“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 patients’ attenders. Indu and her friends looked at each other in alarm and followed Atharv reluctantly, wondering what was in store for them.
As they started to gather inside the room in apprehension, Atharv’s phone rang and he went outside to answer it. As soon as he left, Indu and her friends turned to each other and started to speak simultaneously. “This is all your fault Gaurav. If you hadn’t been recounting your ‘Savdhaan India- Davanagere edition’, we wouldn’t be here in the first place” said Indu, rubbing her bruised hand that she had banged against the bed railing earlier. “Wow Indu, just wow! If I remember correctly, you were the most interested listener of my so called ‘Savdhaan Davanagere’ story. And for your information, that PG didn’t catch us when I was recounting the story. He caught us when you were playing ‘Nancy Drew’. Hence, you are responsible for our predicament now”. “Will you both stop? It doesn’t matter whose fault it was, all of us are stuck now. Can’t believe that we got into trouble on the first day itself. This must be a new record, even for us! What if he complains about us to our unit chief? My roommate was saying that these medical college professors are known for holding grudges against the students for a long time” said Ishita worriedly. “You guys worry too much. What if he called us here to apologize for hardly paying any attention to our unit and solely focusing on his unit during the rounds?” said Janki, the over-optimistic bird in the group. The statement stunned the others into silence as they turned in unison to look at her.
Meanwhile, in the corridor, outside of the ward, “Hey Mahesh. Yeah, I took your unit’s students to rounds with me. No, your unit chief hasn’t come to the rounds yet. I’ll inform you as soon as he comes. Who are posted in your unit? Well, I don’t remember all of their names. Let’s see… there’s Hridhaan, Gaurav, umm…Hema, someone called Ipshika or Ishita, I am not sure which. There’s another girl whose name I have forgotten, and… there’s a girl named Indira. They do seem a pretty naughty bunch though, you have your work cut out for you. Yeah, ok… for tomorrow’s case discussion, I’ll tell them to take the COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) case in bed 11. Ok, bye”.
Oblivious to this… “Look, there’s only one way to get out of this. Indu, just tell him sorry and say that you won’t repeat the mistake in future” “Why should I say sorry? You were the one whose movie was running in the theatre. So, you should say sorry” Indu retorted. As the two friends stood facing each other, about to scratch the hell out of each other’s faces, someone cleared their throat behind them for the second time that day. Once again they found themselves caught in the act by Atharv, who stood leaning against the door frame with his arms folded across his chest, and his eyes trained on Indu. “If your shenanigans are over, shall we get down to business?” He asked, and without waiting for an answer went to sit on the bench opposite the assembled group. As the group stood on tenterhooks, Bhavani came in and sat beside Atharv saying, “Sir, I have given my friend your list of all the work that needs to be done in the ward”. “Then why are you still here” muttered Hridhaan from behind Indu. Hema shushed him. The fact that Bhavani sat with excitement writ large on her face as she waited for the axe to fall hadn’t escaped the group.
“This is your first day of clinical postings, right?” asked Atharv. Indu and her friends nodded their heads. “Looking at your confidence earlier, I am sure that you guys must know everything about taking a patient’s history and doing the clinical examination. So, it would be easy-peasy for you guys if I ask some questions, wouldn’t it? Let’s see… Gaurav? You are Gaurav right? Shall we start from you?”, Gaurav didn’t dare raise his eyes. “Ok, looks like Gaurav will speak only when my back is turned. No worries, we’ll move on to the next candidate. I am sorry, I forgot your name, what was it again?” He asked, turning towards Indu. “Indira” “Ok, so Indira, would you like to explain the steps of ‘history taking’ for us? You see, my knowledge feels rusty and I want to refresh my memory” silence “Hmm, looks like you can talk only when you are conducting a meeting with your friends. Is there anyone here who can explain to me the basics of a case presentation? Anyone? No one? Why are you all so silent? Just a few minutes ago, you couldn’t stop talking and now when I am asking you to talk, you stay quiet. I was observing you guys from the beginning of the rounds. You thought that I wouldn’t know what’s going on behind my back, but you are forgetting that I also went through your phase. Is this how you behave in a hospital? It seems like you have forgotten that you have chosen a noble profession. If this is the kind of attitude that you exhibit in front of your patients, then I am sorry to say that you won’t go far in your career. Consider this as your last warning. If I came across this kind of disrespectful behaviour again, I won’t hesitate to complain to your unit chief. If not for me, at least show some respect to the white coat you are wearing”.
Then, as if this thorough clobbering by the PG wasn’t enough, intern Bhavani also chimed in with her two cents, “I tell you sir, the juniors’ batch is getting worse year by year. I mean, forget when I was in second year, even now, I can’t imagine myself behaving as disrespectfully as these guys!”. Her words felt like lime juice and salt being poured on their wounds. Though it was almost on the tip of their tongues that she was partly, actually almost fully — even if indirectly — responsible for their predicament, they somehow managed to rein in their retort.
“I hope I am clear. Let this be your last warning. You can leave now. Go and join the ‘E’ unit” said Atharv sternly. As they meekly turned around to leave, he continued “Except you, Inchara”. As the group turned back, confused as to who was this new person that he was addressing, their doubts got cleared when they saw that Atharv was looking at Indira. “Indira, sir”, Indu corrected him. “Yeah, same thing” and then turning to the watching group, he said “Should I send you a special invitation to go to the classroom?”. At this, Indu’s friends dashed out of the room, giving one last sympathetic glance to her, feeling like they were leaving behind a sheep in a wolf’s lair. “You can leave as well, Bhavani. Make sure that you are on time tomorrow and if you can’t then have your friend cover your duty. I want all the case sheets to be updated before my rounds. No more excuses from tomorrow”. He was addressing his intern but his eyes were on Indu. Bhavani left without any protests, probably deciding against poking a sleeping lion.
Just when Indu thought that the day couldn’t go any worse, here she was, alone in the room with this angry PG, about to receive a severe scolding. “Show your hand”, Atharv said. ‘Wait a second, did he just say ‘show your hand’? Why would he… Good lord, Indu, he’s gonna cane you on the hand like a school teacher. Wait, is it even allowed in medical school?…’ Indu’s train of thought was cut short by “I said, show your hand. Are you hard of hearing?”. ‘On second thoughts Indu, he’s totally capable of caning you. Didn’t he just give a ‘Great Wall of China’ length lecture. Extend your hand girl, the sooner you get the caning, the sooner you can leave’ thinking so, Indu extended her hand towards him, palm facing upwards. As Atharv stood and approached her slowly, his eyes not leaving her face, Indu was aware of her hand slightly trembling, anticipating that at any moment she would receive a caning, although with what was the question troubling her. As Atharv stopped in front of her and raised his hand, she flinched. But her hand which was expecting to meet the cane, found itself cradled in the warm hands of Atharv. He turned her hand and started to examine her knuckles which bore evidence of the battle with the bed railing earlier.
“Does it hurt?” He asked gently. Indu was so stunned with what was happening that for a few seconds she couldn’t process his question. “I asked, if your hand hurts?” “Whaa…Oh, the hand! Yes, it’s hur…I mean, No, it’s not hurting. Umm…It’s not as bad as it looks” “There’s swelling. You should ice it as soon as you go home. And you should be more careful in the future” “It’s not my fault that I lost the balance and banged my hand” Indu said defensively. She was about to explain further but found herself at a loss for words as his eyes moved from her hand to her eyes. Suddenly aware that he was still holding her hand, Atharv let go of her hand and stepped back. Clearing his throat and not meeting her eyes he said, “You can leave. Be careful in the future”. As Indu stood cradling her hand which suddenly felt bereft of warmth, he said “Is there anything else that you want to say?” “No, sir” “Then why are you still here? You and your friends have already wasted enough of my time today. Go to the classroom”. As if she heard a gunshot, Indu scurried out of the room, her thoughts in disarray about what just happened.
The next morning, as the girls got down from the bus, and Indu said her byes to Saru and was about to enter the hospital premises, her eyes caught sight of something on the opposite side of the road. Gaurav was standing in the shadows of Chandru anna’s shop doing an abysmal attempt at hiding from whoever he was spying upon. And who that person was became clear to Indu when she saw Bhavani crossing the road and heading towards the shop. Seeing her, Gaurav retreated further into the shadows. No doubt he was imagining himself as a spy in a James Bond movie or the James Bond himself, but he was doing such a poor job of it that Bhavani had only to turn her head to spot him. In fact, the vendor selling coconuts on a cart next to the shop was keenly following Gaurav’s antics. It wasn’t everyday that the vendor came across such entertainment, that too free of cost. Thinking that this wouldn’t end well, Indu stepped onto the road to stop her friend from making a fool out of himself. She hadn’t taken two steps when she heard the loud honking of a car’s horn. As she looked to her right, she saw a car speeding towards her. It was seconds away from hitting her but Indu froze in shock. Just when she thought that that dirty, white Maruti car with an ugly frog logo on the front glass would be the last thing that she would see, she felt someone yanking her towards the sidewalk. The moment she stepped onto the sidewalk, the car swooshed past the spot where she had stood just seconds before. Breathing heavily, she looked up to thank the person who had saved her life.
to be continued…