Happy Jolly Medicos: My Ajmer Days
by -Dr S G Kabra
The longest span, 15 years, of my teaching carrier, from 1967 to 1982, was at Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College, Ajmer. I taught the basic subject of Human Anatomy that imparted a detailed knowledge of the complex construction of human body; the knowledge that a future physician was required to acquire before he/she could be initiated in all the other subjects. The subject of Anatomy is very vast and essentially factual. A new entrant, as he dissects the human body, has to learn thousands of new names and terms. Besides, he has to acquire an audio-visual memory of the location, shape and size of each minute part of the human body and their interrelation to each other. A student, therefore, has to devote maximum time to this subject; two hours daily, for one and half years, face to face with a dead body and a teacher. No wonder medical students remember their Anatomy teachers so well. The intimate contact enables the teacher also to remember each and every student by face, name, personal identity and his/her behaviour; the studious and the naughty ones, top the list. A student’s absence from the dissection table is quickly noted and he is required to explain his absence, when he turns up next. This personal attention creates a lasting bond. It is further strengthened by the extracurricular activity in which the basic subject teachers willingly participate, tournaments, sports and picnics. Who can control the boisterous boys and girls, freed of classroom discipline, better than an Anatomy teacher. The informal contact between the boys and girls and teachers, on such occasions, is a cherished interlude from the otherwise drudgery of medical studies.
But the class and the college picnics are official, requiring permission, collection of money and making arrangements etc. I tried a novel monthly outing for the students of first and second year, and the families of teaching staff in Anatomy. For this informal outing, last Sunday of the month was fixed. Whoever wished to go for the outing had to assemble in the college porch. Everyone would bring his tiffin and water bottle with him, and wear canvas shoes. We would go collectively walking to the selected picnic spot. It had to be within 5-7 kilometers from the college, Taragadh, Foy Sagar, Panch Kund etc. How many of the staff members and the students came was immaterial. However, it was well attended, on average 50 in all. It was real fun. Boys and girls in lead. Talking, joking, teasing singing, stopping at dhabas and khomchas and intermittently shouting, ‘Happy Jolly Medicos’ to make their identity felt. On way to Taragadh, chat, kachoris and pakodi; at Foy Sagar, fresh gajar, muli and kakdi from the field. The best part of the picnic was the collective khana. All the tiffins were opened and the contents shared. Everyone was free to pick and eat whatever smelled or looked tasty. Staff members used to bring extra eatables. Various achars – nimboo, aam, kair, gonda, mirch, alu ke parathe, besan ki puri and mathari, brought by the staff members’ families were the favorite items to ‘loot’. Oh! What a sight it used to be. Even, bread slices and omelet or boiled eggs brought by the hostlers would be consumed in no time. My children still remember ‘Rathi Bhaiya, Mishra Bhaiya, Dhamija Didi’ and others with whom they walked or were carried by. Those old boys and girls also remember the kids, and ask, “How are Bhanu, Ranu and Shanu?”, even though the kids are now all grown up and parents themselves.
In my department there were three junior demonstrators; fresh graduates pursuing their MS General Surgery degree, they were required to help students in dissection. On completion of thesis work, they were preparing their dissertations. For approval, they presented it to their guides. Thesis of one boy was not approved by the guide on the ground that the references and citations were inadequate. The final date for submission was a fortnight ahead. The boy was depressed. How would he do it? The college library did not have the required medical journals. No guidance was available from the guide who was an old school surgeon and not an academician. His colleague told him, “Don’t worry. Sab hojayga. Citation hi to karne hai, kar de ge, will do it.” And he did it. The thesis was approved. How he did it was a mystery. When asked about it he would smile and say, ‘Hard work sir!, hard and intelligent.’ In this context, one day he asked me to come to his presentation in the surgery department meet. It was a fluent presentation with liberal citations. He handled the queries of senior surgeons confidently. Usual applaud at the end.
I congratulated him. He accepted it with a mischievous smile and asked me to accompany him to his home for a glass of beer. There, after taking a promise from me that I shall not disclose it to anyone, he said, “Even you missed it. Remember my citing, amongst others, the work of Col. C.Hutia and Brig. B.Hen C. Hod. I still was at a loss. The he took out a piece paper and wrote it down the names without full stops. As it registered with me, he said, “Who cares?”. To be able to check the authenticity of references and citation one requires hard work and scholarship. Do they have time for it? High sounding foreign names are enough to fool them. Of course these names were not used in the thesis citations; they were just to demonstrate to you. Things are now totally changed. One could not be this foolhardy now.
Medical College Boys Hostel. Sunday evening around 5 PM. Senior boys were addressed as ‘Boss’ by juniors. Senior-most amongst them, especially the ‘Dadas’, held tremendous clout in the hostel. No junior would dare disobey the ‘order’ of a Senior Boss. The Boss called out some juniors and commanded, “Collect all the boys. We are going for a cup of coffee. Tell them I want them to come immediately. I am waiting for them in the porch.” Then he came out of his room and yelled an order.
When everyone collected in the porch he addressed and briefed them. He named the posh restaurant of the city and said they were all going there for a cup of coffee. Told them to occupy tables and order a cup of coffee. No table should remain unoccupied. Coffee is to be sipped slowly and leisurely. If finished order another cup. No one will leave till he (The Boss) ‘pays’ the bill and asks them to vacate the tables.
Sunday evening. City’s most popular restaurant. All tables occupied by boisterous boys. Customers came, waited for some time and left. The entire staff including the chefs, having nothing to do, assembled at the counter. The manager came. He recognized the ‘boss’. The other day he (the Boss) had come to the restaurant with his lady friend. There were some dispute and altercation. The manager was rough, and recognizing him as a medical student, he even rang up the principal of the college to complain. The boy then paid the bill and left with his friend. When the manager now approached him, he said, “Hello, manager sahib Namste!.Your coffee is very good. I told them of my experience and here they are. Nothing like a leisurely cup or two of coffee on a Sunday evening”, and addressing the crowd asked, “How is the coffee Medicos?”
“Jolly good!”, was the response in unison.
With a broad grin on his face, he reverted back to the manager, “Don’t worry. Send the bill to me, I will pay, they are all my guest”, and after a pause added, “You can invite the Principal Saheb. It will be my pleasure.”
The poor manager!. All the restaurant staff standing idle and customers waiting restlessly. He apologized with folded hands. The boys shouted ‘Happy Jolly Medicos!’ and left.
The last time I met this ‘boss’ was in the Midway restaurant on way to Delhi. He was working as a professor in AIIMS.
Another episode that I can recall is from Resident doctors’ hostel. A junior resident requested his senior, “Boss! How about a party today”. The ‘boss’ after contemplating the implications, agreed and commanded, “Yes. Sure.Go get that lakdi ki taal vale timber merchant..” The taal wala came. The boss showed him the huge dried tree standing naked in the compound and asked, “Cut and take it. How much worth is the wood?” He settled it for Rs.2000 and paid the cash. He came with his assistants, cut and carried away two cart loads of the logs. Some one informed the municipal officer. The officer asserted that it was a ‘sarkari’ property. The boss, feigning ignorance, said, “is it?” and then commanded the taal wala to quit and shove off. The taal wala alluded to the money he had paid. The ‘boss’, “Sale, panch hazar ki lakdi do hazar me le jana chahata tha. Us se jyada ki to tu legaya. Now run away or you would lose what you have already collected.” Then to the officer, “We had sent you a letter about this tree. It has been standing here for years. Dried branches fall off. Who will be responsible if the whole tree comes down on the hostel? Better get the rest of the tree removed or it would not be good for you.” There was a party in the hostel mess that evening.