We entered through the glass door and, with some help, found ourselves in familiar corridors. First stop was the MRI unit where Vaishali had spent a considerable part of her training, and had done her thesis work on MRCP, Magnetic Resonance Cholangio Pancreaticography or imaging of the biliary tract using MRI. We especially wanted to meet Rachel, the MRI technician there who had been close to Vaishali during her residency days, and had always got rum cake for us during Christmas.
Vaishali led the way, asking her way around, meeting old acquaintances, making new ones, and then, finally, we met Rachel. She seemed pretty much the same as we remembered her, except maybe she had gained a little weight, and had more than a handful of grey hair. The smile, as well as the genuine affection she exuded was still the same though. Vaishali chatted with Rachel for some time, exchanged numbers, clicked photos, and then we were on our way to meet Ashish Verma, Vaishali’s contemporary during her training period, and a faculty in the department of Radiodiagnosis now. Rachel had requested a resident doctor to guide us to the faculty rooms so that we did not lose our way; it had, after all, been a long time!
Once more we found ourselves in the same narrow corridors where we had spent innumerable days, and evenings, and mornings, attending to patients, doing rounds, rushing through emergencies. The false ceiling, the painted lines on the floor, the hum of the HVAC, the dark rooms, and the milling crowd of the patients……it was still the same. An eerie feeling of déjà vu overtook me as I explained the colour coded lines to the children, and how they could be used by the patients to find their way around in the hospital.
Ashish welcomed us warmly as we entered his room; Vaishali, myself, and the kids. Couples of minutes later Vaishali requested to be excused since the formal function of the reunion was just about to start. Ashish deputed another resident to see us out, but not before giving us a tour of the department. I was getting jittery now, and kept looking at my watch; we were getting late.
The resident took us around the department quickly; not much had changed – the USG room, the IVP room, the Fluoro room, the CT console……minor alterations apart, the structure had stayed more or less the same. An air of quiet agelessness hung about the department.
‘Will you be able to find your way back Madam?’, the resident asked Vaishali.
‘I think so,’ Vaishali replied, looking at me knowingly.
I winked at her, smiling impishly, ‘Yes, I think we can find our way around.’
And then she was gone, the resident, and we were alone again, the two us, our children, and our memories……
I paused for a moment, thinking, looking beyond the walls of the department, imagining with my mind the corridors that lay beyond, the narrow path that led to the OPD, the surgery OPD on the ground floor, on the left side, and the Cardiac Surgery OPD on the first floor, accessed through the staircase on the right side of the OPD complex. The set of two rooms where I sat with Prof T K Lahiri, or Lahiri Dada as everyone knew him, the crazy genius who was also my supervisor, my mentor, my role model for life, and the sole reason why my private practice never took off. Yes, Lahiri Dada instilled in me all the wrong qualities, truthfulness, brazen truthfulness, nothing but truthfulness, arrogant confidence in my knowledge and capabilities, dogged insistence on what is right and what is wrong, refusing to listen to the patient, a firm belief that I know what is the best for my patient, and the patient knows it too……..yes, I was doomed to failure the moment I met him……
To be continued……….
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