Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dragonfly In The Sky

Where are you. Get over here fast. The whole batch is waiting outside the exam hall. You are the only one who is not. The Head of the Department has been calling your name out for the last ten minutes.

Insanity. I am not supposed to be there, the Forensic Medicine HoD told me in no uncertain terms yesterday evening that I cant take that practical exam today at any cost whether or not I have the valid medical documents to validate my absence for the last two weeks.

I haven’t studied. . . a word! I am not even at home, I am in the middle of my lunch. It will take me atleast twenty minutes to reach home and get ready even if I get up right away and leave my lunch midway. The exam was supposed to start at 2:00, its 2:10 already. It will be 2:30-2:40 by the time I get there.

Hey don’t worry. Nothing will happen. You better get over here asap for your own good. I will teach you whatever I can (cuts the line)

I got up and paid for the meal I never had, dived on my bike. The rest of my journey to the apartment is urban legend. It was a red bullet, not a mobike, shooting through the peaceful streets looking for an obstacle or pig to ricochet on.

The computer was on, Atlantis- The Lost Empire paused at its climax. I laughed to myself as I wore my white coat and combed my hair neatly because when I stared at the mirror the guy looked totally alien to the situation. Sure he looked like any bloody doctor, like it was his birthright to stare back at me and smile like there was no crisis happening even in the hour of doom. This, is not abnormal, unnatural or fake. In medicine this is what you do, quite naturally.

In human physiology, there is a component that protects us during emergency, a neuro- endocrine reflex that triggers the brain to brace your mind and body for impact. But that is after all theory. I had to pray at the dressing table, it was an appeal for a miracle in an absurd situation.

I feel no hypocrisy in protecting my faith despite diving into a scientific environment. Nor do I belong to the rigid Brahmin family that forces religion down your gut, my parents have allowed me to explore and derive my own faith and inspirations from life and experience. They are flexible enough, to let me convert to a different religion tomorrow if I want.

The ride to the exam would have provoked death even in his most euphoric trance. I didn’t die but an accident happened on the way. My tires screamed near the stationery shop because even they couldn’t believe that in the mad rush to reach an exam that started twenty minutes ago, I had left the most basic tools to pass an exam on my study table.

I reached the exam hall at 2:35. Thirty Five minutes after scheduled commencement. My batchmates were still in the corridor. Unbelievable.

Instead of giving me the usual screw you stare, Rangarajan smirked at me and told me to go back home because he had told the HoD that I was in Bangalore, that I wont be sitting for the internal. I didn’t care to believe him, I laughed at him, when I walked into the exam hall and met the HoD. I believed him.

My father’s letter was lying on the table, next to the Chief. The seal was open “Baa Baa Rajakumara (Come Come Prince) Time yenu? Pardon, neevella dod dod schoolinda barthiralla? English medium. Tell me what shall we do with people like you? We have to wait? . . Make special trunk call to Bangalore to get appointment to make you to come and write exam?”

“Sorry sir. Yesterday when I showed you the medical certificates you. . .”

“Idiot fellows. Maathadbeda (Don’t talk). . . This will be your last and final warning okay? Eeginda classella bunk aagbaardu. Get Out.”

During our friendly chat I was contemplating telling him that I didn’t know anything. But that would have been a terribly wrong move. All the bones we were supposed to analyze had been neatly arranged on the granite ledge that bordered around the exam hall against cards with our roll numbers, two bones per number. My number was not far from where he was sitting. I had no choice. I took a peek at my bones while he was busy lecturing me. Skull and Sacrum.

The voice, that had summoned me to this hellhole experience was Mahi's. Sushen and he came over, we shook hands, he gave me a reassuring smile.

“We still have time, the attender told me it will start at 3:00. We have almost 20 minutes. I’ll teach you everything you’ll need to know.”

What Mahi and Sushen did with that time was paranormal. 35 logical explanation points for the skull in a systematic visual order, highlighting the presence/absence of these features in their own skulls. They proceeded in a systematic spatial sequence that I will never forget. First they started from above and traversed downwards - the parietal and frontal eminences, forehead, globella, orbits, orbital fissures, frontonasal curvatures, nasal apertures.etc proceeding downwards unto the mental foramen. Then from the midline laterally, from the cheekbones, zygomatic process to the mastoid and finally to the base of the skull, which contain many foramina and eminences. I glanced through a couple of diagrams. The skull was the more complicated bone so we gave it more time. The sacrum was smaller, easier to deal with so we gave it barely 5 minutes. Time was very tight. I didn’t even have time to contemplate the extent or repercussions of a possible failure. I walked into the exam hall still digesting features of the sacrum. I stepped to my seat, before they even announced the instructions I started vomiting everything I had stuffed down my throat, carefully in sequence, in the prettiest handwriting possible. I wrote all the features of my skull with side headings underlined in black against the blue writing. Each bone was for 5 marks, we had to write 10 points with diagrams. Unaware of the instructions initially, I had populated three pages with 25 points, when they finally announced the instructions it was too late, so I decided to further overkill with 3 diagrams of the bone, in different views, anterior, lateral and basal that I had studied in anatomy last year.

The Sacrum is a much simpler bone, easier to analyze than the skull. I wrote whatever I could remember from 15 minutes back. Drew some diagrams and faced the mouth of the Dragon.

The ‘mouth of the Dragon’ is the person who took my viva. He belches fire while asking a question. A clever façade, a defense mechanism to being taken for granted by students and staff – He will give you marks if he feels you have written your answers well and answered his questions satisfactorily, confidently yet humbly. Otherwise he will mercilessly fail you with disgraceful marks, no matter what. Many brilliant students unwittingly carry auras of arrogance in his eyes and fail miserably.

He leafed through the first two pages of my skull answer and shut the answer booklet. He didn’t even bother to look at the rest of it. I might as well have not written anything about the sacrum. He asked me 5 questions, 2 of them pertained to Forensic Medicine, 3 to anatomy . From first year and 25 minutes ago I presented everything I knew pertaining to his questions. It was all over before I knew it. He asked me where I was from, asked me how many marks he should award me, marked me and let me go.
I Passed!
I couldn’t believe it. Neither did Vishwamohan: What kind of luddite attends a forensic exam without studying?

But the wiser crowd reasoned and I agree with them in that, in medicine having a deep knowledge of a minority of the ocean doesn’t count as much as having a sound, superficial knowledge of a majority of it. Nor does the quantum of your knowledge beyond the compulsory requirement count as much as your ability in convincing the other person, to get them to trust in you, no matter how hopeless the situation is.

This, is the story of how I passed a Forensic Medicine exam I didn’t know I was attending till 10 minutes after it should have actually started, with first class marks when I was still pretty non-recovered from an illness. An exam with a 40% failure rate that I attended half an hour after the scheduled start without studying a word. All complex theories apart, If, I hadn’t exercised blind faith in a moment of insanity, I wouldn't have had the strength to let things fall into place. Things would have fallen out of place. Circumstances would have turned me the other way. You wouldn't be reading this because I wouldn't be a dragonfly in the sky.
I would be swept away by the ocean.

3 comments:

*~ dru!d~* said...

macha.. trust me on this.. quit medical and become an author.. YOU.. ARE.. FUCKING.. BRILLIANT.

Gajendra said...

rajkumaaara.....hehehe.....!!! good one taru....and you are very lucky to have such good friends.

Vaccinated Tarantula - II said...

you are correct. I am lucky to have made and kept good friends. :-)