So, I am done with college.
Exams remain; they, of course, come with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.
But I am done with college-college.
No more "Amma, wake me up at 11:00 tomorrow, I have to go mark attendance in Pediatrics OPD, else I'm doing multiple re-postings", no sire, no more of that.
No more "Look chumps, I am not presenting another testicular swelling, I have had it with the balls; now give me breast".
No more "Erm, ma'am, I was in the OPD showing my one year old cousin, down with Chronic Wasting Disease to the Pediatrician, and had to miss the tutorial; could you please mark me present?" to the office lady, knowing with a fair amount of certainty that my cousin is neither a wapiti nor a moose, and that the kid is not called Spunky Monkey With A TV Remote In Hand.
No more "Alright, to save yourself some face, spell 'muscle' for me" by a senior consultant exasperated by the Monkey's ineptitude, despite which Monkey attempted attitude by venturing an M-U-S-S-E-L.
No more "Fuck, what WAS that paper? We had Medicine only no?"
(Okay, may be there is scope for that last one yet. Dreadfully enough. )
But, no more of the others.
And guess what? Despite my better senses hollering "What is UP with you man?", the one dominant voice in my head insists that I will miss it all.
And quite a lot.
Why, it seems like yesterday when I first came face to face with the rest of my class and wondered, "Jeez, am I going to be stuck with this cross-section of village idiots from across the country for four and a half years! This was NOT what I had thought of when I wrote the prize winning essay What I Want To Be When I Grow Up And Why, back in 6th standard. Oh hell, what of my plans to sip cognac with Genetics Professor In Tweed Jacket in his study with the Mahogany table, discussing why exactly Watson and Crick were chumps". Which was just when the student body President welcomed us with "Doctors are like candles", which was also when I thought there was hope to the place yet. Surreal similes always get me interested.
September 15, 2003. That's when it all began.
Is this the real life
Is this just fantasy?
I was in a beige T-shirt, and was among the shortest people there. Faced with a population that represented a mind-boggling array of demography, I think I shut up. More so because the room gave off an aura of expectation and apprehension so dense, that in my head it plays out even today as a climactic scene of a Hitchcock film. This, given the trouble we had undergone to finally walk the "hallowed portals"(my non-existent ass) of the "premier institution"(my non-existent ass reprisal).
In a strange set of circumstances, there was a sense of culmination to a process that hadn't even begun; there was a sense of alienation even before we could call the place our own; there were one too many complex issues to deal with and far too little gray matter to comprehend the gravity of it all, most importantly the import of the countenances of our thoroughly disgruntled but enigmatic hosts, the college seniors.
To half of us, Genesis was just a band, and a rosary was what a child with Rickets had; we'd call you mad if you said somebody walked on water and Immaculate Conception, to us, was merely a well thought out idea. (All this would change, of course.)
Dickens would be proud of the fin de siecle spectacle: it was the best of times and the worst of times.
[People who do not know me personally, please ignore the above paragraph. Mere verbiage it is; whereas the few people here who do know me personally (unfortunately; where went my anonymity clout), those were bad times no? Perfect dhobi-ghat kuttas we had become.]
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
First year was wonderful. The wide eyed surprised look at most things medical college persisted for a good 6 months or more. (Wow, white coats. Too muuuch). We knew we had chosen a different way of life, when on the very second day of college, we were taken into a big, bright sunny room. So? So, it smelled real strong. So? So, it smelled SO strong and bad that I knew that's what would kill me. So? So, there were dead bodies.
Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening
The Anatomy Dissection Hall. The first thing they make us do is a circum-ambulation (you know like a pradakshina/phera) around the dead bodies. I get that, you know like, the dead teaching us and how we should forever be grateful and all that. But it kinda creeps you out when you realize that there is a cadaver with an erection!
Which is when, it happens yet again.
Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening
We were all assigned cadavers. Ten people to learn off one cadaver. A scrawny Professor sitting in the center of the hall yelled, "Waat aar you wayting faar I say, cumaan expose the Pectoralis Major".
Groups of ten around their respective cadavers, at least three feet away from the table. Every pair of eyes scanned the nine other pairs, hoping for that one pair which looked ready to hack into another human being.
One of us ventured, "How about we read through the manual once?", knowing fully well that that should kill an hour at least. "Ah, but of course", the rest chorused. We took turns reading and thus began our preliminary understanding of each other. Oh, so this is what coconut oil and banana chips sound like. Hiss S'ss are lisssped. Ah, yankee twang, eh!
"Wopen Cunninghaam Manual, expose Pectoralis I say, waat you are wayting faar? Yuvar gryaandmother won't come to help okay? Dissect dissect".
Mama, life had just began
But now I've gone and thrown it all away.
But it wasn't hard. Perhaps the most fun we have had throughout college. Bonding over a corpse wouldn't be much fun, you'd think. Wrong you are. Friendships were formed, piques discovered, likes and dislikes unraveled, love blossomed, DC teams formed, DC teams fought over Deep Impact and Armageddon, copycat associations sprung up, all under the watchful eyes (err, make that presence. We had gouged the eyes out) of the man who was so sweet he didn't mind even being hacked into.
But, back home on the first day of dissection, amma made me stop at the door.
(Did you touch dead body?)
"HeNa muTTidya, ilva?"
(You touched dead body, or not?)
"Of course Ma, I have to"
"Saaku tuss-puss English-u. Aa college-ge haakbaardittu ree. NODtiri, enneraD vaarakke Davidd-o, Josupph-o, Fernandes-o aag barthaane, udda koodl biTTkonDu, raaku-paaku andkonDu. Naav naav paDkonDbandiddu. Aa Kalaasipalya college-g hOgakk enaagitto? Bekalla shoki. Neenu, Enoo muTTkobEDa, straight bathroom-g hOgu. Taley-g snaana maaDi devrig mooru namaskaara haaku. NAMM DEVRIGE!"
(Oh, enough with your flashy English display. Ree, I told you we should NOT have put him in that college. Just you see, in two weeks, he'll be David or Joseph or Fernandes with hippy hair and a penchant for Rock-Pock music. What to do, our share of fruit from past lives. Why could he not go to that Kalaasipalyam college, like good Brahmin boys do? No no, he wants razzmatazz, of course. YOU, touch nothing, go straight to the bathroom. Take head-bath, and do namaskaara to God. OUR GOD!)
"Maa, you know I missed the Kalaasipalyam college by a whisker (okay, may be a little more than that; a twine thread, let's say). And I am very tired right now. Can we skip my cleansing issues?"
"Matte English-u! HaaLaag hOgu, aadre snaana maaD haaLaag hOgu"
(Oh that wretched English yet again! You go rot where you want, but rot after bathing)
She grew considerably calmer over the months that ensued, however. Dead bodies got to be routine with her, as they did with me. She grew communally tolerant too, I am assuming. Given how she would, without flinching, ask me, "What did you chop today, David?"
Like that wistful saying goes, "Dina saayorge aLoru yaaru?" (Who will cry for the daily-dying?)
The chopping itself was SO much fun. When we spliced the heart open, in my true Bollywood persuasion, I rattled off some twenty five Dil type songs. Wrenching the brain out was some tough carpentry. Discovering that the cadaver had no Sciatic Nerve was fun, only to rediscover it (Waat I say, thickest nerve of the baady you cut aaf, und say there ees no Scaiatic?).
Physiology and Biochemistry were a blur save an enterprising young chap egging thirty hesitant students (with yellow conical flasks in hand and rooted to their spots in the lab) to "Go discharge the sample. After all, Urine Is Like The Fountain Of Life".
Gee whiz, what is with similes and this place anyway?
(Yes, we tested our own urine samples, and mine had no sugar/ketones/bile salts/protein. Yay me!)
Second and Third years passed soon after without my consciously registering the change in the numbers on the calendar. Fests all over South India, major victories in some, "Fuck you, bastard" on stage many times over, on realizing I had potato sacks for teammates; one blind, and the other, well, a big potato sack. Academically, only two things stand out.
A. Watching post-mortems:
Do Not Attempt It. Perhaps the most macabre thing ever. I mean, they RIP guts out. Even metaphorically that sounds dreadful. And I watched eleven! of them, oblivious then to the power of proxy. Eleven painful sessions of punishing a dead individual. Farrokh Bulsara, if he had seen one, would go -
I don't want to die
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all.
Here's the thing, I have told this to a couple dear friends, and you my readers are going to know of it too: If I die, do not let them do a post-mortem on me. Even if my death was caused by angry communal cricketers, or I looked a dangerous shade of distemper green when I died.
B. The ENT viva-voce:
I do not remember much of it, except I think it went something like -
Bismillah, we will not let you go.
Let Me Go!
We will not let you go.
Let Me Go!
We will not let you go.
Let Me Go!
Final year, in all its ugliness was reached.
And I was none the wiser. But, with an unsettling certainty that it has all come to an end. The Farewell Dinner is pretty much the last nail on the coffin.
Medicine, unlike other courses, does not have a specific Last Day Together. Internship scatters us across the breadth of the hospital, and one never gets to meet friends or "hang out" as much as before, what with grueling 36 hour shifts and having to moonlight as everything from wardboy to aide to scum of the pond to things beneath the scum of the pond. Which is probably why there is already a sense of finality to everybody's tone. Our last film together no?, one would say. Ooh, the last birthday treat, another goes. (We are not dying, I say.) But, it is inescapable.
Four and a half years of being together, and then the prospect of not being together does a little more than twist your sobriety, I assume.
Some people are already talking engagement and marriage! Suddenly, you realize the gravity of being 21+. This is what they mean by adulthood, it dawns upon you. Having to stand at a crossroads and deciding by yourself and for yourself, which road it is that you want to take.
Only, this isn't to get the tastiest Golgappa for the cheapest money.
Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine.
Talk invariably also turns to 25th year reunion and who would be doing what, and where, and when? (10:00 AM on September 15, 2028, the yearbook insists)
A would be a Pediatrician, lending Mr. Pinkwhistle and Mallory Towers to eager kids, and impressing upon them the force that is Dhoom 2 and Hrithik Roshan's pelvis.
B and C would be married, with B still trying a weary hand at the electric guitar and telling his kid why exactly Iron Maiden is the greatest thing that happened to mankind.
D would open a hospital called Exclusively Exotic Diagnoses and deal only with Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker, Kocher-Debre-Semelaigne, Lawrence-Moon-Biedl and such other diseases, and be content provider for House, Season 28.
E would be in the North-East, dealing with hypertension, coronary artery disease, diabetes; all in himself.
F would be completely bald. And precious else. (Perhaps out; who knows?)
G would be either frikkin fantastic (being the editor of the International Journal of Oncology) or running a clinic 20 x 10.
H would get married, fly to the Gulf, make children, and go into hysterical fits over unclean cutlery.
I am easy come, easy go.
Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see.
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.
Any way the wind blows...
P.S.: Queen who? Bohemian Rhapsody what?
P.P.S.: People who know who I am, could you please please not tell other people about who I am? I will give you 5 stars. In gold color pen, no less.
P.P.P.S.: It's been more than a month since I posted, I know. Exams were happening. Anyone missed me? Humor me, no? You did not? Dang.