Birth of a notion

-Dr. Harish K Rao

About the author –

Dr. Harish K Rao, is a professor, Unit Head, and former HOD in the department of General Surgery at KMC, Mangalore. He is described as a humble, enthusiastic, compassionate Samaritan and surgeon who feels more than he lets on. He loves teaching and has tutored thousands of students and surgeons in his long tenure, and is often saluted to be a fantastic mentor! He understands more than what the patient lets on, or what the books write, his experience is a maze in itself, and his approach is largely clinical as he thinks outside the box to piece together a diagnosis his residents are always surprised by.

Dr. Harish also enjoys writing in his spare time and is very encouraged to write for Lexicon and its readers!

Growing up in the 60s and 70s was not as stressful as it is today. Life started at sun rise and came to rest at sunset. Electricity was scarce. There were few street lights. Fewer motor vehicles, with many hand-drawn carts and bullock carts to ferry loads and people. We used kerosene lamps or gas lights to light up after dark.

Schools started at 10:00 am and went on till 4:45 or 5:00 pm.  We didn’t have lots to study and higher studies usually meant BSc, BCom, or BA. The coveted jobs were either of a government peon or bank clerk. Life moved on at a languid pace like the many buffalos lazing by the roadside or in the many ponds dotting the town. Large parts around the town were still being used for farming and life’s rhythm synchronized with the farming cycle. The seasons were predictable and vacations were for relaxing and enjoying the festivals which were celebrated at that time.

Competitive exams were not needed to enter the various professional colleges. You could send your PPC or PUC marks and get admission according to your grades.

In the community, the general medical practitioner was highly respected and held in esteem. It was a time when the GPs still did house calls and their arrival was anticipated with hope. The man was considered a part of the family. And would receive a very respectful welcome. The head of household would invite him in. The best chair in the house was indeed reserved for him. The cleanest towel, some scented soap, and warm water were offered after he had finished examining the patient. The doctor usually was polite, spoke cheerfully, and addressed everyone around with affection and familiarity borne out of regular contact. It was an occasion for everyone to get their problems solved—both medical and personal—and get advice on anything bothering them. The doctor was also patient and would answer the queries calmly and proffer valuable advice and leave with a promise to return the next day. Usually, the patient got better. In general, the visit would bring good cheer to the house and people would go about their chores happily after that.

Many times I would visit the doctor’s clinic for minor cuts and injuries sustained while playing or running around. It was a great experience. As I sat there amongst patients waiting for my turn to be treated I’d observe the interaction between the doctor and other patients. Some got chided for not following instructions, some were teased for taking the medicines wrongly, and others, sympathetic advice. The doctor seemed to have some kind of code with which he communicated with his compounder who packed the respective medicines, and syrups exactly according to instruction. The respect and deference he commanded were impressive. The clinic itself had the feel of a family room, where people would console, commiserate or exchange personal news. The air was somber but friendly.   

Initially, the doctor would arrive on a bicycle. Then he graduated to a Lambretta scooter and after a while, to an Ambassador car a much-coveted status symbol at that time. That impressed me a lot.

Growing up in this environment, I slowly began to veer toward the idea of becoming a doctor myself. I assumed it to be a fun job with many perks, respect, name, and probably stress-free!

And when I started high school biology classes, it seemed interesting and easy. I was able to grasp the subject well and it only helped firm my resolve to study medicine.

Those days, one joined the medical college to become a GP. Post-graduation was not thought to be an absolute essence. Once graduation was completed, one would think to pursue a specialization. It was simple to secure a seat because all it required was you to your MBBS marks card to the college you were interested in. There were no entrance tests!

Thus, I started a journey, which still continues…and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. Of course, life happened in between too, but that’s for another day. But given a second chance, I would still choose to be a doctor and wouldn’t want to change any of it.        

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