Sometimes in certain disorganised offices, documents are misplaced, mixed with related papers, or put in wrong files. Equally, some letters are dispatched to wrong person or address.
Infrequently, in some hospitals, the medicine meant for a particular patient is administered to another. I recall an incident of my cadet days at National Defence Academy, where enema (a fluid injected into the lower bowel by way of the rectum) was administered to a wrong cadet, much against his protests. Then there are cases of mistaken identity that could land a person in police custody, at least for a while.
During my posting at Army War College, Mhow, I had undergone normal yearly medical test and told my orderly to collect the urine-test report from the military hospital. When I got home, I found LOH (lady of the house) crying. She would not tell me the reason for her discomfiture, but every time she focused her sight on me, her crying would become louder. Finally, with tears in her eyes, she pushed forward a piece of paper.
It was the report that the orderly had brought from the hospital laboratory. Our neighbour, a lady doctor, had come over to the house in my absence and my wife had shown her the report. The doctor had told my wife that the case was serious. So now I knew what the crying was about. I looked at the report for a while and started laughing, and that made her cry all the more.
Ours was neither an arranged marriage nor a love marriage, but what you may call an accidental marriage; so she thought she had married a sick man. The practice in military hospitals is that the urine samples are collected in glass beakers and placed on top of papers that have the details of the person concerned. When these samples are transported to the laboratory, unless great care is taken, there is a possibility of some interchanging.
The day I submitted my urine sample for test, there were a few pregnant women around, who had also given their urine samples for analysis. Evidently, there had been some mix-up, and a pregnant woman’s report had been marked on the paper with my details.
Since I knew the state of my health quite well; and now that I had discovered the cause of my wife’s grieving, I couldn’t hold the laughter. It took much cajoling and assuring the LOH before she cooled down and believed me that my health was fine, and that my report had been swapped with that of a woman who had been expecting.
(The writer is a former army officer based in Chandigarh)