Sunday, 29 July 2018

part 1 : To Err is Human


Twenty four pairs of eyes anxiously awaited the arrival of the Chief Medical Officer on their first day at this prestigious medical center. Twenty four bright minds from all over the country anticipated that this next year as an intern at the Sanjeevani Medical Center would change the course of their lives forever. They have been selected after a rigorous entrance exam, glowing references from their Medical School deans, oral interviews and detailed essays about their goals in life. Each one of them deserved to be there, even if some were coaxed into it.

"GOOD MORNING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!" Dr Shashank Gupta's voice boomed over the microphone. The interns, out of respect for this accomplished man stood up in unison and gently bowed their heads.

A beaming Dr Gupta felt a sense of pride at seeing the reverence showered on him by another batch of interns. Dr Gupta had presided this first day assembly for years but even now this was his favorite day with the new interns. This was the moment he looked forward to all year. This year was extra special, as his only daughter, the apple of his eye was one of the incoming interns. He recalled how he had spent the last 22 years of his life, dreaming of the day when his Riddhima would be one of the interns at the SMI and here she was-smiling, proud and full of admiration for her idol-her dad!

"Please take your seats," Dr Gupta smiled. The interns looked around to acknowledge their fellow companions and sat down.

A handsome fair man with intense blue eyes shuffled his feet under his seat restlessly as Dr Gupta started talking. Armaan hated speeches; he hated sitting still and hated being trapped in a closed formal room with 23 other boring and serious people. He knew he had no choice. Son of Dr Abhimanyu Mallik was expected to be the best of the best. He recalled how his dad had given him a sermon last night after dinner on how to not dishonor the family name at the SMI-the Malliks were the most respected lineage to have graduated from the SMI- and it was now his responsibility to either preserve that image or tarnish it forever!

Armaan took out his favorite sketching pad and placed it on his lap. With his black charcoal pencil, he started doodling on the pad. This was the only way he could sit still and appear attentive to others.

"I am sure you all are familiar with the ancient epic of Ramayana…." Dr Gupta continued, "the Sanjeevani booti or herb played an important role in the story…..that was the herb which Hanumanji procured to bring back Laxman to life…..Sanjeevani…..that word has become synonymous with healing…..Sanjeevani means to infuse life…..and that is what we doctors at this Institute have strived to do for decades…..and I am sure this group of bright and intelligent 24 interns will carry on this tradition of our great institute……to heal….to serve… give back to this world what we have been chosen to do."

Another intern, a tall, darker but extremely handsome man smirked at DR Gupta's last comment and mumbled, "yeah right!" Angad Khanna, the forever cynic was not impressed at all. He was certainly not here to 'infuse life' into others but he was here for himself- ONLY HIMSELF. He knew that once he had the SMI stamp on his resume, the world of opportunities would open up for him. He would then be able to achieve what he had dreamt of all his life- FAME, POWER and most of all MONEY….MONEY…MONEY!!!

Armaan, who had not heard a single word of what Dr Gupta had uttered, heard Angad's 'yeah right' clearly. Since childhood, Armaan had been a distractible soul. Even if he had never paid attention in his classes, he had a knack of hearing everything else and everyone else around him. Armaan looked up at Angad and smiled at him. Angad, who was sitting a few seats away noticed the blue eyed intern doodling on a pad and returned his smile. Silently, they both approved of each other's presence at the SMI. Life would not be that boring after all!

Dr Gupta raised his chin and stared at the ceiling as he proudly preached to this new group of interns, "as you all know that this next one year would be the toughest year in your medical career…..this next year will determine what kind of doctors you will become……this next year will help you all choose the fields you are destined to pursue…..yes destined… would say why should a doctor believe in destiny…..why a person like me who has been a student of science all his life believe in a word like destiny…..a word people associate with a coward's way of thinking…..but I disagree with that….i believe we all have our destinies carved out even before we are born……and only the chosen few like you have been lucky to be a part of the glorious institute….."

Riddhima, Dr Gupta's daughter, a dusky but attractive girl with big expressive eyes sat with her mouth open as her dad continued his discourse. She had heard his speech several times- over dinner table conversations, in the park, in the car when he had dropped her to school but today it sounded even more significant. She was finally venturing out as an intern at this coveted institute, she had grown up with since childhood. They lived on the campus of the Institute but it was only today that Riddhima finally felt an integral part of this place- a place that would be her rightful home over the next one year and perhaps later too if she decided to continue her further training here.

At the other end of the room, Kripa Sharma, a beautiful fair and petite woman took down notes in her notebook as Dr Gupta spoke. Kripa had always been a diligent student and to her every word spoken by her professors and teachers was gospel truth. She would write down every word Dr Gupta uttered that morning and later when she was back in her dorm room, read and re read it several times. She was here to learn, to learn from the foremost group of physicians in this country. This was better than a dream-come-true and she had resolved to make the most of her training at this place.

Next to Kripa, sat a young man from Calcutta. A bespectacled, soft spoken Bengali man, Prithvi Bose was intrigued by her beautiful handwriting as she reproduced Dr Gupta's words in her notebook. Having grown up in the culturally rich city of Calcutta, Prithvi Bose had a penchant for artistic and beautiful things- to him this petite woman sitting right next to him had both- she was beautiful….extremely beautiful and her handwriting reflected the hidden artist inside her. He did not realize that at some point during Dr Gupta's lecture, he had lost track of what he was listening as he gazed at Kripa fondly.

Rahul Arora, the dashing youngster from Delhi sat with his ears and eyes glued to the microphone. The glint in his eyes reflected the ambition, aspirations and dreams he had carried with him since his high school. Sanjeevani Medical Institute was not his goal, but a stepping stone towards his ultimate goal- to be recognized as the best of the best, the ace scientist, the ace researcher this country would have ever produced. He knew he had an uphill task ahead of him but as in the past, his ruthlessness would get him to his ultimate goal. He admired Dr Gupta but was confident that one day he would surpass him and all the other physicians of this country. He looked around scornfully at his co-interns; his goal was to first out do them in every possible way over the course of the year-eliminate any chances of competition from these youngsters, many of whom might be as ambitious as him.

Angad Khanna grew curious as Armaan's deft right hand sketched something on the paper. Armaan looked up and saw Angad pointing to his drawing pad. Armaan gave him a friendly smile and passed the sketch pad to his first friend at the Institute. Angad stared at the caricature and tried to suppress his laughter. It was perfect- a cartoon version of the revered Dr Shashank Gupta! The big ears and long nose definitely belonged to the Chief Medical Officer.

Armaan had drawn Dr Gupta dancing in front of the microphone with his mouth wide open and labeled it 'BLAH…BLAH….BLAH…BLAH….I AM THE BEST!'

Angad loved the sketch and at the bottom of the page wrote:

'chhoti si zindagi gehri si jeb hai
baaki toh jaan-e-mann baaton ke seb hain

baatein hai sab saali baatein hain
kehte hain phir bhool jaatein hain

baaton mein na aana tu, apani karta jaana tu
matlab hi hai asali yaar….'

Angad passed the pad back to Armaan, who was bemused by the lyrics scribbled on the pad.

Armaan and Angad's antics could not escape Dr Gupta's keen eye. He was not used to such utter disrespect, and that too on the very first day.

"Excuse me gentlemen….looks like something more entertaining is going on in the 4th row," Dr Gupta cleared his throat and gave the two young men his sharpest look.

The other interns were startled and looked up in horror. Dr Gupta was still staring at Armaan and Angad. The other interns sighed in relief as it was not them being singled out.

"Let's see what you both have to say to the class," Shashank Gupta walked to the 4th row and held out his hand. Hesitantly, Armaan handed him the pad and closed his eyes. He was used to being singled out amongst a class full of students-this was nothing new to him-but flashes of his dad's angry face and recrimination at tarnishing the Mallik reputation made him shudder momentarily.

Dr Gupta took a close look at the caricature and then at the words penned at the bottom. He smiled at Angad and Armaan and then looked around at the other interns. He walked upfront with the pad and held it in the air. The class was mortified and sat still with their jaws dropped to their knees.

Riddhima was furious-how dare someone make fun of her God-like dad!

Kripa could not believe the words written at the bottom- could an aspiring doctor have such petty thinking?

After the initial stunned silence, the interns started whispering and gossiping among themselves.

"Kya naam hain aap dono ke?" Dr Gupta asked.

"Jee….jee….Angad Khanna," the taller man answered.

"Yeh aapne likha hai?" Dr Gupta asked.

"Jee nahin…..yeh ek nayi movie ka gaana hai… ka naam Johnny Gaddar hai," Angad replied fearlessly. The interns broke out in a hushed giggle with their mouths covered.

"Good…I am glad my new interns have other interests in life…..kabhie mauka lage tho gaakar bhi sunaaiyega Dr Khanna….aakhir Sanjeevani jaisi serious jagah mein entertainment ki bahut kami hai……you may sit down now," Dr Gupta replied sternly.

Kripa Sharma, who was seated in the 3 rd row and looked behind at this shameless young man. She gave Angad a dirty look and whispered, "agar paisa aur jeb hi bharni thi tho business school jaana chaahiye tha…..yahan Sanjeevani jaisi pavitra jagah kyun aaye ho?"

Angad glared back at the tiny woman in front of him and made a disgusting face, "mind your business!" He muttered back and sat down.

"And what is the name of the cartoonist?" Dr Gupta stared at the man standing in the 4th row.

"Jee…jee..Armaan Mallik," he answered softly. Riddhima gave him a derisive glance; no one had ever dared make fun of her dad. She hated this man already and wished her dad would throw him out of the institute.

"Very well Dr Mallik," Dr Gupta had a faint smile, "I am glad to see we have a creative person amongst us…..and that too with a sense of humor…..very important qualities for a good doctor….sit down…I am sure my good friend Abhimanyu is very proud of his son's many talents!"

Armaan turned red at the sarcasm and sat down quietly. He would have remained silent, if it were not for another jab by Dr Gupta's daughter. She turned around and whispered, "I will make sure you will pay for this disrespect to my dad….you scoundrel!"

Armaan Mallik loved challenges; and that too from attractive women. He smiled slyly at Riddhima and replied, "bring it on Ms beautiful…..I would love to pay you back…would you like cash or kind?"

Riddhima turned red in anger and turned back to face her father.

Dr Gupta completed his speech after the brief but rude intermission but four interns never heard a word of what he was saying.

Angad glared at Kripa's pony tailed hair and clenched his jaws, "apne aap ko bahut ooncha samajhti hai yeh? I will make sure she sheds this arrogance of being the only virtuous one amongst us!"

Armaan smiled at Riddhima's flaring nostrils and thought, "aaj tak koi ladki Armaan Mallik ka charm nahin resist kar paayi hai….tum kis khet ki mooli ho jaane man?"

Kripa and Riddhima could not get the two obnoxious men out of their minds and silently hoped that they would never have to work with them over the next year….

…to be contd….

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