Sunlight was streaming through the open windows of ward 203 of the Girivana government hospital, bathing the spacious ward and its inhabitants in a warm morning glow. Amidst the murmurs of the admitted patients and their attenders, a group of 15 students were following their PG eagerly from bed to bed trying to soak in their first clinical experience as much as possible. “How are you feeling today Mallappa?” “Better than yesterday Atharv sir” “How’s your cough?” “It’s not as bad as it was when I got admitted, but I am still not able to sleep at night” “Ok, and what about your appetite? Are you eating well?” “No sir, I don’t feel like eating anything. If you could prescribe me something to increase my appetite…” “Is that so? I met your wife in the corridor earlier. She was talking about someone who ate 2 plates of pulao yesterday night, and 4 idlis and 2 vadas for breakfast today. I wonder who that was…” “Sir…” Mallappa said, awkwardly laughing. A wave of laughter rippled through the assembled group behind Atharv. “Mallappa, your repeat chest X-ray report will be here in another hour or so. Let’s see what Dr. Rajesh says about your discharge based on the X-ray findings” “Ok, sir”. Atharv finished examining the patient and updated the case sheet, all the while answering the patient’s questions and alleviating his fears in a soothing voice. As he moved on to the next patient, the students meekly followed their leader.
“Wow! His bedside manners only add to his attractiveness, as if his handsome face wasn’t already doing the job” sighed Janki, the forever romantic. “Totally!” agreed Gaurav. “Initially, from his serious demeanor, I thought he would be a stuck-up kinda guy. Though the jury’s still out on that, it’s evident that he cares about his patients a lot. What do you think Indu?” asked Ishita. “I would offer my opinion if I can see what’s going on. The ‘E’ unit is enveloping him like ants swarming around a sweet. I can’t see anything, much less hear what he’s saying!” complained Indu. Hearing this, Kavya from ‘E’ unit who stood in front of them turned around and said, “That’s because he’s our PG, not ‘D’ unit’s. So, we deserve the right to stand next to him”. “Exactly” agreed Meera from beside her, not even bothering to turn around.
“These ‘E’ unit people are acting way more possessive than is necessary about their PG” murmured Ishita to her unit mates who nodded in acquiescence. “They are gloating because they landed the golden boy PG. But my gut is saying that he’ll be a terrible teacher” chimed in Hridhaan. “Oh please Hridhaan, we all know that your gut is wrong most, if not all the time. Remember during first year, when you convinced us all to focus more on ‘Head and neck’ topic than on others for the final Anatomy exam, because your gut was feeling that the major questions will be from that topic? Forget 10 marks questions, there weren’t even 5 marks questions on that topic!” said Hema. Hridhaan’s protests were drowned under the snickering of others.
“I really wish we could see what’s going on. I mean, doesn’t this Atharv guy realize that people standing at the back can’t see or hear anything. He should have split the group into two” said Indu, craning her neck over the assembled group near the bed end to see what’s going on. “It’s ok Indu. From tomorrow we won’t feel like we are standing in a cattle herd as we’ll be with our own PG. We should find out later as to who our PG is. That just reminded me of something. Indu, how did you know before he introduced himself that his name is Atharv and not Gandharv? Have you met him before?” asked Ishita. “Umm, well, I knew his name because … that is …” Indu was saved from answering when a voice called out “Good morning sir” from the ward entrance. Everyone turned towards the voice source. And in the very next second, Indu and Gaurav found themselves losing their balance as a person rudely pushed past them. Thankfully, Janki had acted quickly and held onto Indu, but Gaurav was not so lucky. As Hridhaan and Ishita helped Gaurav, who lay sprawled on the ground, to his feet, the new entrant had shoved her way to the front of the group and was now standing beside Atharv.
“You are late, Bhavani. You haven’t checked the blood pressure of any patient in this ward and you haven’t updated any case sheets either, care to explain why?” asked Atharv, sounding a bit angry at the intern. “I know sir. But I met with an accident on the main road where a car rammed into my scooter. That’s why I got delayed. I am not even able to walk properly, sir” explained Bhavani. “Being injured itself she was able to push two people to fall flat on their faces. If she was all right, Gaurav and I would most probably have flown out the window and be lying in the corridor by now” muttered Indu, rubbing her hand that she had banged on the bed railing. As her friends chuckled in amusement, Ishita shushed her, noting that Atharv’s eyes were watching Indu.
“Are you ok? You can take the day off if you want. Just ask someone to cover your duty today” “I am ok sir, though it’s paining a lot. I only came to inform you that my friend would be covering my duty today, but I’ll stay around till the unit chief finishes his rounds” said Bhavani, making a sorry face. “Ok, it’s your decision. Make sure to tell your friend to send the blood samples of patients’ in beds 7 and 8 for a repeat Hemoglobin and….” as Atharv doled out a set of instructions, Bhavani’s face fell when she realized that he hadn’t enquired further on her injuries.
“All right, now onto the next patient”. As the group followed Atharv, Gaurav who was watching the whole exchange said, “She’s lying” “What?” “You heard me, she’s lying!” “You don’t even know her, so how can you say …” began Hridhaan, but Gaurav cut him off saying, “I know her or at least I have seen her. Her name is Bhavani and…” “Wow, genius! All of us know her name, that Atharv guy just called her Bhavani. Did you bang your head when you fell?” asked Hema. “Arre no, will you let me finish? I saw her today morning near Chandru anna’s shop and…” “Isn’t Chandru anna’s shop the one across the road from the hospital gates?” asked Janki. “Yes, that’s the one, and stop interrupting me. Anyway, I was using the pay phone located outside of his shop when he called after someone telling them to take back their change. When I turned around, I saw a girl in white coat walking away. I am pretty sure that that girl is this intern Bhavani. Because, after the phone call, when I went to buy some pens from him, he was mumbling to himself that he would return the money to Bhavani madam tomorrow when she would come to buy cigarettes again”. ‘CIGARETTES?!’ exclaimed the others in loud whispers. Though medical students and Doctors smoking cigarettes was becoming a common sight day by day, the thought of one doing so while wearing the white coat was unfathomable for Indu and her friends.
Gaurav shushed them, not wanting others to listen in on their conversation. “Are you sure you saw this intern? I mean, it could have been some other Bhavani” said Hridhaan. “I am sure, because both that girl and this intern are wearing the same bright orange kurti with ugly, fluorescent green tassels hanging down from the kurti end. What are the odds of coming across two people having the same atrocious taste in clothes on the same day?”. At this, Indu, Ishita, Janki, Hema and Hridhaan turned their heads in unison towards the girl under discussion. “Ok, but just because she was buying Cigarettes doesn’t mean that she’s lying about her accident” said Ishita. “Yes, but didn’t she say that she met with an accident on the main road? If that was true, then why was she not limping when I saw her earlier? Not just that, as I entered the hospital premises, I saw her heading left instead of right, towards the hospital entrance. The only building, the pathway on the left leads to is a polio office which is in shambles now” “What? She was heading towards the polio office? But no one’s been using that old, dilapidated building since ages. It’s been covered with weeds. What was she doing out there?” Hema wondered out loud.
As the others pondered over this, Indu turned to Gaurav, “What I don’t understand is, why were you using a pay phone? Your mobile is working just fine since you called earlier to ask us about the ward number. So, why the pay phone?” “Leave it to Indu to come up with such unique doubts. Like seriously, we just found out that the intern was lying, behaving oddly and might I say, even suspiciously, and you are wondering as to why Gaurav used the pay phone!” reproved Ishita. Seeing a look of trepidation come across Gaurav’s face, Indu was about to question him further when she heard someone clearing his throat behind her.
Looking at the panicked expressions on her friends’ faces, Indu surmised that it must be the PG behind her and turned around slowly, dread filling her every second. Her guess was right, for standing before her with a stern expression on his face was Atharv. “I am so sorry to interrupt this important meeting. I am sure that you must be discussing the pressing matters of the world and the world leaders must be waiting eagerly to hear your opinions. But you see, us mere mortals have to worry about day-to-day life. So, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind stepping aside so that we could go see the patients in the next ward? That is, only if it’s not an inconvenience for you”. Their heads bowed in mortification, Indu and her friends moved to the side so that Atharv and his unit could pass. After that embarrassing incident, the ‘D’ unit didn’t exchange a word for the remainder of the rounds.
Later, once the unit chief Dr. Rajesh was done with his rounds, Atharv asked the students to assemble in the classroom at the end of the corridor. When Indu and her friends started to follow ‘E’ unit, he stopped them and said, “D unit, stay back. I would like to discuss some issues with you first. Follow me” saying so Atharv went inside an adjacent room that connected the two wards (203 & 204) and where, interns and PGs would usually sit to write their case sheets or to discuss confidential matters with the patient’s attenders. Indu and her friends looked at each other in alarm and followed Atharv reluctantly, wondering what was in store for them.
to be continued…