Revisiting My 1981 Diary

Revisiting My 1981 Diary

In my previous blogs I had mentioned about my pursuit for the fellowship in Surgery. Those days to get FRCS, one had to get first Primary FRCS and then Final FRCS. Primary FRCS consisted of theory examination and viva voce in Anatomy and Physiology. I realised that doing short jobs would hinder focussing on the examination. Therefore I decided to devote whole time in preparing for the primary FRCS examination.  

Whilst working in urology at St.Woollos hospital, Newport, Wales, I struggled to get an accommodation in the vicinity of the hospital. Those days, my financial situation was not brilliant, and my wife and daughter were in India. However, I managed to buy a used Ford Escort car, which was very useful in moving around in Newport. Unlike this century, there was no mobile phones or internet searching facilities in 1981. I had to depend on feeding coin operated public phone for booking accommodation. I managed to book in a budget bedsit close to the university.  

On a fine  morning in the early winter, I set out on my long journey to Scotland with my personal effects in the car boot. Unlike the historic  Edinburgh city, which  I had visited in October 1979 for PLAB examination, Glasgow was found to be more run down. In Glasgow city centre, I needed to stop a few times and asked pedestrians how to get to my destination. Since Scottish people have an accent, and they do not speak Queens English, I had difficulty in understanding them. However, I managed to reach the bedsit, but the office of the receptionist was in another block. I went there and got the key to my room after paying deposit and advance rent.  

 I returned to the block of my room and to my disgust I sensed a stench of wet carpet in the process of drying. There were four rooms with one bath room and toilet which looked unhygienic. My room was facing the high street with a bay window, which was not double glazed. I felt uneasy with the drought coming from the window and the room required heating with a coin operated electric fire. Luckily I had some coins to operate the electric fire, since I felt miserably cold I needed to wear my thick winter coat in bed to sleep. Next morning I noticed punk like, weird looking people emerging from rooms. I was not sure whether they were drug addicts as Scotland ranked the top of the world’s drug addiction league. 

When I went to the university, I met a few of Indian doctors in the lecture hall. Some of them were well versed with the Glasgow way of life, as they were regulars in writing primary FRCS examination. One of them was Dr.Setty, originally from Karnataka, India, who warmly welcomed me to the hotel where he stayed. Rosslyn Private Hotel was situated in the row of two storey terraced houses in Rosslyn Terrace. There was a narrow park with benches between north and south rows of terraced houses. The road had plenty of parking with wide cobble stone pavement.  I liked the locality and the set up of the Rosslyn Private Hotel. The landlady introduced herself as Rosslyn and mentioned that her late husband named the hotel after her. She was in her seventies, wearing thick glasses for impaired vision and walked slowly dragging her feet. I asked her to get me the cheapest room for a few weeks.  While handing over the key she formally told that breakfast would be served between 7am and 8 am only and she would ring a bell for the same. She also briefed other in-house by-laws, including the heating time. 

 I liked her straightforward  approach, which helped me to build a good lodger-land lady relationship. I met Dr.Setty, who was working at Burton on Trent hospital in Ophthalmology, Dr.Sivaraman, Associate Professor  in Urology, Chennai Medical College, and Khamer from Bhopal Medical College, India in TV guests room on the second floor. Unlike me all of them were with post graduate degrees in their respective field. In the common room, we used to have hot debate on current British and Indian politics. In the evening we watch TV. There were two other older guys living in Rosslyn Private hotel as guests. Rosslyn had asked us not to disturb other guests or shout at each other.

blog-1640171006RCPSG.Lower_.Library (1).jpg

 Dr.Setty geared himself to appear like a detective character by growing  goatee and keeping a smoking pipe in the mouth all the time. If these were not enough, he was  wearing a three piece suit  with a golden chain attached to a pocket watch, and wearing a Jackson-James village hat. I noticed receding hairline on Setty's head on removing the hat. Yes he was a character, imposing his  views on others! As mentioned earlier, I was reluctant on indulging in everyday Indian curry in view of sharing the expensive bills and tips. But he used to persuade us, telling "we got only one life in the world and therefore must celebrate every day". Those days (1981), he was taking metronidale for a certain condition, and he invented its rejuvenating effect on sexual function like current days phosphodiesterase blockers (PDE5). Even he asked us to experiment on it and he contacted the medical representatives to dispatch him with free samples.  

Dr.Sivaraman was an amicable personality, like me he was not working and therefore he  would support me in avoiding expensive daily treats and extravaganza. But there was no dearth in his boasting, telling us that his uncle was the home minister in M.G.Ramachandran's Tamil Nadu Government, and about his challenging urology career in Chennai Medical College General Hospital. He claimed he was a Brahmin  vegetarian, but I noticed him eating sausage and bacon rashes at breakfast. Once, Rosslyn brought a wrapped packet to examine its content as she thought it was a ritual medicine of Dr.Sivaraman who wore Brahmin’s holy thread. In fact it was me, who put chillies powder to flavour bacon rashes and beans. I had placed the packet on the window seal for the ease of usage since the breakfast food was very bland. Rosslyn used to call Dr. Sivaraman as 'Siva', and she corrected his pronunciation of university!  

On the other hand, Dr.Khamer looked tough, and talked loud like an acclaimed politician.  He was having some difficulty in hearing and sometimes he would reply inappropriately. I was told he was the son of a renowned high court judge in Bhopal. Like Dr.Setty, he too had dress sense and always wore a waist coat. However, being a northerner, he was not having any usual sneaking contempt for South Indians. Like Setty he was working in the NHS hospitals, and was driving a grey Audi car. Prior to returning to Blackburn, he checked the windscreen wiper fluid by opening the bonnet. Suddenly a heavy blustery wind, violently opened the bonnet, hitting the windscreen and shattering it. Luckily Dr.Khamer was unhurt but he was stunned. He postponed his journey and changed the windscreen, calling AA. He used to smoke cigarettes, but always he would tell " 20 cigarettes in 20 years means carcinoma of lung" as if to deter himself from the evil habit! 

 Those days primary FRCS examinations were conducted in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin Royal colleges of surgeons.  Nowadays the authorities conduct the FRCS examinations in most countries worldwide. To facilitate candidates to appear all or some of the centres, examination dates were kept different. Usually examinations which consist of written and after a gap of 10 days there would be an oral. Once a particular day’'s oral was finished, the registrar of RCPS, Glasgow, would call all the candidates and hand over each an envelope, if it would be thick and heavy the recipient would go out with a heavy heart, as it contained the application form for the next examination. Everyone in the waiting room could reckon who got through by checking the size of the envelope and alarmingly only 8-10% were successful each time. Sadly none of us in Rosslyn Private Hotel did not get a light envelope in 1981 November primary FRCS examination.  

I felt crestfallen when I reached the hotel, and there was no consolation that others too were unsuccessful. Unlike Setty and Khamer, I did not have a job to  hang on, and an abode to live in. One by one every one left the hotel, which made me even more isolated and sombre. I took these sacrifices were a small price to pay for  getting the fellowship. In my next blog, I shall enlighten with readers how I got on with my ambition.

Share On

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.

Related Post

Comment Form