Doctor for all

…and a lot more to spare
Doctor for all

Dedicated to the growing tribe of unemployed doctors whowill soon outnumber other constituents of the general population

2019: Almost everyone, if not everyone, in Kashmir hasdreamed or desired to be a doctor at some or the other point of his or herlife. Scratch a police officer or a shopkeeper or a clerk or a teacher andthere are high chances that you might find a wanted-to-be-a-doctor inside. Infact in Kashmir of all the make-believe games that parents encourage amongtheir little children playing 'Doctor-Doctor' easily tops the list. 2019 saw atremendous increase in the number of medical seats in the state so much so thatit looked possible that while Kashmir might or might not realize the slogan of'Health for all' pretty soon it would instead have a 'Doctor for all' on hometo home basis! The whole population of Kashmir was overjoyed by thisabundance…well…the whole population except perhaps a couple of thousand ofdoctors who haven't yet been able to land a job and feel that it is unlikelythat they ever will.

20 years later…

I return to the 'paradise on earth' after a long period ofwanderings elsewhere…It is a bustling place…there is more of everything…morepeople, more cars, more dogs, more filth, more dust… and yet there is lesstoo…less trees, less birds…there are flyovers under construction and there areflyovers nearing completion…I have yet to taste the real change though…my firstbrush with it comes as I visit this drug store…

Age has brought many an ailment in its wake so my first stopafter leaving the airport is at a drug store to get my prescribed regimen oftablets and capsules. The counter guy hands over my pack of medicines and thebill. It comes to slightly over 10,000 rupees. He says with a smile, "You get afree gift for purchases above 10,000."  Ithank him and wait for the free gift. I watch idly as a shop salesman comes outof the backroom holding a white-aproned guy's hand. "Here you are Sir," hesays. I can't understand what all he means. "What is this? I mean who is he?"

"It is your free gift. He is a doctor sir," the salesmansays, "and he is all yours for one month, your very own personal doctor."

For a moment I think these people must be pulling my leg butthey are real earnest. "I am just a visitor, don't know where I will be stayingand all that," I tell the counter guy. "I think I will forego the well…er… freegift."

The counter guy just shrugs his shoulders. "Your choice,sir. You can have this coupon instead," he says handing me a cash coupon for100 rupees redeemable on my next purchase. The white-apron revolution is forreal, I think as I leave the shop. My next stop is at a fruit-sellers cart. AsI survey the fruit a white-apron wearing young fellow appears by my side andsays, "May I help you sir." I think it is just someone trying to be polite. Ismile at the guy and address the fruit-seller sitting on a stool beside thecart. "How much for these oranges?"

The fruit-seller just smiles and instead it is thewhite-aproned guy who responds, "Just 300 rupees a dozen sir, which is a stealreally if you consider what you getting. Oranges are a rich source of Vitamin Cwhich is an important anti-oxidant, retards ageing and reduces the risk ofcolon cancer. It also contains flavanones like hesperidin which lowers bloodpressure and cholesterol… Shall I pack two dozen for you?"

I am struck speechless by his torrent of information."Uh…yes…that is Ok. Tell me," I ask him, "are you a doctor?"

"Of course sir," he says taking out a laminated certificatefrom his pocket, "You can check for yourself sir."

"No! No! It is alright. I was just asking…" I stammer.

"Here take a look at these apples sir. Apples reducecholesterol and stimulate pancreas to produce more insulin so you see these arebeneficial for diabetes as well. How many shall I pack sir?"

It is too much for me. I want to get rid of this nutritionbulletin so I pick up a single apple and say, "Just this one, that too because'an apple a day keeps the doctor away'!" He does not even smile at my joke.

The apple however fails to keep the doctors away. Later inthe day when I visit a barber for a haircut there is a doctor to check my bloodpressure. "I have employed two of them and introduced this special service formy customers," the barber informs me.

The next day I decide to visit the village where I possesssome land. As our car stops at a red-light, I roll down the window to let infresh air. "Don't!" my cousin shouts but the warning is too late. A stethoscopesnakes in and starts examining my chest. I hurriedly hand the guy a 50 rupeenote and close the window.

It is late evening by the time I get to visit my orchard.The fruit crop has already been harvested and the trees are bare. I feel atpeace here. There is nobody around. Not even a doctor. I climb a walnut treewhich is covered with dense foliage and give it a mighty shake. I hear a'plonk' and two 'thuds' as one walnut and two doctors fall out of the tree…

(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored!Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce(iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any,

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