Life was almost in a routine at the medical college. I get up at 7AM, get ready, eat breakfast and attend classes from 8am to 1 pm. Lunch at 1.15 pm and rest till 2.oopm. Dissection classes are from 2 pm to 4pm. After 4pm, on monday, wednesday and friday I usually go to the canteen and have egg bhaji.
Boiled egg, sliced and coated in spicy batter and deep fried. I love the egg bhaji’s and looked forward to monday, wednesday and friday.
Weekends, only those who are from Bangalore get to go home. Rest of the students have to stay back at the hostel.
n between all these mudane activities, there is one person who brings so much of joy to our daily life.
He always come at 12.30pm carrying letters and parcels from loved ones. His arrival is usually announced by the constant ringing of cycle bell, followed by the sounds of footsteps of hundreds of girls running down the staircase asking
“Any letter for me?”
Initially I waited for the postman everyday, hoping, Amma or my sisters would send a letter. I desperately wanted to receive a letter, to feel that I am wanted, to know that somebody loves me or atleast that somone missed me. There was nothing, no one loved me, no one missed me, no one wanted me and I stopped waiting for the post man.
Friday afternoon dissection class, I had too much on my mind. I needed to tell Arjun, my Bangalorean classmate, the names of the novels I want him to borrow for me from Eloor lending library on infantry road. I wanted to eat the egg bhaji at the canteen and I was planning to do some cooking in the room. I can only cook when Shylaja goes home. She is a vegetarian and complaints if I cook any non veg( including egg) in the room.
I checked my watch. It was 3.45pm. Another 15 minutes, I will give the list to Arjun and run to the canteen.
Dr. Srinivas decided to have spot quiz.
“Ms. Thomas, what are the 12 cranial nerves?” I heard Dr. Srinivas asking.
I pretended I didn’t hear the question and quickly took my forceps out and started digging the cadaver. The only sound in the room was the constant whirring of the ceiling fan, and soon I could hear the tuck tuck sound of footsteps approaching my table. I hated Dr. Srnivas. He always picks on me.
“Yes sir” I looked up feigning a surprised look.
“What are the names of the 12 cranial nerves?”
I had absolutely no idea.(Not that I was in anyway interested to find out the names. What difference would it make, knowing the name anyway? I don’t want to be a surgeon!)
I shook my head.
Dr Srinivas was mad.
“How did you get admission to do medicine?”
I shook my head again.
I was not trying to be funny, but my batchmates were already laughing, seeing me shake my head every time.
“Shut up all of you” screamed Dr. Srinivas.
There was pin drop silence in the class.
“You will not leave this hall, till you name all the cranial nerves! Do you understand that Ms. Thomas?”
I nodded my head.
Before Dr. Srinivas could scream at me anymore, it was already 4pm and all the students got up to leave. I took my cunningham manual and tried to find where the Cranial nerves are.
“When you finished learning the names, meet me at my office” Dr, Srinivas barked and went off.
I desperately tried to memorize the names. I had to learn it fast, so I can go and eat the egg bhaji, before the seniors return from the hospital and finish it off. I tried and tried, I couldn’t remember all the names. I was getting mad at myself.
“Oottafagvah” I heard someone speaking and I looked up. It was Dr. Rajesh. He is working as a junior lecturer and while preparing for the entrance exam.
I looked at him, trying to understand what he is trying to say.
“Do you know the mnemonics for the cranial nerves?
I shook my head. I didn’t even know what was mnemonics
“The easiest way to remember the cranial nerves is to remember ‘oootta fag vah’. Oootta ia food, fag is for cigarette, vah is ‘to come’.”
I stared at him, trying to understand what he is trying to say. What food and cigarette is he talking about?
Dr. Rajesh picked up the Cunningham’s manual from my hand and showed me
He pointed the first alphabet from each cranial nerve
“Oh. Like that” I was so excited
“Thank you thank you, I will see you later” I ran to Dr. Srinivas’s room on the first floor and knocked at the door
“Yes” He barked
I went inside and he looked up.
“Did you learn?”
I nodded my head and recited the 12 cranial nerves. I felt like I won the lottery.
“Good, very good” Dr. Srinivas really looked happy
“What are their functions? What does each cranial nerve do?”
I shook my head.”Monday sir. I will tell you on monday.”
It was his turn to shake his head and I quickly walked out of the room. I checked my lab coat to make sure that I have enough money to buy the egg bhaji, otherwise I will have to walk all the way back to the hostel and get the money from my room. I had 10 Rs with me.
Just as I was climbing down the stairs, I looked at the canteen entrance to see if it is crowded. I saw the familiar red jeep parked infront of the canteen entrance. Security guy was leaning on the back of the jeep and looking at the girls going back to the hostel.
‘Oh my goodness, it is him. he is waiting for me’
I needed to run, I needed to get out. I couldn’t think straight. My hands started to shiver and I watched the security guy asking the boys something and they pointed to the dissection hall. I quickly climbed up the stair to the first floor and ran the opposite direction towards the main entrance of the college. I took the starcase near the library and walked towards the main entrance
I needed a letter from the hostel warden to leave the campus. The college security guard was standing near the closed gate. I walked up to him.
“Stop” He screamed.” Where are you going?”
I smiled the sweetest smile I could manage at that moment and pointed the tender coconut seller outside the entrance.
“Thirsty” I spoke again. In my nervousness, I couldn’t remember kannada.
He looked at me
I took the 10 Rs from my pocket and showed him the money and pointed the tender coconut seller.
“5 minutes” He opened the door and allowed me to go out. I knew he is watching me and I walked towards the tender coconut seller and ordered a drink. The seller took a coconut from his bicycle and was chopping the top of the coconut. I turned to look at the security guard and he was staring at me, to make sure I won’t escape. Just then a senior girl came with the permission slip and I watched him getting the book from his booth for her to sign and I ran. I could hear the tender coconut seller calling after me. I didn’t bother to stop. I ran to the auto rickshaw stand and got in to the first auto.
“Go” I yelled at the driver.
He turned back and smiled the ugliest smile on earth
“Go where ma?”
“Hurry, start your vehicle. I will tell you where to go”
I watched him struggling to start the rickshaw. His auto must have been manufactured before I was born. It refused to start. I was too afraid to get out of the rickshaw and get in to the next one. My uncle is inside the campus, the college security guard is looking for me and I am stuck in an autorickshaw that won’t start. I was just about to get out the rickshaw and run, and the driver managed to start his rickshaw. Again he turned and smiled that dirty filthy smile and asked
I only had 10 Rs with me and no where to go. I didn’t know much places in Bangalore. The only place I knew was
“Railway station” I spoke
As the auto reached the main road, I knew, there would be instructions from the higher authorities asking traffic police to look out for me. I removed my lab coat and folded it. I removed my spectacles and kept it inside the lab coat. Each time the rickshaw stopped at a traffic light, I was eating fire. I watched the rickshaw driver adjusting the mirror and looking at me.
“medical college student ah?” He asked me
I didn’t respond
“Where are you from?” He asked again
I didn’t respond. I looked at the fare meter. It was already 12 Rs. I wanted to cry, I only had 10 Rs!. By the time we reached the railway station it was already 16 Rs.
I got down from the rickshaw. Took the 10 Rs from my lab coat
“I only have 10 Rs with me. I will pay you the rest of the money when I come back.” I pleaded.
He turned and looked at the meter
“No. You have to pay 16 Rs. That is the fare”
“Please” I begged
He had that ugly smile on his face that suggested a lot of things.
“Please” I begged again
He touched my fingers while he took the the money from my hand. I felt so dirty. But how can I go after an auto driver, when I didn’t even pay him the fare. I quickly walked inside the railway station. It was crowded and I still had another 4 hours before the train to Kottayam leaves. I knew ‘he’ would use the police to find me and I couldn’t risk waiting in the rest rooms or waiting on the platform. I had to hide somewhere. I looked around. There was no place that I could hide, so I walked out of the railway staion and crossed the road. On the other side of the road, there are Tibetans selling their wares by the road side. Most of them selling sweaters and jackets. I found one lady sitting on the floor, she had beautiful stone jewelleries infront of her on a plastic mat. She had a baby sleeping in a bag on her back. She looked like a nice lady.
“May I sit here?” I asked her in Hindi pointing to the place next to her.
She looked at me and nodded her head. I sat next to her on the floor.
Sun was setting and the street lights came on slowly. It was getting colder. I didn’t have any jacket with me. It was funny, because I was sitting in the midst of traders selling brand new woollen jackets.
I used the saree pallav and wrapped myself to keep me warm.
A little while later, someone came with tea. I watched the lady buying a glass of tea. The tea seller poured the tea from an aluminium kettle in to a tiny steel glass and placed the glass in a steel bowl and gave it to her. I watched the lady pouring the tea from the glass in to the bowl to cool it. She then looked at me. She poured some tea in to the glass and passed me the glass.
I shook my head.
The lady nodded her head and encouraged me to have the tea. She had such a sweet smile. She had so many wrinkles on her face, yet she looked peaceful. Here is a woman, who probably walked for days on snow mountains to escape from Tibet, hoping for a better future in India and is now offering half of her tea to a total stranger. I wish I could pay her back for her kindness
I needed that tea, not because it would keep me warm for a little while, but because, I knew I will survive. If she can escape from Tibet, I can escape from one powerful man.
Around 8pm, she got up to pack her stuff and leave. I helped her to pack the jewelleries in to a clothes bag. Before she left, she looked at me and smiled again. She said something in her language and I didn’t understand. I watched her leave with the rest of the group. I still had another hour and it no longer felt safe to be alone outside on the road side. I quickly walked back to the railway station. I looked for the red jeep outside. There was no sign of the jeep anywhere. But there were lot more police around. May be I am imagining it, I thought.
I quickly walked to the platform no 5. The train was already there. I didn’t have money to buy the ticket. Anyway this isn’t the first time I am travelling without a ticket. I had my college identity card. In case if the TTE comes for the check, I will show him my ID and tell him that I have been robbed. May be he will have mercy for me.
There weren’t much passengers in the ladies compartment. I found an empty luggage rack and quickly climbed on top and lay down. I panicked each time I heard a male voice in the compartment. I was afraid even to look. I was so relieved when the train started to move.
Initially I was thinking of going to Kottayam. Then it occured to me that Amma would only make my life miserable. I decided to go to Chengannur.
They say everything happens for a reason. When my prof asked me the names of the cranial nerves, I hated him. I felt he was picking on me. But If my prof didn’t ask me the names of the cranial nerves that day, I would have walked straight from the dissection hall to the canteen and wouldn’t have been around to type this blog