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Guest blogger Lakshmi Ananth is a doctor and a writer who wields both scalpel and pen with equal ease. She is passionate about her work and has a weakness for coffee, crossword and anything that involves needles and yarn.
Morning time is future time. Not only is it the time when the whole day unfolds before you, full of promises and possibilities, it is also the time when there’s an astrologer on every TV channel telling you what the day, or even your whole life, holds in store for you.
Now, I don’t really have anything against someone looking at the stars and telling me I’m going to hear from a long lost friend, get cheated by a stranger, or win the lottery. I don’t mind someone telling me my lucky number for the day is 2 and my lucky colour white. At least it helps me pick a colour to wear and makes me less guilty about having two portions of the dessert. But what about when these ‘experts’ start dispensing advice on everything from your health and finances to child rearing? Where do you draw the line?
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This sort of thing is especially common with regional channels where people call in to live shows with questions and the astrologer gives them solutions to their problems. The other day I heard this woman tell one of these learned men that she has had a painless swelling in the chest region for two years now and has recently been advised surgery to have it removed.
From her description I gathered that it was most likely a lump in the breast, possibly a tumour. To my consternation, I heard the astrologer tell her that she did not require surgery, that it was most likely “bits of flesh caught amidst nerves” and that there were herbs and home remedies she could use, not to mention holy places she could visit. Really? And how do you diagnose this – with X-ray eyes that penetrate satellites and telephone wires? How come I’ve never been taught about “bits of flesh caught amidst nerves” in all my years at medical college?
That woman was probably advised treatment after detailed examination, tests and scans. And the astrologer has to just talk to her for a few seconds over the phone to know what she needs. Most people are unaware of the larger impact of airing such opinions on a medium like television in India. He probably didn’t just convince that one woman that she did not require treatment. There might have been three others in that very same position who would now rethink their decision to get operated. There might be ten others with swellings in other parts of the body making a mental note to explore the herbs and holy places option. And there might be a hundred others with various other ailments wondering if they should visit an astrologer, too.
I have seen cancer patients refuse treatment sometimes. I have often even respected the decision. It’s one thing to decide what you want to do with your body but it’s an entirely different story when you use your half hour on television to influence someone else’s life and death choices.
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