Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Of Medical School and Role Models

The whole role model question has always been a little strange and frankly embarrassing to me. Strange because I've never aspired to be like anyone. Ever. And embarrassing because my answer to the dreaded question- Don't you look up to your dad or grand-dad? (both of whom by the way are super achievers)- has always been a nervous, fidgety silence- with me hoping to flee or die before I admit 'no'.

Joining medicine didn't help matters- medicine is a minefield waiting to explode and kill you almost every step of the way. To add to it the whole perception of doctors as serious boring individuals is- and I hate to admit it- largely true. I mean sure there are nice people and gifted students as there are in any profession, but to come across people with definite character and balls (pun unintended) is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. And this is particularly in medicine because on the whole- we're geeks, let's face it. Geeks conditioned to plough through book after book and soon you go on cruise control. There are those inevitable times when people marvel at the size of your textbook and you show off with it- but when the studying part begins it's no big deal. And that's not boasting- it's just how it is. You flip pages and whatever sticks, sticks. Obviously whatever doesn't stick is the only thing that's asked but then you are beyond caring- you become fatalistic.

And this attitude soon rubs off on character as well. Which is why it takes something special- some special kick in your arse (which you have to administer to yourself ) to be different- to maintain individuality.

I guess its easier to say this now that I'm done with the first stage of my education- a sort of retrospective look back. And curiously the two role models I at last have are two of my classmates. Not the great doctors I've known nor the Nobel laureates I'm fortunate to have met, just two 24 year olds who've taught me more about life that all the super talented docs couldn't.

Is it unethical to take names and divulge details on a public forum? It is. But what the hell- I can write what I want here right? So here goes..

The first time I saw E- now Dr. EP, it was outside the loo on the first day of med school when we were having the somewhat grandiosely named orientation session. Tall, lissome and undeniably beautiful, the real surprise came when she spoke- with classy English and great confidence.

It went without saying that most guys at some point or the other nursed a crush for her- it wasn't possible not to! And she did have her share of flings- who doesn't in college? Well most people don't actually, but that's besides the point.

We were friends- at one point good enough friends to go out for Shakespeare and stuff together. And because of some insufferably stupid and juvenile tiff, that went to hell.

She soon became one of the most hated people in class. Which is a little weird- because with great looks and sharp outspoken intelligence, you'd think that would have made her popular. But her personal life generated so much buzz- which was none of anybody's bloody business, but you know how college kids are- that somehow she was almost universally disliked.

How you may ask did such a diva become an example? She who after an idiotic tiff about some exam didn't give me a second look nor me her?

It was precisely because of that.

Not once did I see her wilt. In that quagmire of snide remarks, rude glances and almost total isolation from the class she stood tall and unashamed. Never once did she give any of the haters the satisfaction that they'd got to her- and she didn't change her lifestyle at all. She remained true to herself and unapologetic about her choices which is more than I could say for many other judgemental cribbing people that were.

She and I were the class valedictorians at our graduation and on the day, she was grace personified- talking with pride about a class that had rejected her for so very long- praising the very people that she surely must have felt nothing but contempt for. But not once did the mask slip, not even at the end.

It may sound a trivial reason to admire someone for. After all she hadn't discovered the cure for HIV or the common cold. It wasn't even related to medicine- just the fact that one needs to stand up for oneself and be who one is without thinking of what others may say. As for the so called moral police- oh yes, that's what most people are even if they aren't Pramod Muthalik- one only understands how idiotic and meaningless they are when one starts seeing someone. Then one realises that having a girlfriend is cool but doesn't define you and it definitely isn't the end of the world if you don't have one. And that it doesn't remotely have anything to do with who you inherently are as a person. Which sounds utterly simplistic and obvious, but I think somewhere, until you have that first date and stuff you never really understand it, despite the fact you're always pretending to do so and looking with disdain at the people who are together, airily claiming that 'I have no time for this crap and those who do are dumb and slutty'. Which is Bullshit. And although they would never admit it- Envy. With a capital E. And this sounds like the bad embarrassing confessions of a teenage drama queen- but most doctors, both men and women, atleast initially are just that.

The other guy is KD. Now his is a story so dramatic it would be fit to be featured in a lifetime special. He lost his father at a young age, lost his faith, descended into an incubus of smoking, terrible relatives, terrible company and profanity. But lightening struck and suddenly- just like that, he gave up smoking, concentrated on- what else- studies and has honestly blossomed into someone I honestly believe will be a great doctor. And I'm not using the word 'great' the way we use to praise food or a Sean Penn performance- in this case I actually mean it. And I've been fortunate to have been really good friends with him until weird circumstances increased the distance somewhat, but even now he's the picture of joie de vivre. It isn't the story of rags to riches- it's better- the story of picking oneself up and getting the best out of oneself that's so admirable. Even more so because I actually saw him do it.

Well- medical school is long over. The last webs of memory...Bah- that's stupid pretentious language and I won't complete that sentence! But there's a yearbook where all my classmates now live and each one has a particular story, a memory attached. But it is these two that even today I miss. That even today I wish things had ended differently with. It is these two who I think I'll always in a way look up to. Because life's hard as it is. And they've shown me that you can't be- shouldn't be- weak.

And its those two- those two above all else that I wish would someday read this blog.

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Pri said...

Am touched.. Wow..

KG said...

Thanks...:) It's true you know.

AJai said...

Hey just got here. Interesting anecdotes.
I think you've got the right people to look up to. You're admiring the right people for the right stuff. So often it's easy to 'follow the herd'. People should make individual choices. That's extremely important.
I'm still trying to find my role-models though. ;)

KG said...


Well- I'm sure you will.. And if you dont, it's fine!

Try Giselle Bundchen- great role 'model'! ;)