In 1988, I went to small village in Kumaon to work as a GP – Taragtal (link). I lasted just about 6 month because of all kind of hardships! But people left a very favorable impression on me. One lady- lets call her Falguni Devi – left a lasting impression on my mind. On day one itself in the village, I went around looking for some milk for my daily tea. I was referred to a woman, who had her humble stone cottage, surrounded by terraced fields, on the edge of the lake.
Falguni Devi, kept working, while listening to me and promised that everyday milk will be delivered to my home. Then, having lived in cities, I asked her: OK, how much money? I can give you some advance now.. I recoiled as I heard her sharp words in reply; She looked up in my face briefly, a little irritated and impatient, as she said: Who ever sells her child or milk? (Koi poot aur doodh bhi bechta hai? – are you out of your mind?).
I returned home quietly – shocked and surprised. She supplied me the milk without fail during my stay in the village all those months. I too learned to live with the community and serve them and learn from them. I discovered that villages, where the soul of India still survives, had lots to teach me and the world.
Then, many years later, just a few days back, a friend from Australia asked me to buy some medicine for him and courier it to him. He thought it will be cheaper here. I made enquiries and I was told that Enzalutamide will cost about Rs 4.7 lakh for one month course (120 capsules) as it will have to be imported. The same price as in Australia. The total duration of the treatment is eight month. I was shocked.
Then, I made some more search and discovered that this very effective drug for prostate cancer was discovered recently by medical researchers in UCLA, America. An American biopharmaceutical company, Medivation, promptly took it over for marketing all over the globe (wiki). But Indian Patent Office refused them the patent in India – thus giving time to Indian researchers to launch it in a few months as a generic drug, costing a small fraction:
“On November 10, 2016, the Indian Patent Office denied the patent for Xtandi (Enzalutamide), the steeply-priced lifesaving anti-prostate cancer drug .. It was a bold move on the part of the regulatory body, but it has paved way for the marketing of generic versions of the drug in the Indian markets at a fraction of the price of the original drug…” (ncbi)
May be my friend will live till then- I hope and pray. But looking at these cases, I began to think: why do men respond to other’s needs so differently? May be no one is at fault. Everyone has just followed their own national ideals. America is a land of opportunity and enterprise. India is a land of Falguni Devi, for whom there are no strangers and milk should always be offered for free. So, whom should I follow, being born here? TISA as a community draws its ideals and strengths from our old ideals; Vipassna and many other cultural bodies in India are still doing the same – offering selfless service, as the highest act of being human.
Now, coming to, efficacy. If these paid programs- like McGuire, are successful in teaching management of stammering, so is, Vipassna, Brahmvidya, Theater, Classical singing, self-effort, learning languages, taking up sales job, running self help groups, Toast master.. and not to talk of host of self-proclaimed therapists in India, who do it for a fraction of the fee. In my long career as a researcher in this field, I have seen many people benefitting from a variety of approaches- yes, including even blowing conch shell! Who are we to question that?
Finally, to answer that naïve advice: “If you have…”: if I have one lac rupees, I would rather travel to west and learn something from Professor Loriente, a pws who, in my opinion has contributed MORE than all the paid programs put together. He has boldly stated that it is society and therapists who need to change their assumption and biases against speech and its diversity (ISAD paper).
Again, if I have Rs one lac, I will travel to west and meet the authors of "Did I stutter" (link) website, who go to the root of the problem: the unholy alliance between medical technology, healthcare industry and societal forces trying to “normalize” everyone, which is fueling and sustaining these programs. We need a quantum leap, a paradigm shift – not sticking of Band-Aids, however fancy. And from Indians, we expect better understanding of their own society and its ethos. Before they discount self-help and promote program costing one lac, on TISA FB page, they should take note of the fact that 56 percent of Indians, some 680 million, lack the means to meet their basic needs (link).
And this is a land where Falguni Devi even today refuses to sell milk.. She offers it for free.