True istory it is!

I was at the doctor’s for my monthly check-up – nothing to worry about, just some good old regular thyroid trouble that is well under control and I will soon be off medication. I don’t even think about it until it’s that time of the month again – to visit the doc.

It was around 6:40 p.m., and I had just finished making some chai for my mother and was about to get back to work when I remembered I had a doctor’s appointment. “Argh! I thought to myself. Why can’t my doctor and I have this conversation telepathically and be done with it?” I just didn’t feel like getting out but had to.

I reached the clinic at my usual 7:15 and made my way through the crowd to the ever so busy & uptight receptionist. My doctor hadn’t arrived. “Eh! I can wait.”

The clinic is a multi-specialist one, with four rooms where some of Delhi’s well-known specialists see their patients on a twice or thrice a week basis. The place usually works like well-oiled machinery. Obviously, they charge you for being ‘smooth operators’. What was I doing at such a place? Well, I was getting my treatment done, free of cost. The thyroid specialist whom I see at the clinic is one of my closest friend’s father. So, I have it easy.

And ergo, I didn’t mind waiting for him. I usually just have to wait for about 5 minutes before I get a chance to see Gary’s dad, and I usually pass that time by checking my email or browsing the internet on my phone. On this day, I did the same. But how long can you do that on the phone? Apparently not very long! Moreover, I could feel an intrusion – by the person sitting right next to me. He seemed keenly interested in my inbox, so I quickly shut it off, got a little more comfortable, and tried to zone out. Of course, my neighbour didn’t like the idea.

“Myself Mr. Bhatia” he said.
I smiled and nodded without making eye contact. Somehow, I knew that, that would be a fatal mistake. Or maybe it didn’t matter whether or not I made eye contact. Mr. Bhatia meant business; he wanted to make some conversation. Period.

“Which doctor you are here to see” he asked most curiously.
“Um the thy … Um a hormones doctor” I said, assuming that a big word like thyroid would bring a volley of questions my way. Maybe I shouldn’t have made that assumption …
“Achha, achha. That problem you are having” he said, vigorously wiggling his head. “My wife also once had, same problem. I took her to … you know Batra hospital?”
“Yes, I do” I complied.
“Haan, so there, there is one doctor called … well if she is still alive that is. Then, she is called Dr. Hingorani” he said.
“Oh Ok” I said, curbing the urge to laugh.
“So, you go check, if she is still alive, Dr. Hingorani huh, and then you take treatment from her. Ok” he dictated.
“Um I am very happy with my doctor here” I said.
“Oho, these doctors, they know nothing. See he is late today, and making you wait. He must be late every time. I know. Plus, he doesn’t know his job” he said.
“Um, this doctor is my friend’s father and he is very well known in Delhi” I was on the defence now.
“Tut. He doesn’t know anything. Go to Dr. Hingorani, ok. You haven’t written the name down, you will forget it. Write it somewhere – Dr. Hing”
“orani. I will remember. Don’t worry” I tried to placate him.
“Yeeeess, Dr. Hingorani” he said, beaming.
My brain was about to self-destruct, but Mr. Bhatia continued the onslaught.

“You see, I got married in ’83 and for 2 years we, my wife and I, were not having children you see. That was a problem. So, I took her to Dr. Hingorani. Dr. Hingorani is one of those doctors who is like a mechanic … samjhe ke nahin? Matlab she can degnose (diagnose) the disease, just like some mechanics can degnose the problem with scooters and cars. And you know, she degnoses and then compojej (composes) her own medicine. You know, some doctors can do that”
“Really” I said, feigning intrigue. Err! Wrong thing to say.

“Yes, yes, they can compoje and you can go to chemist and say please make compojed medicine. And the chemist will give you. And this medicine is so much better than ready-made medicine, you know. You should try it. You have been taking this doctors medicine for so long, it hasn’t helped, haina?”
“It has helped actually” why are you even bothering, my brain said to me.
“No, no it doesn’t help. You know it is like compojing your own atta. My wife and I, we get our atta, pissa hua atta latte hain hum, you know. We use that to make dough. Then you can make pooris on slow fire with this atta, and the pooris survive for much longer than pooris made from normal atta you see”
I nodded but my brain was saying ‘I will slap you if you nod at him again’

“Same pooris … once I was in train, with wife and son. We were going to lucknow. We met these two men, they were hungry. We offered them our pooris. They asked us if the pooris had gone bad. We told them sawaal hee nahin paida hota. We have made them in special way. Then they enjoyed also.”
I was eyeing the exit greedily by now.

“So you get compojed medicine ok, you will be fine. And try to make pooris also, the way I told you, they will be good”
I nodded again and my brain sighed and said ‘stupid body’

“You know this is how people should meet, make friends. At the doctor’s clinic, waiting for doctor. In India, people don’t do that, people are very busy with themselves. In forin countries, they do this. They meet at doctor’s, talk, give each other phone numbers. After that if they meet on road, they remember each other, help each other. Hamare yahan, they see you outside doctor’s clinic, they don’t recognize you. Aap mat bhool jaana, theek hai. Yaad rakhna, Bhatia ji mile the”
“Jee Bhatia jee” is he trying to hit on me, I wondered. Brrr!

“Acha hormones kee problem theek ho jayegi aapki, aap chinta na karma, theek hai. Yaad hai na, Dr. …?” he wanted to check if I remembered the name.
“Hingorani. Haanji” I said.
He seemed pleased that I did. “Haan sahi hai.” He stopped to take a breather.

Just when I thought that he couldn’t churn out any more nonsense he asked “So, what you do?”
I usually find that a disconcerting question since I never have a tangible answer. I cleared my throat, tried to concentrate and said “Um, I write …”
“What” he spat.
“Um, small books for children” I said unsurely.

He was quite for a bit. Deep in concentration, I think he was trying to come up with an intelligent thing to say to someone who wrote small books for children.
“You know publishers are there. They can print your books and give them to you,” he said.
I knew it!
“I do work for some publishers” I said and smiled.
“Achha” he said and looked away trying to come up with something else.
“Aur bhaisaab kya karte hain?” he turned quickly and asked.
“Kaun bhaisaab?” I looked at him concerned.
“Tut arre bhaisaaaaab!” he said, a bit exasperated.
It took me a few seconds to realize that he was talking about my non-existent husband.
“Um bhaisaab nahin hain Bhatia jee. Meri shaadi nahin hui” I informed him.
“Acha” he said surprised.

Now, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got up, walked up to the receptionist and enquired if Gary’s dad was arriving anytime soon. She told me he was stuck in traffic, and would take another half an hour to reach.

I cursed the traffic, turned around and made a beeline for the exit. I literally ran to my car, and sped off as fast as I could. Once in the car I laughed until my eyes watered and my stomach hurt. After I’d split my sides laughing, I thought about what Bhatia Ji must have made of our conversation – an unmarried girl going to a hormones ka doctor, which to him meant – a fertility specialist or some such thing.

I drove around for the next half hour and only entered the clinic once I saw Gary’s dad’s car parked outside it.

Mr. Bhatia couldn’t still be there, I thought to myself as I stepped out of my car.

Oh! But he could, and he was. 

I averted my gaze, and went straight to the receptionist. Of course, I was going to have to wait. I placed myself delicately on a miniscule stool lying right next to her desk, as if the desk was a shield.

No, it wasn’t!
Even if it was, it wasn’t strong enough for Mr. Bhatia. Although he clearly seemed to have found his next victim, (what was he still doing at the clinic?) I saw him leave the victim alone to make his way towards me.

“Phone number nahin diya maine pehle hain. Likh lo” he ordered.
No, this wasn’t actually happening! I still took my phone out and pretended I was typing the number.
“Hain, Mr. Bhatia kar ke store kar lena. Aur na mujhe meesed call de do. Mere pass aapka number aa jayega”
“Haan haan, mein phone karoongi” I said, wiggling my head and keeping my phone back in my trouser pocket. ‘Thank the lord’ said my brain. “Acha mera number aa gaya haan” I said and dashed into my doctor’s room, who fortunately didn’t ask me to wait outside even though he was attending to another patient.



pinki and friend ...