A doctor is an apparent God or at least next to him—say so my friends with confidence. Friends can neither think wrong nor can they tell lie, I took for granted. This was why I was scared of facing a doctor.
One day I felt somewhat suffocating. It was my nose that was choking. This may be due to cold and Mother Nature would heal it in due course—I thought and ignored it for many days. The difficulty worsened day by day. My friends could not tolerate my difficulty so they advised me to consult a doctor. The very idea of going to a doctor was more painful than the disease itself. I persuaded my friends not to lay emphasis to show me to a doctor. The more I tried to persuade them, the more they insisted on it.
After all, I had to give in to them. They took me to an ENT specialist doctor. He caught hold of my nose. Moved it up and down with his thumb and forefinger. Inserted some long, thin and oblique instruments in it, perhaps to detect as to what actually had occurred to it. Had it been other occasion, I would have taken the doctor to task for playing with my nose. But thinking that it was not a right occasion to do so, I consoled myself and acquiesced in.
The specialist doctor who was also a surgeon, thought for some moments and at last declared, “Your nose-bone has increased.” Listening this, my happiness knew no bounds. ‘Oh, my nose is increasing. Isn’t it a matter of grace! How honourable will I be in my society now—a man with an increased nose!” I thought and was very much pleased. I would certainly rise for a dance, had the surgeon not interrupted by announcing his verdict.
“The nose will have to be operated upon to remove the increased bone,” said he seriously.
I fell from the sky to the ground. Oh God, now I’ll have to cut off my nose! My anxiety and perplexity was writ large on my face.
“There is nothing to be afraid of. We are not going to cut off your nose. We will just remove the increased bone. Then you will be able to breathe normally. For this, you will have to be admitted into this hospital. After 3 days of operation you will be discharged and you can go home,” the surgeon took note of my anxiety and comforted me.
Indecisively, I came out of his room and sat on a bench. My friends left me to my fate. Then the surgeon’s peon came to me and whispered into my ear, “Saab, do you want to do your work immediately?”
“What do you mean?” I asked surprisingly.
“Give one thousand Rupees and the surgeon will operate your nose without delay,” he paused for a while, winked at me and continued, “You will get all medicines from the hospital and you will have no problem.”
I was filled with anger. I wanted to scold him. Anyhow I subdued my anger and kept quiet. Before I could give him a befitting reply, I saw something written in large black and bold letters on the wall in front of my nose. Out of sheer curiosity, I followed my nose to read it. ‘Giving and taking bribe is an illegal offence’ was written on it.
This paradox of double standard of actions and words infuriated me further. How people control their anger in such situation, or whether they read this sentence or not, or whether after reading this, they pretend as if they had not read it at all—I did not know. With great difficulty I could pacify my anger. Then I myself was surprised how I did it!
Trying to be polite, I drew the attention of the peon to the sentence. He smiled and replied promptly, “Arey Saab, what do you think? Am I asking for bribe from you? No, no, never. I pull my ears for this. We want your convenience and for this we are demanding some ‘dakshina’ (offering). Even the Almighty God does not hear your prayers without dakshina. You and we are human beings and not God. This too is a hospital and not a temple. Whey don’t you think that by parting with a meager amount of one thousand Rupees, how big facility will you get.”
‘What a convincing logic he had put forth. I was speechless at his response. Had he been in the legal profession, he would have proven to be a top lawyer. It is useless to argue with him.’—I thought. For a little while I pondered over the matter and decided firmly that I would not give any bribe. When I communicated my decision to the peon, he smiled obliquely and shrugged his shoulders.
I came home and narrated the story of my nose to my family members. My wife kept a mysterious quiet. But my widowed buwaji (parental aunt) who lived with us, looked at my nose sympathetically and asked me inquiringly, “Hey Ram, then, you will cut your nose?”
“Not me, the doctor, buwaji,” I said with a chuckle.
“Doesn’t matter, who cuts it. But your nose will be cut,” said buwaji.
I tried to persuade buwaji that only the increased bone will be removed and my nose will be at its place but buwaji would not listen. She continued, “I say we cannot completely trust doctors. Once they put their instrument on your body, then the Almighty is the savior of your body!”
After great persuasion buwaji agreed with me for the operation of my nose.
Next day, on Wednesday, I was admitted to the hospital. Thursday, the following day, was the day for operation of my nose. My blood was got examined. I could not make out the connection between the examination and the nose. After the examination I was handed over a long list of medicines which according to the surgeon was necessary for operation and was not available in the hospital. My friend Mahendra went to buy it from a nearby chemist. He came back first with the medicines and then with a cash memo.
The day passed by in asking about the welfare of my nose by my relatives and friends. They left me with their best wishes in the evening. At last my wife left for home after I took my evening meal.
I was alone on my bed. The bedsheet seemed to have not been changed for days. It was smelling foul. The hospital ward was very dirty. I diverted my attention from this. What should I do? I had nothing to do. ‘Oh I can think now.’ I felt proud of me because I had time to think. Otherwise people like me are so busy with their livelihood that they hardly have any time to think.
Before I could think on what I should think, I watched four big rats roaming about here and there in the ward. I drew the attention of my neighbouring patient to the fact. He said with merriment, “Arey Bhai Sa’b, you are afraid only of the sight of these rats. Good God, you were not in that hospital where a rat had masticated the fingers of a girl patient! You are lucky not be in another hospital where a wandering dog had bitten off a leg of an unconscious patient. Be happy that you are in this hospital where rats are causing no harm.”
He stared at me ant said, “Haven’t you seen rats before?”
“But what are the rats doing in this hospital. Are they too sick?” I asked with grouch.
“Is it only your prerogative to be sick? It seems you’ve never been to a hospital,” he replied. He was right. I wondered how did he know that I had never been to a hospital. I did not ask him any further question.
From the talks of my neighbouring patient and the ward boy, I concluded that there was nothing to worry about and it was not necessary to think about those rats.
I kept on watching the rats with renewed interest. But meanwhile I felt six-seven injection-like pricks at my body. Curiously, I watched those parts of my body to find that there were bugs voluntarily donating my blood to their bodies.
I filled with pride to be born in a country where even those little creatures of God were taking full liberty of our Independence. I did not interfere with their freedom and remained calm on the bed. It was a golden opportunity for a voluntary blood donation. I was happy that this was a charitable deed and it would earn me a good name for the next world. I spent that night changing my sides.
Next day, I got up early in the morning and anxiously waited for my operation. Some of my relatives and friends were strolling in front of the Operation Theatre out of anxiety. They seemed to be worry about the wellbeing of my nose. We all waited for my turn but that day I could not get my nose operated. At 2.00 PM the surgeon came out of the Operation Theatre. He was ‘sorry’, as he said, for having not operated my nose due to large number of patients. With a hopeful and fine assurance to operate it on the next coming Thursday, he hurried to the gallery and disappeared. From nowhere entered his peon, looked at my nose with a satanic smile and pursued the surgeon.
I came home with my friends and relatives and waited for the next Thursday. I was admitted to the hospital on the next Wednesday. After passing a memorable night, I waited for my operation on Thursday. To my disappointment I was not called for the operation that day too. At about 3.00 PM the surgeon came out of the Operation Theatre and expressed his surprise to find me in front of him. “Are, you are here. Sorry. Really sorry. Wait for 2-3 days, I will try to operate it, out-of-turn.” He tried to assure me and went to his room. My relatives and friends advised me to keep patience and left the hospital.
For me there was no hope of out-of-turn operation. There was no question of it, either. When the surgeon had not done it at my turn, why would he do it out-of-turn. It was just a false promise, I thought. I was perturbed by my nose. ‘I would have not seen this day, had there not been this nose. This mere two inch long part of my body had put me to this great inconvenience. Nothing could be done. What cannot be cured must be endured’—I thought and consoled myself.
‘No, no. This is not the case with my nose, it can easily be cured and there is nothing to be endured. It is mere a matter of one thousand Rupees. Just give it to the surgeon and see the result. All the inconvenience and problems will disappear. Had I given this amount to the surgeon earlier, my relatives, friends and I would have not suffered. I can suffer because the nose is mine. But why should other? Only because of the fact that they are my relatives and friends? I will give one thousand Rupees to the surgeon and put an end to all problems.’ I thought and almost made up my mind to give the money.
‘You will give bribe,’ suddenly someone interrupted me. I looked around. No one was there. I attentively listened to the voice. It was coming from within me.
‘You thought yourself to be a man of principles. What became of those, Hypocrite,’ continued the voice.
I was scared. It is the only thing I am scared of. Whenever I wanted to be ‘practical’ on the advice of my well-wishers, this voice came into my way.
My nose had created a problem for me. I was going to solve this problem with a ‘practical’ approach but the voice hade meddled in. Should I act according to this voice or follow a practical path—I was indecisive for a couple of hours. At last, as usual, I had to surrender to this voice. ‘I will not give a single Paisa to anyone even if I have to remain in this hospital for a month’—I decided firmly.
I laid on the hospital bed and passed my time by reading newspapers and magazines. I was not in a hurry. I knew nothing was going to happen that day.
Next day, I was 8.00 O’clock in the morning. I was turning the pages of a newspaper. Just then I was called to the Operation Theatre. It was unexpected for me. I was the first patient of the day to be operated by the surgeon. The surgeon looked cheerful. He was talking very politely. He performed the operation with great care and during the operation asked me if I felt any pain. I repented why I had formed an otherwise opinion about him. He was so nice that he kept his words to operate my nose out of turn.
After the operation, they ward boy and the staff behaved very politely. The surgeon asked about the progress of my nose, daily.
In three days, I was to be discharged from the hospital. I got myself discharged a little earlier to reach home before my family members’ arrival there. Before leaving, I heartily thanked the surgeon and his staff for their services and good behavior. I had to pay nothing for the operation so it was a victory of my principles, I thought.
I hired an auto-rickshaw and got down quite before my house. From there I walked slowly and entered into my room silently. My family members were planning to go the hospital to take me to home. They were surprised to see me. They welcomed me like a soldier who had just returned home after winning a battle at the frontier. One of our elderly neighbours, whom we called chachaji out or respect, was very happy to see my nose safe.
Buwaji touched my nose and moved it left and right to ensure whether it was at its place. It was—she found, which gave her a visible relief.
Since then three years passed by and I forgot all about my nose.
Last month, I again felt difficulty in breathing and found that my nose was again choking. Buwaji is no more in this world and chachaji has left the neighbourhood, so I told my wife about the problem of my nose.
“It appears the nose is again demanding two thousand Rupees,” she said smilingly.
“What do you mean? What for?” I enquired.
“For the surgeon,” she replied.
“But I will not give a single Paisa to anyone for my nose. I have never given it before nor will I give it in future,” I said boldly.
“What if you won’t give! I will give, as I have given earlier,” She informed.
“What,” I cried.
“Yes,” she said calmly.
“When, to whom and how many,” I asked with a blitz.
“At the time of the operation of your nose, to the surgeon and two thousand Rupees. Had we waited for your turn, we would not have got your nose operated before one month. It was chachaji who managed all that. This was why the surgeon did your operation out of turn.’ She disclosed in a breath.
“You wasted two thousand Rupees and did not let me know about it before. Why didn’t you?” I asked with a shrill voice.
“Because chachaji had told me not to do so,” she replied calmly.
I felt as if my nose was not at its place. It had been ‘cut off’ literally by the surgeon and figuratively by chachaji and my wife. It was a matter of great shame for me. I could not muster up sufficient courage to show my face to the world. For many days I remained indoors.
I am still to make up my mind whether to visit the surgeon or not.