DOCTORS IN A CAR
1962. I was working as epidemic officer in the Calcutta Corporation. Salary one hundred and seventy five rupees. I supplemented this income by assisting Dr. Davis, the legendary psychiatrist. He gave me eighty rupees. I had my own practice in the evening, but on most days I had no patient. Five members to feed with two hundred fifty five rupees!
The young doctor in the rear seat, a bit tipsy, was babbling with a colleague, equally tipsy, and did not so long care to note that an elderly physician, in his end-sixties, was talking loquaciously about a time long buried in history. He was seated in the front seat next to another elderly colleague.
What was your fees around that time?
The young doctor asked him curiously. And he felt very smart after asking the question. Actually, he had drunk two pergs of Vodka just a while ago in the doctors' meet (they call it continuing medical education)at Park hotel. And it had begun to kick, in a very unpleasant way.
There was not really any fee at that time. We gave them salicylate mixtures, you know, and sulpha drugs. Only occasionally some patients offered fees..Two rupees!
What's your current fee?
Just one hundred. And two hundred fifty for home visit. But I have a separate rule for my slum patients. I take from them whatever they can afford. Ten, twenty, thirty whatever..
That's the rule of the game. the young doctor commented. Actually, he was having a heavy, vertiginous head right now. Oh, vodka! he actually didn't want to take it, but some colleagues, then those pharmaceutical guys prodded him so much ..
I've a feeling for these poor slum patients. They were the first to come to my clinic for treatment. The sophisticated patients came much later when I'm already a name in the locality. I'm grateful to my slum patients, they gave me the first recognition.
The young doctor liked the tone of his senior colleague. He tried to have a full view of him, but could only see him partially. The baldness of his head, however, loomed so clear in the street light. He seemed to have a solid body. What exactly would he look like?
I need to go to a toilet, said the doctor before the young one. My bladder is full.
I also need to. The vodka, you know.
But I took whisky. Only two pegs. Do you see any abnormality in me?
Yes, you have got a flushed face, and your speech is slurred.
What the hell. But tell me is there any point in coming in here if you don't drink?
But I've got a nasty wife. She will make a hell of it if she can smell it.
Suddenly, the young doctor shouted, stop the car. We need to piss.
He felt smart one again uttering this.
But there's no toilet here. There's one at the VIP road crossing.
But they made the driver stop the car. They got out of theit seats, and stood unzipping before a deserted suburbian landscape still preserving some nature.
When they returned to their seats, the elderly doctor was still talking.
Think of those times. We had only penicillin to treat. And we prescribed it for every ailment. Then came tetracycline. I was personally thrilled. But when amoxycillin came up, I hand kind of feeling that I could cure anything and anybody. But it didn't take a long time for disillusionment to set in. Do any of you write amoxycillin these days?
Nobody replied. The young doctor tried to say something, but he was now thinking if he could get out of the car when it would stop before his apartment. His wife had repeatedly advised him not to take drinks. But he knew he would not heed her advice. What's so wrong about it if he gets a little drunk on such occasions? He wanted to liberate himself of drudgery of dailiness.
Please, stop here. The old doctor now said to the driver. I would get down here.
They all saw him now. Average height. Solid built. And a kind of simplicity sitting on his face.
Did he drink in the party?
Could one talk like this in a normal state of mind?