22.12.13

Notes from the OPD

At the hospital for consultation. Saw...

At entry point, bags searched. Nervous smiles when the person at security does not figure out why anybody would want to keep chewing gum sticks in a jewellery pouch.

Those carrying fruit are asked to leave them. All those germs must not be allowed in. Human beings can carry as many germs and no one even notices.

In the lobby, anxious faces, some impatient. The liftmen have to answer the same question a hundred times with the standard reply, "Abhi time hai, wait karo (there is still time, wait)."

As soon as it is time, there is a rush. Someone's love and life held in the cubicle that will take them to a room smelling of antiseptic, medicines, and helplessness.

In the canteen, they are gobbling up potato vadas, poha, sandwiches. Coffee, tea, juices. Fast. To rush back to meet a loved one dribbling into a bowl of lukewarm soup.

We exchange smiles at the counter. I ask for coffee; wish one could request for extra froth. Have you realised that the more the froth the less the coffee? Why would I want it, then? Because both coffee and froth don't last forever.

There is a small area for prayers off the lobby. A large idol wearing a garland, flickering flames on lamps. A man has prostrated himself. I can't see his tears. Neither can the deity. Not the flames. Not the person he is praying for.

The OPD is a maze of lanes with chairs stuck to walls. A wheelchair passes through. At one turning, a woman, an in-patient, is on a bed awaiting her turn for tests. Eyes blank as strangers look at her frail frame, drips connected to unseen veins.

Moving on, laps hold plastic bags that hands fish into to bring out files seen umpteen times that make no sense.

What do those figures and percentages mean when they talk about blood-urine-stool? Then there are unintelligible-sounding words and graphs that give one undue importance.

Check out the normal range and whatever falls in the 'less than' or 'more than' could be intimation of mortality. Really.

No chairs vacant. Stand against the marble wall. Try shoulder exercises, try pushing heel against it, try sideways and see blurred reflection. Notice others watching. Smile sheepishly. There is no ice to break.

Watch the toilet. Women walk awkwardly towards it and if locked wait, fidgeting with the ends of dupattas, saree pallus, or strands of hair. The one returning has eyes averted, as though she has just done something she should not have.

Men don't wait for the locked door to open. They knock. Or walk away. The one returning will either adjust zipper in full public view or do a version of twerking to position his stuff.

The doctors' chambers are close to one another, so confirmations are sought about who belongs where and who goes in when.

***

Bored, I look blankly at the cellphone. Then start sketching. Someone peers. I draw a pair of tits. They could be the globe, the sun, the moon, anything. But I know the person is thinking of something flesh. It is our bodies on test, isn't it?

Bored, I look at my feet. Why am I wearing these peep-toe shoes that are so perky? I slip my foot out, the one that's hurting and see that my little toe has chafed and turned red.

Bored, I ask the person next to me what time it is. She tells me, after looking at my watch.

Bored, I read up the text messages offering me home loans, domestic staff, pest control, even a villa ready to move into.

Bored, I re-read an email that had disturbed me. Now that I look as distressed as the others, I feel less guilty about not having any visible signs of illness.

Bored, I begin counting people in the corridor. I check out their clothes, the way they speak with whoever is with them, their voices, the way they move their hands and tap their shoes and sandals.

Bored, I start chatting with the salesmen from pharma companies with their huge bags. There are a dozen of them. I ask the one standing near me, "Are all of you from the same firm?" No, he says. "Then you are competitors? So, who decides who gets in first?" He finds it funny. He says they have an arrangement.

Bored, I now have twelve young men discussing pharma arrangements with me.

I get a call in my lowest volume mode. I answer it only to say I am very busy.

My doctor's door has been opening and closing, people have walked in and walked out. Someone tries to get in. He says, "After F." She repeats, "Ok, I'll come after F." It is so contagious I too want to say I'll go after F, until I realise that I am F.

I tell the doctor about previous tests, repeat symptoms, add new ones. He takes the vital readings. Peers at reports, x-rays, prescriptions. Scrawls something. Change in medicine. Change in schedule. Change in what I must do and not do. Change is constant.

***

On the way out, I stop at the chemist's. Crowded. Someone says, "Side please." We are all waiting and there is no side to move to. I leave.

On the way out, I pass the prayer area. A family is standing with folded hands. At least I think it is a family. Their faces glow in the light.

On the way out, the lobby is abuzz. Some film star has come to visit another film star. I pull my shades from my head and wear them indoors. Just for fun. People try to place you. Coloured glasses colour others' perceptions too.

On the way out, I stumble. Yes, old habit. I don't notice a step. 'Ouch' escapes my lips. Is ouch a word or an exclamation? Does ouch really sound like ouch or have our sighs and grunts begun mimicking words?

On the way out, I go to another chemist way past the hospital gates on another street. I buy chocolates. The sales assistant at the cosmetics counter gives me a spiel on a new night cream. What is the difference between night cream and day cream, I ask. She says, "Ma'am night cream you apply at night." I cannot believe it, I tell her. If I use it in the day, will it become night. "Not like that ma'am," she says. "It is good for you." I buy it. If there are things good for me in the world and affordable, I will take them.

On the way out, I forget I had been to the hospital where there are patients who might not be aware of the difference between night and day. It makes me cry.

On the way out, I reach home. In.

© Farzana Versey

9 comments:

  1. Observing people while waiting for something is brain-soothing activity I often used to do.But outside the doctor's consulting room,and that too as a patient is very difficult and different thing.How wonderfully you have portrayed the scene! In my routine OPD I try to read the minds of patient and their accompanying relatives.Sometimes I question them to confirm my assumption but many a times find myself wrong.Some people's brains live,breath and keep occupied more than their other parts of the body.I am one of them.
    I like reading this post though it made me sad in the end.I hope every thing is fine.Wishes.

    ReplyDelete
  2. jiturajgor,

    Farzana is always fine -- even when she's ailing.

    >>How wonderfully you have portrayed the scene!<<

    Indeed. I thought her, "Bored, I ask the person next to me what time it is. She tells me, after looking at my watch," describes her boredom exquisitely. She was, in effect, so much in the throes of ennui that she could not bring herself to tell the time on her own watch -- something, perhaps, we also rely on doctors to do for us. "Vital readings," as it were.  :)

    There was also the sales assistant flogging the "night cream" (comparable, perhaps, to the young pharma salesmen), and where she describes having forgotten she'd been to the hospital, "where there are patients who might not be aware of the difference between night and day." Her following, "It makes me cry," is sufficiently ambiguous to make one wonder if "it" refers to her having forgotten, or if "it" refers to those patients so oblivious. It also prompts a question: Would Farzana have succumbed to purchasing the night cream if she had remembered?

    Wonderful, as you say.  :)

    M.

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  3. Jitu:

    {Some people's brains live,breath and keep occupied more than their other parts of the body.I am one of them.}

    But does the brain not remote control other body parts?! Yes, not everyone cares to observe...they miss out on a rewarding experience.

    One tries to see everything as fine...maybe that is one of the cures...

    ReplyDelete

  4. Mark:

    Although not addressed to me, may I? 

    I quite liked the reference to "vital readings"...asking for the time was more than ennui, perhaps a confirmation from another. Also, a certain languidity where "the hand that moves" does not move...of the watch, of decision-making, of feeling 'timeless'. At a more basic level, it is pure fun. A tease. She played along by looking at my watch, in effect, an alarm? Or, a moment?

    Next...

    "It makes me cry"..It is both, forgetting and the obliviousness of the patients. In some ways, they are similar...a sense of being "etherised". 

    {...have succumbed to purchasing the night cream if she had remembered?}

    Yes, but the night-day conflict would remain. 

    {Farzana is always fine -- even when she's ailing.}

    Thank you...except that fine and ailing can be symbiotic!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Farzana,

    >>At a more basic level, it is pure fun. A tease.<<

    Even better as even if an "alarm, surely a "moment" as well? For me, on being acosted for the time by a fidgety, watch and peep-toe shoe wearing woman, that'd definitely be a moment, lol.

    >>She played along . . .<<

    A prudent move on her part, certainly.  :)

    >>Yes, but the night-day conflict would remain.<<

    And, in that a "night" cream is meant as a treatment in some manner restorative (salve, mask or remover) of faces dusted, rubbed and/or painted with cosmetics during the day, might not this enduring conflict spring from an instinct for decorating oneself? "Marketing" oneself? Might such an instinct be self-preservative? Must.  Fit.  In.

    Well, perhaps. Certainly the night is more forgiving in ths regard.  :)

    >>...except that fine and ailing can be symbiotic!<<

    Fine by me.  :)

    Mark

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  6. FV

    Feeling concerned. Hope all's well.

    Get well soon.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Mark:

    {For me, on being acosted for the time by a fidgety, watch and peep-toe shoe wearing woman, that'd definitely be a moment, lol.}

    A stoic one, I reckon!

    {And, in that a "night" cream is meant as a treatment in some manner restorative (salve, mask or remover) of faces dusted, rubbed and/or painted with cosmetics during the day, might not this enduring conflict spring from an instinct for decorating oneself? "Marketing" oneself? Might such an instinct be self-preservative? Must.  Fit.  In.}

    Restorative can also be mask. Night, as you say, is more forgiving. Except that the forgiveness is not visible, so what is being forgiven? As someone who avoids cosmetics, at least the goo slathered on face, the night cream is in some ways another face, not assaulted by anything. A preparation for day. 

    Symbiosis is always fine!

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  8. Thanks, F&F, for your concern.

    I always feel rejuvenated after giving a good fight...The secular claws are intact!

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  9. FV,

    Always a joy to spar with you. When are we having the next bout? Or do you want me to make a begining right here?

    I appreciate your warrior spirit though. Proud daughter of Garvi Gujarat, eh? :)

    ReplyDelete

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