There is an interesting story behind my admission to medical college. Those were the days when I was excelling in sports and got to play state level as well. Selection for national level basketball team were round the corner and my classmates, Ashok Gupta, Captain of Rajasthan team, and Dinesh Chaturvedi, wanted me to opt for sports rather than get enrolled for MBBS course. I was not able to decide which call to take. In this quandary, I just half attempted the physics question paper in 1st year final examination. I did that to ensure that I don’t do well in the exams and my chances for securing a seat in MBBS course go bleak, so that I can appear for the national basketball team selection. It was the decision of an adolescent mind that lacked foresight.
As I recall, I think I was not sure of a professional goal by that time. When I returned home, I shared my thoughts with my father. I also told him that I have attempted the Physics paper half-heartedly. My father inched closer to me, gave me astern glance and then with all the fatherly love he could gather, told me to attempt the remaining papers seriously. He was not against sports; in fact he was one of the most vocal supporters of my stints in the field. He was just against the thought that I kill my own chances of securing a very prestigious seat in MBBS course. Those were the days when being a doctor was akin to being next to God. I realized he was right; when I retrospect I think I was born to be a doctor. The chances were all shaped according to the planned brush of destiny. However, due to dismal performance in Physics, I could secure 167/300 marks and the merit list ended at 169/300. I felt bad, but not heart-broken. I got an aim in life.
In my second attempt, I was selected for MBBS with 27th rank in the state of Rajasthan and I opted for RNT Medical college, Udaipur. A lot of my friends got selected the same year and this was the real transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Those were the days when ragging in medical colleges was rampant. I remember passing 6 odd months doing weird activities at our seniors’ command but all in good spirit.
The movie titled ‘Guru Aur Chela’ that starred Dara Singh, Indian answer to Sylvestor Stallon, and Junior Mahmud released at the time. I watched this film 3 times in a week and was much influenced by it. My favorite seniors were Ajinder Singh Chahal and Surender Bhandari and I considered them my ‘GURU’.
The hostel in my medical college had spacious rooms and clean surroundings. There was a big playground in the vicinity of our hostel that had this exotic-looking rows of ferns. There were ample of courtyards with big trees that provided a stimulating environment for practicing outdoor study sessions. The mess food was succulent in the beginning, but as the days passed, the flavours became boring.
Those were the days of emotional upheaval; I used to miss my mother a lot. The fine fabric of family attracts you when you are forced to stay away for the first time in your life. My family had always been a close-knit one. I remember spending near insomniac nights craving to be close to my parents, my family; but somehow on the sensible side of me, I knew that these difficult times are going to make me ready to embrace the future with wide arms and open mind.
I was still in 1st term ,when I had a bout of acute abdominal pain. The pain was one of the worst kinds one can ever have. I was subjected to a battery of investigations. Dr Madan Mohan Sharma, Professor of Surgery and Dr. V. P. Sharma, Tutor at RNT Medical College Udaipur, were my consultants and they attributed my symptoms to an inflamed appendix and I was immediately shifted to OT for surgery. Once again my confidence was reinforced in the medical fraternity and I was proud to have chosen my profession.
In my batch there were students from all the parts of India. We had enough diversity in our batch that could have been the basis of a celluloid experimentation. I generally mixed well with all batch mates from all walks of life, in particular I blended beautifully with folks from North India. I reminisce three of my batch mates who were from Delhi – Prem Punhani, Arjun Goyal and Manmohan Gupta, who helped me a great deal at every step. Delhites have this blithesome attitude towards life and its intricacies; nothing is a big deal for them. We shared this rock-solid affectionate relationship throughout MBBS.
In college I had this mammoth crush over Bollywood actress, Neetu Singh since I first saw her posters stuck over the phlegmcoated walls of old buildings in Udaipur. I was infatuated with Neetu Singh much before she attained a cult status. I watched all of her releases in theatres. Those were the days of single screen theatres, and first day tickets of big films were not easily available. Black marketing of tickets was widespread and I remember spending big amounts to get my hands at a ticket, no matter whether it belonged to the first row or the balcony. Her persona awed me a great deal and most of her songs were my favorite. Once she came to a remote village, Cheerwa, near Udaipur for a film shooting. The news spread like jungle fire in our campus. I bunked a full day with my close acquaintances and we traveled to the shoot location with enormous expectations. It felt divine to watch her in flesh and blood. I don’t have any recollection of the return journey; perhaps I was too stupefied by the whole experience.
I also recall having a huge crush on Mumtaz, another very popular Bollywood starlet of those times. It was the viva voce of ‘Lower Limbs’ in Anatomy at the fag end of the second semester and just as the academic ritual got over, me, along with two of my close friends, Karan Singh Punia and Suresh Mongia, zoomed our way to the nearby cinema where Mumtaz’s latest flick, ‘Prem Kahani’ was being shown. We managed to arrange for the tickets at a much higher price from the local black market and settled in the partially broken, wooden chairs with stains of chewed betel leaves. The three of us were simply awestruck by her breath-taking beauty. I remember seeing this film repeatedly with a jubilant heart and a lot of passion for the lead actress. Such are the insurrectionary days of newly discovered liberty when nature prepares you for the topsy-turvy trajectory of the adulthood ahead.
I can’t remember exactly what propelled me into chewing betel leaf but I enjoyed the whole experience. Perhaps it embodied the transgression to mature phase of life or was it just a manoeuvre to ensure social acceptability, I really don’t know. I was not the only one to have fallen in this colourful habit. Most of my batch mates were painting their tongues red. The habit became so addictive that we used to frequent the local pan-wallahs even at midnight. There used to be a panwallah close to the girls’ hostel which we frequented. It was divine bliss to get a good view of the girls’ hostel balcony while chewing tobacco. Even the girls were fully aware of the voyeuristic desires of a bunch of guys flaunting the devil-may-care attitude, and almost invariably we used to find majority of girls in their balconies only, at that stipulated hour. Life was all fun and frolic. One of my friends, Rajender Kakkar, used to emulate a dog’s bark in the ecstatic realization of being in close proximity to the girls’ hostel. Thankfully we never heard any of the fairer sexes reciprocating him in the sound of a canine. As if the addiction to tobacco was not enough, I started savouring an occasional mug of beer also. Apart from giving a much sought after high, it also helped me in announcing my arrival in the big bad world. It seems so childish when I think of the underlying mentality that propelled me into enjoying beer.
Those were the insouciant days filled with dreams, hopes and lust for life.