I have been in Mumbai in the situation it finds itself in at present. I have been in the forefront of a disaster management team (to flatter a rag-tag army of residents, nurses, ward-boys and Superintendents in a Hospital) when the Babri Masjid riots took place in 1992, and, not much later, when the Bombay Stock Exchange and Air India were blown up.
I saw from close quarters how barbaric people can be in the headwinds of the irrationality of collectivism (often religion). I am talking of general wholesale slaughter of any person of a community if he made the mistake of being seen. It cut both ways, and this was doubly unfortunate during the Babri Masjid riots.
I wonder, upon learning that the poor little innocent boy who shot a few people in the railway station (the name changed from Victoria Terminus to the more elegant-sounding and hip CST), wants to live. Poor baby! How can you not want to?
I was thinking if I were the surgeon operating on him (assuming he had major gunshot wounds-which he had not), wouldn’t I have been tempted to let my knife slip near a major vessel and see some major bleeding, thereby causing, if not death, definitely major morbidity?
I would well be tempted, truth to tell. I would have controlled my temptation by telling myself, “He is precious to the country for what secrets he will reveal and your job is to heal, not to kill”. A moment after I think this, I am reminded of the Afzal Mahmoods of the world who got escorted and released by a rat-faced Indian Foreign Minister when Taliban terrorists hijacked an Indian plane to Kandahar.
I am happy I am not treating this dear little kid. I would have actually wrung his neck with my bare hands. Forget the knife (I cannot commit surgical murder-for that I expect to be paid), but with my bare hands, I would have loved to pinch his jugulars and lovingly choke his larynx. A ‘thank you for visiting India’ on behalf of the hundreds of people killed and maimed by him and his friends.
Nevertheless, I wonder: “What is the duty of a doctor to the enemy in times of war?”
I know the textbook answer. I am not sure how real it is. Especially in this kind of war.