Saturday, March 31, 2012

The doctor's dress code

Recently I was leafing through an interesting article in a medical journal which dealt with patients’ perceptions regarding the dressing styles of their doctors. The study was of course in a European context and the important question addressed was what kind of dressers did patients prefer? The classic white coated type, the formal suit and tie type or the casual dressing type? Well, at least no prizes for guessing which type was least preferred.
The article reminded me of some of the ‘dressing’ issues of my own undergraduate days in medical college. Looking back I realize that some of the really good doctors that taught me weren’t the snazziest of dressers and neither did most of them give a damn about what we wore or didn’t wear. There were on the other hand quite a few professors who were obsessed with the way we budding doctors dressed. The most famous was of course was the one and only Dr FM of the surgery department. Dr FM was known for his antipathy towards any female medical student not wearing a sari (i.e. wearing something else other than a sari, not what you were thinking of you perv!). Many a female student has been castigated in the hallowed hallways of the surgical ward in the Trivandrum medical college for choosing to dress in a salwar/churidar (Still have not really figured out the exact difference between a churidar and a salwar. Only thing I know is that 1) Females are never really satisfied with the ones they have 2) They are costly 3) You are supposed to buy or at least facilitate the buying of truckloads of them for having a healthy and pleasant marriage).
Surprisingly though most of the ‘liberated’ gals in our class would comply with this unwritten FM commandment…at least during their surgical rotations. This, in spite of the practical and logistical difficulties of getting oneself rolled up in six yards of cloth every hectic morning. Stumbling into Dr FM while you’re in non-sari attire was always a pretty unpleasant affair for the females. Dr FM wouldn’t say much…. just walk away before you could even utter ‘Sari Sir’ (pun intended), but the look in his eyes would be of someone subjected to the most extreme form of betrayal. Would remind you of some of the bollywood movies where the ditched hero/heroine would emotionally say “ Nahi!!Key do ki yeh jhoot hai!”. Some wore the sari out of fear, some out of respect….and maybe some because they actually thought that they looked better in a sari! (We males definitely agree that some of these creatures did appear to be more eye-friendly in a sari…kind of an optical illusion thing I suppose).
Times have changed however. Nowadays for medical students (or for that matter any student) saris are strictly for special occasions only. So you have a party or some college festival, out comes your mother’s silk sari collection…smell of mothballs and all.
FM had a few lines in his rule book for the guys too. White coats with light colored shirts tucked into formal dark trousers, polished shoes…..the works. Jeans and other such informal trash were absolute no-nos. Compliance was on the lower side with the guys though. I mean we guys had our own limitations, especially those of us staying in the hostel. A pair of jeans would be good for a month or two without any kind of even remote contact with detergents and water…and maybe a couple of months more with the right perfume (actually some of us even tried the same ‘no detergent-no water’ trick for our dearest undies also…but then there are limitations to what even a good perfume can do!). White coats we did have, even though our ‘white’ coats were perpetually blessed with very interesting mixtures of shades from off-white to yellow to brown…….well, at least it matched with the color of our teeth. As for polished shoes…well the lil issue is that you need socks to wear shoes and our socks were kind of like our undies -classic examples of ‘toxic sock syndrome’….one whiff and you’re out cold (definitely more relevant and useful for our anesthesia rotations I think). So keeping in mind one of the most important parts of the ‘Hippocratic oath’ –the ‘first do no harm’ thing, we diligently used to forego the socks and shoes routine. And there was a definite patriotic angle too, I mean even Mahatma Gandhi didn’t wear shoes did he?
So do the patients’ really care how you dress? Yes and no I suppose….and it depends quite a lot on your local cultural context. We mallus unfortunately still live in a very male chauvinistic society where quite a few patients would still not bat an eyelid while addressing the younger female doctors as ‘sister’, assuming that they are nurses and not actual doctors. Not sure, but maybe in our mallu context, the amount of respect for a sari clad female doc is just a little bit more than the churidar clad one….my humble personal opinion that is…but then ultimately though it is how you carry yourself and of course the quality of your care and compassion that really matter!

N: All said and done, I have the deepest respect for Dr FM; he really was a person quite ahead of his times in many ways and quite a genuine human being and doctor.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The dummy’s guide to handling -“You forgot our anniversary!”

1. Dummy by default is equivalent to Hubby
2. The female partner might be a mummy and at times can be quite crummy, but never as a rule, is a dummy…that honor is exclusively for the male half of the marriage.
3. If my wife happens to read this -all loony characters in this story are completely fictious, any resemblance to actual human beings is because you are thinking too much.

Last month (I forget the date), I had a nightmare. What was special about the nightmare was that it was after I woke up. I was still in bed, leisurely completing my big quota of waking-up yawns and stretches, when my eyes fell on my wife’s not so pleasant looking face. Warning bells were ringing, but I really couldn’t remember what I had done wrong. The good thing about wives though is that they’re a bit like Amitabh Bachchan on KBC…. they’ll always give you a clue before you finally lose the plot.
“Do you know what today is?”
The warning bells were building to a crescendo now. Now if it was a little later in the day, with some caffeine in my blood, my brains might have actually worked and I might have at least figured out the date and then tried to analyze if the date had any significance. ….but obviously she had picked her timing carefully.
Now when you get a question like “Do you know what today is?” or any one of its variants, you are definitely looking at either YOUR anniversary or HER birthday (never your birthday…because that is something you have absolute liberty to forget). Once you get this kind of ominous question out of the blue, there are three things you should absolutely do…
1) Buy yourself some time…and think
2) Buy yourself some time…and think
3) Buy yourself some time…and think
And there are some things you should never ever do, irrespective of the level of your consciousness…even if you are in deep coma –
1) Take the bait and reply “No….what?”
2) Keep a puzzled expression (kind of difficult for most people to do that when you’re in coma)
3) Walk away without answering the question….even if you are in need of an emergency trip to the loo.
4) Answer to the point with something like “Today is Friday, the 7th of January, 2012”

“Of course sweetheart….you think I would forget?” I don’t act really well….especially not when my minimalist grey cell network is working hard, concurrently trying to figure out what exactly is happening.
It was January, my wife is an Arian, so it was not her Birthday….so that left our anniversary…now that was definitely somewhere around this time of the year I thought. I had to take the risk. No point in being afraid….. after all, like the wise men say “Darr ke age jeet hai” (No I did not have a can of ‘mountain dew’ with me to help….. the only thing similar I have at present actually are a ‘mountain of dues’……now that’s what I call taking puns to a new low!)
“Happy anniversary darling!” I ventured hesitantly.. I even managed a smile while mouthing out the greeting.
Now the Missus had an amused, but happy expression on her face…..did I make a mistake??. If it turned out to be her birthday I could always argue that a birthday is also kind of an anniversary.
The Missus leans over and gives me a sweet little peck on the cheek. I passed the exam. I breathe.
“Time flies…feels like yesterday… you know how many years it has been…..time really flies right?”
Uh oh… now I wanted to fly away. Trick question. I stop breathing again… a model husband you are supposed to not only know your exact anniversary date, but also remember the whole chronological details. It’s a bit like your 4th standard hindi exam – kisne kaha, kab kaha, kyon kaha, kahaan kaha, kis liye kaha………..
Now I ‘m sure I’ve not been married for more than ten years (though it inevitably feels longer)…..My daughter is 5 years old ….so 6-8 years would have been a good guess, but unfortunately I doubt if an answer in a range was acceptable.
“I know sweetheart…..but you still look just as young and pretty as on our wedding day”
N: Flattery always works…. even in the middle of an inquisition, especially if you don’t have the right answers.
“I love you darling” I get smothered with another half a dozen kisses. I breathe.
Nadia my 5 year old, wakes in the middle of this emotional drama …takes a curious glance through squinted, bleary eyes and then immediately plops back to sleep. …She must have thought she’s having a nightmare.
“So what did you get for me?” She asks sweetly.
I stop breathing again. My lungs must be thinking that I’ve gone nuts.
The inquisition I realize is still very much on.
“Just a second sweetheart” I ramble out of the bed .My wife watches my exit with an extremely puzzled look.
N: When in the middle of a spousal inquisition, be very liberal with yucky words like sweetheart, sugar, honey etc. At least helps you buy some time.
Five minutes later I present myself in front of my better half with a huge smile plastered on my mug and a small gift wrapped package in my hand…red ribbons……..the works.
The huge smile thing seems to be infectious, as now the missus can’t stop beaming….the beaming gets worse as she opens the wrapping to reveal a cute little bottle of a Calvin Klein ‘Eternity’ perfume…..the name seemed to go well with my present situation too.
Its kisses and hugs part 2.
I breathe.
End of inquisition (for now).
Now for all those curious hubbies who are wondering how I managed the ‘All’s well that ends well’ thing……its simple actually…all you have to do is always keep a little gift (properly wrapped and ribboned of course) hidden away in some luggage. Whenever you have an emergency “did you forget our anniversary” kind of thing…Voila! Pull out the magic present…..and get ready for free hugs and kisses. The most important thing is to replenish the emergency gift stock….and of course to keep it well hidden.

PS: Now if any of you guys are thinking “Oh what a brave guy this is to write and put this stuff in public domain”, thing is that my wife is back home in India for now, and it’s kind of difficult to actually get subjected to physical abuse through Skype.