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A Visit to the Doctor in the Nervous Nineties
by Vijai Pant

“He is having slight congestion in his chest,” I told the doctor, my soft tone ensuring that dad does not hear it. My dad, probably like all dads and aged persons, never likes the idea of telling the doctor a great deal.

“It’s OK to talk of symptoms, but why go beyond that,” he would often say.

So, hazarding a guess about the ailment as a layman is a complete ‘No! No!’ His visit to a doctor is as much about getting cured as a litmus test of the doctor’s professional competency.

The doctor, probably tired at the fag end of the day, suppressed a yawn, but my 92 years old dad was quick enough to notice it. He gave me an admonishing look for having brought him to someone who apparently seemed quite disinterested in his work, or, specifically in his patient’s well being.

The examination, with a torch enlightening the dark caverns of his toothless mouth, while my dad momentarily resembled the male version of Kali, with his tongue protruding out, was over in a jiffy. Thereafter, the languid movements of the stethoscope took over, but unluckily for the doctor, this too did not last long enough to satisfy my father that the job had been well done.
“Everything seems normal. Just ensure that he takes due precaution in this chilly weather. And yes, only lukewarm water,” the doctor concluded, handing me the prescription, the paper, more or less unsullied. He added, as an afterthought, “For his age, your father appears extremely fit.” However, the way it was said the compliment looked more like a complaint, an exception to the universally accepted rule of old age and infirmity going hand-in-hand. It made me wonder whether I should apologise to this middle aged pro for bringing to him a ninety something man, with all faculties intact.

The prescription, without any medicines, was handed over to me. The doctor smiled. It was message for us to leave. But dad was not done yet. He stayed put.

Like any smart consumer, he wanted value for money- the consultation fee- and value here meant more of the doctor’s time.

“Doctor, why am I having a wheezing sound while breathing,” he queried.

The doctor who had already rung the bell for the next patient, tried to dismiss the query with, “I’ve explained it to your son,” obviously not happy with this unexpected hold-up.

But my dad seemed in no hurry to leave.

“It’s nothing. It happens in old age. Don’t worry. You’ll be all right,” the doctor coaxed wanting to get rid of him.

“You mean to say all old people have it and that too without any reason,” father was not liking the fact that knowledge was not being shared.

“Well! You can say that,” the doctor retorted completely exasperated at the whole thing.

“Please take him away,” he almost pleaded with me.

I forced dad to get up and with a disgruntled look he left the doctor’s chamber, muttering.

Although he grumbled all the way home and chided me for wasting time, energy and money, I was happy inside that there was no major health issue.

More than my father it is me who gets panicky and worried due to his being in the nervous nineties, because after all a century is a century.