My Life As a Medical Student

My Life As a Medical Student

 In my earlier blogs I mentioned about my going to Davangere, 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 have 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 have to go to his shop at Mandipet to collect the amount in cash. I have to adjust all expenses within that amount during 1967 to 1971 period. 


As written before, a good percentage of medical students in a 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 became 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 are 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  those bitter anecdotes helped to accommodate my tough life in 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. J J M 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 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. Jojo was another character, who never attended theory classes and dissected in the anatomy theatre. Many years after my leaving India, I heard, Jojo dropped out and was running students mess. Those days 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.   

That was the time, I was studying, Anatomy together with other basic subjects. Anatomy theatre was located about 250 yards away from where we lived. Next to our hired house was the house of Dr.Sheriff, the Anatomy professor, who was a nightmare for students. On our first day in anatomy theatre, nearly 90% of the fresh batch students including me, were sent out because we did not take metal measuring tape! While dissecting cadaver, he used to come from behind and asked students to identify structures like muscles, nerves, ligaments, foramina in skull and arteries. If one failed to answer, his usual comment would be, I quote “you will not pass anatomy as long as the department exists”. If someone did not dissect properly or respectfully, the professor would mock him or her saying “Will you do it to your father's body?”. Most days, I have noticed lady students in tears in front of the cadaver, due to insults like above or even worse. To make life easier in the anatomy theatre, we had helpful lecturers, and three attendants. These attendants would help to circulate items such as bones, dissection textbooks, dissection instruments and metal tape which were a must to enter in the anatomy theatre. These attendants used to visit us in our residence, and we tipped them for their extra duty services. One day one of the attendants informed us that his mate, Kotrappa aged around 25 years 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.  As the living expenses started escalating, I left the private accommodation and moved into the college hostel.

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From time to time there were strikes and boycott of class or tests, to protest suspension of students or to reduce college fees. Suspension was for students fighting each other, or damaging college properties or involving in police case. This sort of behaviour was expected as a good part of  students were not there to study medicine. In view of the frequent strikes, once I defied the ranks and attended a lecture. Next day, to my distress, I noticed that the tyres of my bike were punctured by certain 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. Ramesh from Palghat was in deep love with Sansy from Malaysia, whose parents were originally from Mavelikkara, Kerala. Ramesh used to ride a Rajdoot motorcycle accompanied by the pillion rider Sansy. His romance and and his extravaganzas were envied by others. One of those days, 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 at Davanagere, my father was struggling to run the 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 was an ideal place to start a 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 Chitradurga district police head quarters 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 (Innocent) the younger brother of Sensilu, arrived at Davanagere from Madras (then) suffering from typhoid. I contacted the associate professor of Medicine Dr. Dhananjaya Murthy. Innochan was admitted in a pay ward and got well after two weeks. Although Innochan suffered enough in Madras seeking roles in Malayalam cinema, still he wanted to go back there, without any money for subsistence. But Sensilu insisted him in helping them, as Innochan was very good at grinding the chemicals in the match factory. Innochan was my contemporary, and was also good at entertaining others. He used to make others happy by telling humerous tall tales such as about famous actor Prem Nazir, meeting my father in a flight from Cochin to Madras. 

Later, Innochan became a partner of the business which the business ran profitably for two years. As Sensilu got visa for America, he left and settled at Clearwater, Florida, US. Further to that my brother got officer’s post in South Indian Bank at Chittor, Kerala, India. Prior to that I passed my final MBBS examinations, and started my House surgeon post in Jubilee Mission Hospital, Thrissur, Kerala. Unfortunately, Innochan has not had any business acumen, and 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  a match factory business. In 1974, when I went 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 had left the previous residence to a smaller one. Both of us spent two nights on mats on the ground outside the dilapedated house sharing miserable experience. 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. Later Innochan returned to Madras and that return was indeed a leap into the world of fame.  

My experiences as a medical student was unique and definitely it was 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 outlook of life and taught me to be less sentimental and more pragmatic on my approach. 

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Dr. C.J.George FRCS

This blog is about my experience as a doctor working in various countries in different clinical set up. This experience spans through 45 years, in which I acquired a lot of favourable contacts and unfavourable encounters. I shall dig deep into them and make it interesting to the readers. Unlike others in the profession, I worked as a community medical officer in a remote areas, prison medical officer, benefit service medical officer, in cardiac surgery in prestigious institutions and as a private doctor. I was managing my own businesses, and real estate in three continents. I hope the information I impart will be valuable to the like minded readers.

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