Most of my friends have asked me this question one time or the other:
“Why a doctor? I mean, doctors are supposed to be dignified, charming, erudite and sober.”
Now I for one believe myself to be the embodiment of all these virtues (and a considerable number of more), but as this question reflects, most of my friends do not concur to this belief. Furthermore, I have been unable to discover another person in my near or remotest acquaintances who would look at the matter as I do (though with water being found on the moon and Himesh Reshmiya deciding to dedicate his nasal passages to the sole purpose of breathing, my faith in miracles has been restored).
So to set all speculation aside, I have decided to dedicate this post to answering this question.
Some years ago when with considerable difficulty I had managed to wrestle down the monster of the twelfth board exam to the mat, and had barely had time to wipe the sweat off my brow, my father accosted me with the following question:
“Now that your schooling is over, what career have you decided to pursue?”
In my formative years as a pre-teen, I had given considerable thought to this question of my career and had had several agonizing moments between deciding to be ‘The Hooded Ghost’ and devoting my life to battle nocturnal crime, or to be “The Flaming Avenger’ and carry out the task in the full glare of the sun. With time however, the realization had dawned upon me that it wasn’t too easy to learn to fly (gravity having an especial fondness for me) and also that no amount of exercise was likely to shape my squishy biceps into molded granite, qualities without which superheroes would find it difficult to discharge their professional duties. Besides, I instinctively felt that my mother would not take very kindly to my wearing my VIP frenchie brief over my trousers – which sartorial peculiarity, as we all know, is the sine qua non of superheroes. So I had let this question of my career drop, and had in fact entirely forgotten about it, until my father had unearthed the ghost that day.
But having had the question put to me so bluntly, I dug deep into my sleepy mind, and after considerable rumination, was forced to confess that having been pre-occupied with weightier matters like the meaning of life and the essential purpose of man, not to mention the ongoing cricket series between India and Australia, I had failed to find sufficient time to think about such mundane matters as a career.
“In short dad,” I concluded, “I don’t have a clue. But give me some time – a couple of years perhaps – and I assure you that I will be able to satisfy your curiosity on the matter.”
My dad gave me the sort of look that a Thompson gazelle observes in the eyes of a tiger when they make each others’ acquaintance for the first, and possibly the last time. Then he called me a donkey. Then remembering the essentially industrious nature of the animal and not wishing to bestow unearned praise on his son, he amended his description of me to a fool. Satisfied with the expression, he expressed himself further:
“Now look here boy; I’m not like many other fathers who impose their will upon their offspring. No, no, I believe that a young man should have full liberty in choosing his own career. So the decision of what profession you want to pursue in your life is entirely up to you – you can be either a doctor or an engineer.”
I found myself unable to be overwhelmed by this paternal generosity, and opined that if the matter was indeed in my hand, I would like to pursue the career of a journalist and a free-lance writer, especially as the inability to bowl a leg break rendered me incapable of pursuing the career of a professional leg spin bowler (I could bowl a fairly good googly, but a spinner who only bowls googlies has a way of becoming too predictable).
At that, he imitated the tiger yet again and declared that his concept of free choice for his son did not extend to squandering his hard-earned money on mere idleness, and have his son die a mendicant in the bargain.
Over the next few days he kept buzzing about my ears, holding daily heart to heart conferences with me, impressing on me the pros and cons of each of the career options available to me, the gist of his arguments being:
“Medicine is a noble profession certainly, but you also got to consider that a doctor has to go through several years of study before he can be qualified enough to start his practice, while an engineer has to go through only four years of college and then he can start earning his living and be self-sufficient.”
Now autarky was not very high on my list of priorities in life, and since I firmly believed at that time that life after college was merely whiling away the time till death, the extended college life of the medical student seemed to me to be the USP of the medical profession. Besides, I reflected, even medical colleges would not be entirely bereft of cricket. So finally relenting to the parent’s constant badgering, I declared that I would choose the lesser of the two evils and be a doctor.
Father, who believed in pinching his pennies (and periodically, pieces of my flesh), and reflecting on the long years he had committed himself to support his son, was perhaps inclined to regret his liberal attitude in allowing me the choice of career. Equating the thing with spilt milk however, he proceeded to procure for me the tomes and guidebooks prescribed for the medical entrance, and for the next few months undertook to be my gratuitous sentinel, keeping me firmly – and often painfully (using the pinching proclivities I have referred to earlier) – on the path of industry. In the end I just about managed to scrape through to the finishing line in a photo finish sort of thing, and for a brief period in my life gave my father reason to be proud of me.
A few weeks later a group of doctors examined my eyesight, and demanding that I undress, probed and prodded me thoroughly, and after expressing a highly suspicious interest in my private anatomy, pronounced me fit for the pursuit of medicine.
And thus was I unleashed upon the world and started my journey on the road which Hippocrates had traveled before me.