Today I am going to tell you a story. It’s from when I was within this Endocrine team that I would function like my boss’s assistant, sit through the patient consultations, take notes, explain the conversation in simple language to the patients later, and so on. When I wasn’t assisting him, I’d work as a dietitian and diabetes educator.
This doc had a charming way of making small talk with patients to put them at ease. But the thing that would most catch my attention is how he’d remember details of the conversation and even make notes – to use it at just the right time to drive home a point. Like, spot-on timing!
That day, we were seeing a man with diabetes who had come in with his wife. That particular day being a festival, my boss asked the lady if her husband had bought her any new saree. And she replied that he had bought one last month for her birthday and therefore gave this festival saree a skip.
We were seeing the man that day as he had injured his feet upon walking bare feet on a recent temple visit. So, understandably my boss was upset that such a well-informed man had gotten himself into this horrible mess – which was entirely avoidable in the first place.
And the doc went on pointing how this patient had received several sessions of diabetes education from me, and how I had already given him instructions on how to handle different situations as a person with diabetes – low sugar, foot care, eating out, adjusting insulin and so much more.
Thank goodness I had made my notes for all that I had covered in my sessions! The quiet man finally spoke up and said to the doc – “I could have very well walked with my shoes in the park next to the temple, all the while chanting my prayers. I am sure the gods would be happy. But I wouldn’t be. Customs, you see! Just how do I give up the custom of doing pradakshina, please tell me!!”
My mouth fell open upon hearing how this man did not think anything of his diabetes. For him to have walked bare feet around the temple doing a pradakshina in the hot summer sun, all in the name of custom?? I was stunned.
My boss turned to the man’s wife, looking her straight in the eye he said, “it is absolutely a custom that he must buy you a new saree for Gowri habba ( festival of the day). So what if he bought one for your birthday last week! Oh and! Make sure it’s a festive silk one – not a paisa less than 25,000 Rupees. And definitely remember to get one each for Dasara and Deepavali too. It is absolutely customary to do that.”
Both of us ladies gleefully laughed! The husband was stumped. And my boss had delivered the lesson perfectly, along with a dash of humor.
I remember this story especially around festival times when people tell me, ‘oh Girija, and I just had to make milk payasam or ghee something-else and have it as a family .. after all our customs no!’
I think it was the great George Bernard Shaw who once said – am paraphrasing, in the name of custom, one can get away with any atrocity. True, isn’t it?
Now my dear reader, will you take ten minutes to reflect and see what absurd things you may be doing in the name of custom?