Saturday, September 28, 2013

Missed Calls but Best Friends Forever

Missed Calls but Best Friends Forever

The nurse to me: Doctor your phone is ringing in your pocket.

Me : Ah, yes, I heard it too (how can I not? it’s in my shirt pocket for god’s sake) but I am talking to this patient and can’t pick it up right now, I will call back as soon as I am done here.

10 minutes later, I dial and the phone call is connected and keeps ringing and ringing - but is not picked up. I disconnect after 4 or 5 rings as the nurse signals if she can call the next patient in.

Me: He is probably seeing patient's and will call back when he is free, I suppose. Well, send the next one in.

15 minutes later, my phone rings again. And Rings and rings.

Nurse turns towards me. I hold up my hands to her and grimace.

Me: Well, i am examining this patient and got gloves on...nearly done here, i will call him back again after I finish. Can’t touch the phone right now, won’t be sterile.

After 15 minutes I finish, remove the gloves, wash my hands and pick up the phone to dial back.

The phone rings and rings and rings....

Me:  Oh he's probably got another patient on....guess he will call me back if it’s anything important.

I disconnect the call and ask for the next patient to be shown in.

15 minutes later, my phone starts ringing again.

I glance sheepishly at my nurse and signal her to silence it while saying "there, there, Mrs..So-and-so….Don’t weep, we can put it all right easily, it will just take some time and money you know"

Nurse grins while putting the phone on silent mode.

30 minutes or so later, I call back again- the phone continues to ring but is not being answered. Nurse looks askance at me, clearly intrigued.

Me: Another patient? (I ask nurse with raised eyebrows. She shrugs)

Me: Funny, he seems to be so busy today. So many patients in one day? He is getting better than me or what?

(After an awkward pause with no answer forthcoming from the nurse)

Me: Nurse, I guess I have gone soft and lazy. Please send the patients in as they come, don’t make them wait outside while I have tea. In fact, I have decided to have tea only once a day. And also, please inform Dr.So-and-so that I am very busy and can’t be disturbed, if he keeps coming here for company to go the canteen. 

30 minutes later. The phone rings again - in vibration mode- like a frog jumping around in my pocket. I glance at the patient sitting in front of me, an upcoming actress and very pretty at that and for once am thankful that I keep the phone in my shirt pocket and not in my pants - imagine what she will make of it if the front of my pants start jumping around (misunderstanding averted or what?). I slightly lean forward towards her, incline my head and gesture her to continue talking as she goes on telling me her life story. And that phone call, oh, I will call back as soon as this is over- I assuage my conscience.

Final count for the day:

1) Missed Calls- 10 (on each side)

2) But Friendship's - Forever.

And this is how doctors spend quality time with friends- on missed calls. We understand each other intimately and don’t mind communicating with missed calls. So next time you call me and I don’t pick up immediately, rest assured that i will see the missed call and call you back as soon as I can, scouts honor.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

How-To Survive a Terror Quiz

 How-To Survive a Terror Quiz
You have 1 minute to answer

Trapped in a heavy traffic jam courtesy an impromptu political rally on Mount Road, I let my mind wander around to a weird question. What if I got caught in a terror attack? Would I be among the survivors when it was all over? Would I attempt something foolhardy like challenging them? Or would I do the wise thing and keep my head down till the real professionals got into the rescue act? If I was lined up to be shot, would i accept death with equanimity or would my knees start knocking at imminent death? 

The Nairobi Shopping Mall attacked by Terrorists

The Shoppers under attack by Al Shabab Terrorists

 The immediate provocation for this line of morbid thoughts was the Kenyan Shopping Mall terror attack where a terror group called Al Shabab which is loosely affiliated to Al Queda (remember them from the good old 9/11 days?) had attacked an up-market shopping mall and executed daytime shoppers for their consumerist lifestyle.....naah, I am just kidding, they only killed Jews, Christians and Hindus for being unbelievers. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you ask me, there must be easier ways to teach people the lesson about not indulging in retail therapy to ease emotional pains than putting a gun to their heads and making them swear off daytime shopping. 

Answer Or Die

As I sat there in the unmoving traffic, I indulged in every writer’s right to day dream- i pictured a fantasy about being trapped in such a shopping mall attack along with my group of friends. And i immediately came to the startling conclusion that the only one who was sure to survive the attack would be my friend Sylvian Patrick. Now, before you start imagining my friend Sylvian as one of those muscle bound action heroes like Sly Stallone or kick ass martial arts hero like Jean Claude VanDamme or a clone of Bruce Willis in the Diehard movies, let me clarify that his strongest weapon is his mind. The man is damn brilliant when it comes to general knowledge for he is a renowned quiz master and regularly conducts quizzes as a hobby. There is even a nasty rumor that he reads the editorials in the morning paper before he even opens Page-3 like us normal people do, to stare at starlets.

Bruce and Sylvian...the look-alike's

If you had read the newspapers carefully you would know that the Al Shabab terrorists who attacked the Kenyan Shopping Mall had shown themselves fans of TV quiz programs like Mastermind and KBC. They had conducted an impromptu quiz session to select people to kill by asking them general knowledge questions like "what is the name of Prophet Mohammed's mother?" Those who didn’t answer correctly (and within time) were shot dead while the lucky winners won the ultimate prize of - not being shot immediately. And that’s why I reasoned that Sylvian will Die-harder and survive the terrorist attack as he could come out guns, errrr, answers blazing. 

Sylvian and Me- at Beer Prong

That made me wonder at my how my other friends would perform in a similar life or death quiz. I guess a few of my other friends might know the answers to the Terror Quiz too (hmmm, i hate to boast- but I do move around in intellectual circles you know) but i am not sure about their performance in the Rapid-Fire round......with a, say a hundred AK-47 bullets being fired rapidly at them, will they beat the bell and scream the correct answers? I am not sure I could, for I think best when i am calm and collected and not being shot at by assorted terrorists screaming allahu akbar.

Finally i got to thinking of what if the tables were reversed? What if i got the terrorists to answer my quiz questions? i am sure i could make them sweat with questions like:

1) Name ALL the wives of Lord Krishna?

2) Name ALL the sons of ND Tiwari?

3) Name ALL the seats that the Congress party will win in the upcoming 2014 elections...Oh wait, this one is fairly easy and most people, including terrorists might get it right.

Anyway, by the end of my daydream i came to the conclusion that the only way I could survive such a terror quiz was to no, not take the easy way of brushing up my general knowledge but to form a killer team with intelligent teammates who can beat the buzzer and befuddle terrorists. Well, that’s my playbook to win a Terror Quiz. So what’s your game plan?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Going that Half an Inch Extra

Going that Half an Inch Extra

 Do you know what is hard? The hardest thing is just standing there, watching someone else do a sloppy job on what you think you can do better. Like for instance the other day i was in the OT and having wrapped up my surgery I happened to glance over at a table at the other end of the room where a colleague from the ent department was operating. The case in question was a patient with a naso-labial cyst- an infectious bag of pus in the no-man’s land between the nose and the mouth. If i had been the one to do the surgery I would have opted to do it under local anesthesia as i considered it a minor surgery but my colleague had decided to do it under general anesthesia which in my opinion was a bit of overkill.

Different Cysts

 Anyhow, as I stood there and watched her explain the procedure to a couple of interns assisting the surgery, i heard her say that she was planning to start with a sub-labial incision from just below the lip. I couldn’t help but protest on hearing that and so i moved closer to the surgeon and murmured slowly in her ear "why not go a bit lower down and do a sub-gingival incision, that way we can prevent a visible scar" (def: an incision is the place where we cut into the tissue and finally suture - leaving a scar where the two ends join). She laughed aloud and turning to face me made a comment for the benefit of the watching students "who is going to bend down and look into the mouth to see if there is a scar or not?"

Naso-Labial cyst- First Look

A fair point and I accepted it, just that my training in plastic surgeries had conditioned me to try and hide all scars of any surgeries I did, whether visible or not. And then she made another comment, to the great amusement of the students "when something is right there why not take the easiest route? Why waste the extra time and energy?” Having been put in my place, I ignored the snub and all the sniggers behind me, as I pulled down my sterile mask and head cap and walked out of there to change out of my theatre dress into my normal formals and go back to my department. 

During surgery- the cyst looks like this
Later on while i was sitting in the canteen sipping tea i reflected on that one comment about extra and waste. A few times in my life I have met people like that who would do just what is required but would not go a bit beyond what is strictly necessary and give an extra inch of effort. And as far as I have seen personally such people were never great successes in their lives or professions because they were easily satisfied with mediocrity and rarely made the effort to go beyond.

In one of my very first jobs as part of my rural postings i had a senior colleague who would three hours into the work day, click off his pen and stand up saying that he had worked enough for the salary he got and would leave me all alone to tackle the rest of the patients still waiting in a long line. And naturally as the conscientious/sincere (foolish?) type i was left alone to see the rest of the patients as dear colleague took a well deserved canteen break which lasted into the rest of the afternoon. On reflection, i always think that i had the best of the bargain for here I am so many years later still in the same profession while he no longer is practicing medicine, last i heard.

People like him intentionally set bars for their own successes by restricting themselves mentally. They have a strong conviction that extra work is just not worth the hassle and are easily satisfied with the work they do and the results they get. They tell themselves this is my best, this is all I can do without making any effort to see whether it’s really all they are capable of. You would have seen such people too- the  ones who effortlessly make it into the top ten, the ones who with a little more hard work can easily make it into the top three but are satisfied with just what they achieve with the minimum effort necessary.

While i am all for conservation of energy and letting person live life on their own terms, what i bar is people who are unwilling to make the extra effort but still expect success to come to them on a platter. And if it does not, these are the ones who whine loudest about the unfairness of life all the while taking it easy and just doing the minimum necessary to get by. While people with awareness of what it takes to achieve success never stint themselves when it comes to hard work. I remember a friend from college, a party dude, who on returning from a night out at the discotheque, say maybe around 1AM would still set the alarm to wake up at 5Am and study the day’s portions. That’s the kind of extra effort I am talking about.

But what I really deplore is people putting mental shackles on their own successes. They convince themselves that they can’t and go onto fulfill their own predictions. And not surprisingly end up as also-rans while people who go the extra mile never regret the choices they make or the sacrifices it takes. All those early mornings, all those late nights- all that hard work differentiates the person who is willing to go the extra inch for success from the person who is satisfied with what he can get without pain or sacrifice. And in the end it’s that extra inch which matters.

And so I believe and always will that it’s better to go down an inch below the visible margin despite the extra ten minutes it will take me to finish, if I can get a better than expected result. In the end what really matters is personal pride in a job well done and not merely others appreciation. What do you think?

Disclaimer : Images courtesy Google Images – copyright free.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Beast And The Beauty - A Love Story.

Prologue : This is the second in my fairy tales series where I rework the old fable into a more contemporary setting. You can read the first one on Red Riding Hood - Read here

The Beast And The Beauty - A Love Story.

Who's the beauty ?

 SHE was thirteen when her dad had raped her the first time. Her mother had run off with another man the previous day and after searching futilely for her the entire day her dad had returned home and in a fit of rage had torn her dress off her and raped her brutally right on the doorstep. She had screamed and screamed till she could scream no more. And then had gotten used to it. It was just one more chore she had to attend to daily- like fetching water or sweeping the house- to spread her legs for her dad. She was fifteen when her dad brought home her first customer- a man who had been as brutal as her dad was on her first time. She quickly learned that men, all men were savage when they paid for it. There was no tenderness in what they did to a woman. She yearned to be kissed. But no one ever did. At least not till she was nineteen. And that’s why she remembered him he was her first customer who had ever kissed her and that so gently, to her great amusement.

HE was a nondescript little man to look at. Not much over five feet. But that wasn’t the most striking thing about him. It was the small hump on his back which made people take a second look and then guiltily glance away from him. What made it tough for him was the remembrance that till he was fifteen he had been as normal as those who looked so at him. And then he had fell sick and nearly died. Later the doctors told his parents that he was lucky that the tuberculosis and had been contained in his spine and he had survived with just a weak and bent over spine. He wished he hadn’t been so lucky. He wished he had died. Many times he had wished he could have died. Many, many times. Whenever he saw his friends with their families. He wished he had died.

SHE had been surprised to see him again. She didn’t have many repeat customers. Maybe they didn’t like the way she fought them when they got rough. And she was surprised to see that he had followed her here to her new home. She had been as surprised as anyone else that her boyfriend had actually cared enough for her to beat up her dad and take her away with him. That had lasted for a few months till she got pregnant. Then he had kicked her in the stomach one day and she had lost her baby. When she had recovered back he had sent in a customer to her, just like he did with all his other girls. That day she finally understood. She had thought that she could be his special girl, only for him. But she had been wrong. She was indeed his special girl. He charged more for her than for any other of his girls. That special she was.

HE had decided that the second time he saw her he would go so far as to kiss her on her lips but now seeing the faint look of amusement dancing in her beautiful eyes he didn’t have the courage to go through with it despite the ache he felt for her. For months he had fantasized about her lips and when alone he had often cursed himself for not doing it the first time he had seen her. After all he had paid the full price for her hadn’t he? But somehow his courage had failed after that first peck on the cheek. And then she had disappeared and the old man had curtly refused to tell him where she had gone. He had gone mad with despair. He had gone back often and often to the old man to pester him till the old man had threatened to call in the police. Fat chance of that. At last, the old man had told him. For a price. But she was worth it. Worth any price, wasn’t she? And so he had hurried to her new house. And this time he had to pay the new one double what he paid the old guy. And he was told to be speedy about it- only one hour allowed and many customers waiting. He almost cried when he saw her again. Almost.

SHE was surprised. The man actually seemed so happy on seeing her. He wasn’t doing anything just sitting there and staring at her. Same like the last time he had come, many months ago. I found you he had told her, searched for you and found you again. She couldn’t understand why. Why? He could clearly afford any other girl. It’s getting on, don’t you want to start she almost asked him. But she could see that he was in a kind of rapture, just staring at her face. on an impulse she leaned over and kissed him. Kissed him on the cheek like he had done to her last time. He looked like he had almost died and gone to heaven. He opened his mouth to speak but could only blubber; the spit was drooling out of him. She almost laughed at that but knew enough to keep her mouth shut. She didn’t want to end up with a broken jaw like some of the other girls did when they had spoken at the wrong time to the men.

HE was in heaven. There was no other way to describe what he felt. She had kissed him herself. All his pent up love came forward. For years and years he had dreamed of this. All those months he was bedridden in his teens, he had dreamt of a girl he would find soon. A girl he would save from dragons and monsters and all kinds of dangers and who grateful to him would love him forever and ever. And then when his cousin brother had taken him to see her the first time, saying he was old enough to have a woman now, he had finally understood. This was fate. This was the girl he was supposed to save from the dungeons of her existence. And he would save her whatever the cost. After all his father had died recently and left him all alone in the big house with all the money. He didn’t need all that money. He was happy with what he got from selling his paintings. If his money could make her happy, then he wouldn't mind spending it all to get one smile from her.

SHE had been surprised when her boyfriend came and told her she was to go with the new gentleman. She had cried and cried. This was a life she understood despite the hardships. What would the strange man, that dwarfish hunchback do to her? Why did he want her, of all women? She was afraid of him and so she begged her boyfriend to let her stay. But he said no and laughed at her fears. He had already accepted the money for her from the strange man and she had no choice except to go with him. She screamed and cursed him then. She reminded him of how he had promised to keep her always with him, when he had beaten up her dad and brought her away. But he slapped her hard and told her to shut up and leave. And like she always did, she obeyed him mutely and went away quietly with the stranger.

He was happy beyond words and felt he was in heaven. He took her home and settled her in great luxury as he had dreamed to do for so long. He bought her everything she desired and more. He cooked for her and cleaned for her and never disturbed her if she dint feel like it. He was happy that she was happy, that’s all he desired. And then one day she told him she was pregnant with his child and insisted they marry. When he asked his brother about it, his brother had cursed him and had told him to drive her away right then. But he fought with his brother and made him agree to arrange it. And one fine day they went and got their marriage registered. Now he was in peace- he had everything, a wife, a child, a family - all the things which he had been afraid he never would have. He transferred the house to her name and showed her where everything was hidden just in case something should happen to him. He didn’t want to leave their child alone and poor- to suffer her fate.  

HE was in the bath, two weeks later. She was clutching his hands with great strength and keeping him from getting up out of the tub. "Die, die, you dwarf" her boyfriend screamed as he pushed his head under the water and held him. His eyes glazing over, he looked mutely at her unable to understand why. She answered his unasked question “because you are so ugly and he is so handsome" and she laughed at him even as his life ebbed away. His last thought was that the story of the Beauty and the Beast which he was so fond of reading- had never had this ending. He had thought he was the beast but no, it wasn’t him.

Fairy Tales never come true. That’s why they are called  tales.