Time and the medical student

If Only There Was Time On Time – A walk from the hostel to the OPD

How many times have we lamented the moments of dire lack of time, when we wished for the hands of clock to be generous in returning the precious pearls they ticked away from us?

“Being the students of medicine and inherently poor in the wealth of leisure we can recount many such times when the warrior within us fought the constraints of time and deadlines only to face the sword of deadly examiner. Nevertheless we somehow manage to straighten our feet within the limited expanse of bed sheet of time on a certain night of a semester-exam; surely, we all adapt to this depravity of time. Yet there are days, days of scorching exigency, days of urgency when we find how small is our umbrella of time to save us from the heat of the called moment.” Swami’s mind was struggling to keep him awake with these intriguing, though he tried closing his eyes to escape lethargic afternoon.

It was Saturday, Swami had no classes.  Only a clinical posting of three hours was scheduled for the day. There were enough hours left in the day to be spent as one wanted yet the day seemed so short in the end.

“Is it because one does not need some free hours anytime anywhere stuffed in the entire day but at right times and right places of the day to be meaningful free hours?” thought Swami turning in his bed. Any other day he would have rubbished this thought as inability to creatively craft the leisure but not today.

His mind was still lingering in the morning that elapsed today. He remembered locking his room fifteen minutes before the time required to be in the clinic. Yes, on any other day fifteen minutes were enough to walk through the broken road in front of the college building under the glaring shine of the sun to the OPD. 

He went downstairs to the ground floor and just as on any other day he would have in routine, he started walking towards the corridor leading to the hostel mess through which is the shortcut to the college building. Swami saw two of his friends writing down something standing in the corridor while he  passed them. On covering a third of the corridor he realised he did not have to go to the college today, so the shortcut was not short today and his mind chanced upon the idea to take the road not usually taken- the broken road in front of the college. So he turned back and reached the corridor to reach the hostel main gate. Swami saw same two friends on the way down as well, still standing in the corridor as if the time was rewound and the scenes repeated. As he elated and pleasured on taking the road usually not taken, he fretted for wasting a minute or two.

While Swami sweated walking on the way, a few motorbikes and cars coming from behind passed ahead of him to fall out of sight again. To escape the kindness of sun he took to the middle of road to walk under the shadow of bushes and trees grown at middle of road which divided it into two lanes. The heat of the sun reached crescendo and the shadow did little help which made him wish if a passerby can stop and give him a lift, also helping him make up for the loss of that minute or two. In contrast to this wish he had to rather continuously slow down and stop and stand aside; for the vehicles coming from the front, too passed through the side he was walking. Not that they wanted shade but because that part of road was less broken and jittery. This made Swami curse those not building the road though at the same time he blessed those who took pain to plant the trees and bushes. Amid all this tussle of thoughts, walk and sparse traffic; Swami travelled almost half the road, five to ten steps behind the turn leading to college building, the point where shortcut route became common with the road usually not taken. Swami saw his anatomy professor on her scooty nearing the turn. The students who were already at the turn wished her, whom she took cognizance of with her gleaming smile. Swami wished if he could leap those five to ten steps in one go before he could turn to greet her as well. Her smile worked a cocktail throughout yesteryear which Swami remembered relieved the grim tensions of dissection hall during exam days. But alas, he missed it by a minute or half. No sooner than his grief could express itself at the loss of chance that could have made the day; Swami realized, had that time were not lost in returning the corridor he could have caught the moment. As he saw the trails of tires of her scooty, Swami reflected on the mud with head bowed down in a sense of despair,

“All things happen at their own time in this place, nothing waits for none. Nor does anything speed for anyone. The two boys stood there while I passed and re-passed them, the teacher turned before I reached her. A chicken will hatch at the suitable hour of life, a star will shoot across the sky at a fixed horizon of time and a flower will fall off from the branch at certain golden hour. To be able to catch the flower in the basket of one’s experience or capture the sight of falling star on the retina of one’s memory or record the sound of cracking shell enclosing an about to hop chicken one must be at the right place at right time. One has to fit oneself in an all-scheduled rigidly timed world space to experience the experience of moments!”

Brooding over this ‘came from nowhere’ thought Swami observed himself surpassing a group of girls headed the same place and then another two of his classmates who were slight ahead of the group of girls. Suddenly he found himself walking brisker than others and started enjoying this child-like game of surpassing others while walking. He saw two girls strolling under one umbrella ahead of him. With sweat starting to dribble from tip of nose, he paced faster and as he brushed past them with childish sense of triumph his eyes could see the OPD building. Lines of vehicles were parked on both the side of road. Patients went in and came out. Builders and labours frenzied here and there lifting loads and bricks. Construction vehicles, still on work, harangued the inexplicable dawdling moribund birth of the place expected to be the Camelot for the sick in romancing cure with health but at present seemed to be the castle of a certain folk king which never was completed at the dusk of each passing day though its construction started every next morning. Some timeless life stirs here as well. As every God manages some followers adorning him, so do the ill people as followers in quite a good number, visit this yet to be born temple of life-saviours unaware of the fact that many of their Gods shifted to temples far away.

Absorbed in the scene of OPD building, Swami kept pacing. People went around  him in both directions. Suddenly someone coming from front stopped him. She was an old woman. She was saying something in a very soft voice. Swami was so startled by this uncalled meeting at that moment that he could not concentrate on what the old lady was speaking. He glanced at the lady and found her eyes waiting to be attended to what she said.

Swami with his face perplexed asked, “Sorry, what do you want?”.

“Where is your college building?” asked the lady.

There was an unusual calmness in the voice of woman. Swami was relaxed and relieved finding it to be a left hand task and thankful to be not caught in an uncalled cobweb of circumstantial humanity at eleventh hour.

“Keep walking straight on the road and you will get the turn for our college building.” Swami pointed his fingers in the direction of road. Before he could give a second look to the lady he saw the same two girls under one umbrella whom he left behind surpass him. And slowly did all those people whom he paced ahead. It looked to him as if his clock has stopped and the world around him continues to meet the rhythm of monotonous tick-tick of worldly clock.

“Building you could see there, the white one, is our college,” directed Swami’s hands. On any other day he would have said this much and left. He knew that not much from those fifteen minutes were left but feeling his cogwheels of time paused he gave another look at the lady. She was dressed in a white sari with a greyish border. She had the same shade of gray in her hairs at forehead. There was a pale white cloth bag that hung from her shoulder. There were no ornaments that she wore. Lines of senescence carved out peacefulness on her wrinkled face.

“The lady is not accompanied with any lad to seek admission, nor is she looking of the age to seek any kind of work, why then she wanted to be in college? ” thought Swami thinking the old lady actually would be seeking a doctor for her ailment and would probably be unaware of college and OPD difference.

Without a second thought he queried, “Why are you headed to the college, Amma?”

The old lady stood silent for a while as if her comfort was disrupted. Swami feared if he blundered as many a people do not like to be questioned on the way about the purpose of their journey. To the relief of his ear, “I wanted to fill the form, Body Donation Form” said the old woman in a meek voice. Swami was overwhelmed hearing bold conviction in her meek voice. His heart strings tugged and love-gates flooded open with overpowering stream of affection for the lady. A caricature of similar old lady flashed across his mind which was engraved along with anatomical facts he learned last year, the only difference being coldness and stillness of the woman in flesh and bones who taught her anatomy has presented now as vibrant warmth of love in soul and being. He wished to kiss the lady on her forehead. He hurriedly looked around with rat’s eyes to find someone familiar who could comfortably drop the lady to the college. But he found none. He wished if he could take her in his arms to the building or at least accompany her to the college. He grew desperate and felt helpless because he did not want to miss the moment to comfort her in which he saw a chance of conveying his gratitude but he had to miss, lest his fifteen minutes would breathe their last seconds.

“I do not have time Amma else I myself would have walked with you to the building,” said Swami hinting the bounty of respect and love he had for her noble gesture. By this time Swami had the lady’s hand on his head and she said, “Ah…do not worry, I will walk myself.”

Before he could ask a leave from her, the old lady asked, “Do you study here?” As Swami nodded his head in affirmation, the lady’s hand glided on his cheeks and she patted with a smile.

Late in the afternoon, the same day; lying in his bed unable to catch post lunch siesta Swami caressing his cheeks, the warmth of those fingers still present, thought, “If only he had time then to accompany her.” Time on time is a crave that at times pricks.

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