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Startup founders vs the Charaka Shapath

The recent brouhaha over medical students in a Tamil Nadu college reciting the Charaka Shapath instead of the regular Hippocratic oath has taken my news feed by storm. Some people are horrified, saying that the Sanskrit oath is regressive and has no place in modern medical practice. Others opine that it is desirable to break free from western norms and make Ayurveda great again, by returning to ancient Indian texts and traditions. The hapless Dean of the college, who claims that he had no idea this was going on, has been suspended.

One of the passages from the Charaka Shapath that has sparked the greatest outrage is one that can be loosely translated as “I will not treat a female patient unless her husband or other male relative is present”. Progressives have lambasted this particular bit, pointing out (quite rightly) that if doctors were to take this oath, a woman needing an emergency appendectomy would have to wait until her husband (or father or brother or son) returned from a business trip to Europe before receiving treatment — leading to undesirable consequences such as hugely inflated hospital bills, several days of extreme agony, or even death in case the poor husband’s flight is delayed by a few hours. It simply won’t do.

However, there is an easy way to solve this potential problem, which the naysayers seem to be overlooking. In this age of app-based solutions for everything, where you can do anything from sell your car, buy insurance, or get some onions delivered for a culinary emergency in 10 minutes, why not have one of those Bengaluru-based startups build an app where any woman can find a man to marry (or adopt) her in a matter of minutes, so that her life may be saved, and the moral values of the nation may still be preserved? Not only would such a solution ensure that all women could get timely medical treatment without violating the norms laid down by Charaka, it would also provide employment for millions of otherwise useless men, and help a few more startup founders achieve billion dollar valuations before achieving the ultimate startup trajectory of being embroiled in a variety of controversies before pivoting to metaverse weddings with NFT invitations and marriages registered on the blockchain. Everybody wins.

Imagine if any woman could, when rushing to the hospital with an acute asthma attack, simply launch an app and find the nearest husband (or father). Within minutes, her phone would display the reassuring message “J. Balaji is on his way to marry you”. She could also, between gasps of breath, choose an appropriate priest based on her religion, or opt for a simple civil union. Perhaps even select from a variety of packages which offer crowdsourced guests to greet the couple, give them useless gifts, and complain about the food before leaving. And, with a gigantic effort to overcome the effects of contracting bronchi, pick up the phone and provide the necessary details when J. Balaji, inevitably, calls her to ask if she would pay in cash, and for the nearest landmark by which to navigate to her location. Just like any other app, but with life (and culture) saving consequences.

I genuinely believe that it is the duty of India’s great tech talent to ensure that we blend modern technology with our age-old traditions and values. If that means launching a version of Uber or Swiggy to ensure that women have access to quality healthcare, while also freeing our healthcare system and medical colleges from the tyrannical yoke of western thought, for fun and profit.

Anand Ramachandran is a Chennai-based writer and game designer who likes playing games with his writing.

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Printable version | May 8, 2022 7:50:04 pm |