It wasn’t very long ago. Yes it was one of those hot and sultry afternoon OPD in the Government Wenlock Hospital and unlike other usual days- that twenty by twenty OPD room was so far full of patients beyond capacity. Providence seemed to have brought me there to the medicine posting that day.
Having bunked so many classes the previous week it was almost impossible to bunk any more. I entered the room arming myself with everything that a UG is supposed to carry- steth, knee hammer, torch, measuring tape, tuning fork and what not. It seems an undergrad carries so much around himself to actually resemble the closest to a doctor and yet doesn’t know how to use any.
So, having armed myself of instruments, I hung around the hall two-third of which was covered by patients sitting on benches. I could see an old man finding it hard to balance himself after being dead drunk early morning, there at the other end a mother with tearful eyes looked into the eyes of her baby as the baby suckled and at the far end stood a four year old trying to get rid of flies that made sure he had a tough time eat his mango. Its funny right, while most of us fret over how complicated our lives are- this child had a problem of his own. So simple, yet so painful.
I stood there listlessly, not the least worried about people and things around me. Who the hell helps a middle aged drunkard get up and reach the table, and for that matter a kid not feeding or even the child who still continued his almost never ending struggle with the flies. All I wanted was to get the attendance and move to the comfort of my bed that still was a little more than two and a half hours away. My gaze was transfixed at the attendance register when I felt a gentle tap on my back. I turned around only to find a middle aged man, of around 45- typically tall, well built and in tidy cloths (well tidy is a comparative term- more so when you are seeing patients at a government hospital. Anything better than dirty seems immaculately clean.)
One thing was sure- his eyes seemed to be of someone in distress. He told me that he had some problem and he wanted to consult me. Apparently I was mistaken to be a doctor. And this is where you don’t know how to respond. A part of me realised that here is a patient at hand that has dropped out of nowhere to trouble me at my leisure and the other part felt-“oh my God- I must have looked like a doc!!!”
So there I was, almost out of duty asking him about his problem. And there came the response- the most feared one, the one that was lingering in my mind from the moment he had drawn my attention. He apparently had some problem around his genitals and was embarrassed to talk about it to the lady doctors. Quiet reasonably so. These people have their share of reservations. I talked to one of my seniors and first time in my UG days was I asked to examine a patient all alone and in private. After having examined him clinically I knew I had to elicit more from his past. I tried to talk to him. I was there at the wash basin trying to rid myself of all the germs possible that I may have contracted from this unfortunate patient. And I heard him sob.
Suddenly the human in me knocked and I turned around. He said that he was sorry. He had been bad to everybody and he had done something very immoral some four months back.Yes this is how these people tend to reveal their past history. He almost broke down when he muttered these words. He said that his whole world had come down since then. It was tough to hide it from his wife as he didn’t want to infect her. So he informed her out of duty and repentance and his wife almost disowned him out of denial. He had fathered two kids and he was unsure about their future. He wanted to know if he will be fine and if his presence around his wife and kids is dangerous.
He wanted to know whether he would be cured and if not, how much time did he still have. I wasn’t sure about the diagnosis but I knew this man was under severe mental trauma. The fact that he had wronged his wife and kids would kill him from inside if not the disease. There were more question to answer than that I had answers to. I stood there hurt and stuck to my favourite lines that seniors and movies had taught me -“we will be running tests on you and things will be fine,don’t worry.” I tried hard but still couldn’t manage a smile.
I moved out of the room. At times you tend to escape. And yes, I was escaping at that point of time. I opened the door only to find a lady with two kids. It didn’t take me much time to realise that she was his wife. She had anger writ large on her face and concern in her heart. Yes, women can be deceiving, right? I could see pain in those eyes. She had been cheated by her husband. Perhaps she would never forgive him. Perhaps she might have been slightly pleased by the honest gesture of her husband. Perhaps she was too far worried about her husband’s treatment and children’s future that nothing else mattered to her. But damage had been done. Everything hung around her in confusion, guilt, anger, sorrow and responsibility. She had lot more to do than that could actually be done.
Was she justified then? Was her anger at her husband’s infidelity justified? Lets leave all of it to her. Lets come to the other aspects of it. Here is a man staying hundreds of kilometres away from his wife and kids. There might have been times when he may have felt low. Common- admit it, we all have gone through such a phase. To get over it we find ways to fill that hollow in our life. Some party, others booze and this man was unlucky enough to find that doomed sex worker. The momentary pleasure that might have meant almost nothing to him at that time ended up taking so much toll to his life. We human beings are strange creatures.
I heard a familiar voice in the background. The tap was still open. The water was still flowing. And yes I was still washing my hand in the best way possible, with all the care to get rid of all the germs that I may have contracted from another poor creation of God. I felt sick. We are all sick-yes indeed we are. So selfish!