Thursday, 3 May 2012
To compensate for all the time that she was ‘wasting’, Priyanka read the Hindu during the metro ride to Nehru Place while I shamelessly listened on to the conversation that two of my co passengers were having. She impatiently cackled at her watch when I wasted two minutes haggling with the auto wala outside the station. I ignored her.
I would not have recognised the building had I not been so sure of its location. The old structure appeared to have been pulled down and rebuilt completely, for not only was it taller than what I remembered, but also more modern and welcoming- a simple paint job could never have managed that. The chambers were still in the basement but the furnishing indicated that the doctor had prospered since I last saw him. He was inside, seeing patients in his office. He still seemed to spend as much time with each patient, as he did back in the day, and after every patient left, a pre recorded female voice asked the next patient to be ready to see the doctor.
Anticipating a long wait, Priyanka sighed loudly and flopped into a sofa, picking up an India Today from the pile of magazines on the coffee table placed in front. I craned my neck to watch a news channel that the receptionist was gawking at, on a television set perched on the wall. On mute.
After about an hour, when the disoriented female voice prompted, he pointed in our direction to tell us that the Doctor was ready to see us.
He looked the same as he had the last time I saw him. And he had the same genial smile, when he greeted me- as he had when I was ten. His hair looked much darker than before though. And more unnatural. But I managed to peel my eyes off his mane, to smile and introduce him to my friend. He checked her for around 10 minutes while continuously asking after the well-being of the rest of my family, and about what each one was doing, since his last consultation with them. For the three minutes in between that he didn’t, he was talking on the phone, with another patient, asking the person on the other end to come in with a chest X ray.
To Priyanka, he went on to prescribe a variation of the medication I had suggested to her, previously. I think our disappointment showed on our faces. So he enquired whether we always had a good breakfast before leaving for work. Priyanka replied that we seldom had the time.
“That is what is wrong”, he proclaimed, happily. “Here take a look at this”, he ordered, shoving pieces of glossy colourful paper in our hands.
A closer examination showed that the paper had DIET PLAN as the heading. Below, it listed all the essential micronutrients that the human body needed, and exactly what each of them did for the body. A table also enumerated the foods that were rich sources. I was quite sure I had seen that before in a fifth standard science lesson.
“What subject do you study?” the doctor asked Priyanka. She did not think that General Studies counted, so kept her silence. I helpfully said that I studied economics. He smiled then went on to lecture us about the role of carbohydrates and fats in our diets using banking terminology. My fifth standard teacher had been less patronising. I nodded at regular intervals while Priyanka just looked around helplessly.
He let us go after thirty minutes, but not before adding a bunch of anti-oxidants to the prescription. He also talked a little about the company that manufactured them, after express instructions from doctors and health care specialists like him. When Priyanka looked worried, he assured us that they were easily available. Heck, even his clinic stocked up on them- the receptionist would give them to us if we asked.
We asked. The pills were priced at 950 bucks a leaf. Both of us together did not have enough cash to cover that and the consultation fees.
“Anti-oxidants are fine, but I could just take tomorrow off?” She suggested. I concurred with her.
PS: After paying up the consultation fee, I had just enough money to buy us a chicken roll each, from Dadur Dokan in Market 2. Priyanka said she felt better even as she ate it.
Priyanka has had a fever for the last two days. I told her to pop a crocin and take it easy, but I think the latter is an alien concept to these civil service aspirants. Fever or not, the girl wakes up at four every morning to swot for the exams. She is still doing it when I leave for college, then sometime after that she leaves for her own classes. When I return at around five in the evening, she makes us chai, and we chit chat for a while. That is the only break she takes in her entire day. Even then, I am the one making the bulk of the conversation while she thumbs through the Times of India, the least taxing newspaper of the four that she reads in the course of the day. She is generally in bed by 11. That is when I sound a missed call to Maa to call me back.
I never really have much to tell her. I remember when Didi used to work in Hyderabad- Maa and she would talk for at least an hour every night, and the conversations were simply never ending on weekends. With me, I crib a little about the tough course, about how I have no life, and before exams, I tell her exactly how confident I am about failing. She has learnt to sidestep these issues over the months, and moves swiftly on to gossip about the family. Sometimes I listen with a lot of interest and ask her a lot of questions about everything. At other times, I mumble that I am sleepy, and then promptly spend the next two hours surfing through what is mostly drivel, on the internet.
Anyway, last night I told her about Priyanka’s fever. She suggested I take her to Doctor Bannerjee, our ex-family doctor. The ex part is because I am the only bit of the family left in Delhi now, and I have a surprisingly strong constitution. At least I don’t catch anything that a Crocin and taking it easy won’t treat. But I remember I used to love him as a child. His clinic was really the basement of a dreary grey forbidding bungalow that has father-in-law owned in C.R Park, right opposite Market 2.The doctor himself was the complete anti-thesis of the building he worked out of- young, cheerful, and sharing wonderful chemistry with all his patients.
The elderly would dote on him because he would make house calls for none but them, and charge lower fees for the retired, like for my grandma. I loved him because he would keep up a friendly stream of conversation especially when administering injections. And offer a toffee afterward. My dad, a sufferer of the White Coat Syndrome loved him for the same reason. For diverting him with the chatter while checking his blood pressure I mean, not the toffees. The women loved him too- his studious good looks may have had something to do with it. But also because he wasn’t like a lot of other jaded doctors at the big hospitals, who would spend less than a minute to check what was wrong and immediately pass judgement on the unhealthy lifestyle you led. Instead, he would laboriously explain what was actually wrong with us, with the help of pictorial depictions of the human body that hung from the walls of his office. Admittedly, that was when I would lose interest and start salivating about the varieties of rolls that Dadur Dokan in Market 2 offered, fully intending to throw a tantrum if my parents refused to buy me my choice of delicacy that day- fever or not.
Priyanka smiled when I reminisced thus, but baulked at the idea of going all the way to C R Park for just a fever. However, when the fever did not abate for the third day in a row, she acquiesced.