The Elephant in the Room: an external view
It is large and squatting, so it is hard to get around it.
Yet we squeeze by with, “How are you?” and “I’m fine,”
and a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.
We talk about the weather. We talk about work.
We talk about everything else, except the elephant in the room.
– “The Elephant in the Room” by Terry Kettering
There is indeed a large elephant in the room – we have become quite adept at squeezing past it. That large elephant is the burden of disease-related suffering and the room is India.
How does it all look to someone looking in from outside?
Jesse Bossingham is a volunteer from USA. According to his blog, he is “interested in the ways medicine is culturally, spiritually, and institutionally located.” Specifically, he wishes to “study different modes of death and dying around the world.”
As a part of that quest, Jesse spent two weeks at Pallium India this February, observing the way we function, trying to understand the culture and methods. “I had hoped to fade into the background and watch, but it is clear that won’t work.” As he does not understand Malayalam, he has to rely on body language and hasty translations.
In the course of a fortnight, he senses the elephant in the room – huge, clear and ominous. In his blog titled “Talking About the Elephant: Two Weeks at Pallium India“, Jesse writes about his experiences as he shadowed the home visit team, and at the outpatient clinic, and in the inpatient ward. The little things that we do not perceive, that we consider normal, that we take for granted, jump out at us from Jesse’s words. Do read Jesse Bossingham’s blog.