“Your life is your life. Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
Be on the watch. There are ways out.
There is a light somewhere.
It may not be much light but it beats the darkness.
Be on the watch. The gods will offer you chances.
Know them. Take them.”
Now, I’m no expert on literature, but what I personally feel is that there is absolutely nothing more beautiful than words which connect with your soul. And this Charles Bukowski composition does just that. While I wish there may come a time that I can word my story as beautifully as this, but for now I am simply contented with knowing that be it inadvertently, these lines are symbolic of a very significant phase of my life.
The phase I’m talking about is one which arrives in every individual’s life – That period of struggle between having completed your studies and stepping into the real world to make your career. This transition is often coined to be the most difficult phase of a person’s life and this coinage did actually hold true for me too…
(To better understand this, let’s rewind to my ‘struggle’ phase)
In 1979, I completed my medical graduation from JLN Medical College – Ajmer, Rajasthan. As a pre-requisite of completing my coursework, I was interning and thus receiving stipend for my efforts. However even while interning in Ajmer, I always knew that the ‘City of Dreams’, Mumbai was where I truly wished to be. Thus, as soon as I saw Bombay Hospital’s newspaper ad inviting applications for Post-Graduation/Housemanship, I knew this was my chance. Thus, with Rs. 250 in pocket (my savings from the stipend I was receiving) and aspirations in my heart I arrived in Mumbai to appear for the interview which could potentially see me work under Dr. N. S. Tibrewala at Bombay Hospital. Who was one of the best known Paediatricians in the country and head of the paediatric unit at Bombay hospital.
I thought to myself “Everything is falling in place. Coming to Mumbai is the best decision I could have made!” Now, I don’t know if this thought worked as a jinx because what happened next was far from perfect. The only question I was asked in my interview is if I have any referral or influence from a hospital authority in order to get the desired post. After I am posed this question, I stare blankly at my interviewer and in a moment of absolute helplessness end up taking the Canteen Manager’s name; a man I met 30 minutes back! It’s funny when I think of it now but I want you all to gauge the desperation arising from my realisation of the impending eventuality of my dreams slipping out of my hands. Needless to say I was rejected in the interview.
“Your life is your life. Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.”
After this largely crest-falling interview, I met my friend who was completing his ENT post-graduation in Mumbai. He was staying at his uncle’s house in Sion. I went over to his uncle’s house to meet him and narrated what happened in the interview to his uncle and him. I know it’s really contradictory that I, now a doctor who always tells his patients to keep their hope up had then lost all hopes of realizing his dreams. Because in my brief conversation with my friend and his uncle I realized that while ‘Influence’ may not be a credential you put down on your resume, it is possibly the most essential pre-requisite of getting a ‘Housemanship’ as a paediatrician in Mumbai.
“Be on the watch. There are ways out.”
However, I had decided to simply get a good glimpse of Mumbai in order to ensure that I make the most of the Rs. 250 that I was carrying with myself before I head back to Ajmer. My friend’s uncle was courteous enough to let me stay at his house in those few days before I was to head back to Ajmer. One evening during my stay with them my friend’s uncle informed me that his wife needed to be taken to see a gynaecologist. Uncle invited me to tag along and this was how I met a gentleman who went by the name of Dr. Menda.
“There is a light somewhere.”
Dr. Menda was one of Mumbai’s finest and most well-known gynaecologists. On seeing me present for the appointment, he quizzed me about who I was. When I narrated my whole story to him, he simply looked at me and asked me if I would wish to pursue my ‘Housemanship’ at National Hospital (now known as Hinduja Hospital) instead. Now the post wasn’t something that I was excited about as I was told that this post wouldn’t be recognized for the post-graduation degree. However, I would be given accommodation in the staff quarters, a stipend and most importantly a chance to work in the City of Dreams, Mumbai! Also I did know that sometimes in order to execute Plan A, you first need to get working on Plan B. Thus, I decided to take up the offer.
“It may not be much light but it beats the darkness.”
And thus after clearing the interview, I began my ‘housemanship’ at National Hospital. It was during this period that I was working under a leading paediatrician, Dr. Irani. While my post wasn’t recognized and valid in the pre-requirements for a post-graduation, I took it upon myself to give it my absolute everything. It was this dedication and attitude which impressed Dr. Irani. She advised me to take up a post-graduation in the field of paediatrics. It was then that I revealed to her my dream of working under Dr. N.S.Tibrewala at Bombay Hospital and told her what happened during my interview. A few days later, Dr. Irani asked to meet her at the hospital gate early on a Sunday morning. A little perplexed, I reached the hospital 10 minutes earlier than the decided time because I have always been a huge believer in the importance of punctuality. What happens next still gives me ‘Goosebumps’ – I see Dr. Irani walking in with ‘the’ Dr. N.S.Tibrewala by her side. Dumbfounded by how things were unfolding, I slow regained my composure as I shook hands with Dr. Tibrewala who told me that Dr. Irani was an old student of his and that she has already informed him about my desire to work under him. I reminded him about what happened previously at the interview and a smile appeared on his face. He told me that he now recollected me because he remembers me being the only person in his career to have given him the reference of a canteen manager! We shared a few more laughs and Dr. Tibrewala next invited me to come in for an interview for pursuing a ‘housemanship’ as a paediatrician at Bombay Hospital. And this time, I cleared the interview; again without a reference from a higher hospital authority!
“Be on the watch. The gods will offer you chances.
Know them. Take them.”
You know there are times when God gives you chances to do something yourself in the form of doing something for others – That’s exactly what happened during a night duty while pursuing my ‘housemanship’ at Bombay Hospital. A child was brought into the private ward late in the night. After checking her, I realized that the child was suffering from severe Gastroenteritis and dehydration. The child was gasping for breath and was critical. I quickly prescribed medicines for her, which were unfortunately not available at that time on the hospital floor and had to be acquired from the pharmacist just outside Bombay Hospital. However, the child’s father in a rush to get her to the hospital forgot to get his wallet with him. While I was initially frustrated with the carelessness involved, I empathized with the family and realized that one often ends up neglecting things in moments of desperation. Thus, I removed the money I had received that very morning as my stipend and handed it over to the child’s father who then rushed and got the medicines. The child’s parents were very thankful to me and returned the money to me the very next morning. I continued to look into the child’s case for the duration that she was admitted in the hospital. It was during this time, that the child’s father and mother grew really fond of me and the mother insisted that I become her ‘Mooh-Bola’ brother. I was pretty sceptical at first as the hospital rules needed me to maintain a distance from my patients but after a large amount of insistence from their side, I agreed. This however proved to be one of the best decisions I ever took in my life as it is through this new relation that I met my wife – Dr. Suman Goyal who turned out to be the cousin sister of that child’s mother!
(Fast-forward to present day scenario)
And this, my dear friends is why I say, “Always take your chances; especially those that give you the opportunity to do something good – for others and yourself.”
Lastly, I just want to thank all of you for the overwhelming response and words of encourage I received post my first blog; it was really encouraging. Also, those who wrote in asking me about my journey of being a doctor, I hope you guys will like this particular blog. Loads of love, luck and encouragement from my side to you all!
Dr K.K. Goyal