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Being and Becoming by Phalgun Prativadi

Being and Becoming

by Phalgun Prativadi

Pub Date: April 27th, 2016
Publisher: Dog Ear

A debut novella by a Pennsylvania-based physician about a doctor facing ethical conundrums.

Thirty-six-year-old Arya Krish works for the Washington, D.C.-based Beacon Medical Institute, which has an international reputation for biotechnology research and philanthropy. “We are the sum of our choices,” he thinks, in a “process of being and becoming.” This short, introspective piece of fiction delves into the moral compromises that doctors face, via flashbacks to the four previous years. The protagonist’s late father, a Nobel laureate, was a founding Institute member working on biotech innovations for A1 Group, later called Alpha Corp. Krish believes that A1 was responsible for his father’s death in a car crash, a conspiracy theory that has made him suspicious of Alpha ever since. At the same time, Alpha funds the Institute’s humanitarian projects in India. While visiting that country, Krish becomes embroiled in political bribery and blackmail as he pushes for permits and tax exemptions for his orphanage and medical clinic. He questions whether such morally dubious behavior is worthwhile and frets over his alliance with Alpha—especially after their questionable testing methods for a project called Panacea come to light. When Krish contemplates taking Alpha down from the inside, the book approaches spy-novel clichés. However, it never loses its philosophical bent. Author Prativadi is sensitive to ethical nuances and the difficult decisions involved in caring for the disabled and elderly. His protagonist has compassion for a man whose wife is paralyzed and realizes that a 90-year-old with Alzheimer’s is receiving overzealous intervention. The author also skewers the health care industry’s influence: “Ultimately, the insurance company got to decide what happens to the patient. It was an insidious takeover.” However, his secondary characters seem undeveloped—particularly Krish’s wife and son, who only appear in the last few pages. There are some homonym slips (“It was you’re doing”; “We can pick up the reigns”, and others) and awkward phrases (“the more the external forces of the world around him exerted its pressure”; “He could palpate the tension”). Otherwise, however, this a well-plotted, reflective book with resonant metaphors and descriptive language.

A brief work that, despite a few problems, still has a lot to say about moral choices and patient-care standards.