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Dr. Sanju's Clinic

Dr. Sanju's Clinic

(A short story by Vaman Acharya)

1

A little while ago at 1 pm., Dr. Sanju's clinic, Raghavpur town was full of patients now looking empty. Dr. Sanjeev, popularly known as Sanju treats a large number of patients everyday. He was about to leave, his medical assistant Raju stopped a group of patients at the entrance for not registering their names. Sanju was annoyed by the disturbance. He was surprised to see everyone who was very close to him. Tears rolled down his eyes and he prostrated old man Shivanand Sahukar and shook hands with others. The memories of about three decades ago flashed to his mind.

Sanju's father Maruti was a poor farmer who worked in the fields of Sahukar for more than fifty years in Ramohalli, fifteen kilometres away from Raghavpur. Sanju was happy to meet his childhood friends. Raghu, Suri, Ranganath, Ramesh and Suresh. It was a happy moment for friends meeting in one place.

Sanju as a boy had wonderful knowledge in household work and understanding the delicate issues. Keeping in view of his fathers faithful service and Sanju's extraordinary knowledge as a kid, Shivanand helped him to continue his education at Raghavpur and Bengaluru. Sanju was a brilliant student right from school to medical college and completed M D in general medicine. He opened a clinic at Raghavpur.

In the beginning, his practice was dull. Third year the practice was picked up and became a leading medical practitioner in the town. He stopped to remember when Raju told everything was ready.

All the patients were examined and medicines were given. They were feeling better. Shivanand was too happy and said,

"Sanju, can you fulfil my long cherished wish?"

"Sir, What I am today, it is because of you. You are my friend, philosopher and guide. May I know your wish?"

" I think you have earned a lot of money during twenty years of medical practice. Now is the right time to serve the poor in the village. Open your clinic at Ramohalli village and dedicate the rest of your life for the noble cause. It is my wish."

Sanju was in a dilemma whether to oblige the mentor or avoid giving reasons. He had earned name, fame and wealth. Seeing his face in deep thinking, Shivanand said,

"Sanju, I am not forcing you to fulfil my wish. If it is not worthwhile, leave it."

"Sir, I am lucky to have the opportunity to serve the poor. I need time to decide.

"Sanju, you are right. Inform me whenever you make a final decision."

While saying bye to Shivanand and friends, he was in a serious mood.

Three months passed. Sanju decided to go ahead. He opened 'Sanjeevini Clinic' in Ramohalli on an auspicious day.

2

On one winter morning at 8 am,

a group of patients gathered outside Dr. Sanju's clinic in Ramohalli village. The patients start conversations over who should get to meet the doctor first. It was Sunday and most had errands to run back home to spend time with their families.

While everyone was in a hurry, they however made exceptions for the elderly and the infirm and a patient in obvious physical distress, and women with families to care for, allowing them ahead of the rest.

A light cold breeze had begun blowing across the street. The gathering of patients outside the clinic huddled closer for warmth, patiently awaiting Dr. Sanju to make his appearance. It was already an hour late.

"Maybe the doctor had to attend to some patient," a middle-aged woman, a retired school teacher, said to her fellow patient. However not everyone was in a charitable mood. Some could barely hide their displeasure at the delay in opening of the clinic.

Raju the doctor's assistant finally turned up to open the clinic, quickening his steps upon seeing the large number of patients and bracing for the angry outbursts from the waiting patients. He opened the shutters and requested everybody to occupy the seats.

Raju made a call to the doctor to alert him to the large number of agitated patients, their patience running thin from waiting over an hour to be seen by the doctor who was nowhere to be found.

Soon after, Dr. Sanju, a man pushing fifty, reached his clinic, muttering apologies to the gathered patients. He calls for the list of patients that Raju had registered for him.

A quick glance at the list and the doctor calls the patients one by one as per the list. The checkup of all the patients was over in three hours. It was time to close the clinic. Raju was about to close the main door, Sanju saw an old man sitting and shivering outside in the corner shouting for help as he was suffering unbearable pain. The patient had undergone thorough checkup and treatment given. He was slowly recovering. A boy in severe pain, his right hand hanging limply from a makeshift sling around his neck. He was close to tears from the pain.

After examining him, Dr. Sanju told the youth to wait. Raju called the second patient from the copy of the list he had shared with the doctor.


Dr. Sanju, aware that patients were angry from waiting long, went an extra mile in putting them at ease as they walked in one by one, asking after their day cheerfully. He knew most of them by first name having spent his childhood days in the village.


Ramohalli is a small farming village by the Cauvery river and Dr. Sanju's ancestors hailed from the village.


Dr. Sanju serves the village he had fond memories of from the vacations he spent in his grandfather's house that sat by a betelnut farm. Each morning he looked forward to serving villagers as if it was his first morning of practice.


No sooner had Dr. Sanju got ready to receive his first patient of the day, Raju stepped into the waiting room and cleared his throat before announcing the first patient off the list.


"Yellappa Hadimani."


Yellappa, a seventy five year old farm labourer of Ramohalli village stepped into the doctor's room and proceeded to lie down on the examination table.

"Yellappa even at this age your heart and bones are holding up well. You are doing alright except for the elbow which should improve after you apply the oil I give you."

Doctor helps him to his feet and leads him to the chair.

Doctor opens the medicine cabinet behind him and plucks a small bottle containing oil used for relieving joint pain and places it before yellappa.

"Apply this oil to your elbow twice a day for a week and come and see me again."

Yellappa collects the bottle of oil and places it carefully in a hand held box he had carried along with him.

Then Yellappa reaches for his pouch, tucked into his dhoti at the waist, loosening it before counting the money, all the coins, seventeen rupees in all. Doctor patiently watches on. Yellapa extracts all the coins and places it on the table in front of the doctor and says "doctor I only have this much at the moment. I will pay the remaining thirteen rupees on the next visit. Doctor looks at Yellappa in a kindly way before extending his hand towards him before saying "No, you please keep the money."

Yellappa folds his hand in gratitude towards the doctor and his face softens into a smile of relief as he gets up from his chair and leaves the room.

Growing up Dr. Sanju used to tag along with Yellappa as he herded the cows to the river to bathe them every alternate morning. Dr. Sanju as a young boy liked to help Yellappa in bathing cows and also play in the river under his watchful eyes. Those early mornings were some of Dr. Sanju's memorable times of his vacations spent in the village.

Raju calls the next patient, Deshmukh, a well known landlord and merchant who owned two shops in the village. Deshmukh was suffering from an upset stomach. Dr. Sanju prescribes medicines to Deshmukh after completing his examination. After paying rupees one hundred as doctor's fee Deshmukh takes leave of the doctor and leaves the room.

"Namakara doctor. How are you doing?"

Doctor looks up on hearing the cheery greetings and recognises Shivamma, a middle-aged widow with three sons to look after, making a meagre living selling milk, ghee and butter from her three cows on loan. Oflate Shivamna had a severe headache.

"Is your younger son troubling you?"

"No, no, no. He is barely at home to trouble me. He is mostly out playing with his friends."

Shivamma collects the medicines the doctor gives her and offers the doctor a small pot of butter in exchange.

"What have you brought in this pot Shivamma," Doctor asked

"Fresh butter that I made only this morning. It will go well with the jowar roti that you like so much."

Smiling, Dr. Sanju accepts Shivammma's offering and says, "This is a lot of butter for someone who is trying to lose weight."

To which Shivamma says, "What is life without some tasty butter." as she gathers her bag and leaves.

Doctor Sanju looks at the butter and smiles to himself. Over the years Dr. Sanju had grown accustomed to villagers offering all kinds of things in gratitude for looking after their health. Knowing that many villagers lacked the means to pay fees, Dr. Sanju had left it to the villagers to decide what, if any, they decided what constitutes a fair payment. Often Dr. Sanju took no payment at all. Over the hour waiting patients walked into the examining room one by one, and were looked at by Dr. Sanju, exchanged familiar banter, collected their prescriptions or medicines, paid what they could or could not at all, and walked out already feeling better from having met their favourite doctor who the village had adopted as their own son after Dr. Sanju having completed his

M D in general medicine chose to forsake a lucrative medical career in the city to come and serve the villagers of Ramohalli.

Doctor opens the drawer and collects earnings for the day before counting them. Raju is sitting on a stool by the door.

"177 rupees total," declares Dr Sanju.

It is nearing three in the afternoon, time to close the clinic for the day.


The doctor points to the day's earnings and tells Raju to deposit it in the Gramen bank.


"If everyone were to pay the fees the daily collections would be at least four times more," said Raju.

Doctor looks at Raju's disappointed face before letting out a smile.

"We live in a difficult world. People in rural areas have a hard time making ends meet. Their earnings have not kept up with rising prices."

Raju listens quietly as the doctor continues.

"Some of my fondest memories growing up are from Ramohalli. The kindness the villagers showed me, accommodating me in their life and happily sharing their time, food and goodwill with me made for a memorable time that I always remember."

"Everyone remembers how Nanjappa had jumped into the village well to save you after you had confidently dived into the well thinking you could swim,"

said Raju.


"Ah, yes," Doctor explains.

"I remember it very well," he says.

"After jumping in and sinking in the dark water I had begun to panic, shouting as I surfaced. Probably that is when Nanjappa heard me and jumped in to pull me to safety."


"As a doctor I have to serve humanity, and put people before profit. I want to see the people of Ramohalli be healthy and live long. Payment of fees should not become a barrier to seeking medical help for those who cannot afford the fees. "

Raju nodded in understanding. This is not the first time the doctor had told him this.

There were three house calls to attend before Dr. Sanju could finally call it a day.