"Sweet are the uses of adversity which like the toad - ugly and venomous, wears yet a jewel on its head"
My lacklustre performance at the Final MBBS examination came as a gray episode in my otherwise unblemished academic career. But using it as a stepping stone, I resolved to be more committed and launched into my internship with gusto! I breezed through surgery, learning the essentials of suturing and dressing of wounds with ease.After surgery came PSM-rural posting Palghar; and here is where our little story begins.....
Palghar is a sleepy village about 25 km north of Virar in the Thane district. I mentioned the word sleepy because if you venture out after 8pm in the night-the entire village would be deserted.
On my first day as I alighted from the Ferozpur Janata Express, I took my first full deep breath of fresh, cool, unpolluted air. It felt like the first few drops of sweet rain on a parched desert land! Fortified, I purposefully strode through the tiny but busy market and within minutes reached an old building which read - 'Rural Health Centre, Palghar'.
Our duties at the center were divided into
a) Subcentre and b) Maternity.
Subcentre consisted of :
1. A weekly ANC opd at Palghar
2. A number of visits to various subcentres in the surrounding region to see ANC as well as General patients during the week.
I particularly remember my visit to a village called Kharekhuran. It was my first trip there and I was to reach at 2pm along with my co-intern Vishal who was staying at the hostel.However due to the low frequency of trains, I reached Palghar station at 2.30pm.
Assuming that Vishal had gone ahead, I looked around for a'Tum-tum". Finding it,I managed to squeeze in along with 10 other villagers and over 3 dozen fish (no kidding!) and crabs. By the way,a 'Tum-tum" is the local name for an eight-seater autorickshaw which is the main mode of transport around Palghar.
After a bumpy ride,which tested the integrity of each one of my 206 bones, I reached Kharekhuran at about 3.30pm. As I entered the small cattle shed which also doubled as a subcentre; I was amazed to see around 35-40 pregnant women seated quietly in a line.
"There you are!", thundered a voice, "Is this the time to come?These people are waiting since two hours!" I turned to see Sister Joshi's otherwise kindly face take on an angry colour which I judged to be either reddish-brown or crimson! (sorry, I didnt give my elementary drawing exam at school. Colours always confuse me.)
I almost opened my mouth to back-answer her when my eyes fell upon a little boy holding his cheek and crying bitterly. Wordlessly, I went up to him,elicited a quick history using my charm (usually works with children and fails with girls!) and prescribed voveron and Septran (only 7-8 drugs are available). I also wrote a reference to the Palghar Dental OPD to take appropriate measures.
I then moved into the adjoining room and meticulously examined all ANC patients -counselling them as well as clearing their doubts. I was able to diagnose a number of cases with anaemia and a PIH. I then came across a patient complaining of pain in abdomen whom I found to have a transverse lie. I then dispatched her urgently under the care of Vishal (who had arrived finally) to the maternity centre at Palghar.
Then I saw all the general patients prescribing from whatever meagre resources at my disposal. At the end of 2 hours, my job was done.
As I made to leave,Sister Joshi said, "Doctor, I am sorry for my outburst.But even last week no one had turned up. The ladies here are very poor. They cannot afford to go to private doctors. They are totally dependent on you."
The next week,I reached Kharekhuran exactly at 2pm. As I entered the village, there were shouts of "Doctorsaheb aale, Doctorsaheb aale" (Doctor has come). I was taken aback as two men and three women,one of them carrying a baby in her arms fell at my feet.
"What is all this?" I demanded.
One of the men was an old bent man of about eighty-frail with shivering hands. He gave me a broad toothless smile and his eyes glistened with tears.
"I have become a grandfather saheb," he said "Now I can die happily".
Baffled,I looked around and saw the woman holding the baby. She was Savita,the patient whom I had urgently sent to Palghar for a Transverse Lie.
"She had previously 3 miscarriages Sir," said the village headman.
"Yes saheb", the old man said , "because of you ,our baby was saved. You are no ordinary mortal!"
"But all I did was to examine her and use my knowledge!" I exclaimed, moved.
The man held my hands in his coarse palms and said, "Saheb,we are farmers.With these hands we work and toil and only then grow food to sustain life."
"But your hands are special! With just a touch ,you could give life to my grandson. These hands are a part of your body but they do not belong to you!"
And then in a loud voice he proclaimed to an entire village:
"BEHOLD!THESE ARE THE HANDS OF GOD! "
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