“My JR is terrible! How much time does tracing a simple CBC report take?” carped a third-year medicine resident while asking for a cup of coffee from the Nescafe stall located at one corner of his hospital. This coffee was the first thing that was going down his throat in the past 10 hours and is probably going to be the only thing to remain till his 24hour-call-shift-turning-to-34hours-shift ends. After attending to four critical patients and imparting resuscitative measures to three of them about 15 minutes back, this coffee was the only thing he wanted to have in peace. So the moment he turns behind to look if there’s a place to sit, all he sees is a bunch of relatives of the same patient he tended to, talking their worries away, a bunch of surgery residents discussing their perforation patient, three of his faculty members catching up on their old times and no place for him to sit. He’s already on the clock when he sees his colleague headed out, most likely to seize the break! This was his cue.
He runs towards him, rests his arm on the Mayank’s shoulder with some coffee spilling on his already stained white coat and strides away with him. As they walk, there are hardly any words exchanged but the conversation went on. They looked at each other’s tired faces, stained coats, ink blotches, sweaty faces, messed hair, once upon a time fitted shirt which is now oversized and just smiled. They reached the radiology department, which was at another corner, and as it was 6 pm, it was clearing out since OPD hours were long over. The Radiology department was at one extreme, which was also a way of entrance/exit from the hospital that not many people knew. In fact, just the residents knew of it cause it was a closer route to the PG hostel. There was a “Katta” (bench), which wasn’t constructed. During one Mumbai monsoon, the big banyan tree branch broke off and fell. However, since it hadn’t completely broken off from the tree, everyone left is untouched out of respect for over 100 years that the tree had been surviving. So this bough over the years of warming by students and residents sitting on it became a well-known hangout for most ‘nebulization’ residents. Nebulization residents are those residents who wait at wit’s end for the nearest cigarette break, as many times as possible. This katta has heard the maximum number of stories and really interesting ones. Right from freshers completing seniors journals to lending a shoulder to broken hearts to budding romances to frustration vent outs to parent fights to career choices to hunger strikes to violence against doctors to infinite first times, this katta had seen it all. It was so wise that even the ants wouldn’t linger around student areas. As these two medicine residents Abhinav and Mayank were sharing a cigarette while decoding different ways to fit an ailing hepatic encephalopathy patient in the government yojana to cover their expenses, this nerdy cherry eyed girl smelling of fruit flavours and a teddy bear on her stethoscope comes by biting on her veg puff, the crackers of which were all over her lips. She grabs a cigarette from the guys and smokes a long puff before she gets a call from her junior and rushes back to the hospital. A panting junior resident comes to the katta only to realize that the place was already occupied with two of his seniors. He was reluctant whether or not to enter the zone but these two guys didn’t seem to care so he quietly took a seat at one end of the log. This place was like the forest’s lake where the lion, the elephant, the deer would come together and quench their thirst but not hunt nor fall prey. It was the residents “peace ground”.
Within moments there’s screams and glass breaking noises that fill the air. “Chodenge nahi usko.. kahan chupa hai farzi doctor?” and all sorts of anger filled narrations could be heard from within the corridors. The steel cabinets falling, doors being broken down, cleaners moving to the sides of the corridors could be heard faintly. The sound kept on increasing and ground reflected the hatred filled vibrations to these three residents at the log as they saw a mob of 25-30 angry young men armed with melee weapons with intense aggression in their eyes marching towards them. The friends who were on their smoke-break started to recall if there was any patient who was unhappy with their counselling or who did they not do justice to with their service? The fresh junior resident was baffled to see the crowd. Of course everyone had read about the injustice and violence happening on doctors everywhere, but this was real. He saw his entire youth fall in front of his eyes. Those years of yearning, desperately wanting a post-graduation seat in medicine via open category at a government hospital, those 3 years of study break that he took after MBBS and each time he fell short of the rank he needed. Those infinite parties he missed, those innumerable taunts from his relatives, the constant disappointment of not getting a seat, the feel of incapability, the great depression. Everything that he strived for this ONE POSTGRADUATE SEAT seemed to come crashing down on him. He was brought back to reality when he could hear his JR3 Abhinav yelling at him “ Run Akash!! Run!! Get help!! Go away!” when his face was splattered with blood from his senior’s injuries that were fighting the mob so they couldn’t get to the junior. The same seniors who would be frustrated with his slowness and would have him out of rounds when he goofed up a report erroneously; were now standing and trying to protect him! But what would 3 young post-graduate doctors whose only weapons were their knowledge and compassion do, against a crowd of raged men looking for vengeance? Vengeance of not being able to pay for certain treatment charges for their Alcoholic liver disease relative who was in hepatic encephalopathy with severely deranged blood profile. The same patient who both the JR3s were thinking of how to get him enrolled in the yojana, courtesy being the etiology of alcohol making it impossible to enrol in any waiver.
Time stood still. Those 25 young men had badly battered and bruised 3 young doctors. They lynched and tried real hard to climb the log and hang them from the same tree. But that log was a stubborn 125 years old! When those men were trying to climb it, the katta knew what it had to do. Unable to bear the weight of hatred, it broke and the branches fell off. Incidentally so, it fell off on 8-10men breaking the bloodshed and chaos. By now the hospital authorities and police gathered at the once-upon-a-time favourite hangout of these residents and the mob dispersed and no one was taken in custody, much like the previous times. While three resident doctors lay in a bloodbath losing consciousness – Abhinav suffered from intracranial haemorrhage, Mayank sustained multiple fractures and Akash was critically injured and with them laid the shreds and barks of their favourite tree.
When humanity fails, all else loses their identity.
And with that was the end of an era.
Dr Suranjana Basak
MD General Medicine
SR, Dr. D.Y.Patil Medical College & Hospital, Mumbai