Ramana became my patient because my name suggested that I, like him has had my origin in Telugu land. When he came to know that I am not a Telugu he was deeply disappointed. Though I could understand what he said in that language, my knowledge was not enough to carry on a meaningful conversation. The only other language in which we could communicate, I thought was Hindi which I was pretty good at and he being from Hyderabad knew Urdu which till then I thought was Hindi’s first cousin. Few sentences from Ramana’s Hyderabadi Urdu made me realize that these two were entirely different languages. The only way we could communicate was through English. Looking at my worried expression, Ramana said,
‘Saar[sir], don’t you worries, I speaks English,’ but saar, Telugu is a beautiful language and saar must learn it’ He said this with such a depth of feeling, that he made me feel by not speaking that language I have missed something very valuable in life. I agreed and said I will make the effort now he has told me the beauty of the language.
With this introduction completed, I asked him, ‘what can I do for you?’
‘My chests, saar, he fines’ [my chest pains]
He had this habit of pluralizing every word and also using gender indiscriminately. Nevertheless even with his bad English he was able to make me understand unlike his Urdu.
So Ramana had chest pain.
Since when are you having chest pain? I asked
‘Wanse [once] fifteen years’
He had chest pain once fifteen years ago, I could surmise. But I wanted to know since when he has had the present chest pain. I asked him
‘Oho, this wans, three days’ he said.
‘Do you have fever? I asked.
‘No fevers, only fines’ he said
I examined him. Didn’t find anything seriously wrong with him. After reassuring him, I gave him a prescription.
‘Thank you; you are very kinds’ Ramana said before taking his leave.
Another time he came with his four year old son.
‘Saar, this is my babies, he saar, has good fevers and coughs’
Here, good in his language means high.
The boy with good fever caused no problems while getting examined and I complimented Ramana for having such a smart son.
‘Yes saar, he is very goods’ he agreed.
I wrote out a prescription and sent him. Five minutes later he was back.
I asked him why was he back.
‘Saar, I forgets, this here medicine how many times per days?
I explained that the medicine is to be given three times in a day.
He stood there scratching his head.
I asked him, ‘what is bugging you now’
‘Excuse the trouble saar, but you don’t tell after meals or before meals’
I told him that too.
He still won’t go.
I gave him a questioning look
‘Saar wans more things?’
What is this one more thing? I asked him with some irritation in my voice.
Saar what meals [food] to give my babies?
I explained even that.
Now he had no more questions but he was not sure. With great reluctance he took my leave.
I waited for some time with mounting anxietyexpecting him to come back. Thankfully he did not.
In the course of time I came to know him well and found him to be quite entertaining and the dread of his visits got gradually replaced by one of expectancy, as when he came I could be certain of some fun.
So Ramana and I took to talking matters other than illness during his visits. He took care to see that there were no patients when he indulged in this kind of gossip. Once when we were talking, the discussion was on over population and the problem the country is facing. Ramana said by the way of explanation,’ Saar, everybody wants boy childrens only’ so they try, try and try till get boy children, so population grows and grows and grows’ I agreed but said one should not worry about the sex of children but limit the number to two either way.
‘Childerns very goods saar, but too many childerns not very goods saar’ he said.
‘How many childrens saar have saar?’ He asked.
I told him about my two daughters.
‘Both daughters saar?’ He said this with extreme compassion.
Seeing me quiet and thus encouraged, he continued, ‘Saar, no mistakes me, you must haves sons saar’
He must have felt sorry for the poor doctor saddled with two daughters.
I wanted to have some fun.
I asked him, ‘when you said, I must have sons you meant how many?
‘Saar you are very funny mans saar’, he said.
But I insisted. He said, ‘wone but two even better saar’
I asked him how many he has. He said, ‘three Saar,’ gleefully lifting three fingers.
I congratulated him on this extraordinary achievement.
‘You must be very lucky; you are going to get lots of dowry when you marry your sons’ I said
‘Yes, yes, what you say corrects saar, but wonly when they become doctor engineer’
I said, don’t you or your wife feels like having a daughter?
‘Feelings yes saar, but womans childs in our community born means mothers fathers finish saar’
‘What is your problem, you have three boys and you can afford to have a girl and spend some of the money you get when you marry your sons’. I said.
‘Saar, you are making funs saar, how I knows my sons become doctors engineers now only? You tell me’.
He had me there.
He spent another ten minutes trying to motivate me to beget a male child and went.
Another time Ramana came with his wife’s brother Rajagopal to see me.
‘Saar, this is brother in laws. His names Rajagopal. He is mad mans saar’
A strange way of introducing one’s brother in law. But the brother in law did not seem to mind this introduction in the least.
I felt bad; I told Ramana that this is no way of introducing his brother in law.
‘Saar, you don’t knows. He really mads’
I told him. ‘He looks ok to me’
‘Yes Saar he looks ok but he mads’. Ramana insisted.
‘In what way? I asked Ramana
Saar he tells robbers comes and he sees them but I don’t see, wife don’t see robbers. Tells clothes catch fires but I see no fires catches clothes.
I talked to Rajagopal. He did have visual hallucinations and needed expert Psychiatric help. I told Ramana to take him to a friend of mine who is a good Psychiatrist. Before he went I warned him not to keep calling his relative mad man. Instead tell that he is mentally ill.
‘Waat saar, you tell mental ills, I tell madness, both same same, waat difference?
I had to agree to this logic.
So they went and met my Psychiatrist friend and returned after two days.
There was a note for me. My friend while thanking me for sending the patient had also thanked me for sending an interesting attendant. The interesting attendant was Ramana.
I asked Ramana about the meeting with the psychiatrist.
He said, ‘saar your mad mans doctor friend, he saar very goods and also very funny mans saar’
I knew that my friend had a sense of humour and loved a good laugh. Still, I asked Ramana, ‘why did you find him funny?’
‘Saar, he make me laughs too much saar, he talks with brother in law like children saar. Also waat you know saar, he records my voice on tape recorder saar’ he said with obvious excitement.
This was news to me. I asked him why did he do it.
‘Saar he says, patients’ histories important records’.
I met my friend after a couple of days and asked him about this tape recording.
He said,’ I do occasionally record the patient’s history, But in Ramana’s case the way he talked was exceptionally funny and I did not want to miss it. The record when played back is good for a hearty laugh’
Ramana came to see me the other day. He looked sad. I asked him what the matter was. ‘Saar they have transfers me to Hyderabad’ he said this in an accusing tone. ‘I feels very sads saar’
I said, ‘Why are you feeling sad? Hyderabad is your home town; you should be happy and not sad’
‘No saars, I stays Hyderabad, too many relatives comes and big troubles for wife saar, just I liking Bangalore, they transfer me saars, this is very bads saar’. When he was saying this his eyes were wet.
I also felt bad to lose a nice good man who provided me with some free entertainment each time he came.
Thus went Ramana to Hyderabad and I lost track of him,