The villager must have followed me and into the compartment. As usual I put my back-pack next to me. He asked: “Sir, is this yours? Can I sit by your side? Dressed in an expensive mull dhoti and silk kurta he looked wealthy with a diamond studded finger rings and an expensive wrist watch. Must be having hundreds of acres of fertile land.
“Oh, Yes! Sorry !” I said and drew the back-pack to my left.
“Babu? Do you belong to Visakhapatnam, have you come to see your friend our doctor here?”
Then, I guessed he must have seen me talking to my friend Karunakar in his hospital.
“Yes, you are right.” I was anxious to get back to my Final Diagnosis - a novel I enjoyed reading even in train.
I turned on the pages but I knew he had been attentively observing me.
“Babu ! Do you live in Visakhapatnam? Are you our doctor babu’s relative ?”
“More than that.”
“You must have studied together.”
Not putting down the book, I took at a cigarette from the pack and put it before my lips.
“Here is a match, babu,” he struck a match and put it to my fag.
I was a little disturbed but then be began “Babu, Listen to me for a minute. I don't know what is happening to me. I feel the room whirling. I would be falling down with a thud suddenly breaking into sweat. Karunababu said I would be okay very soon, but my house-woman (the term for wife) pressed that I shall go to Vizag and show to a big doctor. Karunababu gave a doctor's name of a great doctor in the King George hospital.”
I used to sit in his clinic in a chair opposite to his while the patients used to come and sit by the doctor, nearer on a stool.
I was about to take up the book which I put it down while the man had been lighting my fag.
“So, babu, you are also a “doctor”
“Aa!” I was a little confused and began reacting.
Now I am sure he saw me in my friend’s clinic.
“What is your problem?” I put down the book.
“Babu ! You asked that, I am happy. I am thankful that I got into this coach. Babu, would the doctor there talk to me?
“Didn’t Karuna examine you?”
“He put that tube he put in his ears and the metal ring on my chest and told me I would be cured soon. I was in a doubt then and went to have a photo. (He could not say stet or x-ray.)
“Who asked you to go to Vizag?”
“I am going there taking a letter from the doctor babu, your friend. I told him a lie saying I have something to do in Vizag. Fortunately, he gave me one chit with the name Doctor Suryanarayana and his address too written on that.”
I became thoughtful as to why Karuna write that name?
Then I asked him. Did he put something in his ears …”
“Yes, he told me my blood pressure is fine.”
I bit my tongue thinking that I underestimated the silk kurta.
“Let me the see the chit,” I said and took it from him and wrote a few words on it and told him to show that to Dr. Suryanarayana.
“Babu, would he talk lovingly to me as you are? ….? Fees?”
After a moment I answered: “Ask him there “
“I am thinking of putting a hundred note before he asks me,” he said.
I kept quiet.
When the train stopped at Vizianagaram Junction the silk Kurta got down and went away after thanking me.
I could not think of reading the novel. Began mulling!
‘Why did Karuna send him to the specialist in KGH? The villager might have thought a big doctor would be more “correct”.
But then I wondered what the specialist would to think of my “diagnosis” .
I waited for Saturday. Dr. Suryanaraya would play rummy with us after two games of tennis in the Club. He would play for small stakes only as for his principle two rounds for an hour.
“Hello, doctor Murty! You seem to be a little early today! He greeted me as usual calling me Doctor though I never “studied” medicine. There is a slight dig in his calling me doctor. A research PhD is not a doctor for me.
After half an hour, he said “Serve one more round of cards!”
“We would rather stop.” I said
“O yes! If you are not interested you should not sit at the table! He said smiling.
When it was getting to eight o clock he came out along with me. While Dr. Surayanarana was starting his car, I stopped him sitting on my Scooter.
“Doctor Sir! … I was toying with the idea of coming to see you, but with much effort waited till Saturday.”
“Why this hesitation? What is the matter?
“Last Tuesday, I went to Parvatipuram to see my friend, your student Karunakar…”
“Yes,” he stopped me saying: “someone came saying that he was Karuna's patient. General Practitioners are becoming lazy referring small things to specialists. They are becoming busy too unable think a little deeply, for some minutes.”
“Did you see, Doctor, what is on the back of the chit on which Karun had written?
“That's why I am about to tell you. Know all right that heart disease could be eliminated. Karuna wrote wax in the labyrinth. There is relationship between labyrinth and body’s equilibrium. Great fear may make one sweat. Karuna must have thought of that, but busy mofussil practice, what to do?
Now I was in a dilemma. Shall I tell him that I had written on the back? What if persons like me for writing like that out of a great love? He may lecture that doctors should inspire confidence in the patients explaining thing slowly.
I gathered some courage. “Yes, Doctor Karuna told me that patients from the villages don't easily believe mofussil doctors. Some people believe in the saying. ‘Even for a small snake, a stout lathi.’ Anyway, Karuna asked me to tell you so. I spoke a bit of a lie. He thought that he would make the silk kurta pay more and in one way, I too added to that i said courageously.
Switching on the ignition he said. “I know you wrote it. The doctors too shall use a little horse sense.”
When starting my scooter, I was in another dilemma shall I tell all this to Karuna. Should I write or talk over the phone? If did either I must tell him, Dr Suryanarayana has found fault with him. I could not resist the temptation and stop making Dr. Suryanarayana believe that through I could not study medicine I have been showing interest in diseases and treatments.
This story was first published in Andhra Prabha weekly on 7th May 1975