Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rendezvous With a Doctor

It was a bright Sunday afternoon. I had been through a grueling week and was looking forward to spending some time doing what I do best- Nothing. It has always amazed me how busy I have kept myself all these years doing ‘nothing’ – an activity I started indulging in while I was an engineering student. My friends and I would get over with the classes and then dutifully visit ‘Pandey CafĂ©’ where we would sit for hours together munching on chips, talking and wasting the valuable time of some studious engineering student while trying to explain to him that life was about having fun and not stressing oneself out with studies. How doing ‘nothing’ translated into having fun is still beyond me. However, this Sunday afternoon I was determined to rekindle old memories of my engineering days and with no quizzes and presentations lined up, I was all set.

I had almost started feeling busy with my nothingness when I heard somebody knock at my door. I could never make a mistake in identifying that knock. A knock which carried the urgency of a person who had come to inform that the world was coming to an end in the next 5 minutes and we might want to bolt while we could. A knock typical of Shuvi.

Shuvi was one of my closest friends in business school. We had quite a few things in common- Short height, flair for speaking and arguing, falling hair, sense of humor and stomach disorders. In fact a lot of people would have regarded us Siamese Twins –similar and inseparable - had it not been for one big difference. Shuvi hated wasting his time in doing anything that he found unproductive. We had several arguments over how doing nothing could have its own productive outcomes but we could never agree with each other’s points of view. Shuvi believed that he had come to a business school to study business and this required him to stay busy all the time. Nothing could ever distract him from his studies except a health disorder. Shuvi was extremely cautious when it came to matters of his health. He had somehow concluded that all the bacteria, viruses and bugs in the world had resolved to make him sick and hence was always at war with them. He sprayed his room with myriad insect repellants which served a two fold purpose of keeping the insects as well as me away.

So when he knocked, I was sure that either he had come to remind me of my responsibilities towards a project work or there was something wrong with his health.
The very thought of doing some work disrupted the peace of my mind. I crossed my fingers and opened the door. The expression on Shuvi’s face cleared my doubts. Drooping eyes, emaciated face ­­­- I was relieved that it wasn’t about work!

Shuvi had been bitten by a bug a few days ago. The news would have made the headlines of our school newspaper (if there were one). You could observe people all over the campus talking in whispers about how a daring bug had managed to stay alive in Shuvi’s room and bitten him. It was noteworthy that everyone talked about it with respect like that for a martyr. It had succumbed to the fatal injuries after it had been squashed by Shuvi but had managed to hit its target before falling in the battlefield.

The bite had resulted in a boil which had grown bigger over the last few days .Shuvi was unable to concentrate on his business of being busy because of this so, of course, it called for immediate attention. I changed out of my pajamas and we decided to go to the official school doctor – Dr. Dhingra.

I had thought that the name was a mere joke when I had heard of it the first time from seniors. Dr.Dhingra sounded like a name straight out of a Hindi flick but other students had confirmed that he actually existed and I was waiting for an opportunity to see him.

We reached his clinic and waited for some time before he called us in. Dr. Dhingra was a short man with no neck and wore rectangular glasses which rested on his big-wide nose.

I had a feeling that this was going to be a memorable meeting. What happened next would best be described through the actual conversation that took place among us –

Shuvi and S: Good afternoon doctor!
DD: Good afternoon young men!

Shuvi took a seat next to the doctor while I sat across them.

Shuvi: Sir, I have been bitten by a bug on my neck and it’s not getting any better.

Dr.Dhingra observed the boil and smirked as if to mock at the boil and the late Mr. Bug

DD: Very well, here are a few medicines (he scribbled a couple of names in his illegible handwriting) take them for two days and you’d be fine!
Shuvi: Sir, are you sure that there wont be any side effects?

Dr. Dhingra’s facial expressions changed as if he had just been challenged for a duel. His nostrils flared and I could see his lungs through them now.

DD: SIDE EFFECTS????? Did you just say side effects??

I swear I would have apologized to him and promised never to use that word in my life had I been in Shuvi’s place, but even Shuvi seemed to be getting ready for the duel.

Shuvi: Yes Sir, aren’t allopathic medicines supposed to have side effects?
DD: Son, tell me one thing in the world which does not have side effects!

Shuvi smiled as if he had a winning answer to Dr. Dhingra’s question ready.
Shuvi: Water… water sir! It doesn’t have any side effects!
DD: Aha! Let us have a discussion on this one! I love discussions!

I was panicking! This wasn’t looking good.

Shuvi: Sure Sir…so what do you say about water, eh?
DD: You keep on drinking water …don’t stop and keep drinking. Eventually your brain would be bloated and you’d die – SIDE EFFECT!

TouchĂ© Doc! I thought as I nudged Shuvi to signal him to give it up. But Shuvi had taken up the challenge; he wasn’t going to run away from this one.

Shuvi: What about oxygen sir? We take it in all the time don’t we?
Dr. Dhingra glared at us. I thought his eyes were going to pop out any moment.

DD: Are you a science student?
S: Err…Yes sir I am!

I realized what a grave mistake I had committed the moment I said this. Dr.Dhingra had now assumed that I was an ally to Shuvi and I could see that I was going to be slaughtered.

DD: So, if I kept a man in an oxygen chamber for a few days and then I took him out, what would happen to him?
S: Well, I think he’d be just fine…. except of course he’d be furious for being locked in for so many days!
DD: Hah!

Dr. Dhingra looked at me and I knew something terrible was about to happen to me. I cowered in my chair.

DD: WRONG! He’d die!!! Because his body would have gotten used to all that extra oxygen and when he is brought out, he would die due to lack of desired amount of oxygen! To add to it, don’t you know that Oxygen helps in burning? What happens when you fry some stuff.... O2 breaks down into two atoms... if a few single atoms are left on the surface of the food when you eat it; they go down your throat burning everything in the way! Acidity......SIDE EFFECT! Beware of oxygen!

I was almost petrified. Never had I thought that oxygen could do so much harm. I held back my breath for sometime in fear but then concluded that it was better to die with oxygen than without it.

Shuvi and I had by now decided to give up. We found it necessary to keep our sanity. But Dr. Dhingra had smelled victory, he was going for the kill!

DD: O.K., tell me, is exercise good?

This was an easy one! We replied in affirmative vigorously nodding our heads.

DD: Wrong!! It’s BAD!

Now this put me off, I was quite a fitness freak then and I could argue that exercise if done properly could never harm.

S: But sir…
DD: No But! Listen to me first! How long does a tortoise live?
Shuvi: 150-200 years approximately.
DD: Have you people ever seen a tortoise which moves fast?
S: No sir. In fact it is one of the slowest creatures.
DD: Precisely! What about an elephant? How long does it live?
S: My guess would be around 70 years!
DD: Ever seen it move fast?
S: Nope!
DD: Now tell me how long does a mosquito or a house fly live?
Shuvi: A few weeks…. a couple of months at most!
DD: Don’t they keep fluttering around all the time without staying still a single moment?

We nodded in affirmative wondering what he was leading us to.

DD: See!! I told you!!! You move around a lot, you exercise a lot; your life span would be short. On the other hand, if you chose to be a slug, you’d live much longer!

We were baffled! I wanted to pull my hair out and scream. Even Shuvi looked like he’d been stung by a bigger insect.

Shuvi: Sir, I tell you, I have never been exposed to these universal truths before!
DD: Aww Come on! I was just warming up. By the way now that you have mentioned, I have some very potent arguments against some universally accepted theories!

We knew it; we had to make a dash. If we stayed any longer we’d need a psychiatrist so we got up at once.

Shuvi: Thank you sir. May be some other time. You see, we have a class!

Dr. Dhingra was clearly disappointed.

DD: Oh! I see. But you people can always come over later. It would be good fun having another discussion .What say?

We didn’t say anything! With our tails between our legs, we just ran. We ran till Dr. Dhingra’s clinic was out of sight.

Back to my room I slept like never before. In fact the effects of the rendezvous with Dr. Dhingra didn’t wear off till late evening and it took me 4-5 hours of absolute nothingness to recuperate. Shuvi simply dug his head into books and went into a self imposed exile till all the traces of the bug bite were gone though I am sure that the traces of Dr. Dhingra's atrocities would have taken a long time to vanish.

I had a couple of more visits to Dr.Dhingra over the next one year but I ensured that I never took the bait from him for yet another argument. As for the exercise, I gave it up.

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