I remember the day when I first entered the portals of a medical college, all aquiver with excitement! Some day I was going to actually be a doctor. The feeling was indescribable. The years rolled by. How thrilling it was to pass the final M.B.B.S examination and to be eligible to be called a doctor at last! To do the ward rounds, like any houseman, to examine outpatients, to look like a doctor and actually be one! It is only after a few weeks that it slowly begins to dawn on one that one's knowledge of practical medicine is pathetically little! Nothing can be more deflating!

As a houseman, one's immediate superior is the Registrar, about two or three years senior. He is the guide, adviser and inspiration to the new recruit to the profession. I had a Registrar, let us call him J, who was quite a nice fellow and was very helpful besides. His only shortcoming was an overarching ego. He would tell us house men how he handled the big boss, diagnosed difficult cases and how, grateful patients gave him frequent gifts etc. It was enough to turn anyone green with envy.

One Out-Patients Day, we were sitting at adjacent tables examining the large number of patients. One of them made his way to the Registrar's table carrying a large gunny bag. This he deposited on the Registrar's table and proceeded to take out a 5 kg Dalda tin from it. Watching it, J got quite excited. He threw a meaningful glance at me as if to say: "See what the patient has brought for me! An entire 5-kg Dalda tin!" But aloud he told the patient: "Why did you take the trouble to bring this for me? You really shouldn't have!" To which the patient replied: "Doctor saab, this is the stools you asked me to bring for examination. I have brought eight days' collection!”. Saying that the man proceeded to open the lid. The stink was terrible and I had to hold my nose! Poor J. His face fell. Not a word more was said. J went ahead with his job as I with mine and it was only during lunch time that I and my colleagues had a great time ribbing him! Like Queen Victoria, J was not amused!

J sobered down after that for a few days, but not for long, though. It would have been out of character for him to stay quiet.

We had a colourful Chief with an outstanding sense of humour. When he had an interesting case on hand at the OPD, he would ask any of the students at hand to examine the patient. As was his wont, on one occasion he asked one of the smarties among us to auscultate a patient’s heart which the latter did with his stethoscope.

Motilal" said the Chief, addressing the student, "what do you hear?"

"A murmur, sir" said Motilal. "What murmur is it, Motilal?" Motilal had heard of a rare murmur known as the Austin Flint Murmur. Motilal decided that he would show off his knowledge before his classmates.

"Sir" he said with the air of one knowing what he was saying, it is Austin Flint murmur!"

Now this is one murmur which is not easy to diagnose at the under graduate level. I could see the Chief getting visibly annoyed. But he managed to keep his cool. He summoned Motilal to come close to him and then, putting an arm on his shoulder, said: "Motilal, you are learning self-control!” We barely managed to suppress our laughter. Motilal was 'Austin Flint' for us hence forth!

Compilation of professional reminiscences of specialists - edited by M.V.Kamath and Dr.Rekha Karmarkar