Tuesday, December 21, 2010

hubbies hobbies

Hubbies and Hobbies

Photography had been one of my old passions which has retaken wings recently. The move from film to digital photography has indeed converted many nut cases into amateur, and sometimes even professional photographers. This however can become a hazard for married people ( read husbands )…especially when the photo-sessions start taking a bit more time than that spent with the equipment you officially tied the knot with. The more you shoot pics, the more the wife feels like shooting you (with a good gun, not a camera) and turning you into a great still image…in black and blue tones….
(Actually I never understood why she gets so worked up about this photography thing ….I mean once in a couple of months I take her pics also….incidentally bugs are one of my favourite subjects)
And when the camera slowly starts becoming the third person in the marriage, the wifey may start getting a bit more pro-active like mine did….and what better way to counter an irritating hobby of an generally irritating kind of husband than getting into an irritating counter -hobby yourself.
My wife apparently has become a bit too interested in cooking as a hobby recently .The ‘Masterchef’ series on TV providing a strong trigger to her culinary intents. So with the present distressing circumstances, the good lady took up her weapons and started frying, roasting and baking away to glory, whenever I was in proximity with my beloved cameras. The way things were going, some day I was sure that she wouldn’t mind deep frying one of my cameras too. Nadia our 4 year old would often be witness to her crazy parents fanatically indulging in their respective hobbies, scowling at each other (Nadia’s pretty much resigned to the ‘crazy’ part…the scowling was an refreshingly entertaining change for her!)
However another recent TV program on ‘Food photography’ might help us find a middle way. For those not in the know, simply put ‘Food photography’ involves arranging food and photographing them so that they look yummy (even if it actually tastes like ditch water). So now she cooks, and me clicks what she cooks…we’re both happy..Almost...Only problem of course is that after me clicks, me also eats……and unlike the hollywood cop movies where they keep yelling ‘You have the right to remain silent…”…I have ‘absolutely no such right ….I have to speak (Literally meaning I have to praise)…or at least smile.
“Suffering ennobles a person” Dr Christian Barnard (!!)
Disclaimer: All characters mentioned aboved are purely fictious …at least if my wife happens to chance upon this blog.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The circle of life

The other day I was conducting a viva for my students and was getting increasingly amused with the sheer inventiveness of the answers given. At least those human right activist guys can’t accuse me of stifling the freedom of expression. You often notice that the more benign the teacher /examiner- the more imaginative the answers…but at least they do answer and more often than not we get a clear picture of their level of knowledge. ...something you never achieve when exams are conducted in something like a ‘war on terror’ atmosphere.
I was suddenly taken back a decade when we had our internal medicine postings with Dr S .I ‘m not really sure if Dr S was a genius…but she definitely gave us 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration (to stay away from her classes…especially when in a foul mood..which was basically like always)
Madam S , was terror personified…..to explain the gravity of the situation I present this dialogue horribly adapted from the hindi movie ‘Sholay’ of Gabbar singh fame :“If some medical student falls asleep while mugging for the exams, his/her roommate would wake him/her up and say “Wake up Baccha nahi to Kal exam me ‘Madam S’ aa jayegi” “
Every case discussion with here would be like a Hindi saas-bahu soap serial ….full of tears (especially if the person presenting the case was a female of the homo sapiens Linn species, barbed dialogues (all from her)…and seemingly no end to the story….see you tomorrow same time ,same place for more!!)
One of the most colorful episodes I remember with Madam S was when one of our colleagues, a certain miss KJ was asked a deeply philosophical question regarding the colors of the stools in various types of jaundice (Not the sitting kinda stools dude ..the shitting kind).Miss KJ was dumb-struck and color blind, for a precious few minutes and mixed up her palette. In the end Madam S decided to settle for the color of normal stools as a compromise , but KJ still wouldn’t give in. So ultimately Madam S handed KJ a rather colorful assignment …to check on the color of her own ‘you know what’ and return the next day. KJ was off-color for the rest of the day…..(The final results of this great scientific mission were classified – for Madam S’s eyes/ears only….so we never were enlightened regarding the true colors of human waste!)

(Speakin’ of stools , one of my surgery teachers would often comment on the vivid yet questionable descriptions in some medical texts. Apparently some medical conditions , according to some texts, are characterized by ‘foul-smelling stools’….now whoever heard of stools smelling of lilies and roses??!!!)
(N: All said and done I must admit that most of what madam S ,taught me still remains quite fresh…fear at times can indeed be a potent tonic for an effective memory!! And honestly looking back, many of the interesting lil episodes with her do tend to bring a little smile to my stupid face!)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

“Talk shows” on TV- the ultimate reality show!

Talking of news talk shows…I sincerely feel that they make for the best reality TV fare….
Scene : Three ‘gentle’men and one ‘gentle’ lady ( or any other gender combination ) with very similar, foul expressions on their face, leaning on shiny wooden podiums arranged on points of an arc, face a fresh looking young female with a smirk on her face. The scene reminds you of a ringmaster trying to control a quartet of wild animals. Except the characters are not in a circus (at least not in the literal meaning of that term).The scene I described is one of the variations of the political debates that we have got so used (bored?) to seeing on national television. The topics vary from ‘trivial’ issues like naxalism to ‘serious’ national issues like whether Sania Mirza should marry a Pakistani…..or even whether Sania Mirza should marry at all!!! (Sarcasm very much intended)I have often wondered what purpose these debates serve. I have yet to see one of these shouting/slanging matches come up with any worthwhile consensus or solution. I mean what would you expect when you pair up an opposition party spokesperson with a ruling party spokesperson……the only thing they would certainly agree to do is to firmly disagree. By the time the ‘holier –than- thou’ anchor concludes the show, more often than not, opinions would have been more polarized than before.
Well TRPs do go up I suppose. That’s about it .Whether you are a news channel or a ‘masala’ entertainment channel (Incidentally some of the Hindi ‘News Channels’ are pretty indistinguishable from the masala channels); it’s either fast rising TRPs or a slow but certain death. When you have seemingly grown up, allegedly mature and supposedly famous people shouting themselves hoarse at each other over anything from the price of onions to national security, you do get a perverse pleasure in watching the ‘tamasha’.
I think when we ‘progressed’ from the almost rustic, simple 30 minutes a day Doordarshan news in the eighties to 24-hour news channels; it was natural that pure, unadulterated news would take a beating. So the news channels needed to improvise……and improvise they did by creating ‘value-additions’ to the news. Harping on absolutely inane (but apparently sensational) incidents like the Sania-Shoaib wedding is one of the accepted TRP raising stunts. The other is of-course to conduct debates and discussion on hot issues to make issue hotter and more controversial than it was in the first place. One of the main problems with these so called panel-discussions is that most of the people in the panel have already got a set and rigid opinion on the issue at hand. You add in a pinch of political mule-headedness and you basically get something sillier than school-kids fighting over candy….absolutely pure and unadulterated farce. I mean how many politicians can actually see the other persons point? And how many politicians absolutely adore listening to their own voice? You answer these two rhetorical questions, combine the answers and you can understand why panel-discussions (with politicians on board) will never go much beyond childish slanging matches)
All said and done, these debates, I feel are the best form of reality TV entertainment. It has mystery and suspense(Half the time you have no idea what these guys are harping on about ….though you feel that the startling truth is just around the corner), violence (mostly verbal, but I suppose the day is not far when we’ll be treated to actual ‘dishum-dishum’ stuff!), comedy (More than one politician discussing a serious issue……what could be funnier?) ,vendetta (that one does not need elaboration I suppose) and of course top class acting (sometimes you’re actually fooled into believing what these ‘netas’ say!)……..if only we could actually have a few politicians agreeing to perform an ‘item’ number or two during the debate, then Bollywood would have serious completion! and the best part? IT’s REAL!!!
Keep’em coming!!!

To strike or not to strike…..for doctors that is a BIG question…..


A little piece I had written for the Indian Express a few years back….still relevant I think

Meanwhile the medical strike controversy continues unabated with the fresh issues n Jodhpur and Safdarjung.‘Doctor assaulted by irate Mob’ –‘Doctors go on strike’ –‘Patients dies due to doctors strike’-‘Do doctors have the right to strike’- ‘The ‘hypocritical’ oath’………..All these headlines and scroll lines (scrolling news seems to be definitely getting more popular that dire old newspaper headlines – especially from everything from an air-crash to a B-grade bollywood star’s latest affair is prefixed with a bold ‘FLASHING NEWS’ or ‘BREAKING NEWS’ in bold yellows and reds)
And madam Barkha Dutt, Mr ‘Know all’Arnab Goswami et al were at it again and busy the last few days following a string of medicos’ strikes in different parts of the country.

The issue of whether and how doctors can strike is probably going to be unsolved for a long-long time. One thing I feel is that whatever the provocation we doctors should never the alienate the general public. There were instances when doctors boycotted official duties but at the same time set up make-shift medical camps outside the hospitals to treat patients. To take things a step forward you could set up similar camps on more visible areas like outside government buildings/police stations etc.More often than not the root cause for any underlying related problems is a stupid ,khadi clad politician or a shrewd ‘suit-boot’ clad bureaucrat…..this would be one way to take the strike to their door-step while ensuring that public opinion does not turn against us doctors.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nadia's Diary : Off to school :(

My first day at school (Smiling through difficult times was always one of my strengths)

With great power comes great responsibility…..I really don’t mind a little bit of power but am not awfully interested in the responsibility stuff.
Anyways ,if you thought I was bitten by a radioactive bug and started spinning spider webs, you’re far from the truth.(Though I still do manage to spin a few webs around my stupid parents, and incidentally I was actually bitten a few days ago by some cute leeches, courtesy my nutty father’s idea of a holiday in a rain forest in the middle of the monsoons….unfortunately they weren’t the radioactive type and didn’t give me any superpowers…it would have been kinda interesting though, I could be one of those anti-hero/ine things …maybe they’d call me the blood-sucker girl!!).
Coming back to the more serious issue..thing is I have been rather unceremoniously dumped in a horrible,horrible place called SCHOOL …..and SCHOOL sucks. Period.
I did try a bit of the old ‘cry yourself hoarse till they give in’ trick with my parents, but those stonehearted idiots didn’t bat an eyelid before they sentenced me to school.
As if to soften the mental trauma and sheer agony, the idiots who run this joint, call this arrangement a ‘play-school’. If the idea was to play,why bother with the school part?I mean I play enough back home, so why institutionalize the whole thing?It’s like that place called jail, they send dudes who do bad stuff….what bad stuff did I do??Since when is growing up a crime?
Now every morning I have to sacrifice my beauty sleep and get decked with a stupid ,very uncool bag (pink color with shiny Barbie pictures….yech!!totally not in vogue…but that’s what happens when you have a couple of dumb, unfashionable creatures as parents) and get dumped in that depressing place. I have started having that thing they called Monday morning blues…though this place gives me the blues all days of the week except the weekend.
The only good thing is that there are quite of a few us like- minded suffering pre-schoolers in this dump and someday we hope that we can throw of the yoke of these imperialistic, fascist so-called teachers. We tend to have great stimulating exchanges too ( we exchange words, flu viruses and of course occasional pinches and slaps when the word exchange parts don’t end up in a consensus).
Those teacher things haven’t started with the ABC,123 stuff, but one dude who’s been inside for some time before me, warned me that the unpleasant stuff would be coming soon.As of now it’s all fun and games….a big fa├žade I suppose, before the real torture starts.
Anyway , I just don’t get the point of this education thing.My dear old mum and dad apparently had to study till they were like really really old …and they’re still dumb enough to buy me a pink Barbie bag to take to school and as far as I know they don’t have much dough in the bank either…apparently education doesn’t do much to make you more sensible …or rich.On the other hand lookit all those politician people in our country.Stinking rich, no education.So what the heck is the bloody point??
I rest my case.

(Nadia is my 4 year old daughter,prematurely blessed with an attitude of a teenager)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Listening to the sounds of silence...

The entrance to silent valley national park

Travelogues are really not my cup of tea (Actually anything in which I cannot mix in huge portions of sarcasm and poor jokes are not my cup of tea).
However a rain-drenched visit to Silent Valley inspired me to pen this lil piece.

Where, how and why?
Silent Valley is a reserve forest located in the Palakkad district in the north-east border of Kerala.It is part of what is called the Nilgiri biosphere (which is an International Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats, in the Nilgiri Hills range of South India).
To get to Silent Valley, you have to first reach Mannarcaud ,which is near Palakkad town. Palakkad is well connected by train and bus to all major towns in Kerala.The nearest airports are in Kochi and Kozhikode (around 3 hours by road).From there you have to travel up through about 20 km of hairpins to reach the small town of Mukkali.The entrance to the ‘buffer zone’ of the forest is here.The actual core zone of the silent valley reserve is about 23 km from the entry point.No private vehicles are allowed beyond the entry point.You have to shell out about 1000 bucks to hire an authorised Jeep with a driver and a guide + around 200 if you’re carrying a camera.(If you’re planning on a trek you can avoid the jeep, but still have to hire the guides.The number of jeeps and guides are restricted, so you’ll have to book well in advance, especially in peak seasons).If you’re planning on a single day programme, you don’t need to make any stay arrangements (Normally the guides bring you back by 2:00 pm max, so you can return to virtually any major town in Kerala by the end of the day).However the real fun is in staying a couple of days and really enjoying the treks in leisure.If you do plan to explore the place over a few days there are a couple of options for lodging (All outside the core area of course)– there are cheap lodges in Mukkalli, a rather pricey resort slightly away and also some government owned cottages (you might have to pull a few strings to get accommodated here though) farther away in Agali (which is around 17 km away from Mukkali)

We had our trip interrupted in between due to a fallen tree.Luckily our guides and the driver managed to clear the path soon

The history of Silent Valley is rather interesting.The area is locally known as "Sairandhrivanam" literally, Sairandhri's Forest. In local Hindu legend, Sairandhri was Draupadi, wife of the five Pandavas, who disguised herself as Sairandhri, queen Sudeshna's assistant, while they were in exile. Apparetly the Pandavas during their exile moved into a untouched virgin forest in what is now Kerala.(Our Guide who belongs to one of the indigenous tribes claimed that the remains of the cave where Draupadi and the Pandavas stayed remains to this day). The first English investigation of Silent Valley area was in 1847 by the botanist Robert Wight. There are various versions as to how the name ‘Silent valley’ came to be – One versions mentions that the British named the area Silent Valley because of a perceived absence of noisy Cicadas. (Surprsingly the moment we entered the core area of the forest we were greeted with the monotonous and unique creeking tune of thousands of Cicadas apparently orchestrating a symphony.Our guide (who interestingly belongs to one of the indigenous adivasi tribes of the area ) mentioned that apparently Cicadas and Crickets are now very much present in Silent Valley, unlike before ).Another story attributes the name to the anglicisation of Sairandhri vanam. A third story, refers to the presence there of many Lion-Tailed Macaques- Macaca silensus.(Unfortunately due to the pouring monsoon showers ,we could not get to see any of the Macaques ….of course my daughter Nadia was there,no lion-tail, far from silent, but quite the monkey most of the time!)
[The history part is heavily borrowed from wikipedia]

A rather interesting slug commonly seen in silent valley

View from the observation tower

Things to keep with you:
Hiking boots – essential unless blood-letting is one of your hobbies.Whether or not you get lucky enough to see macaques or elephants ,you will definitely meet leeches of all kinds by the hundreds (especially if you ,like me , are nutty enough to go in the rainy season).For the same purpose you need a pack of salt.Applying salt apparently makes the leech walk away in disgust! (Plucking them off might result in their mouth parts remaining in your skin and can later induce a rash ).However half the time you never know that one of them lil suckers was sipping your blood away to glory for quite some time as the bite is completely painless.Keep a few band-aids handy too coz the bleeding from the leech bite tends to go on for some time due to a cute little anti-coagulant called ‘hirudin’ that these guys inject into your blood.
A Swiss-army knife, a torch , rain coats, insect repellent creams and a rope …those are the other things you need to keep with you.Of course a camera (with spare batteries) and binoculars …and if you’re into serious photography protective hoods for your lenses. You can take any kind of food with you but ensure that all the waste is put back into plastic bags and taken back with you.

Leeches enjoying themselves on the legs of our friend Mr Ajay Bhanu

As of now the core area has very little mobile reception, but keep a charged mobile with you all the same (Unless the trip is partly to get away from the stresses of office or married life or both!) and finally while silent valley is a great spot for young people to enjoy nature it may not be a great place to take very young kids with you.

All photographs copyright feroze kaliyadan - please do not copy without permission

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Today’s match : Me vs My Wife, Venue: our living room

There’s something about the world cup atmosphere that substantially promotes inter-spousal animosity.
Luckily for me the world cup matches were at a very convenient timing as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned.Unfortunately the timings also coincided with those of some of my wife’s favourite TV soaps.So now most days we had our own little matches going on in the TV room, with the TV remote being kicked around instead of the glorious jabulani.We have no vuvuzelas as yet , but Nadia (our 4 year old monster) more than makes up for the sound effects!

So while Higuain was busy with his hat-trick ,striking the jabulani into the Korean goal,I was forced to see heavily decked up gujju mothers and mothers-in-law stuffing dheplas and dollops of omnipresent ‘gajar-ka-halwa’ into the wide mouths of their ever eager mentally retarded sons or daughters-in-law or both.

I think it’s about time somebody did some serious genetic engineering to clone wives who have an interest in sports!After all the basic aim of science is to improve things for ‘man’kind right?!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Chinese ‘lock trick’ and a need to pee….

I recently read a joke in Readers’ Digest magazine- A teacher sincerely tells a bunch of 5 year olds “You should know that God made everything”.One of the kids lifts his hand and innocently opines “But my Daddy says that everything is made by the Chinese?!”.
The Chinese are everywhere….gone are the days when the term ‘Chinese’ made your mind fill up only with appetizing images of noodles and soup or of Bruce Lee ‘chettan’ and his potent Karate skills….now the Chinese are into everything…they do everything ,they make everything. Apparently they make cheap door locks too by the dozen, and export them all over, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…and many a time these innocent looking things can mess up your life. A few weeks ago one of my friends got locked up in his room courtesy one of these cheap Chinese innovations, but c’mon that couldn’t happen to a smart, intelligent, resourceful and humble dude like me. I mean getting yourself locked in …..how dumb can that make you feel?? Pretty dumb …as I learnt in the course of time.
A couple of days back I was alone at home , with the wife and kid gone visiting relatives for a week. I was planning to retire early, after gobbling up some poorly made(a.k.a self-made) noodles (Chinese again) .So around 11:30 I drag my lazy self to the couch in the drawing room. I am about to plop down when I realize that it’s quite hot ,so I switch on the AC in full cool, and bang the drawing room door shut.
After half and hour of blissful sleep my bladder conveys a lil feeling of fullness to my brain ,so I make the grand decision to pee….…I re-drag my , by now lazier and sleepier self to the bathroom…voila!!!!…the door lock has jammed …as if by pure magic!
So now its me with a burning need to pee but no means to flee…..the perfect antonym of glee ( Having to pee and not being able to, does bring out the poet in you)
For a few confused seconds I try various innovative calisthenics with the door handle ….but apparently the handle and the lock are working hand in hand…one of those Chinese conspiracies, against poor Indians of course. So now I think of plan B……and realize that there is no plan B ,which is logical too, considering there really wasn’t any concrete kind of plan A either in the first place.(Unless you give the plan A status to the grand peeing program)

Now the advantage of living in Saudi Arabia is that most likely your landlord will not understand a word of what you say and vice versa, so you pretty much mutually leave each other alone (Which I sincerely feel is the best way to carry forward a landlord-tenant relation)…. normally communication is via extremely broken Arabic and sign language (in the reverse order mainly).So a telephonic communication with your landlord is basically like voting for crazy politicians during elections in India….pretty useless, yet it has to be done.
‘salaamualaikum’ says me
‘Walaikum salaam…kaif hal doctoor’ (How are things doctor?)
‘Wajid mushkil….bab sakkar… ana maujood inside…stuck….maloom’ (Big trouble….door closed, me inside,stuck.....get it?).For sake of decency I avoid any references to the other burning issue.
‘mawjood miftash extra?’ (do you have an extra key?)
By now I realize that the conversation, like me, is going nowhere and its already past mid-night. So I decide to hang up and call one of my rather resourceful contacts who’s been In Saudi for the last 10 years or so. This was the same guy who rescued my afore-mentioned friend from a state of self-inflicted imprisonment a few weeks ago.
“Hello” Me
“He…..ZZZZZ….llooo” My obviously half-asleep maybe-may -not -be savior
“I am stuck ….locked in ..the doors jammed…have to pee also…I ‘m going crazy!”
“ZZZZ….oh.sorry …ZZZ..you seem really busy….ZZZ…will call you later…good night” The phone clicks off

Now the stark reality starts sinking in with all its dreaded possibilities….earlier the big questions in life ( mostly around this time of the night ) were on the lines of ‘ to pee or not to pee’…..now it was basically down to simply how not to pee…..
Whenever I am in a difficult situation I often try to visualize what a Hindi movie hero would do in a similar situation….but unfortunately here I couldn’t remember anything filmy to inspire me. So I do what common sense tells me…….I switch off the AC..the heat I assume will make me sweat more thereby reducing the need to release fluids by any other orifice .I follow my decisive actions with what I sincerely feel is a look of fierce determination on my face ( I must have looked like a stupid dodo when I think of it retrospectively) and lie down on my back, close my eyes and try to remember all the good things that happened to me in my crazy life…….

Voila!!Magic again…..I wake up at around five…….fresh, and most importantly not having a dire need to pee. I call up a friend who arrives soon with a rope and tools ,tosses it up the only accessible window and I manage to wedge the door open. Soon after I manage to rest in ‘Pee’ce!

Moral of the story:
1. Don’t trust Chinese door locks……..they may be cheap, but may end up putting you in trouble deep!For that matter don’t trust anything cheap!!!
2. If you have an uncontrollable desire to pee in an unpeeable environment….switch off the AC/fan if it is on!! Works especially well if you have a Saudi Arabian summer to back you up!

Some links on how to deal with a jammed lock.(Chinese or otherwise!)
Image courtesy: www.1912bungalow.com/Outside_Handle02-thumb.jpg

Saturday, March 6, 2010

30000 idiots……. (learning to cure –Part 1)

FLASHBACK (in 24 bit colour....I’m not that old for a black and white/Eastman color flashback)

1995, February….anatomy dissection hall, Medical college Trivandrum.
Scene – half asleep, gangly, geeky, nerdy guy (The character in this flashback may look, talk and behave nutty like me , but is not me....similarly the other characters may resemble real life nut-cases, but that obviously is just co-incidental ;) .The first person narration is purely for my own ease) looks through his thick spectacle lenses, with a sense of ‘shock and awe’ at the specimen of a dissected human upper limb placed in front of him (His mind is pretty blank as usual but at least now he realizes why this stuff is called ‘gross’ anatomy).A slightly more gross, but live, human form is staring at him through thick-lensed, thick-framed spectacles, across the table – no awe ,just shock….mixed with equal measures of disgust and contempt – my anatomy examiner.

“Tell me the surface anatomy of the ulnar nerve” Madame X threw her question at me with contempt (ps: the names have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the glamour quotient of the characters in questions….it is purely for sake of being unidentifiable).

“Uh…the ulnar nerve…duh….it’s surface is …er…smooth..??” I am sure Madame x does not have a high opinion of rhetorical ,dumb questions as answers to her straight questions…but c’mon I wouldn’t have answered that way if I was sure of the answer would I? Besides from the specimen I had in front of me the ulnar nerve did look kinda smooth.

Madame X’s anatomy ,physiology and biochemistry all got quite ruffled it seemed.The lady was turning various interesting shades of purple and blue.

Madame X upped her ante.

“Tell me about the elbow joint”
This was easy
“The elbow joint…..it kind of folds at the elbow…”I even demonstrated this magical phenomenon for her sake.
Madame X wasn’t impressed, unless it was routine for her eyes to pop out of their sockets when she is impressed.

Madame X was at loss for words (Expletives actually) “ Have you ever attended your dissection classes??????”

Now that was taking it too far.I mean the dissection classes were THE place to discuss movies, cricket, girls, non-existent love lives, ....I mean we even discussed Shakespearean literature....”To pee or not to pee” was a constant dilemma haunting our tortured souls.

Anyway the point was I did attend dissection classes .......very regularly.

“Yes Madam”
“And what pray did you do in these dissection classes?sleep?”
I would’ve liked to explain how the previously mentioned activities kept us wide awake during dissection hours, but Madame X obviously was really not into that empathy thing.
“No Madam”

Next she went right into the heart of the issue (forgive my rotten puns) and pulled out a formalin preserved section of a human heart from the steel tray in front of her.
“Tell me about chambers of the heart”
I didn’t have the heart to do this (there I go again), but adventurous that I was I quickly pointed with my quivering index finger to the 4 shrunken cavities -this,that,this this.....chambers of the heart” So there.
Now madame X obviously was interested in hearing a wee-bit more detailed explanation- like the names of the chambers for a start, but she wasn’t going to pry it out of me that easy.Brevity was always one of my innate strengths...especially when answering in Viva exams!

There was a grave expression on her face now “Hmmm ok...I’ll give you a last chance” Her hands reached out to a set of polished human bone lying on one corner of the table. She meticulously selected five of the bones and handed it across. With the kind of mood she wouldn’t have been surprised if she just threw them across the hall and said “Fetch”

“OK...identify each of these correctly and I’ll give you a pass grade”
I looked with an even graver expression than hers on the remains of some poor soul who was probably watching me from up there and laughing away to glory.
So now 5 distinct, interesting looking bones, stood between me and failure.

I picked up each specimen gingerly like those guys would do in CSI Miami (Only difference was here the murder was not yet over...though you could never tell when madame X would tip over and do a little dissection on me)

“This is the..er....hmm.....femur”
Slightly amused expression on Madame X’s face.
“This here is ah...a humerus.....?!” Smile on Madame X’s face ....maybe that was humorous to her.(That's the last bad pun, I promise)

“This is definitely a tibia” Smile + surprise?
“This one is a Fibula” Smile 2x + surprise 3x

Now I picked up the last long bone from the pile, gave it a good look...and realised that I was at the end of my luck...
I kept silent for a minute. By now Madame X was beaming and writing something on the sheet of paper in front of her. Seeing that I was maintaining my silence she pushed the sheet in front of me. A big zero stared back at me.....it was all over....I was crushed.
Madame X was still smiling though and as if to rub salt into my wounded anatomy she tapped on the elaborately drawn zero with here pen again, this time drawing a line right through the middle of the zero. OK...so now she feels that even a zero is too good for me!!!
Now she looked curiously at me ...and again tapped the centre of the zero.
What the heck....???????


I passed the exam; though it took a while for me to understand that the honourable Madame-X was actually trying to help me by drawing what she thought was the radius of a circle. Don’t you get it?...line through the zero is a diameter and half of that is the radius and well the bone in my hand also happened to be a radius etc. Etc. After the exam I thanked Madame X profusely for her leniency. She replied that she had earlier had a look at my theory marks (Which were not all that bad, I might mention) and so assumed that I was just having a bad day at the office and so didn’t want to flunk me......besides I got my bones right...right?!

Post-script to post-script

The truth is that theory exams are easy meat for anyone who cares to sit and mug up the whole curriculum...but to apply the same practically you need to understand what’s going on why and how exactly. I never did make an extra effort for that during non- lecture classes like dissection sessions (It was understood that lecture classes, like night, were created by god for rest and sleep) and honestly neither did most of the tutors around inspire me even remotely to make an effort. It was basically mug and vomit. The more eloquently you vomit, the better you score. Interesting having a thorough mugged up knowledge often helps you through viva sessions also because many of the viva examiners are really no better than a theory exam. Evaluation of students is also an art in itself I suppose...an art which unfortunately very few medical teachers care to master. There are around 450 Medical colleges in India, churning out about 30000 doctors and scattering them all over the country and abroad. This still falls far short of an ideal doctor to population ratio …..that however is a different issue altogether.
What set me thinking of penning this bit was the movie ‘3 idiots’. I am sure a majority of those who had seen the movie would identify at least partly with ‘learn by rote’ system satirised in the movie. I can obviously speak with authority only for my own medical education (actually my undergraduate medical education..... because I was blessed with some fantastic teachers during my specialisation period) and I must say when I was doing my under-graduate medicine, the only route to take for ‘success’ was the ‘rote route’.
Medical education is apparently undergoing changes. There ARE a lot of faculty around who are really interested in changing things …..and things ARE changing…at least they’re beginning to….but back then things were quite different...

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