Med Life: A Song of Ice and Fire
By Muhammad Mohsin Ali
Time is perhaps the greatest contender of human intellect. We pit ourselves against time, only to find that it has already defeated us. And reading Zeno’s paradoxes in a quantum mechanics book does not help when you are supposed to be studying Guyton and KLM. These things just happen, all by themselves. Like you get up at 6:30 to the sound of a trilling alarm, snooze it and flick the sheets over yourself only to get up 5 minutes later to find it is 8 o’ clock. There is, as Patras would have said, no human or extraterrestrial explanation for this phenomenon.
There is a strange feeling (giddiness maybe) when you stroll to the classroom only to find that a diligent and punctual teacher, acting on the advice of some equally diligent specie belonging to the students subcategory, has closed the doors for latecomers. You try to get in, but the door doesn’t budge; it has got stuck due to years of rust. So you resign yourself to fate, and make a beeline for Piccadilly to get at least a hot cup of coffee.
Life is not bed and roses for a med student (at least). You finish your cuppa at a slow, leisurely pace and stroll to join your mates for the next lecture, only to find that a bunch of sophomores have (almost spontaneously) taken a liking to you, and would like you to entertain them for the next frustrating 25 minutes with activities you can’t tell your mum about (probably because she wouldn’t listen anyway). Life is not bed and roses for the freshman (at least).
So you ultimately get to your class, and find a droning, bored conglomeration of future professionals seated—crammed would be a better adjective—in rows and columns (you might now start thinking of whether rows are horizontal or whether columns are vertical or whether it is the other way around, and get totally confuzzled. So move on.), listening to the delightfully delirious ravings of a person who has been commissioned by the university administration to drill into your minds the fundamentals of what you would be practicing on real, living people in the next few years. And unless you are going back and trying to trace the fact that the parts of the sentence before and after the parenthesis bit are actually one whole, I think it is time to move on.
You find a seat for yourself, and feel a huge tidal wave of monstrous enormity sweeping over you. A tirade (it seems at times) of unfamiliar anatomical terms, physiological definitions and biochemical concepts is hurled at you with full force, while you sit, half dazed, occasionally nodding the region containing the old bean, not because you have understood a major concept and done your nation the greatest service possible, but because that forbearer of tidings grave is looking at you expectantly, half-hoping that you would (or should) acknowledge an understanding of what he/she/it has been droning about for the past 25 minutes or so. Again, there is no limit to the deceptions of time.
Life suddenly seems sweet and fresh when you move out of the class and take a whiff of the fresh air, perhaps to clear up your brain clogged from lack of use (and perhaps flu). You find everything refreshing. But there is always this characteristic of life that makes it so unbearable: whenever you feel fresh and budding, life always has to offer some blot that spoils the fun and tells you it’s time to report to the GHQ, often mockingly called the “dissection hall.”
The dissection hall is one place where you do everything except dissection. You chat with your friends, sharing the latest gossip in town, you text someone whom you loved/hated in the past and now never/always want to see again, you watch as some brave Earthling with shaking hands tries to separate a lymphatic plexus and what-not from some unidentifiable and obscure region of the cadaver. And to top it all, there are a few minds which work best in the vicinity of the remains of the dead, flipping page after page of a voluminous tome you wouldn’t (should be couldn’t, don’t you think?) carry for your life.
From potential surgeons exposing the arteries/veins/whatever in the some specific region of the upper extremity to barmy nerds gazing absentmindedly at some elevated tuberosity or tubercle (about both of which you are blissfully unaware), you have got everyone there. Wait, we missed out one guy. The Robert Burns of the class.
There is in every school a Hermione Granger. These lines, had they been reproduced in Rowling’s Harry Potter, would have (I’m sure) caused a pandemonium with a plethora of people carrying identifying marks being inoculated—or even better: massacred. For there is always a person who, when you are feeling somewhat depressed and low, makes you even more so by enumerating, in a highly satisfied and Stentorian tone, the highly effective functional bearing of some thingummy called the Hydrogen/ATPase pump (don’t ask me, I’m clueless). And the inexplicable enigma encountered in med school is that there is not one, but several of these kind of fellas who make you feel like Johnny Bravo falling at his mom’s heels right in front of someone he was supposed to be impressing (try it. You’ll feel a lot better). In my vociferously sounded opinion, such people are a threat to local sanity, and must be eliminated soonest.
After braving through all this—and other potentially worse and somewhat unexplainable experiences—one feels like that bloke—Genghis or whoever he was—who fought a lot of battles, only to be defeated by someone whom he hadn’t given a damn (must be lamenting about that now, poor bloke).
Med school is not an easy nut to crack. It is one of the toughest places out there, where enter finely dressed gentlemen, and Exeunt disheveled and scattered herds of docs, running hither and thither (as if they have nothing better to do) to save one life.
But in the end, it is that one life that matters.