Woman writing on a legal pad.

This is a Sick Note

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

This is a sick note. A sick note for a nation that is perpetually tired. Tired because we have been running, caring, nurturing, helping, fighting, building, fixing, servicing, repairing, justifying. Tired because we are forever proving that we are deserving, that we are worth it. 

Tired because we haven’t taken a moment to heal since we gained independence. Tired because our colonial oppressors set an imposing expectation on us to always chase and never be chased. 

Don’t get me wrong, we are being chased – for that perfect picture, that story, that narrative, that cohort study group, that data point, that BPO, that soul searching trip filled with colour and flavour; and never for that innovation partner, that destination for work-life balance, that funding authority, that implementation genius or that sought after program designer.

This is a sick note for not showing up because our country needs to take a moment to address some basic structural, systemic issues. 

Our tiredness stems from looking at caste, religion and region-based disparities as primarily medical problems; the root causes embedded in historical oppression and social inequality are often overlooked. 

This medicalization, influenced by colonial legacies, urges us to prioritise clinical interventions over comprehensive societal transformations. 

The colonial era’s emphasis on classifying and categorising populations has perpetuated a reductionist approach, neglecting the structural and systemic factors contributing to health disparities. 

We are tired, our doctors are tired, our nurses are overworked, our community staff are neglected; but there’s so much work to do – to recognize and address the historical, social, and economic dimensions of demographic-related health inequities for meaningful and lasting change – work that not just our medical cadre are responsible for, work that we as citizens need to do. 

This is a sick note to take time off to work on ourselves. Fix what was left behind as a part of colonial oppression.

This is a sick note for saying no. No to that imposing agenda in the meeting, that funding opportunity, to that field visit for you to witness ‘poverty’ in action so that you can be assured that there is value for the dollar spent. 

This is a sick note to saying no and putting the onus of our voice and agency back on us. The colonial era established hierarchies that persist in shaping our healthcare dynamics. This perpetuated imbalances, side-lining community voices and reinforcing historical power differences. 

Prioritising power equity is crucial for effective and culturally sensitive health interventions, necessitating a shift towards collaborative, community-driven approaches that dismantle colonial hegemony and empower local communities to shape their health trajectories. 

Saying no does not mean we reject the aid, it just means that we have the power to say no. Give us time to build that power.

This is a sick note for not being able to contribute significantly to reducing the global warming levels by over 2 degrees. We are trying, I can assure you we are. 

But it’s just unfair that with one of the largest populations and a growing economy, the expectation remains the same as compared to lesser populous nations with a much more stable economy. 

This is a sick note for not having matched that expectation. We understand that it’s important. We want to work for the planet, not just our people. We want it as much, if not more. But it’s your time to understand, world, that the fields are just not levelled. 

And thus, from this tired nation, we demand individualised global, attainable targets. Not one size fits all. Be it global warming or disease eradication or ecological conservation. 

We will attain it, but let us set our own realistic, attainable goals.

This is a sick note for being absent at that social gathering. We are grappling with the fatigue for being unfairly associated with disease spread, particularly amid pandemics. The perpetual stereotype of being potential carriers of deadly viruses takes a toll on our mental and social health, fostering feelings of exhaustion and isolation within social situations. 

The persistent scrutiny and bias not only erode psychological well-being but also perpetuate a sense of being cornered, reinforcing harmful stereotypes. 

And so, this is a sick note for not attending that gathering because we are tired of being looked at differently, being socially distanced with almost disgust. Don’t forget, we’ve been living with that through colonial oppression. The pandemic lasted 3 years, the British Raj, over three centuries.

The weariness isn’t a result of vitamin D deficiency; it’s a manifestation of the relentless pace we’ve maintained since the stroke of midnight and our tryst with destiny. The exhaustion is a consequence of a society that has ceaselessly toiled without affording itself the time to heal. 

The expectations and pressures are akin to “working 70 hours a day”, a burden that is neither healthy nor sustainable. Our fatigue stems from a collective journey marred by historical struggles, socio-economic challenges, and the persistent pursuit of progress. 

It’s a weariness etched into our cultural fabric, a plea to reprieve from the unyielding demands on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Recognizing the need for balance, self-care, and fostering a culture that values holistic health is paramount. 

We must move beyond celebrating mere endurance to championing a sustainable and compassionate way of life, where tiredness is not a badge of honour but a call to prioritise the well-being of a nation that has tirelessly contributed to its own evolution.