What surgery? Who's the patient?" asked a thin guy as I entered the room and stood around uncertainly. Several people were seated around a large table in the waiting room, drinking coffee. "I'm waiting for my wife," I said, drawing up a chair. "Heart surgery? Brain tumour?" asked a large lady sitting next to me. "No, no, hysterectomy," I said. "Oh, that's nothing," she said dismissively, "my sister's having open heart surgery." "Hysterectomies are very common," said another woman, adding that her uncle was being operated on to remove a blood clot in his brain. The thin guy said his dad's spine was being operated on. "Stenosis," he explained cryptically, eating dhoklas. "My mother's in for hip replacement," said a fat chap by way of introduction. "My wife too is having her uterus removed," said a chap polishing off idlis. I looked warmly at him across the table, twin souls united by hysterectomy.
But he wasn't the comrade I took him to be. "Fibroids?" he asked. "Yes," I said and found myself bragging they were big ones. The Open Heart lady gave me a withering look. "My wife's fibroids were 6 by 4 centimetres, how big were yours?" asked my hysterectomy friend. I said I wasn't sure. "My wife has nine of them," he informed me next. I said I didn't know how many my spouse had. He looked at me accusingly, as if he knew fully well she merely had a couple of small ones and I was hushing it up. An elderly chap interjected his son had a hernia the size of a cricket ball, adding that would be bigger than my hysterectomy friend's fibroid. I gave him a grateful look.
We then turned to the one person at the table who hadn't opened his mouth so far. "Oh, my son merely broke his leg playing football," he said apologetically. We looked away, sparing him the humiliation and the poor chap slunk away, mortified.
Open Heart then boasted she had hypertension. Blood Clot said she had diabetes. Big Fibroid said it was the lipids that got you. "I have a couple of stents myself," he added smugly. Stenosis said gloomily his dad might have spinal tuberculosis. "As someone said, TB or not TB, that is the question," he laughed sardonically.
Fibroids said a friend had come to the hospital because he was feeling giddy and they put him in the ICU and did a battery of tests. "All he had was gas," said Fibroids indignantly. An Appendectomy who had joined us complained hospitals would do anything for the insurance money. "But their surgery videos are beautiful," said Hip Replacement, explaining that he frequently played his pancreatic surgery video to entertain guests. "It's very colourful," he added. Blood Clot said bitterly her husband always got admitted to a posh hospital while putting her up in the neighbourhood nursing home, where they had no omelettes for breakfast. The Hernia man held her hand sympathetically, looked out at the sea sparkling in the sunshine and said wistfully, "You know, when I have to go, I wish I could go from here."
A deathly silence ensued, broken by the attendant coming in and shouting, "Chaturvedi, your wife's operation is finished. Chaturvedi," he cried, peering at a scrap of paper in his hand, "Or is it Chaudhuri?" "Could it be Chakravarty?" I asked. "Same thing," he said, "you can see the patient now."
Views expressed by the author are personal