Archive for the 'Memories' Category


the write stuff

All the doctors in our department dread the second Friday of the month. That’s the day of the monthly meeting to discuss “mistakes”. The mistakes are usually quite minor – investigations done but results not recorded, consultations asked for orally but not written in the notes. Trivial matters, when you take into context the ocean of paperwork a doctor does everyday.

This time it was a letter from the Insurance Company. Apparently their “experts” found it hard to read some of the handwriting in the case notes. Special mention was made of particular doctors, and I am proud to say that our surgeons did not let their brethren elsewhere in the world down. Most of the indelible scrawls were theirs.

The Chief actually suggested that some of the offenders be sent back to school and cursive writing classes! Not such a bad idea, if you ask me. I really have no patience for doctors who scribble all over my notes when I ask them for an opinion and make me waste valuable time deciphering what the cardiologist means when he writes, “Patient presently shoes no sighs of confidential cordial abnormality, will follow hip batter in the week for an Echo.”

Many summers ago when I was an intern, one of my colleagues told me this story about a famous gynaecologist in the city. He was an extremely gifted surgeon and very popular with his patients; only he could not write his own name legibly.

One of his patients approached him for a medical fitness certificate to let her resume work after delivery and maternity leave. His secretary had forgotten all about the certificate and had left for home, but the obliging doctor promptly made one out in his own hand. When produced at work the following day, nobody could make head or tail – or even cervix – of the document. No worries, let’s go down to the drugstore; they’ll be able to read the doctor’s handwriting!

The pharmacist puts on his glasses, ponders over the paper for a few minutes, goes to the shelf and comes back with a few bottles. “Take two of these before every meal, and one of these capsules in the mornings…”

It’s not just me. Here’s Umberto Eco on where it all went wrong:

“The crisis began with the advent of the ballpoint pen. Early ballpoints were also very messy and if, immediately after writing, you ran your finger over the last few words, a smudge inevitably appeared. And people no longer felt much interest in writing well, since handwriting, when produced with a ballpoint, even a clean one, no longer had soul, style or personality.”


food for thoughts

There were so many little things to do around the flat that I had put off indefinitely. So I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns on a lazy Sunday, did some house cleaning, washed some clothes, went to sleep in the tub. All that work made me ravenous, so I decided to try this restaurant that I’d seen on my way to work. It had mouth-watering pictures of food displayed in the window. Having no idea what some of them were, I decided to find out first hand. This is not about the food, which was okay, or the prices, which were not. They had these twin waitresses taking orders and the sight took me back in time to when I had first landed in Soviet Russia.

There were about fifteen of us on that Aeroflot flight that landed in Moscow. We had come on a student exchange program, enrolled in courses ranging from aeronautical engineering to comparative literature. Oh, and a few of us future docs as well. It was testicle-freezing weather. Of course our Embassy had messed up and there was no one to meet us. We had four words of Russian in our collective vocabulary and thwarted advances from that universal entity in any airport, the pushy cabbie, by equal amounts of “yes”, “no”, “thank you” and “hello”. After a miserable wait of about eight hours and umpteen cups of dishwater tea, the embarrassed Embassy sprang into action and sent us one of their minions. We were taken to a summer camp for Muscovite schoolchildren, which was understandably empty at that time of the year and would double as our base camp. Till they sorted out who goes where. We were to spend another week there.

It was plenty of fun and games at the camp. We were all assigned bunks and given a per functionary tour of the place. It was huge and covered in snow and had a kiosk selling vodka which we could get at through a hole in one of the walls. Vodka in the middle of nowhere, right next to a kids’ camp? Hmmm…

The camp had a tiny cinema hall that showed Soviet movies about the might of Communism and the scourge of Capitalism, with plenty of steaming sex thrown in–to keep the youth at camp interested, I suppose. Every war was won by the Soviet Union and every Western spy was killed, except for the blonde American beauty with the bazooka boobs. She would fall in love with the dashing handsome Soviet Special Agent who would make gentle love to her in a surprisingly plush bedroom with Victorian furniture, which I suppose was allotted only to the most senior of undercover agents. My bunk was freaking killing my back! Anyway, the carnally satiated lady would then change her allegiance towards Mother Russia. The capitalist pigs were wrong; this was the coolest ideology in the world. Plus the hero was kind of cute and grunted a lot in bed.

There was a large mess hall with fixed timings for absolutely unpalatable meals. And identical twins for waitresses, blonde beauties called Maria and Madina with more lipstick on them that at the cosmetics counter of your local supermarket. They had identical breasts that cast a shadow over your table when they came to take your orders. And identical bottoms that would butt into your face when they bent down to place a plate of the most horrible bland purée on the next table. And identical moles on their lips. All the guys in that camp had identical wet dreams every night of their stay.

All those memories came flooding back in that restaurant, and waking up from my reverie, I noticed one of the twins smiling at me. And I kid you not; she had a mole on her lip! I didn’t wait to find out if the other girl had one as well, that would have been too creepy.

July 2019
« Sep