In Conversation with Dr. Bineesh Balakrishnan

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Meet Dr. Bineesh Balakrishnan, a dynamic and accomplished male Rehabilitation Physician and Physiatrist. With a strong academic foundation encompassing an MD and DNB in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, he exudes a passion for his field that’s exemplified by his role as the Editorial Secretary of the esteemed Kerala Journal of PMR. Beyond his medical expertise, Dr. Balakrishnan is a published author, celebrated for his solo book “Freigeist…An Unfettered Soul,” a work that earned him recognition at the Global Writers Litfest 2023. He embraces a multifaceted life, finding joy in reading, writing, traveling, and appreciating music, all while wholeheartedly embracing his role as a rehabilitation physician.

Your book “Freigeist…An Unfettered Soul” has gained recognition at the Global Writers Litfest 2022. What was the inspiration behind the book and its unique title?


Ans: I’ve drawn inspiration & information for this book from the following sources..
Rock songs:-Rock songs have influenced my writing style immensely. Bands like Oasis, The Smith’s, Cold play, Idlewild, have had the most important influence. Robin Sharma once said that ‘rockstars are the poets for our generation’. I totally agree with him on that thought…
Books:- I think more than all the books I’ve read the ones that have influenced me the most are Philosophical & Theological works…
Information:-Information from reliable sources have also provided material for me to write on. Articles on organized harassment, Psychotronic weapons, whistleblowers have all been written after sufficient research..

About the title, Freigeist, means a free spirit in German. Much of the philosophy I started off reading was by Nietzsche, & in his works this concept keeps popping up ever so often. So that’s what this book is about, a free spirit who is soaring towards his dreams while ruminating on what life is about…

As the Editorial Secretary of the Kerala Journal of PMR, could you share some insights into the significance of this role and your contributions to the field?
Ans: Kerala Journal of PMR was revived in late 2019, & I started off giving quizzes for the same. I slowly started giving scientific & philosophical articles as well. Organising Rehabcon 2021, as its Organising Secretary helped me learn how to organise a scientific conference & also peruse abstracts. In April 2022, I edited a special edition of KJPMR on Cognitive Rehabilitation which was well received. In July of that year, I officially took over as the Editorial Secretary & have been editing this journal since. I still supply the quizzes to the journal & this helps me stay up to date with most of the topics in PMR. Besides this, writing up the editorial, designing the cover, the layout are all tasks that I thoroughly enjoy. So far I’ve contributed 24 quizzes, 12 articles & 4 surveys to KJPMR.

How do you balance your demanding career as a physician with your passion for writing, reading, traveling, and other interests?

Ans: I take short breaks where feasible, during which I do a bit of reading & writing. When my duty hours end, I make it a point to unwind completely. Writing apps have helped me to write quite a bit. As far as traveling is concerned, I like to go coddiwompling, with a backpack, learning about places, the stories they have to tell, & some that went unsaid.

Could you delve into the themes and messages you explore in your book? How do these themes relate to your experiences as a Rehabilitation Physician?
Ans: This is a compilation of literary pieces. There are five sections in this book, dealing with:-
True love:- Now, I’m a hopeless romantic. Some say, we’re a dying breed. Watching romantic comedies, the bustling wind & petrichor bring out the lover in me. I love writing about love, because not only is love beautiful, but it’s also really complicated. Just think about it, authors, poets, singers & artists have been trying to distil & express this emotion for centuries. I’ve tried to express my love for my soulmate, in the best way I could…My soulmate, if you’re out there reading this, come & get me…lol..
Tough stuff:- This section deals with pain, loneliness & other negative states of existence. Everyone goes through rough patches in life, but these times teach us so much. This section was written to help people deal with tough times. A word of advice to the youth of today-‘Say no to drugs & suicide’…
Stuff to ponder over:-This section is for expanding your philosophical muscle. Bertrand Russell once noted-‘Most people would rather die than think, & many do’..Honestly, when was the last time you stopped multitasking, & social networking, & actually reflected on an idea… The faculty of reflection & reasoning have a major role in making us grow as human beings…

Harsh realities of life:-Now there are things in life, that you cannot change. Certain conspiracy theories have become facts recently too. This section deals with such topics. Topics include rock songs about a sick society; how a young man is organizedly harassed; pieces dealing with Psychotronic weapons used for harassment, have been included in this section, besides other topics. Some of these facts were once considered ludicrous conspiracy theories… Newspapers discussed the use of ‘Sonic weapons’ on diplomats in Cuba. The use of Psychotronic weapons, is something army personnel knew for decades, but it was ‘classified information’ for way too long a time.. Global surveillance of citizens was brought to light by Edward Snowden & his ilk.

Feel good pieces:- I wanted to end the book, leaving the readers feeling good. The pieces in this section deal with friendship, happiness, peace & other feelings of their kind. Whenever the world gives you a cold shoulder, I hope these pieces can rekindle the dying embers of hope & happiness in you..

 

These pieces are written from my heart, not from a Rehabilitation physician’s perspective. As a Rehabilitation physician I try to improve the functional status of my patients. I do hope that reading this book makes my readers feel better, & heals them in some small way….

As an author and physician, do you find any common threads between the worlds of medicine and literature? How do these two aspects of your life intersect?
Ans: Medicine & literature both heal in their own ways. Modern medicine heals the body & mind in the most scientific way perceivable. Literature connects to your soul & makes you grow in degrees, & eventually leaves you a better person.
Modern medicine, to start with, is one of the most scientific fields out there right now. As we speak research is progressing in leaps & bounds in devising cures for diseases which were deemed incurable. This field is spreading smiles on distressed faces waiting with hope that someday they’ll be healed.
Literature, the right kind of it, similarly brings a smile & makes you feel better. They say that when Machiavelli was imprisoned, he felt abjectly miserable & betrayed. His routine was to spend 4 hours reading every single day & he ended up feeling upbeat. I’m currently reading about Malcolm X, the Civil Rights Activist, who read voraciously in prison before he could fight for his fellow black men. So literature in its own way heals people & has far reaching effects.
Both these fields intersect in my life, because every patient I heal fans the flame of creativity in me. Every healed patient makes me a better writer & human being at the same time.

Could you share a memorable experience from your medical practice that has deeply impacted you and perhaps even found its way into your writing?
Ans: One patient, a 11 year old girl who was losing her vision because of Retinitis, & who had an incurable disease, taught me about hope & human grit. Though her vision was compromised, she loved reading. I decided to give her a few comics & story books. Now, she read under a lamp because of her disability. She never stopped & I was in awe of her desire to keep reading, & kept giving her more books. This was during my Internship when things were going really bad for me, & I guess this lesson of hope is something I’ll write about till my last breath.
Another patient, an Alcoholic with Liver disease in his late 50s, was vomiting blood every half an hour. Me being an Intern sought guidance from my PGs about how to proceed. They repeatedly asked me to refer the patient to a higher facility where banding of varices could be done. Here’s the thing, in Government Medical Colleges you come across many patients who can’t afford treatment options like banding. I asked the PG if they could accommodate the patient in the ICU & observe the patient, but this could not be done either. The PG however suggested that I could give the patient Injection Pantoprazole & Octreotide & I could observe the patient frequently. I agreed to monitor the patient frequently & about a week later the patient stopped vomiting blood & got discharged. This taught me about compassion & thinking with an open mind. It has helped both my practise as a Rehabilitation Physician & also my writing.

How do you envision the future of rehabilitation medicine, and how do you see your role in shaping it?
Ans: The future of Rehabilitation Medicine looks peachy. WHO adopted a program called ‘Rehabilitation 2030- A Call to Action’ in February 2017. This was done because the global health organisation believes the need for rehabilitation services will rise by 2030 & steps have to be taken to meet this demand. Thanks to this program Rehabilitation Physicians will be able to serve more patients & impact more lives.
Technological advancements are also highly conducive to the growth of this field. Robotics, Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence all will help to catapult this field to greater heights. Every Rehabilitation Physician has the onus of taking Rehabilitation Medicine to greater heights. There is a huge need for comprehensive rehabilitation services in our society. This need is only going to rise as time moves on. By doing our part in trying to meet this need, we can create more awareness about this field.
On my part, I helped out in conducting a State conference in Late 2019. Besides that I was Organising Secretary for Rehabcon 2021(an online Conference with an attendance of 170 odd participants) & Rehabcon 2023 (a physical conference which was attended by 150 delegates). I hope Rehabilitation research is promoted in our country, because it is an area of robust research elsewhere. This can further help promote Rehabilitation Medicine in our society.

Can you discuss the process of getting your book published and the challenges you faced along the way? What advice would you give to new authors navigating the publishing world?
Ans: I had contributed quite a lot to a writing App, & around 2018 I decided to compile some of my work as a book. I selected the different pieces that I deemed good for a book & tweaked them as needed. Time was always the issue, & I don’t like to deviate too much from my workplace commitments. So I worked on the material during short breaks, weekends & also on holidays. I submitted my material to a publishing house & they offered me a discount on the publishing package, because they really liked my work. The package was just about right, so I went ahead with publishing.
I reworked the final output so many times that I’m sure the person on the other hand must have cursed me quite a bit.
If you want to get published, there are lots of options these days. There are self-publishing services, traditional publishing services, anthologies & more. Before you go for putting your material out there, hone your skills. Read voraciously, write often to improve your writing skills. If you know someone who is good at writing ask them for honest feedback. Don’t plagiarise, be who you are, write from your heart.

You mentioned a love for music. Does music play a role in your writing process? Are there specific genres or artists that inspire you?
Ans: It does, I listen to all kinds of music these days. The music that got me interested in writing was mainly Alt-Rock & Metal. I wrote my first song ‘Walking Wounded’ when I was studying for MBBS. Our band performed this song twice or thrice if I remember right. The bands that influenced me the most were Oasis, Coldplay, The Smiths & Idlewild. Oasis in particular is a band whose songwriting has got swag & depth in it. They were philosophically at an other level altogether. Some of my favourite lyrics are:-
“Some might say, they don’t believe in heaven,
Go & say it to the man who lives in hell..
Some might say, you get what you’ve been given,
If you don’t get yours I won’t get mine as well..” – Oasis

“Nobody ever mentions the weather could make or break your day.
Nobody ever seems to remember that life is a game we play..”- Oasis

Your book’s title suggests a sense of liberation. How do you believe one can attain an “unfettered soul” in the midst of life’s challenges?

Ans: Life these days is more complex than it ever was. The ability to focus & enjoy every moment is slowly diminishing. With people chained to their Smart phones & electronic devices, feeling Digital Dopamine flooding their system, they’re stuck in a loop of temporary elation & emptiness.
To develop an unfettered soul:-
Accept life as it is: this is easier said than done. Life will deal blows when least expected, under such circumstances focus on the things within your control, as the Stoics used to advise. Don’t keep hitting yourself, do what has to be done & endure what has to be endured.
Get enough sleep:- If you don’t get 7-9 hours of sleep, it’s bad for you in myriad ways. Sleep is the means through which your mind & body reboots, so make sure your system is in top notch condition by getting enough sleep.
Reduce screen time:- Focus on your real life, meet real people. Learn from every person you meet by listening with an open heart. This step will also boost your productivity, compassion & energy levels.
Embrace nature:- Spend some time in a park or at a beach as often as possible. I guess it’s Timothy Ferris who suggested to stargaze at night to feel better, try that.
Learn to cut down on junk food, it’s not healthy for you:- As a doctor I know all the bad that this can do for your body. Eat wholesome food & drink plenty of water.
Take long walks:- this is good for your heart, brain & mind.
Find time to exercise:- at least four times a week find time to exercise. Like they say ‘if you don’t find time for exercise, you’ll be spending time fighting illnesses’.
Hang out with the right kind of people:- the wrong kind of people will hold you down, & most of the times you won’t realise it’s them that’s doing it. The right kind of people, the ones who help you in becoming better, spend more time with them.

Could you provide insights into your writing routine and how you find time for creative expression amid your professional commitments?
Ans: For me my professional commitments are of prime importance, though I absolutely luurvv reading & writing. I don’t have a writing routine, I just write when I can like I mentioned earlier. I do journal & note ideas to work on, & then work on the stuff whenever time permits. I’m sharing links to my profiles where the readers can check out my work:-
https://allpoetry.com/Dr.Bineesh_Balakrishnan
https://www.miraquill.com/user.html?username=bineesh05
http://bineeshxgs.blogspot.com/

How has the recognition from the Global Writers Litfest impacted your writing journey and your aspirations as an author?
Ans: It came as a pleasant surprise, some kind of Divine intervention I’m guessing. I hope more people get to read my first book & give me some honest feedback. Feedback is the single most important thing for a newbie writer, so I’m waiting for some. It will help me improve as an author & maybe even make me consider working on my second book, if time permits.

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