In every college, there is that one professor. I believe the official adjective used to describe them is ‘stern’. Of course, you and I both know the relatively polite term we use in college: ‘Terror’.

In our college too, there was this particular senior staff.  The head of a surgical unit, he used to frighten not only students like us but also junior staff within his own department. The thing was that he could be really demeaning in his insults and unlike a classroom where you are surrounded by friends who can empathize with you, here you would be ripped apart in front of your own patients. Any respect you may have garnered over the past few days while tending to the patient’s ailment would be wiped away in twenty minutes of belligerent questioning, mocking and gesturing right in front of the patient. 

This was first published in Tamarind Rice's
July 2014 issue in my column "An Appletini
A Day..." Click the picture to read the entire
 magazine online for free.

Other consultants attending the rounds often prayed that the insults would stop with the post graduate residents but occasionally when he grew weary of preying on the latter, he would train his guns and questions upon his fellow junior consultants, quoting journals and advanced texts ad verbatim. He never took part in celebrations within the department and many claimed they had never seen him smile in their presence. 
Until one fateful day.

If you would allow me to rewind to a short 24 hours earlier, you would find yourself in a scene all too familiar once more. A young male patient lying on the bed in his room, staring as half a dozen students stood squirming under the professor’s verbal bombardment. Unfortunately, one of the students who had just finished a surgery happened to enter the room at that moment. Spotting him running in disheveled, the professor turned his attention upon him. A ten minute lecture ensued on what being a doctor in a hospital meant – to always be clean shaven, have a pristine white apron etc etc. The fact that he had left his tie in his pocket was a major issue for the professor and he kept coming back to it. His final warning to the students before he stormed out of the room hinged upon that – “Tomorrow when I come for rounds, everyone in this room must be clean shaven and wearing a tie. Otherwise I will throw you out of the hospital for a week.”

The next morning, as expected, everyone had shiny white aprons that would be the envy of detergent powder ads. Formal ties were in place and even those who had procedures made sure that they wore their ties and looked immaculate before joining for rounds. As always, the professor walked in front as he entered the patient’s room. The patient was still asleep and so the professor turned to his residents and began his interrogation of their knowledge. As his voice began to rise, the patient awoke and looked around him. It took him a moment to understand what was going on and then he started fidgeting under his pillow.

A few moments later, when the professor realized that his students eyes were not fixed upon him anymore, he followed their gaze to see what was so special behind him. There sitting on the bed was the same patient wearing a traditional white shirt and lungi as he had the previous day. Oh yes, he was also wearing a tie now, of course.

When the professor asked him what he was doing, the young man replied in a meek voice that the professor had warned that everyone in the room should wear a tie the next day or risk expulsion from the hospital. Rather than confirm the doubt in his mind with a student or a nurse, he had chosen to play it safe and gotten a tie from home sent to him the previous evening, he informed the doctor as he straightened the creases in his tie.

I hear he really tried to restrain himself for a few seconds but in the end, the professor could not control himself. The smile broke out into a grin and then into an actual chuckle, which to the residents was akin to seeing a UFO or the Loch Ness Monster, you must understand!

Even as he smiled, he explained to the perplexed patient that he had meant it only for the staff of his department and not the patients themselves.  He was still grinning as he left the room. If rumours are to be believed, that day rounds went off without any further scolding.

We all have seen such staff whom we describe as ‘terrors’ but sometimes I wonder if it is truly because of their personal nature or is it just a facade that they put up to keep a boundary between themselves and their students. 

Do you have an experience with a ‘terror staff’ during your college days that you still remember? Please do share it. I would love to hear it.


He too needed to have fun....but I have seen that the most stern doctors are actually good at their job too.
Poor patient. Hillarious.
Anonymous said…
ha ha... this had me laughing out loud. I am sure most professors just put on an act. Some are terrors and some are best buddies. Both are dangerous in my opinion. :)
geeta nair said…
Michelle Liew said…
Goodness, Roshan, he was an obedient patient!
true... in his defense, he was a king in his subject. Knew textbooks and journals inside out and had the skills to match too
Well, if that dude was putting on an act, it was an Oscar worthy performance :)
You get some major extremes.. some people will follow your words so literally and then there are the other subset who will not listen even if you put a gun to their head!!
Aditi said…
Haha...hilarious incident. Can't stop picturing the patient with tie and lungi!
Red Handed said…
I had no terror teacher. I was the terror.
This was fun to read!!!!
maithili said…
Poor patient! I could imagine Virus from 3 idiots :P This was hilarious :P
Beloo Mehra said…
O that's a good one, Roshan! The terror teacher got a good lesson in smiling, thanks to a necktie :) On a serious note though, I don't remember ever noticing or forming my impression about a doctor based on how 'formally' he or she is dressed. But yes a smiling and kind expression does help :)
LOL !!! Good one Roshan !
Thats what one of the surgeons (a resident back then) was saying as well recently :)
and then u became a lawyer... My God!! Is there no end to your tyrany, you evil woman!!?!
I know Virus had a lot of comic moments but when you think of it, he was an absolute brute too, right? driving people to their death with his disciplinarian ways...
oh, but its a major factor for so many.. whether they wear the white apron, whether they wear a tie, no loud shirts... sometimes even when people meet them off duty in malls and all, the same appraisal begins - "I saw the doc wearing bermudas!! Haww! Ai laa! Oii maa!" :)
Ruch said…
Haaa Haa Haaaa. This was terrible funny ! I have a doctor who is very very good at his job but rather strict. I am quiet petrified of him :-P
Nabanita said…
hahah this was really funny....we had a professor in college whom we were really terrified of..I think I still am petrified of him, my God the voice !! :D
Kokila Gupta said…
Good one! Observing that the Proff. was not miffed with the patient but smiled instead indicates to his being a bright if not jolly person by heart least to me ...not sure.. well all Izz wall if it ends well :)
Cloud Nine said…
LOL! It must be a facade to ward you guys off ;) Well written! Followed you back here :)
There are so many such types in our field... as you said, they are damn good at their profession but can be terrors too...
Again, I know exactly what you mean... there would be pin drop silence in those classrooms. Others would resemble a fish market in comparison :)
Somehow it would be very tough to convince a whole generation of docs that he was a jolly fella :D
Haha... good to see you here :) And if that's a facade, that sir deserves an Oscar!!
Anonymous said…
hahaha :D My son's earlier pediatrician was like your 'terror'. Even I used to feel jittery in front of him. But he was so effective that I didn't want to change him. He is now not in my city.
Ritika T said…
I remember the Professor Terror in my college. He told me I was too good looking to be an Engineer, asked me to report even when he knew I had a fracture :| :| :\

I am out of college but I am still looking for revenge.
Anonymous said…
Loove this one, Roshan. Got to do with pent up emotions, personal frustration, ego and may be, a facade. At least, he smiled.
Oh God.. dont remind me. In my hospital, I'm that guy. Not because I want to! I'm the only guy the kids see coming to poke needles at them so now they actually say they dont want me - any other doc will do :D
hehe.. same pinch on the fracture thingy actually... I worked inside the operation theatre with a fractured arm for two months :) But I look back on it with a smile now...
he did smile, as the legend goes. But some people can be so serious and stern all the time!!
Alka Gurha said…
Terror teachers, terror bosses and terror wives - all are scary.
Poor patient, he must be really scared after the diktat to wear white.
amen to that first sentence :D
Prianka Shashi Kumar said…
.most of the crackpots are in medical profession..wonder why��.. Reminded me of the HOD in my peadiatric department..He was chucked out from almost all colleges from KMC mang
n manipal ,KSHEMA,SULLIA,AJ in Mangalore due to this irritating behaviour of his..It was the most irritating department ever..Interns had sleepless nights,10seconds phone call with dear ones,loss of appetite n weight,alternate day night shifts without offs.We were made to Put notes 3 times in file n write every single kids case sheet from consultation to admissions in a duty book which he checks..N .We were threatened with the word "EXTENSION" which the great HOD uses for getting his dummy files done,throwing tit bits in dustbin,turning on fan n light in his room,photocopies, forgetting to wear scrub in NICU,not giving him late night calls when cases are admitted or discharged,n also for putting duty book in his room late.There was gender discrimination n biased approach which he shows ,where guys are forgiven for the leaves they take since HOD requires them for using Jio sim for free net,going to patient party's house to pay money,driving him halfway to his home n for his clerical work,,while we helpless girls are awarded extension for not taking leaves and doing our duties regularly
..With some of his favourites localite and to Christian students mostly,he showed a lot of partiality n cancels their extension..Students snd staffs had crazy shouting,arguments,debates n fights we had with that guy����..Also he used to discourage us during rounds saying that we don't deserve to get PG seats which is very hurting actually ��..

He was one crazy,eccentric,funny paediatrician who acted even worser than little kids..I can never forget him��