Last Friday morning, an auto plied me and mother through the busy marketplace of North Mada Street. Nine-yards and off-white dhotis were inspecting makeshift enterprises to buy betels and chrysanthemums from, as I passed through feverishly watching the colourful procedures; the adverb not suggestive of my excitement, but physical condition. I was on sick leave that day and mother was taking me to our family physician to get my temperature and runny nose examined.
We spent many minutes at the modest waiting room watching children clamber up and slide down the plastic slide. We hadn’t visited him for nearly three years. The faded yellow plaster, shaky bulbous fan and the seesawing row of linked steel chairs ticked off nostalgia. I was called into the consulting room by a sharp doorbell and the reflexive hand-wave of an attendant.
Doctor brightened on seeing me and mother. I noticed the constant framed photo of Dhanvantari on the wall. We shook hands and he showed me a plastic stool, the same one I remembered sitting on during all my visits, except my first one, in which I was placed on the baby weighing scale. ‘How old are you now?’ he asked, writing my name on his prescription pad. ‘21,’ I replied. ‘Ah! It’s been 22 years since I started practising,’ he leaned back smilingly. His chair alone had grown from a similar stool through a plastic chair to now a cushioned swing-chair with leather upholstery. I forgot to mention the ‘Fees Revised’ notice in the waiting room.
Post-pleasantries, the conversation veered towards the well-being of my two cousins, who were both his regular patients, and later to my own history of maladies. ‘You were always a trouble to your mother,’ he concluded with a hearty laugh. ‘Now what?’
Wet nose. Occasional coughs. Afternoon fevers. General tiredness. All for four long days, my mother complained. Pulse was felt, heartbeats were listened to, and a torch was shined into my wide open, tongue-sticking-out mouth. The prescription pad was inked gradually. At last, he asked me to take blood and urine tests in his own lab and get my chest and sinuses X-rayed at a lab near P. S. Senior Secondary School. As mother and I moved out to the adjoining lab, the sharp doorbell sounded again.
I was given an empty little plastic container by a young lady and was shown the toilet at the end. After returning the full container, I was asked to wait for the blood test in a plastic chair beside a Rexine bed. The doctor presented himself after a few minutes with a black Velcro band and an empty syringe. ‘Lean back,’ he said, rubbing my arm with alcohol and tapping it until a thin green wire came into view. Ant bite.
Juicy red blood gushed out as he clinically pulled the piston. ‘You may feel light and drowsy. Lie down if you want to.’
I felt neither light nor drowsy; it was a single cylinder of blood after all. The young lady came to my mother and handed over a piece of paper. With raised eyebrows, mother passed it to me. ₹2500 for lab tests and ₹300 for consultation. I felt I had to lie down on the bed.