Monday, August 15, 2011

Slap your cheeks at Dr.V - Part 2

(continued from 'Slap your cheeks at Dr.V - Part 1')

At last Mr.G closes the door behind the day’s first group of patients and those in the waiting room with the next 3 token numbers finally allow themselves to feel a flicker of hope. It looks like their trip isn’t going to be a waste after all. Their turn to stand on the hallowed ground is coming in a few hours. God is great indeed! Clutching their tokens inside a tight fist, they lean back on the hard stone bench with a sigh and will themselves to drift into a dream of Dettol, thermometer and Dr.V until Mr.G opens the door again to summon them.

Leaving them to their happy dreams, let’s join those on the other side of that door in Dr.V’s room. If I were you, I will hold on to something solid soon after you enter his room. Confused? Look below and you will notice that the floor has caved in (this building is a tribute to Chennai’s architecture) to form a nice little pit in the center of the room where Dr.V is sitting. What this means to you is unless you hold on to something for support, you will find yourself rolling on the floor to Dr.V’s feet whether you mean to kiss them or not. Fighting gravity on top of a cold and a fever is beyond the skill of most people so they usually dive for the bars on the window soon after they enter the room. When I was in that room during my recent trip, I remember holding onto a hook on the wall for dear life and looking down my nose adoringly at Dr.V.

Situated happily in the middle of the pit, Dr.V’s desk dominates the room and is populated by 2 palm-sized prescription pads, a manual blood pressure monitor and a torch that has surely seen better days. The rumor mill has it that curators from museums around the world have shown more than a passing interest in bidding for Dr.V’s torch and blood pressure monitor. This leads me to believe that they have not yet seen his hand washing bowl.

This is as good a work of art as I have ever seen. It is a big round white (I am 90% sure that it is white) porcelain bowl that Mr. B takes great pain in filling with fresh water every morning so that the Doc can wash his hands between his trips to the Injection room. You can see several black markings on the inside of the bowl giving it a nice eerie look. I hope Dr.V has the inner strength to turn down the fortune that I am positive he will get for this bowl should he ever decide to auction it. It will be a dark day indeed when the clinic will be left bereft without its icon of cleanliness. My father has a smaller version of this bowl that he uses even to this day in his daily shaving ritual. So far we have managed to keep the curators away from his door but I wonder if my Dad knows that he is sitting on a golden goose?

Coming back to Dr.V’s room, watch the first patient swing her way to the chair next to Dr.V. This chair is said to have medicinal qualities of its own because many patients, like my mom, start feeling better the minute they sit here. For ease of narration, let us assume that my Mom is the patient on that chair now and to preserve her identity, I shall refer to her as ‘Ambujam’ from here on out.

Dr.V – Come Ambujam. Is your leg bothering you again?

Mom – Oh, I wish it were that simple Doc. You know how the children have all come for vacation and how much work there is at home. I am not as strong as I used to be. The servant maid has not come for 2 days. Apparently there was a death in her family and she had to go to the village. Poor girl, what can she do? Sometimes, if you have to go, you just have to go.

Dr.V – Alright Ambujam, what is the problem today?

Mom – When I wake up in the morning, I have such palpitations and feel so weak. My leg feels like wood and my hip hurts all the time. Sometimes, I feel dizzy and not feel like getting out of bed. Can you give me some pills to quickly fix these problems? As you know, I have so much work to do at home. Oh, I almost forgot. 3 days ago, I ate some mangoes…I know, I know that I should not eat mangoes with my diabetes but you know how people bring mangoes when they come to visit you. Children these days don’t eat as well as we used to, Doc. I can’t really let all those mangoes go to waste now, can I? But don’t worry. I immediately made some bitterguard curry and compensated for all that sugar. I pray to God everyday for good health but I guess He is busy with other things.

Dr.V – There is nothing wrong with you Ambujam. You are aging, that’s all. I will give you an injection to stop the palpitations and give you some pills to help with your body aches and pain. Just tell your guests not to buy so many mangoes next time. Here is your prescription. Give it to G, he will get your pills ready and you go wait in the injection room for me. I will be there soon. (soon???? Yeah, right Doc.)

– oh, thank you Doc. I knew I would feel better just talking to you. While I am here, can you talk some sense into our Meena here? She doesn’t eat anything healthy. No good vegetables or fruits. Can a person really live on potatoes alone? I am making myself sick worrying about her all the time.

Dr.V simply smiles and nods at the next patient to take the chair that my Mom just vacated but if you think that my Mom is done with Dr.V, you are naive indeed. Patients like my Mom believe in making full use of the consulting fee that they pay the Doctor. My Mom gives the chair to the next patient willingly enough and stands on the side continuing her conversation(??) with Dr.V. She wants to know if she should eat the pills before food or after food; she wants to know if drinking Oats with buttermilk first thing in the morning will cure her diabetes; she wants to know if it is alright to walk only 10 minutes a day instead of the 30 minutes that Dr.V suggested to her before; she wants to know how to reduce weight without having to give up on any of her eating pleasures.

Dr.V spends 8 hours a day treating patients like my Mom. Dr.V’s baldness may not be genetic after all.

Two doors lead away from Dr.V’s room – one to the Injection room and the other to what can be loosely termed as a 'Pharmacy'. The compounders Mr. G and B are the kings of this little kingdom where they cook up their magic to deliver the medicines to the patients. Potions are lovingly packed in little glass bottles and pills are wrapped up in newspapers of yesteryears. After collecting your bundle of miracle from Mr.G, move through the door on your right to the Injection room.

Dr.V’s Injection room is a small rectangular room with one long wooden bench and one straw chair - all for the comfort of his dedicated patients. A shelf mounted on the wall houses a gasoline stove over which an old pot sits. Mr. B periodically boils water in this pot to sterilize the syringes and other things. As you sit on the wooden bench there to begin the long wait for Dr.V, Mr. B will promptly come and collect your prescription and prepare the syringe with medicine that is to be administered by Dr.V. You can't help but admire the way Mr. B makes the whole business of preparing syringes look so easy. A dozen or so shoe boxes filled with different medicines decorate the cabinet at the corner of the room and guess who has the key to this cabinet? Mr.B, that's who. Talk about power!

The wait for the Doc. continues in the Injection room. You can safely take a nap and a half before Dr.V will walk through this door to administer the shots. By that time, you will find yourself literally rubbing elbows with other patients who are crammed up in the small Injection room with you waiting for their chance at a shot by Dr.V's hands. As the door swings open finally to let Dr.V in, patients stand up as much to show respect as to stretch their stiff joints. Folks start to roll up their shirts/blouses even before Dr.V begins to call out their names to step forward. Dr.V's injection is not for the frail-hearted, let me warn you. The big fat syringe looks intimidating enough to make Superman call out for his mommy so don't feel bad if you do the same.

When at long last, you stretch your arm in front of Dr.V and he pulls out the big needle out of you, the Sun is already making his way down West. The epic journey is finally over and rubbing your arm with the cotton swab that the Doc gives you, you can walk out of the clinic to greet the outside world that is eagerly waiting for you.

(the end)