Over 2 weeks ago, Chennai spread her hot and humid arms wide open to welcome me warmly through her doors and just like with all my previous visits to India, I found myself in a hurry to visit Dr.V, our family physician. It is a time-honored tradition for me to go pay Dr.V a visit as soon as I get into town. I think of it as sort of like going in for a quick oil-change. One big, fat injection,a handful of pills and I usually find myself back in smooth, working condition.
Dr.V and our family go way back. He has known me ever since oral spurting became the most important daily ritual for me from the age of 3(somehow the word 'vomiting' sounds like a dirty word in a public forum). I know the black and white 'Welcome' portrait in his clinic's waiting room, not to mention the long whip of a lizard gracing its walls, as well as I know my two sisters.
For as long as I have known him, Dr.V has sported the most wonderful bald head that I have ever known. It has always gleamed like a polished granite countertop and when seen along with the thin-rimmed spectacles that is always perched high on his nose, it gives him an air of such supreme intellect. To this intellect, add a regal form of over 6 feet with a build to match that towering height and voila, you have a doctor who exudes competence, confidence and charm in equitable proportions . Just as I know that the Sun never rises in the West, I am positive that Dr.V never comes to his clinic in anything but a pair of smartly tailored slacks, a crisp full-hand shirt and a solemn tie.
A day out to Dr.V's clinic is anything but ordinary but without giving you a virtual tour of the clinic at this time, it is hard to explain why. Located just off a busy main road, Dr.V's clinic looks just like any other building in the street. Stray dogs and nomadic cows compete constantly to assert their supremacy as the uncrowned kings of the neighborhood and do their beastly best to block anyone from going through the gate. If you have the wiles to sneak between them, the long-winding entrance ramp leads to a rectangle waiting room where the norm is hard stone benches and simple cushionless straw chairs. There is no pretense of elegance anywhere in this clinic but you will agree at the end that the obsessive streamlining of the clinic's operations more than makes up for the lack of elegance.
As you climb the ramp to enter the waiting room, it pays to be agile and alert. On your march...get set...now RUN! Run like the wind! Better yet, run like PT Usha! Run to the little hole in the waiting room wall for it holds the magic key to the doc's room - your token. You don't stand a chance of seeing the doc without this token so grab the one from the top of the pile. While running for your token, if you find the mob of patients running alongside you resorting to devious methods to push you aside to reach the token stand first, don't be coy and don't be subtle. Take your elbow and aim for their ribs. After all, it is common knowledge that only the strongest survive in this world.
Ok, now you have your red token (so it doesn't quite look like red but come on, give them a break. For ones that have been in use since 1974, they don't look all that bad, do they?) and it reads 8. What do you do now? Well, if you are willing to give meditation a try, grab a seat and start practising some mind-control techniques because it will be a while before you lay eyes on Dr.V.
If my memory serves right, Dr.V has had two compounders under his payroll forever - Mr.G and Mr. B. I have never known any compounders who can wield such enormous power in a clinic. Take Mr.G. Every once in a while, he will open the door to the waiting room and bellow out 3 token numbers - (for example 1,2,3) and no less than 30 people will trip over themselves to reach him with such gratitude dripping out of their eyes. It never fails to move me to see the tears of joy and gratitude in their eyes. But Mr.G is a stoic one. The many years of working under Dr.V must have given him the maturity to not take all this fawning to heart. You will see him standing firm as a soldier at the door ensuring that no one without a token passes through . As for 30 people rushing in for 3 token numbers, the math has never added up for me but the important thing is it apparently did to Mr.G.
Lucky are these folks who pass through the formidable Mr.G to enter Door#1, for their epic journey has finally started. Through this gate, they get their first glimpse of the great Dr.V. I even have vague childhood memories of folks slapping their cheeks gently in a show of reverence as they stand before Dr.V finally, just like in Thirupathi. It may be a while till they see the outside world again.
(to be continued)