All Round Nice Guy Manoj Beno talks to Richa Tilokani about his passion for providing affordable treatment to the needy and deserving.
Tell us about your journey.
Born to highly educated parents, I was the worst ever possible problem child to them. I started off as a bright student and a class topper in school and then sank like the Titanic. I went from bad to worse in college. I was taking life easy. I used to study at the last minute and fare poorly in my exams. I once watched an interview by Rajinikanth where he divided the different decades of one’s life from birth into stages. They were categorized into stages like innocence till 10 years of age, ignorance till 20 and so on. He went on to add that if one took the span between 20 and 30 lightly, life is ruined. I did not turn over a new leaf immediately. I went on to enjoy life, but the thought and fear sat perched somewhere within me. Suddenly towards the end of my college days, reality hit me and I started panicking. I was not born to doctor parents, had no hospital to inherit and was about to deal with precious human lives. The very fact that people’s lives would be entrusted to me and I was so half-baked in knowledge gave me great depression and I was very apprehensive about my future. I started studying. When all my colleagues had performed well in the course and were relaxing during the internship period, I started studying and working too. Healing lives is a gift and I did not want to do injustice to it. I was not sure if I would be successful but I did not want to be a failure. I made up for all that I failed to absorb and gained confidence as a doctor. I worked in the Intensive Cardiac Care department of a hospital for 4 years. I then got an offer to become the Medical Director of Billroth Hospitals which had just then expanded into a corporate group. It was a great responsibility and tempting as it was to flaunt that business card, it did put me in a state of uncertainty. I was not sure if I could deliver. Setting up a corporate hospital is not an easy task, and I was young and inexperienced. But the Managing Director who is even younger than me put his faith in me and gave me that break. With all gratitude I took it up, and here I am today. I have done my bit to help the owners give shape to Billroth Hospitals over the last 8 years and we are going strong.
Your take on medical euthanasia.
Euthanasia is something that can be permitted if the intentions of human beings are in black and white. Most often they are not so, and hence the dispute. When you want to put an end to a person’s misery, that is humanity. But when you do it with the selfish motive of putting an end to your own misery or inconvenience, that is cruelty. Today, many want to end the lives of their near and dear ones because they have exhausted all their leave at work, they cannot afford or do not wish to spend on a patient whom they know is ultimately not going to recover, or they are keen to inherit wealth. Often there is huge pressure to stop treatment or to take a patient off the ventilator which we strictly do not approve of. The right to end a life should never be misused, and in the process it is okay even if it cannot be used. It is always we who misuse the privileges given to us like kidney donation for example. Malpractices creep in everywhere and there is no other go but to tighten the rules. But again, if we are able to gauge people’s intentions and differentiate good from bad, this would be heaven and not earth.
We heard u are passionate about trying to give affordable treatment to the needy and deserving. Do you think it is mandatory that all private hospitals follow a certain public service like that?
Never look upon all private hospitals as money making machines or cash cows. There is business and corruption in every field and it exists here and there in the hospital industry too but the public, movies and other media often project most hospitals in bad light which is not correct. Many private hospitals do quite a bit service in a big or even small way with the genuine intention of giving free treatment or to create awareness and educate the poor, needy and ignorant. So even if it was made mandatory, it would only be a streamlining guideline for something that many hospitals are already doing. As for trying to give affordable treatment to the needy and deserving through Billroth Hospitals, it has been possible only because the owner of the hospital has the mindset to do it. Every health care set-up owner should have that vision and not blindly focus on making money or retrieving investment costs. No one aspires to run at a loss, but humanity should definitely be an ingredient of the soup you serve. Do the right thing and your clientele will improve in volume, and that’s successful business too. Fortunately we have no unethical practices or ridiculous targets which usually force us to increase tariff rates under pressure. I would boldly say that if the general public were to compare corporate packages, Billroth Hospitals would definitely be the most affordable.
Your ads a while ago stating that BIllroth can assist women unto the age of 50 to get pregnant caused quite a flurry of hope. Tell us about women who come to BIllroth for fertility treatments.
The message that the advertisement tried to convey was to give those longing couples a ray of hope that pregnancy is still possible and all hope is not yet lost. It is not to promote pregnancy at a late age for all the couples. Only the ones who wish to go for it will do so, and it is not just about paying money and getting it done. Counseling is done to all the couples, physical evaluation is done, risk factors are assessed and only when all criteria are favourable IVF is done. The decision makers are adults who have probably given a lot of forethought to the initiative and we are there to further help and guide them in the right direction. There are certain things that money can’t buy, and if technology can help bring happiness into the homes of the rich or poor in the form of a child, we should do all that we can to make it possible. The infertility rates in India are alarmingly high and there is huge pressure within families especially to the woman in such a scenario. IVF is certainly a boon to all those couples yearning to have a child to add meaning to their lives.
You have a huge following on Facebook. Tel us how you have come to be known as Mr. Nice Guy.
Am I Mr. Nice Guy ? I leave that for people of this city that I love to decide. Facebook is a highly powerful and effective communication tool. It is a double-edged sword but if known to handle correctly, it can help you in various avenues like business, personal life, leisure, old and new friends. I am able to connect with friends, family and even my school teachers through Facebook. I have been invited as the chief guest for events, asked to give television and radio interviews, been requested to give away or receive awards, have been sought consultation or emergency help as a doctor many a time through this. We remember to wish people on their birthdays through Facebook and I try to add a small personal touch with a picture of me with the person and a birthday song whenever possible. Initially I did not understand the magnitude of it but when I see someone telling me that their birthday is approaching and they would like to meet me and take a picture so I could upload it on their birthday, I feel overwhelmed by the way they seem to appreciate it and the good vibes they feel towards me. My status updates have surprisingly attracted some attention among my friends and I am grateful to them for encouraging my sense of humor. My one-liners have found mention in newspapers, magazines and books, and I am glad that it brings some respite to people in the middle of a hard day’s work or after a stressful evening. Some people upon being introduced to me seem to identify my existence through my pictures in their friends’ Facebook profiles or my status updates which their friends had shared through me. I have always been clear about one thing. Never lament your woes on Facebook, never post hurtful updates or indulge in mud-slinging, never publicly react to other people’s provocative updates or comments. In other words, never hurt people or say unpleasant and uninteresting things on a public forum. If I am able to grab the attention of 5000 people who are in my list for a minute, I view it as a privilege and want to make the best use of it. In that one minute, I wish to make them think, appreciate, smile or laugh. I will always post only the things that will achieve these.
You are friends with stars as well. Tell us about them.
Once upon a time the media uses to project stars as reserved, pompous and snobbish characters. The rest of the world used to gossip about the ‘attitude problems’ of the stars. Gone are those days. This generation of stars has been a breed of level-headed and down to earth individuals just like your neighbor or classmate. They would be a good friend to anyone they trust and they in return will be trustworthy too. Is this not what defines friendship between any two normal human beings ? That is exactly what they are too. I don’t see them as stars. Many a time I have been there to support all my friends whenever they need medical help or emotional support. Some of them are doctors, engineers, some are into business, and some are stars. That’s all. To me, they are all the same. I would hardly or rarely require anything in return from any friend. I am not going to act in movies. I just believe in being there as a friend and a doctor. In return, star or not, every friend is equally important to me and it’s only their goodwill and warmth that I seek from every friend in return. My father passed away recently. Every friend and well wisher who condoled his death meant a lot to me. Many of them were stars too. Karthi came and spent time with me putting aside his busy schedule. Sonia Aggarwal who is otherwise not very comfortable about funerals did not leave my side. My doctor friends Rajesh, Kalpana, Lakshmi, Shivali, Sathya, Chaitanya and Vaishnavi were there with me throughout. Vijay Antony accompanied my father in the funeral van to the cemetry. Now this is friendship. I am blessed. Many others visited me later and expressed their grief over the phone and messages. I am grateful to all of them for proving that true friends are those who are with you more during your bad times than good. I have tried to give that to the world. I thank them for giving it back to me.
What is your best quality as a friend ?
I really do not know. I just tell myself that if I am a bad person, God will punish me. That’s all. Karma works very strongly in my case. When I do something wrong, my results are instant. I’m glad that this has given me the fear of God and thereby the beginning of some wisdom. So I try not to be a bad person to my family or my friends. God plays the strict headmaster with me. And I have come to realize that life is very short. My father was 65. Life suddenly goes to dust giving no room for anything else to be buried with you. Today the average life expectancy cannot be defined. More and more health issues are creeping in and people are dying young. In my journey I would just like to keep my enemies minimal and be good to those around me.I do not expect the same in return from any one. Every individual has good and bad qualities just like me. Life is not about finding a perfect ten out of ten in every person. From most of them we should learn to identify and absorb the good things, correct some bad things and forgive or ignore the rest. I am that one person who can walk into a crowded place full of known faces and not have to avoid anybody. I can assure all my friends one thing. Whenever you need me as a friend or a doctor, I will always try my best to be there for you, rain or shine.
Tell us about your workday? How often do you party?
Work is always crazy but there is nothing to grumble. It is always good to be busy. I’m in a totally different world when I’m at work. People who have met me at work have found a shocking contrast to the Manoj they had met outside socializing. I hardly take leave from work. I hardly travel. Work is challenging. There will be doctors to meet, patients to treat, meetings to conduct, grievances to address, patient deaths to attend to, employee issues, etc. The list is long. When I’m not at work I say a silent prayer hoping for all things to be going smooth back at the hospital. It is a place where so many human lives are undergoing treatment and things could easily go wrong. The pressure is huge. I still treat patients, and my patients who are mostly my good friends now will go to no other doctor. After balancing administration and a bit of practice I hit the gym without fail everyday. It is after all this stress that I get time to unwind. I do party hard. I step out with friends or attend events and I love to socialize. My friends circle is huge so events or clubs are a good way to catch up with them. But I’m mindful about one thing .I will only party as much as it would allow me to still be able to wake up in the middle of the night to attend to an urgent hospital issue or an SOS call from some relative or friend in need of medical help. And no matter what, I wake up early in the morning. On Sundays I clean my house. I even scrub my toilets. It is a common ritual for my friends to message me on a Sunday afternoon and ask me ‘Hey, how is the toilet cleaning going?’
Your plans for the future?
I take every day as it comes. I never ever had a plan in mind to have reached where I am today. I just want to give my best to whatever I’m doing. That is enough. There are so many great achievers. I am nothing. I am yet to learn about them and learn from them. I have miles to go before I sleep.