Ups And Downs Of My Medical Student Life


India doctor to dissect his father's body - BBC News

Ups And Downs Of My Medical Student  Life  



      In my earlier blogs I mentioned about my going to Davanagere, Karnataka state, India to study medicine. That was the first time I left my home, living alone and looking after my affairs my own.  I cannot present the incidents or experiences in a light hearted way, because doing so will be less factual.The life in Davangere was not a bed of roses, as I had to face problems one after another. Moreover, my father was only sending Indian Rupees 150 per month through his business partner, Shetty, and every month ritually I had to go to his shop at Mandipet to collect the amount in cash.I had  to adjust all expenses within that amount during 1967 to 1971 period. As written before, a good percentage of medical students in capitation fee paying medical colleges are not there for studying, but to satisfy the ego of their parents, who brag about their sons or daughters were budding doctors. Medical profession is reckoned to be respectful and unemployment proof. It is considered to be in a higher strata of the society.  The above were the reasons why most medical students chose this route. But some filthy rich medical students were there for fun and sadistic pleasure at the expense of others. Those days, I was also perturbed by the lack of infrastructure of the medical college in its infancy period, and social and cultural gap between Davanagere and Thrissur, Kerala, India. I shall portray my life in Davanagere and describe how shaping of events helped to rescue my tough life in  the later years.


 I left my first accommodation, in P J Extension, and I joined a group of medical students who hired a newly constructed house close to the medical college. One of the lodgers was Jason, who was very keen on body building and got the title of Mr.JJM Medical College on the college day. But He had strange mannerisms, and used to wear only white clothes and white shoes like present day singers! His peculiar gimmicks to attract the opposite sex were legendary. Once he presented a big transparent jar full of roundworms in the pathology department, and boasted that those roundworms were all from his intestine. Those seven of us who lived with him, astonishingly did not notice him procuring those roundworms. However, he was a subject to ridicule on that count for many weeks.We had a servant from Kerala, called Kochappettan who used to cook delicious Kerala dishes for us. I noticed him coughing and spitting sputum frequently . One day he coughed out blood, and was taken to hospital, and the doctors diagnosed pulmonary tuberculosis. Within a few days, he was sent back to his home address in Kerala. As the living expenses started escalating, I left the private accommodation and moved into the college hostel.


That was the time, I was studying, anatomy together with other basic subjects. Anatomy theatre was located about 300 yards away from the college hostel.  Dr.Sheriff,  professor and the head of anatomy department, was a retired professor from Bangalore Medical College, who was a nightmare for students. On our first day, nearly 80% of the fresh batch students including me, were sent out because we did not take metal measuring tape! While dissecting cadaver, he will come from behind and ask students to identify structures like muscles, nerves, ligaments, foramina in skull and arteries. If one fails to answer, he will grind his teeth, and make a characteristic hissing noise. His usual comment would be, I quote “you will not pass anatomy as long as the department exists”. If someone does not dissect properly or respectfully, the professor will mock him or her saying “is it your relatives body?”. Most days, I have noticed lady students in tears in front of the dead body due to insults like the above or even worse. Fortunately, our juniors  did not have to endure this kind of teaching as Dr. Sheriff  suffered a heart attack and succumbed to it. In the anatomy theatre, we had helpful lecturers, and three attendants. These attendants will help to circulate items such as bones, dissection textbooks,dissection instruments and metal tape which are a must to enter in the anatomy theatre. These attendants used to visit us in the hostel, and sell processed human bones to us for studying. One day one of the attendants informed us that his mate, Kotrappa was admitted in the general hospital due to tetanus. After a few days, sadly we heard that he passed away, and there were rumours that his body was taken into the anatomy theatre.


From time to time there will be strike,procession and boycott of classes  to protest suspension of students or to reduce college fees.Suspension is for students fighting each other, or damaging college properties,or involving in police case. This sort of behaviour was expected as a section of the students were not there for completing the course. They terrorise other hard working students so that they obey the orders of the culprits. In view of the frequent strikes, once I defied the ranks and attended a lecture. Next day, to my distress, I noticed that both tyres of my bike were punctured by these miscreants. There was no point in complaining to the hostel warden, as the warden was afraid of those thugs. That was how the network of villains in the JJM Medical College behaved those days. Like in any other colleges, our college too had our share of Romeos and Juliets. Sumesh from Palghat was in deep love with Sansy from Malaysia, whose parents were originally from Mavelikkara, Kerala. Sumesh  used to ride a Rajdoot motorcycle accompanied by the pillion rider Sansy. His romance and and his extravaganzas were envied by others. One Day, we heard a sad news that Sansy was killed in a road traffic accident. This happened when Sansy, the pillion rider was thrown off when the motor bike went over a hump, and the approaching truck from the opposite direction ran over her body. The next day, the college atmosphere was sombre, and students were seen wearing black ribbons attached to their shirts or saris. The dead body was taken to Mavelikkara in the college bus for funeral and a lot of students accompanied the dead body.


During the later years of my medical course in Davanagere, my father was struggling to run his wholesale grocery business and eventually he wound up the business at Cochin. At that point, I applied for loan scholarship, and Canara bank awarded me the same, which enabled me to pull through with the medical course. My immediate younger brother and my cousin Sensilu who had experience in running match factory, thought Davanagere is an ideal place to start a safety match factory and borrowed fund to set it up. That was a godsend at the time of my financial hardship.I arranged guest accommodation for them in the college hostel, and they hired a match factory premises in Shamannur village. Within weeks, they got all required licenses to run a match factory and recruited employees. I went to Chitradurga district police and deputy commissioner's offices to get the permit for potassium chlorate which was a scarce but indispensable ingredient in making matchstick head. Meanwhile I moved out of the hostel to live with my brother and Sensilu in a housing colony next to the college hostel. They started making match boxes which moved well in Chitradurga district. After a few months, Innochan the younger brother of Sensilu, arrived in Davanagere from Madras (then) suffering from typhoid. I contacted the professor of Medicine Dr. Maheswarappa and Innochan was admitted in a pay ward and got well after a few weeks. Although Innochan suffered enough in Madras due to the approach of Malayalam cinema industry, he still wanted to go back there, having no money for subsistence. But Sensilu insisted that he help them, as Innochan was good at grinding the chemicals in the match factory,.  Previously he was doing the same in other match factories. Innochan was my contemporary, and gave me very good company those difficult times. Later years he has shown how good he was in entertaining others and making others happy. I shared his colourful life in Madras as production executive mingling with top Malayalam and Tamil artists. He was also known for telling tall tales about famous actors like Prem Nazir, meeting my father in a flight from Cochin to Madras. Later, Innochan became a partner of the business which ran profitably for two years, until Sensilu left for Clearwater, Florida, US, and my brother got a post in South Indian Bank at Chittoor, Kerala. Prior to that I passed my final MBBS examinations, and started my house surgeon post in Jubilee Mission Hospital, Thrissur, Kerala. Unfortunately, Innochan did not have any business acumen, and was not good at arithmetics. Also he was not disciplined enough to get up early, organise, pay employees promptly and order chemicals or other ingredients when necessary which were essential for the running of a match factory business. In 1974, when I went to Mysore (then) to collect my MBBS degree certificate from University of Mysore, I visited Davanagere for the last time. I spent two days with Innochen, by then he moved from the previous residence to a smaller one and I noticed debtors were harassing him all the time. Since then I heard that he closed down the match factory business, and went back to his native place at Irinjalakuda and got married.


    I have tried to describe the above in a chronological order.My experiences as a medical student will be unique and definitely it is a departure from the normally accepted experiences of a conventional medical student. This enabled me to socially interact with others, to persevere and to get things done eventually. Also these events and experiences shaped my character,outlook of life and taught me to be less sentimental and more pragmatic in my approach.



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