We were 18 when we started. We're still carrying on today..learning something new on the art of keeping people alive.. of healing them. Remembering the days gone by while learning medicine can be painful yet fun, complex yet clear. These are just a handful of the memories of various shades of life gone by during my medical life.

Grey & White - Bones & Brains ( Warning : Gross details in this one. Queasy ones may skip to next )

It was tradition. Someone, whether he's built like an ox or she's thin as a waif, would faint on the first day at the dissection table. The bets were on who it would be in our batch. Unlike in other fields, in medicine, you cannot prepare yourself at home by buying a dead body and 'accustoming' yourself to it's presence. You have to find it out the hard way. There we were, a 100 medicos, on day one, herded into a room that stunk of formalin, burning our eyes. 12 tables, with sheets covered, greeted us. Divided into the appropriate number of batches, we were placed around the covered sheets. The sirs came up to our table and said "Are you ready?" in a tone that suggested that there was a prize Ferrari underneath the sheets...or Pamela Anderson ( Oh come on, it was 1999, she was hot back then ) We nodded, our eagerness ranging from halfhearted to ecstatic. And the drapes were whisked away in one fluid movement.
I wonder if the fact that me and my posse at the table were hefty bulky goony looking types made them give us that particular body that day. Shrivelled and emancipated, I wonder if the man had seen better days while he was alive. Many would speak on how they can still see that first body's face in their eyes when they close them years on. Not me. Why ? Well, the guy was headless to start of with. Just a big gapin' hole from which the spinal cord was visible, like a tunnel or a cylinder. The sirs waited eagerly, for the first of us to fall. We didn't flinch. Not one of us. Not that day, not ever. In fact, in the months that followed, the 3 hours around the body would be the 'hangout' where studies and dissection went side by side with snacks, gossip, chits and rockets and yes... even flirting . I can imagine how gross it sounds to the uninitiated, but then, what more can you expect when we all slept with a bag half filled with bones and a skull in each of our rooms ?( they're a must for studying / revising.. kind of like your class notes.. only they umm..had a life once. )


Black & Blue - The heights of embarrassment

The 1st year results had just arrived. I and 29 others were the smart ones.. NOT !! We had failed to clear one / more subjects and were thus forever doomed to be part of a new batch ( a system that sucks in the present medical setup, considering there's a huge leap from 12th std to MBBS Ist year. ) I and a couple of my friends took it particularly hard, avoiding all our old friends at all costs, especially the female posse, due to our embarrassment. This included measures like taking alternative routes and side alleys to avoid them.
One day, after classes ended at 4pm, the 2 of us were coming out of the anatomy dissection hall when we froze. At the end of the hall, at the entrance, stood all our 'girl'friends. They'd had enough of our silly behaviour apparently and decided to corner us. There was no other door out. They knew we'd have to walk out that door sooner or later. They hadn't counted on our resilience ( stupidity ? ) There was after all, one last option left to us. We jumped. Out the window off the first floor onto the sand and mud road outside !!! To picture it in all it's glory, imagine 2 hippos flying out a window. Bruised but triumphant, we hobbled along to our hostels. The next day, we were caught by the girls and given a really huge dressing down for our childish behaviour for being so idiotic as to think that our friendship was dependant on a few marks.. of course, they were right. In the years to come, we've watched each other fall along the road in life after taking many ill-timed leaps of faith.. but you know what ? Every time, we survived because our friends were there to break our fall.

Turqoise - The endless flow of Time

Exams were always the most dreaded time for everyone. There was no such thing as being confident - not for any doc on the eve of an exam ( Unless it was the confidence of failing in that particular exam. ) There was also no such thing as time. At any time of any day, there'd be a light on in some room or the other, with someone studying. More often than not, we'd wake up the next guy before we went to sleep ; a sort of studious tag team. Still, it was memorable, just reliving those exam days and nights, where we'd live on biscuits and maggi packets, go to bath with text books ( thank God for showers ), send group messages across both hostels for wake-up reminders at 2 am.. did it help ? Well, we're all doctors today, so yes. I mean, damn, I probably have forgotten most of the 'irrelevant' important stuff I read at 3am... but I still remember my dear lab partner waking me up at 3am with her unique renditions of bhajans over the phone. When you wake up laughing, the rest of the day invariably goes well, I find.

How have things changed ? Well, time management still remains an unsurmountable challenge. The best example being last Saturday. You remember how I always crib about not being able to travel the world in my youth ( read as when I had more hair than forehead ). Well, I got to experience the London time zone last week. No, I didn't hop over there. Instead work just kept flowing on a supposed 'half day', starting with a critical child requiring a feeding gastrostomy, followed by a one day old kid whose abdominal contents were where his heart should have been literally, followed of course, by the mandatory Caesarian section ( HIV positive for a change ). In the end, I had lunch at 7 pm ( health food is so good, so nutritious, so fulfilling.. I wouldn't know, of course, since I had a burger, a butterscotch shake and roadside pani puri ). Of course, the night was still young and would eventually carry on till 6am with cases when I finally got to sleep. Naturally, Sunday's breakfast was at the prim n propah time of 1.30 pm. And to think, I'm the guy advising my brother and parents about their eating habits.

Green & Saffron - Religious medicine

"Religion's monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meanings and connotations of a rational view of life." - Ayn Rand.
You see, though as docs, we're so used to the inner workings of the body and know the saving nature that blood components provide while rescuing strangers, this medical field too is often polluted by the colours of religion, thus ensuring impartiality and common sense go for a toss. A few examples :
1. Patients demanding that if they are given blood in an operation, it should only be from a "fellow vegetarian's blood" and not a defiler. They didn't mind what disease the blood contained,as long as it was veggie blood.
2. Perfectly sane and good docs promoting the concept of "dipping both sides" of the fly which may have accidentally fallen in your soup.. literally. Apparently, a "religion and science" magazine equated some religious book quote as meaning that if a fly falls in your drink, only one wing filled with poison dips in, so to cleanse the drink, you had to dip the other wing which had the antidote too. When a doc promotes it, it hurts. When it's a friend, it's plain annoying.
3. Patients would come to my college in droves to get treated by a particular doc. Of course, this is true in every hospital, based on the doc's prowess. But what do you do when the reason they come to him is because he is 'God's descendant' ? Apparently, in our state, there is this concept of 'thangal' or 'direct descendant of the Prophet'. Naturally, anyone with the bloodline is as good as God and has the divine healing touch. Those who die ? Well, their misdeeds overtook them.
4. Of course, religious prejudices were often at your own risk. An incident where a Hindu party activist stabbed a km from our college ( a Muslim minority ) chose to drive, while bleeding profusely, many kms away to get treated in "a Hindu" hospital underlines the hate within even in so beautiful and secular a region as peaceful Mangalore.


Red - That bright shade of love.. and blood

This was way back in the early days of 2001 when having entered second year, we had been granted access for the first time to that celestial abode of docs : the operation theatre. As students, when posted in surgery, 10 of us would have permission to enter the ot every day to view cases as they were being performed. Amongst the 10 students in this particular ot on this particular day, were a fair maiden and the guy with a soft spot for her. As the 10 students huddled in a tight group to get a view of the operation, the guy suddenly felt the girl's hand tug at his ot pants. His heart went into instant v-tach ( that's disco beats for non-medicos or 99.99 % of you readers ) at her sudden display of 'affection'. After all, this was a girl who'd been playing hard to get for a long long time with him. In those few seconds in which he envisioned the villa by the sea shore where they'd live with their 3 kids and the dog called Gumball and maybe, a kitten called Petunia, life was ecstacy for him. Then she fell. No, not for him... she fell as in "SPLAT" on the ground unconscious. The girl had fallen unconscious seeing the open intestines at the surgery table... in doing so, nearly dragging his pants down with her as she went. He managed at the last second to hold on to his.. dignity. Funnily enough, the surgeon never missed a beat... he just carried on with his typically characteristic childish giggle and a "she shows potential to be a great surgeon" as he continued working on the intestines. The girl ? Oh, she recovered in minutes.. and no, there was to be no 3 kids, Gumball or Petunia. And no, she definitely didn't become a surgeon.

There is so much more to tell.. so many incidents, so many more hues of medical life. Perhaps, they're best left for another day.. another post.

22 Comments

  1. I can't specify what's the emotion that I am having right now reading this post. We are 4 friends from childhood and all the three are in medical field. So we always have this kind of discussions and so I can identify with that. One thing I'm sure - your life is full of incidents ; some good n some not so good. I remember my friend explaining her experience when a bomb blast was there in my place. The way someone carried a head n placed it besides it's body!

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  2. Beautiful post!

    Made me smile and then wipe away tears all in a span of few minutes.

    Good times or bad, I think you guys have more eventful college life than any other professions indeed!

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  3. sigh..

    that was nice, made me go back in time too..

    PS: is that a girl hanging from your neck in the third pic?

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  4. Dhanya, It's true. Medical college life is something else altogether,isn't it? We too always talk of the old times.. This is not even 10% of some grand memories good and bad.

    Aishu here, i'd have to agree on that. I won't say we have more fun... Definitely we have the least 'playtime' during the college years. But everyone goes away changed after 5yrs.. Guarenteed.

    Nags, hi dear. Guess the final days of freedom for ya are here.. And no, that ain't a girl around my neck, That's a girl strangling me. It's different.

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  5. Quite an interesting compilation of incidents. I get it was more amusing to me than interesting. :)

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  6. That was one mother of a post!!! especially when you've just got back into the internet and are trying to catch up on all those blogs!

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  7. Nm, a lot of it was amusing to me too, though sometimes, the pain and sadness can be overwhelming.

    Sumz, ok. Long long long long time no see. Belated birthday wishes. How are you doin?

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  9. Beautiful Post....

    The last part part did make me sad...May be God didnt want you to feel terrible on your first day to paediatrics clinic.......

    Mind you I have tagged you ...Please do the honours :)

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  10. medical collge is so different..sounds like u did hav a good time and got good friends too...always wanted to b a doc...but last moment b4 my admissions, i chnaged plans.. :P....
    but bringing a new life into the world, witnessing all that is a wonder...;

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  11. too chocked to comment.....

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  12. okay..back!!

    we are both in the wrong profession....you shouldn't be a doc...you shd be a writer!!!

    i shdnt be an english teacher..i shd be a errrr.....errrr(still thinking)

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  13. ap.. quite the opposite.. it was a dreadful start to the posting... still, things got better in that posting.. things could have gotten a lot worse i guess... and ya, have noted the tag.. have to race Gazal and iceman.. haha

    enigma... well, i guess it is when u say it like that, but the fact is Ive finished more than a 1000 deliveries ( assisting mostly as an anaesthetist in the last yr of course ) so it took ur words to really remind me that there is a beauty in the whole event.. so used to seeing it as "just another day at the office"

    gazal, im hoping u mean choked and not shocked... and u should be a cook, if ur last post is anythin to go by rt ?

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  14. fantastic post...!! excellent blog ..!!

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  15. ya well even i used to think that wats the gr8 thing, it happens evereyday...but it certainly is a wonder to b present to c a new human being come into the world...ohh boy but i dont think i am upto seeing the pain that is taken to bring out the new life...

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  16. hey...nice post...
    can babies be really born wit spiked hair?mine had really spiky hair...

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  17. Hope and love.. Thanks.

    Enigma, That's where i come in :-) It's my job to be the pain reliever.. Tada.

    Icychips, believe me. Kids come out in all types,sizes and directions. Spiky hair in this case was just one of It's traits..

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  18. i cried.
    i laughed.
    i was hit by an avalanche of nostalgia. though final yr still is ahead of me i feel first yr days were amazing!

    and you gave me an insight to what my first patient wud be like.
    thanks a lot!
    and i dunno if i hav mentioned this before but gosh! am i glad to hav bumped into ur blog!

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  19. nice. But it seems like u ran out of matching colors for ur text on this post though :-)

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  20. Black coffee.. True. 1st year was memorable for most people. It's just a fun transition phase.. For me there were both good and bad memories, but overall , it was an experience i'd never forget. Get ready for final year.. Those sleepless nights are really gonna kick in now.

    Rejoy, he he. True. This post wasn't supposed to be this long. The color changes in post itself was last minute touch

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  21. Danke for the wishes! Am good.. its liberating to be back in touch with the world. you planning a kannur trip anytime soon?

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  22. indeed am planning one.. will inform ya in orkut

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