It was 6.30 in the evening on a June day, when two American medical representatives walked into Divya's clinic in Nungambakkam. For the popular clinical nutritionist, who also happens to be actor Sathyaraj's daughter, this was routine practice. She would often meet these salesperson after operating hours to discuss the purchase of multivitamins, fat burners and health drinks. On this evening a few weeks ago however, what she allegedly witnessed instead was intimidation and threats.
"There were three people who came to meet me - two Americans and an Indian doctor who did not say a word the whole time. They were wearing suits, and from the minute they walked inside, they began to talk about their political connections," says Divya, who still sounds shaken by the incident.
The foreigners apparently claimed that they were staying with a Minister in India and are well connected to the country's power corridors, before handing over brochures and supplements to the nutritionist.
"I began to read the ingredients on the back of the products and immediately realised that it had too many steroids. That is not all, there was an overdose of Vitamin A in the products, and this could lead to liver complications," she says.
When Divya confronted the medical representatives however, they remained unabashed. "They just nonchalantly said that they will offer me a higher commission. They were basically trying to bribe me to sell products that will harm my patients," she says, outraged.
According to the nutritionist, they were offering 13 tablets for a steep price of Rs.13,500. To make matters worse, problems caused by multi-vitamins would go unnoticed by most patients, as they wouldn't attribute symptoms to regular supplements.
But even as Divya began to get agitated, the foreigners continued to talk about their 'friends' in political circles, mentioning this at least 5 times in the half hour they sat in the clinic.
"I had to raise my voice and tell them to 'Please leave'," says the nutritionist. "They condescendingly asked since when doctors in India had such ethics. That is when they told me that other nutritionists in Delhi and Mumbai were buying their products," adds Divya.
This sentence alarmed the nutritionist to an extent that she has now written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting that he look into the matter.
"All these products always come to Chennai last. So if people have already bought them in Delhi and Mumbai, it would mean that their health is already at risk," she explains.
The nutritionist claims she did not see the point in filing a police complaint, when these representatives had 'strong political connections.'
"Since they said that they knew politicians in Delhi and this was a matter that affects the entire country, I decided to write to the Prime Minister," she says. The letter was sent to the Prime Minister's Office on June 14, but Divya says she is yet to receive any sort of acknowledgement.
"It doesn't matter if I get a reply as long as something is done to stop the circulation of these products. As a therapist I feel there is a larger issue here, as nothing is more important than human life," she says.
In her letter to the Prime Minister, Divya however goes beyond just questions about unapproved drugs.
An excerpt from the letter reads: “Who will protect our people from unapproved and dangerous medicines that come into India? Who will protect the middle class man when he is made to do blood tests, MRI and scans when it is not necessary? Why should a poor girl from Madurai continue to remain in the hospital even after she had completely recovered??? Why is there a delay in diagnosis and inadequate communication?? Why should patients be treated like revenue generating machines? Why is it that an intelligent student does not get admission in a medical college because he cannot pay fifty lakhs? How will our country have intelligent and ethical doctors who are not materialistic if admissions are based on money and not merit??? Has money overtaken humanity?”
Divya has received a lot of encouragement from her friends and family following this act.
"My father is very proud of me for taking this step. He has always told me to be very brave. I did not want to involve him because then the focus on the primary issue would get diluted," she says. "Appa however did tell me that I should have kept some of the brochures and pamphlets they gave me, or atleast recorded the conversation. But at that point I was so angry that it didn't strike me," she says.