POSTED 05/04/2018 12:09
Throughout medical school I have come to respect the saying "the early bird gets the worm". Classes used to start at 8 am. We used to rush from one lecture theatre to another, be on time otherwise the good front seats would be gone. We were a good lot of 150 students, the mere getting in and out of class used to take 10 minutes. And if you wanted to dissect a cadaver (dead body) in the anatomy dissection hall, be there 5 minutes early or else all you get is a sneak peak from the back while standing on a high chair.
So the day when I first started my services as a government doctor I was really and totally in time. Although I had travelled 60kms from the city to this small village-town, by 10 a.m sharp I stood in front of a closed door upon which was written "The Office of Leprosy Unit, West Bengal, India”. I stared at the lock and then looked up at the board, yes I was at the correct place. The post was for an administrative medical officer who had to look after all the leprosy patients in the surrounding 3 villages, maintain their records, pay home visits, arrange for hospitalization, supply them medicines and also help them in rehabilitation.
After 5 minutes of introspection as to what I was getting into, I started circling the area. The office was a separate part of another bigger house which in itself was dilapidated. Dense shrubs and weeds had grown all around. Nearby was a small clearing wherein I finally stopped. Standing there in the soft warm October sun I was just anticipating my next move when a woman came out from the main house with a cow in tow. She tied the cow in the clearing all the while giving me a good head to toe look. After a long inspection, she finally spoke.
"Ahh... so you are the new doctor of leprosy. The office will open at 12 noon, you have come too early" Then she pointed to the bigger house and said, "That is my house, please come and sit.”
She took me to her house and offered me a cup of tea. True to her words at the stroke of 12 a wheezing sneezing old man came and opened the locked door. He was the office peon, nearing retirement.
For the next 5 months that I was posted there before being transferred elsewhere, the time of opening the office did not change it was unethically opened at 12 noon every day and I was punctually early every day. It had become a daily ritual of waiting at the neighbour’s house, having a cup of tea and then waiting for the peon. How much so ever I tried he would not give me the keys. He was saying things like, duplicate is lost or... the wind will blow away important papers... and many other irrelevant things.
Alas! I was the unfortunate early bird.
On days that my tea neighbour went someplace on vacation, she would sincerely give my custody to someone else. It so happened that day I was waiting for the peon under a shady tree near the office, absorbing the sounds and sights of the village town, listening to the chirping birds and mowing cows, feeling the wind and sun on my face when a small boy appeared from nowhere
"Come aunty to our house" he said and took me to his house and there his mother welcomed me with a cup of steaming hot tea.
Everyone in the locality knew about this early bird I guessed. So... the early bird did get its worm after all... in the form of a cup of steaming hot tea.
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