‘Kehne ko jashn-e-bahara hai,
Ishq yeh dekh ke hairan hai…’
“Indu, will you please turn off your alarm? Your alarm song has been playing for about 5 minutes now” came Sarojini’s sleepy but irritated voice from the other side of the room 406 just as dawn was breaking the sky that September morning in Davanagere. “Hmm, few more seconds Saru. I never feel like hitting the stop button when this gorgeous song is playing” replied Indira, who was a huge AR Rahman fan, and had kept her favourite song of his as her alarm much to Saru’s dismay. “Then you shouldn’t have kept that song as your alarm. Stop that song now or I will change your alarm sound to default from tomorrow. And it’s your turn to take bath first today. Put the heating coil in the water now or we would both be late for college today”. After bickering for a few minutes as to whose turn it was to take bath first, since that person would lose half an hour of their precious sleep, Indu gave up and grudgingly got up.
An hour later, as the girls were getting ready, they spoke in excited tones about finally getting to start their clinical postings that day. The first day of the clinical posting is monumental in a MBBS student’s life. For medical students, it’s not the day of the counseling, when they secured a medical seat or the first day of the medical college, when they sat gawky eyed in a class full of strangers with their teachers congratulating them for choosing a noble profession, but actually the first interaction with ‘real’ patients in a hospital, that finally hits home the realization that they are en route to becoming individuals capable of treating patients in a few years. The novelty of interacting with patients may wear off over time, but those first interactions are always special, and the girls were eagerly looking forward to experiencing the same.
As Indu and Saru entered the mess hall bustling with activity, they were a bit surprised to find expressions of excitement bordering on happiness on the girls’ faces, instead of the usual dejected and defeated expressions they wore while having breakfast. Indu and Saru’s assumption that the breakfast must be really good was confirmed when they went to write ‘mess join‘ and were greeted by the new mess in charge Lokesh instead of Malli.
“Ah, Indira madam and Sarojini madam, good morning. I am the new mess in charge. Oh, are you here to write your ‘mess join‘? You shouldn’t have taken the trouble, I could have written it for you. Since all of you were coming almost daily to the Kaveriamma hostel for evening snacks, I know everyone’s names. Isn’t it fantastic? And Indira madam and Sarojini madam, you just tell us your favourite dishes, I’ll have them prepared for you”. Formerly, Lokesh was the mess in charge of the Kaveriamma hostel which stood between 2 blocks of GDIC women’s hostel, and which served evening snacks for all 3 blocks. He had been shifted to Indu and Saru’s hostel mess after their previous mess in charge Malli had been dismissed.
As Saru in general did not like people who spoke too much, she ignored him. But Indu, not wanting to let go of this opportunity asked, “Can you prepare gobi fry for chapatis tonight?” “Unfortunately Indira madam, since gobi is expensive we won’t be having any gobi dishes for the next few months” “Oh, what about aloo parathas for breakfast tomorrow?” “Again, sorry to say Indira madam, but potato prices have gone through the roof since last week, so…” “Ok… what about bili holige (stuffed rice flour paratha) for dinner tonight? They don’t require any vegetables, so I am sure they’ll be safe from the sudden vegetable inflation that’s being seen only in the shops that you buy vegetables from” “Haha, you are funny Indira madam. But you see, for bili holige, you have to inform us 2 days prior, so unfortunately we won’t be able to have that for tonight’s dinner either”. Nearing the end of her patience but holding back so as not to create a ruckus in the morning itself, Indu instead asked, “Ok. Now, what about the charge for an extra cup of curds?” “Aah, regarding that we have news. You see Indira madam, starting from today, we have changed the price from 10 rupees a cup to…” Indu leaned forward eagerly hoping to finally hear some good news “… to 15 rupees a cup, as since yesterday the dairy products have become more expensive”. Sensing that Indu was seconds away from smashing the book onto Lokesh’s face, Saru dragged her from there.
“Can’t believe the audacity of that man, increasing the price of curds like that. We should have seen it coming, as one should never trust someone who addresses them as madam repeatedly!” “I am not sure if Loki replacing Malli is a good thing or a bad thing” (Loki was the nickname given to Lokesh by the hostel girls). Pondering over this, the girls finished their breakfast and went near the hostel gates to wait for their college bus.
The college bus rolled to a stop, 10 minutes late per usual. And per usual, the driver Mustafa didn’t look like he cared two hoots for being late. Unlike “Mustafa, Mustafa, don’t worry Mustafa” (a popular 90s song by AR Rahman), this 2010s version was the very cause of worry for the girls, for he always ensured that they reached late for their classes. There was a conductor too, but it didn’t look like he was that proficient either, for Mustafa had rammed the bus into a pole while taking reverse many times, with his conductor pal yelling ‘rate, rate’ (conductor’s version of right!). And he kept yelling ‘rate‘ even after Mustafa had rammed the bus, as he was busy on his phone.
When the second year students got down at the Girivana government hospital where they were to have their clinical postings, excitement was writ large on their faces. Wishing each other good luck, Indu and Saru went in different directions as Indu had General Medicine posting and Saru had Surgery. The students had been divided into different units, with 6-7 students in each unit. Indu was posted in ‘D’ unit along with Ishita, Janki, Hema, Gaurav and Hridhaan.
As the ‘D’ unit stood outside of the ward 203, talking about how everyone’s holidays was spent, snippets of conversation from the ‘E’ unit posted to the adjacent ward, reached their ears. “…apparently he’s very strict and hates indiscipline of all sorts. Students posted in his unit should be ready with their case presentation by 11. If not, there would be no discussion that day…”. “Who are they talking about?”asked Indu. Ishita, the local source for all gossip replied, “If my guess is right, and they always are, then they must be talking about the first year PG (post graduate), what’s his name…yes, Gandharv! He has become the new favourite of every professor in a matter of few months. Apparently, he’s very intelligent and his patients love him a lot. He’s always the hot topic of discussion by our final year seniors. But, I thought he was posted in MG hospital. Oh well, looks like someone gave me wrong information about that”.
Suddenly, a hush fell over the ‘E’ unit. Their faces were turned towards the corridor on their left. As Indu looked towards the cause of this sudden silence, she noticed a person approaching them from the end of the corridor. From his authoritative gait, it was evident that he was the PG who was at the centre of their discussion just a few seconds back. As he came nearer to the group, and his features became clearer, Indu felt a sudden chill grip her entire body.
“Good Lord! the seniors had conveniently left out the part about this Gandharv guy being so handsome!” Janki mumbled near Indu’s ears. “Atharv” “What?” “His name is Atharv, not Gandharv” “What? How do you know this?”questioned Ishita, her eyes still firmly planted on the aforementioned person. As he stood before them, with hands in his pant pockets and surveyed the assembled group, a flicker of recognition flashed across his face, too quickly to be discerned, when his eyes lit upon Indira. But Indu hadn’t noticed that, for she was drowning under the assault of thoughts from that fateful day. Ananya and Atharv helping her get to her exam, Atharv dressing her wound…and how had she repaid their kindness? By behaving rudely and leaving without thanking either one of them. Granted, that she was going through something, but that was no excuse for her behaviour. So immersed was she in her thoughts, that it took a few seconds for her to register the deep voice of Atharv cutting through the silence.
“Good morning everyone. My name is Atharv, I am the first year PG for ‘E’ unit. Since the ‘D’ unit PG is caught up in some work, I’ll also be in charge of the ‘D’ unit today. Ok everyone, introduce yourselves please, I’ll do my best to remember your names”. ‘Oh God, I hope he doesn’t recognize me. Even if he doesn’t recognize my face what if he remembers my name? And if he asks me questions about that day in front of everyone, what am I gonna say to him?’. As Indu was pondering over these questions, it was the turn of ‘D’ unit to introduce themselves. “Hridhaan” “Janki” “Gaurav”, “Indira”, Indu said hesitatingly, her head bent down, too afraid to find out if he recognized her as the crazy and mannerless girl, he and his friend had helped that day. When she finally mustered up enough courage to look at him, she was relieved to find his eyes already on the person next to her. “All right then, now that the introductions are done, let’s go inside. Since this is your first day, you can accompany me while I do the rounds. And once the professor finishes his rounds, I’ll teach you the basics of ‘how to take a case’. Clear? Now follow me”. Breathing a sigh of relief that he didn’t remember her, Indu entered the ward with others, discussing excitedly with Ishita about the cases they wanted to see. She had failed to see that Atharv’s eyes had lingered on her for a few seconds before he entered the ward.
to be continued…