Got a spare Foleys, Guru?”, asked Tatya dolefully. Go ahead and help yourself, I replied. I was in an expansive mood. Only that morning I had operated a hernia, assisted by the Prof. He had patiently taken me through the steps, and at the end, had grunted approvingly. Ajay Shah was on long leave and Herbie, the genial Sardar was our lecturer. Rajesh had stopped calling us twits. We were gelling well as a team.
Tatya had changed alarmingly. He was always a genial fellow with wisecracks and jokes at a drop of a hat. But now he was morose and on the edge. He seemed to be sleepy all the time and looked badly disheveled. He would snap at jokes that he would have laughed at uproariously. His lecturer, a squat powerful looking woman called Vimla Pawar was reported to have it in for Tatya. We wondered what was the cause of bad blood between them.
Tatya would always be seen in the ward. He seemed to be forever filling forms, collecting blood samples and filling up discharge summaries. You went any time to the ward, Tatya would be there, looking grim faced, immersed in his world of forms. Prakash and I watched with concern. Something was bound to give.
The lecturers had the power of life and death over the house surgeons. They could cut off your operating work with the dreaded ‘nil by hand’ at the smallest misdemeanor. They were already post graduates waiting to become consultants themselves and felt that being sarcastic with a junior was their birthright.
One day in the morning, Prakash and I were having a leisurely breakfast when Tatya barged into the dining hall. His face was red with fury. There was an unmistakable odor of stale feces about him. We discreetly covered our noses.
“Stupid turds! don’t go uppity on me I know I smell of shit. Do you know what that amazon did to me?” he growled at us. What, what?…tell us all, we begged him. “Dr Joshi, my boss had told me to to do a hernia yesterday. He told this woman to assist me. We scrubbed up. I was about to make an incision when the circulating nurse tells me that the patient with a duodenal perf had pulled out his nasogastric tube. I had to scrub out and go down to the ward. The bloody woman had finished off the hernia by the time I returned! Later on, the nurse told me that this…this bloody woman knew about the slipped tube all along but instructed the nurse to inform me just as I was about to operate”, Tatya was incoherent with rage. We tut, tutted in sympathy. Why the smell of feces? I asked. That set off Tatya again. “The bloody woman made me do MER today” Manual Evacuation of Rectum is done when a patient usually very old, did not pass stools for several days. You had to manually clear the clogged rectum piece by smelly piece. It was normally performed by a junior nurse as punishment, but sometimes was ordered to be done by a junior resident as a mark of severe displeasure.
“Why have things come to this pass?” Prakash asked Tatya. For once Tatya looked sheepish. My friendly nature is at fault, he confessed. Tatya was indubitably very friendly. At times he reminded you of a very friendly octopus. His arms would go all around you, patting and kneading your shoulders. Knowing this, the nurses would give Tatya a wide berth.
“You know how friendly I am. I like to slap guys on the shoulder to show my affection. Well, last month, I felt particularly friendly towards Vimla. She had bent down to pick up something when I fetched up behind her. I patted her on the shoulder and called out a cheery greeting. She suddenly straightened up and my hand accidentally slipped down her back and I ended up patting her in her nether regions. She started as though she was stung. Asked me if I had no sisters or mothers and if I did, to go and pat their derrieres. We had some words what with her accusing me of molestation and I telling her that touching her would be the last thing in my mind even if she happened to be the last female on this earth. Ever since, she has been getting at me, using her position as lecturer unfairly” Tatya was indignant. Prakash and I nodded our heads in sympathy but controlled our laughter with great difficulty.
One day Prakash and I were leaning against the parapet of the resident quarter gates, lazily taking in the hustle and bustle on the main road outside. Tatya suddenly appeared, riding his old bicycle, pedaling away as though his life depended on it. He braked to a halt at the quarters, threw the bike against the wall and rushed in. We followed him to find out what had transpired.
Tatya was cycling to work from home in the morning. He passed a group of buxom women in very colorful saris at a bus stop. Being a red blooded male, he let out a appreciative wolf whistle and rode on. After some moments, he heard a commotion behind him and looked back. “My blood froze. I almost dropped a hot load of shit into my pants”, Tatya was reliving the experience. “There were a group of Hijras with their saris hitched up to their knees, chasing me, shouting expletives. Kept shouting that they would castrate me for being obscene. I will dream of their muscular hairy legs pumping after me, for a long long time. I had to pedal like crazy. Almost developed a hernia. Have they gone?” We assured him that had indeed gone away. From that day onward, Tatya would change his route every day, always glancing over his shoulders.
Tempers seemed to have cooled down between Vimla and Tatya. The Tatya of the old had reappeared. He seemed to look less disheveled. We were happy for the poor sod.
One day, I saw Tatya and Vimla coming out of the ward. They seemed to be very friendly. Tatya saw me and said something to Vimla that made her guffaw. They seemed to be in the most excellent terms together.
Prakash and I collared Tatya one day. We wanted to know the reasons for the rapprochement between them. Tatya was evasive, we pressed him. “You remember my Uncle Bal Joshi? He has a very busy surgical practice. His assistant resigned. He was looking out for a newly qualified surgeon to assist him. I kept singing Vimla’s praises to him. Told him that she was very competent and reliable.He finally agreed to take her in as his associate consultant. She will join him from the next month”
“That is very generous of you” said Prakash. Yes, I agreed, “almost christian, considering all the grief that she gave you. I admire the largeness of your heart. I could never have done it”
“Generous, my foot. My uncle undoubtedly has a fantastic practice. As a human being, he is a sanctimonious prick. H e also suffers from the roving hands and fingers syndrome. His hands roam about the anatomy of his nurses and assistants like demented spiders. I have probably inherited this gene from him. His last assistant was also a female and quit when she’d had enough. I am waiting for Vimla to discover the joys of Uncle Joshi’s roaming hands” Tatya’s eyes were closed and he had a huge smile….