By Palanisamy Vijayanand
Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life. — Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1958)
If it was Vijayawada on the banks of Krishna in November, it was the turn of the town on the banks of Godavari this December. Often described as the greatest biography ever written in English, James Boswell in The Life of Samuel Johnson famously recounts Dr. Johnson’s travel advice as ‘rather to go an hundred miles to speak with one wise man, than five miles to see a fair town.’ Karimnagar, where the second edition of the Traveling Pain School was held, is exactly a hundred miles to the north of Hyderabad. We met a few wise men too. Fifty of them. All delegates. As faculty, we were wisened by their grip on practicalities involved in effective management of pain, in what was essentially a semi-urban setting. Our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the Indian Society of Anaesthesiologists, Karimnagar for fastidiously organising the event.
As faculty, we have taken the feedback from our previous edition seriously. There was always room for improvement, and the content and delivery should be tailored to the local expectations had been our axioms. December is when southern India gets ready for the start of the Carnatic music season. Just as a Carnatic musician embroiders around a theme and improvises new melodic phrases according to the public’s reactions, we too would harmonize our preparation, routine and effort, we decreed. For starters was the improvement in the printed hand-outs given to the delegates. The 70 printed pages on pain mechanisms and management may seem bold, but still modest compared to the amount of suffering that it cannot relieve. Sobering thought. The event itself was an edifying bricolage, with inputs from various members of the faculty, chairpersons and delegates.
For profound reflection and critical awareness of the pernicious problem that is pain, ambience is crucial. The venue at Karimnagar was elegant, the food exquisite, and the hospitality impeccable. The imposing minarets of the Teen Minar at Elgandal Fort on the outskirts of Karimnagar, oscillate when shaken, we were told. We were positively shaken, if not stirred, by the efforts of the organisers. The multiple choice question test had a single winner this time around. Though the crowd was overwhelmingly of anaesthesiology types, it was a surgeon who walked away with the honours. Congratulations doctor, for there will be no more operating theatre jokes involving surgeons at Karimnagar. The feedback forms were filled and returned dutifully, and we are in the process of implementing the positive suggestions. On the one hand, these suggestions bolster our resolve to improve continuously, and our penchant for excellence. On the other hand, the un-implemented ideas buzzing about make us a miserable lot. Called the Zeigarnik effect, our brain, it appears, is wired to nag about unfinished to-do list items.
One of the central tenets of Buddhism is pratītya samutpāda (that everything is interdependent). It could be interpreted as ‘nothing exists on its own,’ or ‘nothing can be its own cause.’ There was interdependence and an intricate relationship in play between the support lent by the Indian Society of Anaesthesiologists, the enthusiasm of the organisers, the knowledge hungry delegates, the insights from senior colleagues, the uncompromising wisdom of the office bearers, and the passionate arguments on how best to carry forward the programme between faculty members. These were the bricks (or in Karimnagar’s case, the maple red granites), with which the edifice of the event was built. We now move on, with greater expectation, to the next edition at Nellore in March next year.
Banner image courtesy: Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 3.0)