by Dr. Pranav Kodial
Date: Some day and month in the Year 2030.
Venue: A distant—okay, not so distant—planet filled with creatures of all sizes and shapes, and cultures and backgrounds.
I limped into the huge building, one of the biggest, state-of-the-art hospitals on our planet. And the last on my list.
The pleasant-faced receptionist in the Department of Orthopedics looked at my crooked elbow and deformed leg. Then she examined my file and a regretful expression crossed her face. “I am so sorry, but Dr. Woods is out. He will be back in half an hour. Till then, why don’t you have a cup of tea?”
I nodded and headed to the cafeteria. Only one of the tables was occupied—four men and one woman, in their mid to late twenties.
Doctors, I presumed, from their white coats and the stethoscopes around their necks.
I greeted them politely and asked if I could join them. They nodded and continued their breakfast.
One of them, a fat fellow, gave me genial smile. “Hi, I’m Dr. Ayrejekt. I head the Department of General Medicine.”
I smiled back and then noticed a book in front of him, and its title.
“Yes,” he said, observing my puzzlement, “actually, I have graduated in the most ancient, indigenous system of medicine on our planet. But I did the Bridge Course, making me eligible to practice modern medicine.”
Of course, I thought. The Bridge Course. “But why switch over? Your system of therapy is also very good. I know many doctors who still practice it.”
He grimaced. “Yes, but patients want quick results. Even Virat and Anoushka took a few years to get married, but patients want to get better, like, yesterday.”
With a laugh, he continued, “So I gave them what they wanted. You won’t believe the dramatic effect Prednisolone powder can have on certain diseases.”
His companion, a woman with large glasses, raised a condescending eyebrow at him. “Then what happened?”
Dr. Ayrejekt grinned. “Then several of my female patients grew luxuriant beards. Some men got brittle bones. Others got fired kidneys. So I escaped here.”
“Hmm…” Dr. Veta (as mentioned on her badge) smirked. “Only to be expected. Your Bridge Course probably didn’t include Prednisolone.”
Dr. Ayrejekt looked peeved. “So what? I learnt about it from Medical Reps,” he added, “and just because you treat cows and buffaloes with steroids doesn’t make you more qualified than me.”
I turned to her in awe. “You’re a veterinary doctor?”
“Yes. And a rheumatologist,” she said, and shrugged. “But why should that matter? Man is also an animal, no?”
I nodded slowly. “Bridge Course?”
“Yes, of course,” she said, beaming at me.
The tall, thin man sitting next to her looked up from his newspaper and said, “Speaking of kidneys reminds me of a very challenging case I did seven years ago. I removed ten 7 cm stones,” he looked at me, “I am Dr. Drenex. H.O.D. Urology, by the way.”
My mouth fell open. “Wow. That must have been a record for renal stones.”
Confusion crossed his face. “Renal?” Then he laughed, and said, “Oh no, I was talking about my exploits from my plumber days.”
I gaped at him. Plumber? Then I sighed. “Bridge Course?”
He nodded. “Of course.”
It was beginning to sound like a grotesque two-line poem. ‘Bridge Course? Of course!’
Dr. Drenex patted me on my shoulder. “It isn’t very difficult, you see. After all, we are used to working with drainage pipes and stuff. The Bridge Course syllabus beautifully drew parallels for us. Within thirty days, we became competent urosurgeons.”
“Wow,” I said, without feeling.
“You know,” Dr. Veta gushed, “the Bridge Course has done wonders for our Health System. It seems our planet now has the best doctor-patient ratio in the galaxy. 2:1.”
“You mean 1:2,” I said.
“No, 2:1. Now we have two doctors for each patient. No government has been able to achieve this. All the credit goes to those brilliant, intellectual geniuses who conceived this Bridge Course idea.”
“And those geniuses? Where are they now,” I asked.
Dr. Drenex and Dr. Veta shrugged and shook their heads.
Dr. Ayrejekt bent forwards furtively, “It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone. We can’t have spies from other planets kidnapping our elite think-tanks. His voice dropped to a whisper, “They now head the Department of Agriculture.”
“Agriculture?” I shook my head, confounded, “why Agriculture?”
“They were immediately promoted there. All the deserts on our planet now grow wheat and sugarcane, thanks to the tons of manure emanating from their heads.” He folded his hands in reverence.
My head suddenly felt clogged, as if all that manure was flooding into it. Then I noticed their fourth colleague sitting some distance away from us.
He was an odd character. His thick matted hair that fell down to his waist. Multi-coloured marks covered his face. His stethoscope was entangled in the long beard and the rows of beads around his neck. He slumped back in his chair, fast asleep.
“Dr. Bhagat, H.O.D. Psychiatry,” Dr. Drenex told me, in a hushed voice, “He is a famous witch doctor from the interior jungles. He commands a lot of influence with the authorities. Don’t disturb him. He is in a trance.”
This time, I didn’t bother asking ‘Bridge Course?’
Dr. Veta noticed my bent leg and crooked elbow. “Uncle, you should see Dr. Woods. He is the H.O.D. of our hospital’s orthopedic services, and he is supposed to be brilliant. At the furniture factory where he trained, they still say, ‘if broke, Woods will fix it in one stroke.’”
I didn’t take offence at her ‘Uncle’. After all, I was more than a decade older than her.
“Um, actually, I do want to see him,” I said, “but not as a patient.”
They all turned to me in surprise. “Then?”
I coughed and continued, “You see, I finished my MBBS, then MS in Orthopedics, and then a fellowship in Spine Surgery, and all the associated entrance and exit exams. Just a few days ago, I fulfilled their years of bond-postings in different government hospitals. So now I was wondering if I could get an attachment here…”
Their eyes grew wider. Even Dr. Bhagat came out of his trance and stared at me.
Dr. Vita was the first to react. Womanly feelings, after all. Her face contorted in sorrow and she wiped away a tear. “Oh, you poor man…,” she whispered.
Dr. Ayrejekt shook his head and sighed. “Is that why you wasted SO many years of your life? When you could have done it in just four or five years? Or less? Oh dear…”
Dr. Bhagat was less sympathetic. “What a loser,” he said, and fell back into his trance.
Dr. Drenex got up and came around to me. He thumped my shoulder and said, “Look, after all, we are professional colleagues. If you need any help, just let me know. Dr. Woods and I go back a long way. We had worked for the same building contractor.”
“Thanks, bro,” I said, and sighed.
“Is that how your leg got busted? While practicing your system of medicine?” asked Dr. Vita, her eyes still wet.
“Yes. From grateful patients’ relatives. The leg, during my MS. The elbow, during my fellowship.”
Dr. Bhagat opened his eyes for a second to say, “And still they want to do MBBS, etcetera. Fools!”
Dr. Ayrejekt shook his head. “You MBBS guys should apply for compensation. Have you approached our Neanderthal Medical Council? It is meant for the welfare of patients, and for our systems of medicine. But maybe they have something for you MBBS folk as well.”
“I did, but all the key decision-making members are never in place, or busy making new rules for us. No one had the time to listen to me.”
I shifted in my seat, and continued, “The last time I went, Brigadier Badatof was busy finalizing rules for marching parades for medical students. Some Poet member was formulating compulsory grammar classes for doctors. Some Social Worker member was brainstorming whether ₹21 was appropriate as consultation fees, or to lower it.”
“And their doctor members?” asked Dr. Drenex.
“I met only the key decision-making members.”
They looked at each other and shook their heads. Lucky us, they didn’t say.
Just then, the pleasant-faced receptionist from the Orthopedics Services came into the cafeteria.
She saw me and hurried over, brimming with regret. “Sir, Dr. Woods has returned. But unfortunately, he has already given the job to someone else. He has one more year of experience than you; he has worked with vertical, curved and diagonal wooden beams in shopping malls. I am so sorry.”
I nodded and sighed. Bridge Course? Of course.
“It’s okay.” I said. Then I bid the other doctors farewell and left for the airport.
Maybe I could catch the next space shuttle to Planet Europa, or Planet Gulfland or even Planet Americula.
In any case, most of my classmates from medical school—being smarter than me—had gone there long ago. Maybe they would get me a job there.
* * *