Serendipity and after/58

a novel about publishing of a novel

The session has begun. The first candidate gets in, and comes back with an ear-to-ear smile. He has got his choice discipline. Then the other candidates enter one by one as they are called out by names and return, some with cloud over their face.

I hear my name being called. A friend pats me on the back.

I scan the inside of the room as I stand before the committee. The high-profile professors are in their seats with varied expressions on their face. Except Dr Bagchi, every one seems inimical to me. Most of them know me more as a medical reporter of a Bengali daily than as a student. Some of them, our principal included, have run into trouble because of my reporting.

I find Dr Mukherjee checking my marks sheet and other papers very minutely.

“So your first choice is psychiatry?” He looks at me somewhat derisively through his glasses.

“Yes, sir.”

“Why don’t you join my department — forensic medicine?”

“I would not like to.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t use my stetho on a dead person.”

He gets furious and sits up in his seat. “Do you see he’s insulting me and my forensic medicine?” he addresses the professors and seeks their approval.

Dr Dawn and Dr Samanta agrees with him, and the others nod their heads in his support. Except Dr Bagchi who looks a bit fidgety with his right hand moving over the chin.

Dr P K Mukherjee blurts out, “Why don’t you join surgery? We’re always short of house surgeons.”

“Yes, it’s a good option for you,” the principal looks at me with a revengeful look.

“I’m not interested in surgery.”

“But why?”

“I don’t want to increase the mortality rate of surgery patients.”

Dr Paul of Dermatology breakes into a noisy laughter. The principal casts a stern look at him. The others look graver and a bit comical too.

“But I’m not giving you psychiatry,” he finally declares and leans back on his swivel chair.

An eerie silence descends now. The judgement is delivered and I feel like being thrown in hot water. Is it a Kangaroo court?

Dr Bagchi now clears his throat. “May I know why he would not be given psychiatry?” he addresses the principal staring in his face.

The principal gets unsettled in an instant at this question. He gets back to his straight position, but puts on a smart face, “The psychiatry department is a gossip center, you know,” he puts forward his argument, “He chooses psychiatry so that he can pass away his time gossiping!”

“So you think psychiatry is of no use to patients?”

“I didn’t mean that. But I always find them gossiping with their patients.”

“What you say gossip is actually part of their treatment, Dr Mukherjee. I’m surprised this statement comes from the principal of a medical college.”

Dr Bagchi now looks at Dr Dawn and says, “Chitta, what’s your opinion about psychiatry? You write text books! Your opinion is important to us.”

Dr Dawn fumbles in his seat. “Yes, they treat it that way.”

“So do you have any valid ground to object to his having psychiatry?”

I see that fatuous smile on Dr Dawn’s face. He smiled the same way when we caught him molesting the young girl at outdoor clinic. He looks at the principal in a nervous way.

“No. But you’ve to take the majority opinion.”

“PK, what about you?”

“It would have been good if he joined surgery. Anyway, I have no objection.”

“Samanta?”

“Dipenda, have I ever opposed you? You’re the pride of our college.”

“Dr Paul?”

“I like him. He is a writer. I think he’s a perfect fit for psychiatry.”

Dr Bagchi now addresses the others, “If any of you have any objection, please speak up or raise your hand.”

No one raises hand or says anything.

I look at my principal. His face now hangs loose and ashen. He’s trying hard to swallow the humiliation.

“Okay,” he now turns to me, “You get psychiatry. I hope you’re happy.”

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Arin Basu, I was missing you. Thanks for your private notes. They corroborate and validate what I’m writing from my memory.

Tessa, thanks for your response.