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, Indu felt someone yanking her towards the sidewalk. The second she stepped onto the sidewalk, the car swooshed past the spot where she had stood just moments before. Breathing heavily, she looked up to thank the person who had saved her life and turned speechless when she saw that it was none other than Atharv.
With his hand clutching Indu’s arm, Atharv stood panting, his eyes on the car now speeding away, whose driver hadn’t even bothered to slow down. As he turned to look at her, he had a worried expression on his face. “Indira, are you all right? Are you hurt?” He asked tensely, and without waiting for an answer started to check if she had suffered any injuries. Finally getting out of the daze, Indu said, “Yes, I am all right, thanks to you. If you hadn’t pulled me to safety, I would have been under the car’s wheels by now”. Registering that save for some shock, Indira had escaped unscathed, he calmed down and met her gaze. His eyes which formerly wore a worried expression now flashed in anger. “Are you out of your mind to be crossing a road, that too the main road, without even bothering to check if it was clear? What would have happened if I hadn’t pulled you to safety? You are lucky that I was walking by and saw you foolishly step onto the traffic-clogged road”. Shocked that a person’s mood could change so quickly, Indu simply stared at him, afraid of further triggering his anger by saying something. “Cat got your tongue? Care to explain the reason behind pulling a stunt like that?”.
“Indu?”, a surprised voice called out from behind them. Both of them turned around to find Gaurav, standing a few feet from them and looking at them in surprise. Indu had never been so relieved to see someone. “What’s going on?” He asked, walking towards them, his eyes on Atharv’s hand still holding Indu’s arm. “What’s going on is that your friend apparently has a death wish!” said Atharv, stepping away from Indu. “What!” “And, if I hadn’t come by, she would be knocking on the heaven’s door or might be hell’s — don’t know which — by now. Tell your friend to be more careful in the future. I won’t be there to save her the next time she decides to play ‘Takeshi’s Castle’ on the road”, Atharv said to Gaurav and without a backward glance, left them standing there, with one shooting daggers at him and the other standing in a state of confusion.
“What’s going on?” “Nothing. He thought that scolding me in the classroom wasn’t enough, so was chastising me on the sidewalk too” Indu said, starting to walk towards the hospital entrance. “What?” “Leave that. Tell me, what were you doing near Chandru anna’s shop? Were you spying on Bhavani? Gaurav, you buffoon. You were doing such a poor job of it that you were standing out as starkly as a T-Rex in a room” “You saw that? Well, I saw her today at Chandru anna’s shop and was planning on following her to the polio office to find out what exactly her deal is. But, to my surprise she came back to the shop again. I barely managed to hide myself…” “Not really…” mumbled Indu. “Hmm… what? Anyway, she tried calling someone on the pay phone but I think the call didn’t go through, for after a few unsuccessful attempts, she gave up and left. Just as I was about to follow her, I saw you and Atharv sir. What were you doing with him anyway?” “It’s all your fault. I saw your poor attempt at being a spy from across the road and was coming to save you from the embarrassment when a car almost ran over me. Atharv sir saved me at the last moment” “Whaaat? But…” “And one more thing. Why were you near Chandru anna’s shop in the first place? Were you using the pay phone again? You didn’t tell us yesterday too as to why were you using the pay phone when your mobile is perfectly fine” “Oh.. that.. the thing is… wait, why are we discussing me using the pay phone when we should be concentrating on Bhavani instead. Should we follow her to the polio office?” “No, it’s better that we do it some other day. We would be late for the posting otherwise. I don’t want to get into trouble with that Atharv sir again” “Yeah, true. Good news is that our unit PG is coming today, we don’t have to join the ‘E’ unit again”. As the two friends walked towards the hospital entrance, they were unaware that someone was watching them from behind the dilapidated building on their left.
“What’s your name?” “Mahadevappa” “Where are you from?” “It’s on the case sheet” “Are you from Malebennur?” “If the case sheet is saying Malebennur, then obviously I am from Malebennur!” “Ok… what were your chief complaints for which you came to the hospital?” “Look, I have been through this enough times now. Ever since I have gotten admitted, everyday a group of students come and irritate me with the same questions. How many times should I answer? I am tired. I won’t be answering anymore questions. You can look at the case sheet for answers to any questions that you have” saying so, Mahadevappa leaned back against the bed frame placing a shawl on his face. “But Mahadevappa, we have to take the case history from the patient directly and not from the case sheet. We… we’ll try to be quick with our questions” Indu said, trying to pacify the patient. She got a muffled ‘No’ in response.
Indu and her friends looked at each other. “Who knew that taking history would be so difficult! From what Atharv sir taught us in class yesterday, one would think that the patients would answer doctors’ questions zealously. Here, it would be a miracle if we could get this patient to exhibit even a modicum of interest” said Ishita exasperatedly. “Yeah, and we have barely started. We have to take history and then we have to complete the physical examination. There’s no way that we can finish it before 10:30” said Hridhaan, looking at his watch. Just then, a loud burst of laughter was heard from the next bed. As they looked to see as to what the commotion was about, they saw a patient in his mid 20s regaling the ‘E’ unit with funny stories. Having completed history taking, they had already moved onto the physical examination part. “Oh, great! ‘E’ unit is allotted a patient with a sunny disposition while we are stuck with this disgruntled guy. Just great!” Hema grumbled angrily. Shushing Hema, Janki turned towards the patient “Mahadevappa, please be co-operative. If we are not ready with the case, we would get in trouble”. “That’s your problem, not mine”. “What’s our problem?” interrupted someone from beside them. As they turned towards the new entrant, they saw a man in late 20s or early 30s standing beside the bed and looking sternly at the patient. Mahadevappa scrambled quickly to a sitting position. “Sir…” “Mahadevappa, are you troubling the students again? Didn’t I tell you last time that you should cooperate with them?” He asked. “Sorry, Mahesh sir. But I am tired of new groups of people coming everyday to ask the same set of questions, sir. I want some peace and quiet” “This is a teaching hospital, Mahadevappa. Students learn from interacting with the patients. You are more than welcome to get discharged and get admitted to a different hospital where you can have all the peace and quiet that you want. Do you want that?” “No, sir. I… I’ll co-operate with them” he said meekly.
“Good” saying so, the ‘D’ unit PG Mahesh turned towards the group. “Are you ‘D’ unit students?” Indu and her friends nodded their heads. After asking their names, he said “My name is Mahesh. I am your PG. Are you taking this case? Good, finish this case by 10.30 and come to the classroom 2B at the end of the corridor. We’ll have our case discussion there. Our unit chief will be coming after 2 days, so only I’ll be doing the rounds till then. There’s no need to accompany me for the rounds. Clear?” saying so, he went for his rounds. Dr. Mahesh seemed like a friendly sort to the group, not as strict as Dr. Atharv, which, after the previous day’s experience was a sort of relief for them.
Mahadevappa, having mellowed down after receiving a warning from Dr.Mahesh cooperated a bit more with the students, but failed to mask his irritation. When asked if he had the habit of smoking, he replied that he did not. What he had failed to mention was that he hadn’t smoked only since the time he got admitted. Since the smoking history is very relevant in a case of COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), the students would have been easily misled if they hadn’t cross-questioned. By the end, all of them were utterly exhausted. But, every minute of interaction made them learn something new about the doctor-patient interactions, and how every sentence makes a huge contribution towards arriving at a correct diagnosis.
Somehow managing to finish up the case on time, Indu and her friends were going towards the classroom 2B, when they passed their PG Mahesh on the way. “Oh, are you done with the case? Good. Assemble in the room, I’ll be there in another 15 minutes. Also, I want 3 of you to go and get some models from the specimen room”. After telling them as to what models he wanted, he left. Indu, Gaurav and Ishita volunteered to get the models from the specimen room which was on the other end of the passage to the right of the corridor.
As the three friends were walking towards the specimen room, with Gaurav recounting to Ishita about his and Indu’s mishap from earlier that day, Indu stopped short and muttered, ‘Speak of the devil!’. For, standing near the specimen room was Bhavani, whose back was turned towards them. She was pacing the corridor frantically, clearly agitated at whoever she was speaking to on the phone. As they stood there, undecided as to whether they should announce their presence or use the chance to eavesdrop, they saw Bhavani looking to her left and right and then entering the specimen room. They looked at each other and as if on unspoken solidarity, decided ‘Eavesdrop it is!’.
They tiptoed towards the specimen room and peeked through the windows. Bhavani was sitting on a bench near the front of the room, still on the phone. Observing that the room had two entryways, Indu, Gaurav and Ishita crouched through the back door. They had to be careful as to not knock down any specimens which occupied every nook and corner of that room — Glass jars containing foetuses with rare genetic conditions or surgery specimens like tumors/gangrenous toes/fingers or dead snakes/scorpions/scary looking spiders in some jars, a huge DNA model on one side that was offset by a skeleton on the opposite side — basically, it was Girivana hospital’s version of Ripley’s believe it or not!
Crawling on their hands and knees, they went as close to Bhavani as they dared. As Gaurav — not looking where he was going — almost toppled the skeleton, which was thankfully righted at the last second by Ishita, snippets of conversation floated towards them. “…No, I did not meet him. There was no one there yesterday. What do you mean I should have waited longer? I waited for 1 hour. I cannot work like this if he cannot take this seriously…”. For a few minutes post that she was silent save for an occasional ‘Hmm…’, just listening to the other person on the phone, although it was evident from her tone that she was still upset. Sitting in a weird position and hardly daring to move for fear of being discovered, Indu’s body soon started to ache. As she looked at her friends to see how they were faring, she saw something strange going on with Ishita’s face. She was wriggling her eyebrows and scrunching up her nose. It became evident soon that she was trying her best to hold in her sneeze. As Indu and Gaurav looked on in shock, Ishita struggled for a few seconds until finally managing to not squeeze and reveal their location. Just then, they heard Bhavani hang up her phone saying “…ok. I’ll go to the location tonight. He better be there or this will be my last time”. And she left the room muttering to herself.
They waited for a few minutes before daring to stand up. As they stood and stretched their cramped legs, Indu saw a shadow move across the wall outside of the window. Thinking that Bhavani had come back, Indu immediately crouched down, yanking Gaurav and Ishita also with her. “What the…what are you doing?” Gaurav asked, bewildered. “Shhh… I saw someone standing near the window. It might be…” Indu started to explain but stopped when she heard footsteps inside the room. The three of them looked at each other in alarm, not daring to move a muscle or to even take a breath. The footsteps after moving around the front of the room, paused. With that, the three friends’ breathing also seemed to pause. After a few minutes, it looked like whoever it was decided to leave. As the footsteps faded, the three friends took a long breath. As they looked at each other in relief, “Well, well, well, what do we have here?” said a female voice from behind them.
to be continued…