught my attention because I spent
some hours on the same street, Soi 3, hardly two weeks before
the fire. I saw many Bangladeshis on the street, exchanged
words with some, and knew why they were there. I remember
staring up with amazement and admiration at the sky-trains
that zoomed 30 feet above the streets and wondered why we
couldn't have something like that. I remember looking at
all the massage parlours offering all kinds of services,
and thinking, 'Do I dare, do I dare.” In the end, I did
off Soi 3, there is a hospital that is quite well-known
to many here. I was in Bangkok visiting that hospital because
doctors here in Dhaka and the numerous clinics and hospitals
where they practice had failed to satisfy. I presume that
the Bangladeshis who died in the fire were also there for
the same reason. And so was Professor Badruzzoza Chowdhury,
who according to newspaper reports was visiting a hospital
in Bangkok to see the ailing father-in-law of his son. There
was a picture in the newspaper recently showing the doctor
embracing fellow Muslims after the Eid prayers in Bangkok.
Why that picture was printed at all was a matter of some
puzzlement to me.
one of the waiting rooms for patients, I saw a former Minister
and his wife, waiting patiently to see the doctor, the Minister
looking a bit forlorn and unhappy in the anonymity of a
foreign land. I decided to do my good deed for the day by
recognising the ex-Minister, and when I nodded in recognition,
his face immediately lit up with a special glow of self-importance.
My good deed was done, and we chatted for a while, until
he said, “This is an excellent hospital, very good system.
We come here often.”
for a bad deed, I thought. Do I dare, do I dare, I asked
myself again. The fact that the man was only an ex-Minister,
made the act easier, and so I dared. “So why didn't you
do something about the system when you were in power and
a Minister? I voted for you.” Luckily for both of us, fate
intervened in the form of the nurse who took us in to see
the doctor. It is not often that you meet an ex-Minister
in such ordinary and vulnerable circumstances and can ask
such embarrassing questions with impunity.
the question was not quite fair, I think, particularly because
the poor ex-Minister had nothing to do with the medical
system. That is a question one could ask more appropriately
to the leader of emerging “third force,” Professor Dr. Badruddoza.
He could have indeed made a very significant contribution
to the health services during his two decades in politics
and quite a few years in power, and he didn't. His reputation
as a doctor was formidable, and it is as a doctor that he
really could have made a difference for the nation, and
he didn't. Instead we are now going to import hospitals
from Kolkata and Bangkok. This is indeed good news for those
who have to go abroad for treatment. The Bangladeshis who
lost their lives in the fire in Bangkok would have lived
if they did not have to go abroad.
Professor Badruddoza was asked to give up his position as
the President of Bangladesh, he went without a whimper.
Now emerging from his cave as a toothless tiger after two
years of hibernation, he comes up with a “vision” of a third
force for the nation. We waited with bated breath for details
of the vision, but his diagnosis of the ills of the nation
at an iftar party in Sheraton was utterly ordinary. Who
in Bangladesh does not know about the corruption, the law
and order situation and spiralling food prices? Ask any
man on the street, and he will tell you the same thing with
more real knowledge, more force, and more credibility. Professor
Badrudozza's treatment for the maladies of the nation was
equally pedestrian and vapid. It is treatment like this
that makes us run to doctors and hospitals abroad, if we
can afford it.
are now abuzz with news of this new “third force” phenomenon
galvanising our civil society. There are many veteran third-forcers
who have been trying for years to bring about a change and
compared to them Professor B is just an old new-kid in the
block. Understandably most of them are critical of this
parvenu who has been so long in politics that he can no
longer be part of the civil society that he hopes to lead.
It is always exciting to have a third force in politics,
used as we are a traditional two-horse situation, but a
third force which is little more than a spent force does
not give us much hope.
sound physician can a demi-god; an unsound politician can
often turn out to be a clown. Unless, of course, the third
force that he spearheads is backed by a fourth force, in
which case, we have to sit up and listen to him more carefully.