Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Dangling Conversation (if ever there was one..)

Internship is turning into a real goldmine of life experiences, all of a sudden.

I've spent the last fortnight in a relatively mildly irritating posting in a unit run by a registrar who until today I'd put down as a moderately effective, watered-down sort of a dictator. A stickler for punctuality, a nitpicking nag, that kind of a person. Not remotely a malicious bitch so much as a typical trope, instead of a real person, I thought. She was often short with patients, frequently snapped at her clueless but kindhearted housemen, relentlessly ordering them to get their act together, she was painfully particular about us turning up in the wards at 7 AM to do blood collections, only if there were just two patients that needed to be tested. The only time there appeared to be anything to humanize her stony countenance was the few occasions when she presented cases to the professors, an activity that in the Psychiatry department involves having long, sometimes really ridiculously silly-sounding conversations with patients. Her histories were detailed and thorough, her cases peppered with witticisms and a somewhat wacky sense of humour, that was decidedly at odds with her otherwise apparently hostile demeanour.

I was glad to be finishing the posting really. Just take her signature and get the hell out of there, I thought.

Then, it so turned out that we didnt really need her signature, the saccharine sweet lecturer and the histrionically entertaining professors were ready to sign all our work.

So, in what felt like a minor coup, we paraded into the office, stamping our own logbooks with the department seal and there she was! My co-interns all thought the best strategy was obviously to not look her in the eye, and simply troop past trying to look as innocuous as possible, as if willing themselves to be invisible cud actually work.

I, however, am more than a little worse at that, and blending into the background wont ever really be a strong suit for me. So, I thought that I shud use that to my advantage and contribute a cheeky parting shot instead.

So, trying to look her in the eye with what I hoped resembled bonhomie, I gave her a big smile and I said, "Ma'am, so we're done with psych. Today was our last day." 'And you wont be able to boss us around any more.' being what was left pointedly unsaid.

She looked at me, as if really noticing me for the first time in that very moment, and to my great surprise, smiled, although sardonically, and said, "Then I guess you're lucky. Do well in your exams." before turning and leaving.

My co-interns gave me a 'why do you always have to do this, Karishma?' look and marched into the office. I, however, realized that I was seeing the woman in a whole new light, and a really rosy one, too.

It dawned on me that she was probably the only rigorously competent person in the whole unit, the reason we were called on for blood collections daily was becoz the sweet but simpering houseman had no idea what bore needle to use, or what bulbs to take, or even which laboratory the blood was supposed to be sent to. That the other gruff but kindly houseman was bad at remembering drug names and repeatedly badgered the registrar for dosages.

That the honey-tongued lecturer often left rounds half-way and the much-renowned professor was on holiday for much of the month.

She was single-handedly responsible for all the patients in the unit and the obvious stress from all that work was probably what made her lose her temper so often.

And I realized what I really felt was not exhilaration at having gotten another barrage of signatures out of the way, but the slightest hint of guilt towards and a somewhat grudging admiration for the woman who delightedly wrote words like 'mendicants' and 'verbose' and 'lotuseaters' on the case-sheets, a woman whose name I hadnt even bothered to ask for all of the two weeks I was posted alongside her.

7 comments:

mgeek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mgeek said...

I was an intern once (here in KEM) , then I became a
houseman here, and I' m no stranger to this feeling.
When you have to carry the burden on your lone
shoulders, it' s not easy. Every Roman legion needs
a mean and tough Tertius... I became a
houseman here, and I' m no stranger to this feeling.
When you have to carry the burden on your lone
shoulders, it' s not easy. Every Roman legion needs
a mean and tough Tertius...

mgeek said...

Self-duplicating comments... huh!

Jayesh Vira said...

I'll just add that on a personal note, if there aren't control freaks around, no work will ever be done!!!

Susan Deborah said...

I love that song from S & G and the previous one from Dylan.

Karishma, I think that a country like India needs control freaks otherwise certain things just don't get done. I don't see any other way of getting work done.
And, you girl, don't carry any weight of that small head. Sometimes we make too much of things. It's good to be aware but useless to carry the burden around.

Hope you've been well and chirpy, dear Karishma.

Joy and love,
Susan

Sakshi said...

Strange are ways of all of us!

Aayushi Mehta said...

Great post. I missed reading your blog, should have been reading it more often! You write so well. Will try to stay updated from now on! :D

Keep up the good work!