Golden Memoirs

My classmates at Medical College, 1956 batch, Trivandrum

Fifty years is a lengthy stretch by human standards
Six hundred months or eighteen thousand vital days
Need I go for hours, minutes and splitting seconds
Or let our creative imagination choose as it fancies

As we meet, greet, chat and exchange pleasantries
As we go back in time unraveling our knotted notes
The days gone by and the young times once we shared
Getting back to muse and mull on what we endeared

Memories are vivid and green of the luxuriant campus
Majestic buildings perched on an expanse of rolling hills
Life in the hostels as generous models of extended families
The food of the mess we often relished, yet loved to loathe

Years we shared together, same goal and similar ambitions
Some remaining strangers with hard, unbreakable shells
The burden of barricades imposing moral ‘curfew’ of the ‘sexes’
Expecting us to behave, as we never had brothers or sisters

Glancing back, those were truly gleeful, carefree days
No hassles except from the habitual tormenting tests
We had fun even within the tangles of Cerebellar webs
Or as mazes of Microbiology messed with our tiny brains

Struggling to stay awake during Surgery lectures at night
Learning Preventive Medicine slumbering on back benches
Earning ninety-five without knowing a word of Japanese
Gathering wisdom in Biochemistry from the pageantry of ties

Missing the van, rushing over the back roads getting to class
Making it late with sweaty, soaking shirts and dusty shoes
Visiting the canteen to splurge our savings on masala-dosas
Evening walks, open-air movies, and romantic rendezvous

We learned pages and volumes of text on intricate subjects
Of nerves meandering through masses of muscles and organs
Of vessels traversing tissues nurturing their numerous functions
And of cells specialized to carry out a myriad of distinct options

We were lectured on the details of how food gets swallowed
How it powers energy that runs the machine and builds the mass
On how the air cleans the blood, nourishing cells that sustain life
The ways how waste is cleansed and means how we procreate

What a wealth of clinical matter that was all ours to learn
Queues in outpatient and heaped on floors of chronic ward
Babies with scabies, dehydrated and gasping for a breath of air
Cries of pain from blocked arteries or stones slicing the ureters

When we coddled with the cadavers, frigid and dark
Soaked in pungent formalin and dye stuffed arteries
Not often we realized there was a live human in its past
Full of vibrant desires once filling the now still frames

Flocking around patients as our fleeting attention wandered
Grasping only portions of what is taught in clinical rounds
Choosing assignments of tests and picking different diagnoses
Channelling our options leading to their conferred destiny

Agenda was to teach us the physical body and its functions
What makes it fall sick and how to bring it back to tick
Medical education is to learn what to put in or take what out
Healing the sick, having lost track as the prominent sentiment

Curriculum likes to condone teaching what life is all about
As to how and why a man was made different from a mule
Or where we came from with empyrean intent endowed on us
Doctors need not be nosey reaching beyond illness and wellness

We didn’t hear a reason why tears flow down when one is sad
Or how the facial muscles decide to bring out a smile or a scowl
Not much was said of why we get glee or how we feel the gloom
Nor what triggers anger, sense of kindness or falling in love

Perhaps it was left for our obvious assumption to figure it out
But we hardly heard much of discussion of the agonizing impact
Or the ravaging damage an illness can impose on the inflicted
Of the ominous burden it may pose endangering his dependents

Just a random thought, but if medical students were to be introduced
Into the profession of dealing with illness with a dose of instructions
To see the ailing with a theme of kindness, candor, and compassion
Holding their hands, stroking their hair and conveying that you care

If the cold stethoscope, hammer, and sharp needles were to wait
Until after we allay their fear and ease their air of apprehension
Before all the tapping and probing, it will be nice and pertinent
To empathize with a show of concern and an eagerness to help

As we have settled deep into our individual style of applying skill
We may have realized the role of science and subtlety of art involved
Fascinating reality of limitations, beyond our means to comprehend
Boundaries that challenge our ego and hopefully instill some humility

When we tally the balance sheet of life, worn out from having lived
After we pursued varied paths and compiled sacks full of encounters
What stands out are not the posts we held or the fortune we amassed
But what earnest impact we made in those who looked up to us for aid

Five decades ago we were gathered together like pearls on a string
From mélange of backgrounds, shapes, means, attitudes and abilities
But all with the same purpose of making Medicine our means of life
Class of fifty-six has come a long ways, longing to laud our destiny

Of over a hundred in the class, we have lost almost a tenth of them
Many still young, a few of causes which may have been preventable
As we try to recall their faces and natures as we remembered them
There is sadness tugging our hearts, or a trace of guilt gnawing at us

As we are ripe with age and many of us with maladies beyond repair
Gathering to toast our friendship and mourning our departed friends
Let us join hands applauding life, perhaps one lovely last time
Let’s save memories of this meet, savoring and enriching our sunset days.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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