Perisamy Gounder was not a regular patient of mine. He came to me when his own doctor, a senior general practitioner in the same area of my practice was not available. This doctor, Dr G was in his sixties when I began my practice and was well known and I would spend time with him when ever I found some time. Though I did not get any value from the point of improving my medical knowledge, I gained a lot by the way of improving my patient management skills from him. He too came to like me and after few years he told his patients to seek my help when ever he was out of town. That was how Perisamy came to see me. The first encounter with Perisamy was memorable in more ways than one.
This middle aged well dressed person asked me as soon as he came in, by the way of confirmation that he has come to the right doctor,’ Are you doctor Rao, Dr G’s friend?’ this he did in Tamil. I said,'yes' in the same language. ‘I need to take this injection’ he said, placing the vial on my desk. I looked at the injection vial. It was 400,000 units of penicillin. I was curious to know why he needed this injection and I asked him. This irked him a bit and he said with obvious irritation,'nee chumma kudayya’ [you can interpret this Tamil sentence as simply give it to shut your trap and give the injection]. Seeing me hesitating, he said Dr G gave him this and he has come here because he was asked to by the old doctor. This meant many things. One is that he would not have otherwise come to me and gone elsewhere to a more senior GP who did not ask stupid questions to that by hesitating I am not sincere to the old doctor’s advice.
I thought it better to give the injection as advised by my senior friend and ask him [the doctor] on his return why and what of this. I loaded the syringe and gave him the shot. Perisamy became very friendly and jovial after this and appreciated the old doctor and told about his friendship with him of over twenty years and took my leave with the parting advice that as a young doctor I was lucky to have won the confidence of the senior man. The fee he paid for that small service was more than what I made from seeing five patients!
Dr G duly returned from his holidays and I made one of my periodic visits to him. I asked him about Perisamy, the injection and his reluctance to tell me why he was taking the injection. The good doctor let out a loud guffaw and said,'keep this to yourself, this Perisamy is a wealthy industrialist from Coimbatore and comes to Bangalore fairly frequently. When ever he is here he sees a woman and spends time with her. The reason for taking the injection is prophylaxis [prevention] against Venereal Disease but he is a good man', the old doctor said as an after thought.
So that was Perisamy’s secret. I could now understand his reluctance to share this secret which he had shared with his own doctor of many years. As I grew older and [wiser?] I too became privy to many such secrets and learnt to keep them to myself and also became less judgmental.
Both Dr G and Perisamy are no more.