Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Genteel poverty

When the call came for a house visit I was very surprised. Normally one doenot get a call from a patient who last saw you 20 odd years ago. My initial reaction was to refuse, but on second thoughts I felt obliged to see him. This is because these were the persons who had helped me to build up my practice and I felt duty bound to see him despite the fact that for his own reasons, he had chosen some other physician.
So I went.

I had some difficulty in locating the house. The area had changed so much with multi storied buildings all over the place. The house was the same with no additions and located in the centre of a fairly big piece of land. I made a mental calculation and came up with a figure of 8 to ten crores! Mr S is sitting on a gold mine. When opened the gate and went inside, there was evidence of decay everywhere. There was over grown shrubbery with trees gone wild and leaves all over the ground heaped up. The house must have seen a coat of paint decades ago. The house and the surrounding garden I had seen 20 years back was immaculately maintained and what I was witnessing was pathetic to say the least. I pressed the bell and after few minutes an old maid opened the door and on finding who I am made me take a seat and went in to inform Mr S. I had a look around, inside of the house was no better.

Mr S came in and profusely greeted me and talked for a few minutes about old times. He had grown old like I have, but then he is much older than I am. Must be in his eighties I thought. Then he told me about hi s complaints. They were the usual one of old age. I examined him and asked him the treatment details. He gave me a list of medications. Some were needed and some not so. I told him what to do and then wanted to take leave of him. He would not let me go. He said,’ after so many years you have come to see this old man, I cannot send you without giving you a cup of tea’. He called out a name and the same old maid appeared. He asked her to get some tea for us.

I asked him about his wife. I remembered a gracious woman whom I used to see. ‘I lost her, he said. I did not want to ask the details. After some silence, I asked him why he called me instead of his usual doctor. He said the world that he is living in is very different from the one he lived 20 years ago when I was his doctor. This explanation did not satisfy my curiosity. As he was not forthcoming with the details I felt it prudent not to press the issue. By this time the tea arrived, the two cups were neatly arranged on a floral tray with tea pot covered in a tea cozy [all of them had seen some service]. Old man proceeded to pour and make the tea. I could see he was enjoying himself playing the host.

There apparently was no one else in the old home. I could not help remarking. I remembered he had a teen aged son. What was he doing? ‘Oh, him? What will you expect from him? He was no good then and he is no good now. That ended another conversational vein. I finished my tea and took his leave. He came with me up to the gate and thanked me for coming over to see me.

He did not bring up the subject of my visiting fee and neither did I.

Few days later, a young woman in her mid thirties came to see me. She introduced herself as the daughter in law of Mr S. She had come to clear the money that he old man owed me. She said she was sorry that it was not paid that day. I said it often happened to old persons. ‘Nothing of that sort. His memory is better than mine. He had no money to pay you. Yesterday was my pay day and today I have come to pay you’. ‘What about your husband? I could not help asking. ‘My husband, his only son, did not train to do any work and is now holding a job of a sales man in a used car show room. The only subject he knows’, she said with some contempt in her voice. Then why don’t you sell that valuable property? I asked her.’ You know my father in law, he comes from a royal family, in fact I too come from one, but my parents trained us to live with common people but the old man still lives fifty years behind times and refuses to give up the old property. Even his car is 50 years old. He spends more money on maintaining that blessed car than on food’. Her use of the word common people made me think even this lady thinks she is royalty but has learnt suffer common people [like me for e.g.]. Obviously the husband too is not very keen on selling but she feels that he will be forced to do when the time comes.

'When will it be?, I asked.

'When the old ----- [unprintable]dies', she said and took my leave.

1 comment:


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