Balachandran’s blog on his trip to Germany took me down the memory lanes.
It was way back in 1986 that I went to Germany for training on Ultrasound. The procedure was just coming up in India and many hospitals didn’t have the device. It was my first time abroad and I had the usual anxieties. Trier is a small town at the banks of the Moselle river.Quite honestly I didn’t know anything about Trier till I reached the place. This town has one heck of a long history behind it. It was founded by the Romans as “Augusta Treveorum” in 16 BC. Over 2000 years of history! Without doubt, it is Germany’s oldest city. Trier also boasts one of the most colorful markets in Europe with its outstanding ensemble of historical buildings.
|Porta Nigra.The Roman Gate|
Just after I reached, the winter started, and along with it, snow fall. The temperature was minus 10. I would spend the evenings at the hospital guest house; sipping the fine liquor the director had gifted me, watching the flecks of snow forming sheets of white carpet all around. Trier is close to Luxemberg and incidentally, is the birth place of Karl Marx. The hospital was run by monks of the Barmherzigen order.( Krankenhaus der Barmherzigen Bruder ,Trier Bruderhaus) My introduction letter had mentioned that I was working as a consultant in a big hospital in India (Elsewhere in the world, you have to put up many years of experience to become a consultant. It is common practice in India to place the title “Consultant”, just after someone finished a post graduate degree or even diploma!)
Prof. Yamus was one of the pioneers in the field of Ultrasound. I met him at his office. I knocked at his door and entered and started off with the usual” Good morning, Sir”.
And he replied, “My name is Yamus, not Sir.” Obviously, he had no idea what this sir business meant.
There is no sir business elsewhere, unless it is some kind of honor conferred up on you .Everyone in the department, from the attendant to the director called him just Mr.Yamus. He was in his fifties at that time. Having used to calling everyone at the Medical College sir, sir, it was new experience to me. They gave me all the respect a consultant deserved. At one time Yamus mentioned, “I am surprised, at this young age you could become a consultant”. He had no idea that “consultant” was a self declared title in India. When I was leaving the hospital, he took me to his personal library, and said, “Thomas, take any book you find useful”.
I used to have breakfast at the hospital canteen (it was free for me ! ) I always noticed a graceful looking elderly man in his sixties who would come to the canteen at the same time. It was winter time and he would come immaculately dressed, and would take time in removing his hat, coat and muffler and hang them at the proper hangers, and would then take a table for his breakfast. Whoever would come there, he would offer a polite “Guten Morgen”. I thought he was one of the senior professors or so at the hospital. One day while at lunch, I asked a colleague, in which department this gentleman worked and she said “Aah..,Mr. Merckel, he is our cleaner”.
This is how they are different and that is why I think they are better people.. They haven’t made a class difference. They respect mutually. And every job is given the respect it deserves. I would say, the cleaner is one of the most important persons in the hospital. Without him, the hospital would become a junk yard of fragmented organs and remains. But, would everyone take it? If not treat them as equals, at least we can stop insulting and abusing them for no reasons.
Over years we have accumulated so much of unhealthy practices we are proud of. We have been taught to respect elders and teachers, it is good as well, but that shouldn't just boil down to calling them Sir. These days students have no hesitation to f...the teachers after calling them Sir,Sir.
And talking about f…ing business, I learned that it was, after all, not such a bad term, from one of my colleagues whom I respect most. He would say “Aah … fuck” when ever something goes wrong in the ward. If he sees a patient deteriorating, or a bad lab result, he would say “Ooh..Shit or.. ..Fuck”.To me,it was just a sign of his commitment to his patients, and there was no easier way to express the desperation.
He was one of the honest and disciplined persons I have ever worked with. He set good examples for me in profession and I have learned from him. Coming from him, I knew he meant no obscenity. But in India, we don’t talk about that business. It is not allowed to f…, leave alone talking about it in public. These are things we are supposed to carry in our perverted minds. We really mean fuck when we say that!
(I didn’t mean to write a blog on f….But it so happened and just came. Honestly I don’t think there is anything obscene in the word, it is the way we use it. After all, we hear it a hundred times in any English movie)