Medical realities

Medical realities

Medical realities

In the posh Adelphia Hospital and Research Centre lies a young and virtually helpless being called Mitali, a woman who is, for all purposes, dead. Anirban Bose’s novel, The Death of Mitali Dotto, winds its plot around Mitali and her mysterious origins, while also recreating the ambience of a corporate hospital in bustling New Delhi.

For protagonist Neel Dev-Roy, a decision to return to India from the US permanently is marred by doubt. Then, beginning work as a doctor in Adelphia only confirms some of his suspicions that the hospital is not as it should be. And in the process of discovery and self-realisation, Neel’s experiences reveal the nature of an amoral, mostly immoral, corporate hospital that has one too many rules and one too many callous doctors.

With the shadow of his father’s past already confusing him and his marriage already troubled, Neel stumbles into a world of corruption and greed. His steadfastness and his attempt to do the right thing turn into a helpless confrontation with the obvious — that his idealism is neither acceptable nor welcome, and that his idea of what is right may not be the correct one after all. At least, not as far as the hospital is concerned. Here is a hospital that allows patients to die if they cannot afford pay their bills. Patients are not admitted if there’s a possibility of a police case. Internal politics and bickering means the highly-skilled Neel is relegated to the wound clinic.

And there’s Mitali Dotto, the young woman who was brought in bleeding and unconscious, whom a certain Dr Kasturi labelled dead, whom Neel struggles to save.

There are several other stories running side by side with Neel’s. His wife, Stuti, has her own share of problems, including learning how to deal with multiple offers to provide a maid and fending off a stalker who might be dangerous in more ways than one. Her efforts to readjust to life in India is further complicated by the strain on her marriage, caused by both Neel’s work and his obsession with his father. There’s an extremely corrupt policeman called Pulak Sen, a man with sores and a “…pot-bellied, bald-headed, carious-tooth appearance…”.

There’s Anita George at the hospital, who has secrets of her own, Jansher Ali Khan, a Pakistani boy whose complaints of fatigue turn out to be more than just tiredness. Dr Kasturi and Dr Banerjee are doctors with, apparently, different perspectives on running the hospital. There’s also Neel’s father, the legendary Gautam Dev-Roy, a shadow figure who haunts Neel more than he cares to admit.

While the many, many different characters have their own stories to tell, and while an attempt is made to reconcile their storylines and tie them to the main plot, the constantly shifting points of view make the book a little confusing. It is hard at times to keep track of who’s the main focus of the tale at the moment, as there seem to be too many stories with too many issues thrown in at once.

Nevertheless, The Death of Mitali Dotto does a commendable job of bringing to life its characters and its setting, as well as its hospital. As far as appearances go, Adelphia Hospital and Research Centre is posh, plush and expensive. It relies on patients from the US and UK and thrives on its snobbery and supposed charity beds.

But inside, as Neel discovers, the ideal world of illusion is shattered in ways too many to count. The author’s presentation of the hospital and its politics are realistic and chilling.

Characters in the tale are fleshed out, with their own quirks and streaks of individuality.

Even Sakib, the shifty-eyed thug. And Mitali, though she is never conscious. Descriptions of Neel’s medical procedures, though dry in tone, are woven into the story to give the reader insights into what he is doing.

The Death of Mitali Dotto also looks at one man’s firm adherence to what he thinks is right. The belief that his way is the only way of accomplishing anything is inherent in the protagonist’s nature. A certain stubborn streak that is obvious to all those watching also makes him prone to taking weighty decisions in the name of morality. Decisions that have their consequences, as it takes more than one idealistic and brash man trained abroad to change a system that is deeply rooted in years of ‘tradition’, however flawed.

As Neel discovers, his efforts cannot change a simple thing like Anita George calling him ‘Sir’ instead of his first name. To change the entire structure and functioning of a hospital into a more humanitarian one may not be as easy as ordering a doctor to help him save Mitali Dotto.

The Death of Mitali Dotto is certainly an engaging read.