I have received the book And So Can You by Dr. Roopleen for review. The secondary title of the book suggests that this is a book that every doctor and medical student must read. This creates an impression that it is a self-help book which young doctors or students of medicine would like to refer again and again for guidance and inspiration. I can visualize such a book lying comfortably on my book shelf or my desk so that I can reach out to it any time I want or need it.
Further down the cover, there is a mention that 17 successful doctors share their inspiring stories in this book. Out of 17 doctors who narrate their stories in this book, 13 are eye-specialists. So if few of the professionals could be left out, the sub-title of the book could as well be 13 successful eye-specialists share their stories! But that is understandable as the writer herself is an eye-specialist and these professionals are most probably from her professional circle.
So the first secondary title implies that the content of the book is related to second person, i.e. it is for you — the young medical professional. And according to the second secondary title, it is about third person — other successful doctors share their success stories. That is fine. However, as you flip the cover, the book starts with conversation in first person! It is generally understood that any person or book, who/which claims to offer inspiration, motivation, suggestion, or help, carries genuine concern for you. So, that person or book should be talking about you, the reader, who is holding the book, you the person in distress who is unable to find anyone trustworthy. Your mentor or friend or parent who wants to help you in that crucial time, should be talking about you. But in this book, the writer does not do that. When the preface itself starts with ‘why I wrote this book’ and then boasts ‘why I am the right person to write this book’, and narrates ‘the experience of writing this book’ and finally goes for active salesmanship by telling you ‘why this book is unique’, you already know that the writer is more concerned with herself than you. This is the biggest flaw of the book and I would not be surprised if it fails in its stated objective just by this reason. If you do decide to read this book, I strongly suggest that you skip the preface and introduction, and instead straightaway start with the narratives.
The Introduction to the book doesn’t have anything to do with the contents of the book. Whether the writer tells you what it takes to be a doctor, or why so many people take a plunge into this profession, she keeps repeating the same thoughts again and again. The language here is very elementary and reminds me of an essay that my 6-year old niece wrote on ‘My Mother’. From the very beginning of the book, the writer has used exaggerated adjectives such as ‘brilliant doctors’ and ‘incredible life journeys’. Such floral words try to influence the reader by presenting a thoroughly biased picture of these professionals. Hence, the readers see what the writer wants them to see, and start the book with pre-conceived ideas about the stories. In the final paragraphs, the writer writes whatever she wants to say irrespective of whether it is within the scope of the book or not. Narration is dry and colourless. and the language is dull and boring. The sort of energy and enthusiasm that you usually come across in inspirational and motivational books is completely missing here. Somehow I felt that the writer has simply published her notes of the interviews with these doctors. There was plenty of scope for creating a valuable book. That opportunity was wasted.
Now coming to the content of the book. Doctors, and noble profession? Come on! If you told these stories about 50 years back, perhaps people would have believed you. But today all such claims on nobility of any profession would fall on deaf ears. Sorry madam, for these inspiring doctors that you mention, your readers would tell you about several others who are cheats, irresponsible, or scamsters. Like any other profession, medicine itself is not a noble profession, it is the person who is pursuing that profession who is noble. Nobility is the attribute of the lady or the gentleman wearing the apron. It is not that wearing the apron would transform a scoundrel into a saint. If that gentleman would have been a soldier or a professor, he would have done his duty with equal dedication. Nobility of medical profession is usually argued on the grounds that doctors save lives. Such arguments which glorify any profession based on its usefulness, end up creating a ‘class system’ among different professions. A bank clerk who neither dies saving her country like a soldier does, nor saves life like a doctor does, is on the lowest echelons of this system.
Nevertheless, the underlying motivation of the book is understandable. In fact, real life stories are the best source of inspiration or encouragement we can ever have. By that I mean, we are not listening about mythological figures or fictional characters. Instead, we are reading about fellow colleagues or seniors who had been in similar (or worse) circumstances like we are at present. Based on this consideration, such inspirational stories would be of interest not only to the people in the medical field, but also to ‘outsiders’.
But when you say, this is a book which ‘you should read‘ it conveys something else. Inspiration, though important, is not what a young professional is lacking today. These young boys and girls are looking for suggestion, guidance and wisdom for facing real life problems. The writer says there are books telling about inspiring stories about people from other professions, but there have been none that tell about professionals from medicine. I ask, what is the need? Why to compartmentalize human endeavor? Why can’t an aanganwadi worker inspire an army captain, why can’t a college student inspire a fisherman? Why should there be segregation and division of profession, of language, gender, nationalities? No, that is not a valid justification.
If you insist on uniqueness of medical profession, than I would have suggested that you talk about problems peculiar to this field and how to face them. That means, the various problems that young medical professionals face could be unique and different from their counterparts from other professions. For example, as a scientist, I do not have to see corpses every day. Nor do I have to sit for long hours each day in the same place, and listen to endless stories of pain, suffering, illness, sickness and death. How can the young men and ladies, bubbling with youth, energy and optimism can maintain their sanity and resist falling into depression? That would have been a worthwhile objective. Or say, how to fight corruption in workplace? Or how to raise voice against wrong practices especially when seniors are involved? How to take the correct position without harming yourself? It would have been great if the book provided some extra resources that could be helpful under such circumstances.
I resist from commenting on the contents and the stories themselves primarily due to deep respect for these professionals some of who are very senior. Secondly, these narratives are their personal stories, and I am not sure whether I would be justified in passing comment on them. Still, while reading these stories, two questions keep popping up in the mind of the reader — how exactly is success defined? And what exactly is a struggle?
As I mention struggle, this brings another issue about the narrative, and that is focus. In other words, who is the hero of the story? By the time Dr. Sarwal got admission to MBBS, his father had retired and his education went on through a difficult phase mostly because of financial constraints. Now, does this depict Dr. Sarwal’s struggle or his father’s? As I see it, success does not belong to a single individual. It is the result of a collective effort, several people having contributed to make these professionals what they are today. Or take the example of Dr. Khurana, a breathtaking story which brings smile on your face all along. He belonged to the generation who were directly affected by the partition. His grandmother started working as domestic help, then learnt basic midwifery while working in some doctor’s clinic, consequently became a dai, learnt medicinal value of local herbs, massage, and ultimately attained reputation of a traditional healer! Starting from such phase, the family went on to produce a senior professor and head of the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, PGIMS, Rohtak. Isn’t that remarkable? These people are made of steel, who don’t look for excuses to justify their sorrows. Instead, they fight with all their might.
Hence it is disappointing when such stories do not find resonance in the reader’s mind, mainly due to poor editing and narration. Providing too many details have diluted and scattered the focus of the stories. The narratives should have been polished further, elementary details could have been removed, instead giving more space to the struggling phase, which is anyway the focus of the book.
The dimensions of the book are different from other books in general. The design of the front and back covers is both beautiful and creative. The page quality and print of the book is outstanding. A point worth mentioning is that there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes, or any typographical errors throughout the book. There are few instances of improper word usage, and incomplete or erroneous sentences, but they can be ignored. Still, I am sure they would be taken care of in the next edition of the book.
One feature strikes your eye and that is formatting of the book. As you turn the pages, you notice paragraphs, lots of them, lots and lots of them. I could not understand the motive behind so many chunks of texts scattered all over the pages. First I thought, it is because the length of the book is more than its width. It was easy to check that was not the case. Then, perhaps it is because the sentences were conversations. They were not. Sometimes I came across single sentence paragraphs. Creative writers do use them to convey extra emphasis. But I checked few such instances in this book, but could not find emphasis of any kind that could justify this style.
The price of the book is too high by any standards. In my opinion, it is more than double its real worth.
Title: And So Can You!
Author: Dr. Roopleen
Publisher: Power Publishers
Price: Rs. 360