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This is one journey I will probably never forget-a young 18 year old, happy and relieved beyond words to have secured a merit seat in one of India’s most prestigious colleges, yet apprehensive about what lay ahead for the next 5 years .Our car was packed to the brim with my stuff and I sat in the front seat with my father driving-he was happy beyond words as he had graduated from KMC too.My younger brother was flushed and proud that his sister was about to join a college that would make her a doctor and that he was part of the journey that took her here.
It was Deepavali time(that’s how this article originated, by the way)-and I remember seeing the lamps lighting up the houses along the countryside, and heard the crackers bursting,on that dark night when I reached Mangalore. My father, never one to postpone the inevitable, drove me straight to Nandagiri hostel, and left me there.I remember unpacking some of my stuff, and the sense of loneliness I felt when he left.I also remember, with gratitude, my new friends-who have remained friends over the last two decades- coming into my room and staying by me, knowing I’d probably be missing him.
One of the biggest fears I had then, was of coming through those five years ‘polished and pure’-with a blemishless character and an MBBS degree, of course.Staying away from home, in which we had been given a typical conservative middle class up bringing-there was a lot of worry about whether the peer group would be good.
As it turned out, by the Grace of God, that was no issue at all.I had joined the first deemed university batch of Kasturba Medical College Mangalore-and believe me, I had the blessing of belonging to one of the most hard working and dedicated batches that had joined KMC (ask the retired HOD’S if you don’t believe meJ)-they used to call us the Konkani batch, and joke that they’d take classes in Konkani!
Once that hurdle was cleared, and once the teething troubles were through,it was five and a half years of magic.Our seniors could not have been more supportive and kind, and I have no words to describe our warden of Nandagiri at that time, Dr Poornima Baliga. She was the right blend of kindness and fun-but try to cross those firmly drawn lines and you’d know where you stood.Luckily, none of my batch ever did that, so all we saw of her was kindness and understanding-her smiling face remains a cherished memory even today.
Some memories stand etched in gold-the first day in the dissection hall, when Dr Chitra Prakash Rao, the then HOD,in her spotless white coat, every hair tucked in place ,looked at us and gave us the rules of the dissection hall-the first incision we got to do on the cadaver, the physiology classes which exposed us to the fascinating unseen workings of the human body and the vast amounts of ‘safety net ‘which nature has benevolently and lovingly provided, that if one mechanism fails, a thousand others spring into place to keep the body safe and working, Biochemistry where all of us groaned at the structures we’d have to mug up, sure that we would fail and never pass and which taught us how tiny molecules of matter form the mighty human body, epitome of perfection in the evolutionary cycle.
There were trials by fire, too-every viva and test and the dreaded finals, especially the first and final years, where the loss of six months was an unthinkable and unacceptable life shattering event in those days.
Second year and third year were fun-mainly because we were seniors and had cleared first year. Clinics started , and exposed us to the suffering human patients, and began the lifelong process that would mould us into efficient compassionate doctors.Friendships became deeper, and it was more settled, peaceful. We were worried about passing the second year-4 major subjects-but were ably guided by the experienced and caring teachers of these departments.So many wonderful people, whom we respected and looked up to, Dr Raghuveer, the entire pathology department, unforgettable Dr Parvathi Bhat, strict but with her own strong sense of humour,microbiology, where we crammed lifecycles so often and so desperately, I had dreams of worms and viruses and bacteria all the time. So did many of my classmates by their own admission! As for pharmacology-we were so, SO sure that none of us would pass it-and yet we all did! Forensic medicine with the respected Dr V V Pillai and his team, who made it the least taxing subject for us. Fun, actually. Dr Venkataraya Prabhu, student counsellor, then, and the rock we could all depend on. And each and every one of our teachers who taught us our clinical –experienced, upright people who made KMC what it was.
Third year went so fast (six months)I don’t think many of us even realized when it started and ended! As for final year-it was a year that sped by, a year in which I have memories of classmates walking the corridors at all hours ,growing thinner, most of us losing our glorious long locks we entered KMC with, working, working, working,-the library full, both at college and in the hostel. The final party in Manjarun-I think this party should be kept at the end of internship, by the way-when you all have passed your finals, and are ready to leave the college to go back home-I doubt if a single person in that room that night did not have a smidgen of fear as to whether they would make it through. But maybe that’s just me.
Oh the relief of entering internship-of finally, ultimately letting our guard down at least for one year! That was the year in which we finally came to know our PGs(those godly , inaccessible beings when we were students)-the community medicine postings-unforgettable for most of us. The first surgeries we assisted, the first baby we delivered and the wise , confident advice we gave our juniors when they turned to us in panic,-I won’t forget the specter of entrance exams looming ahead for which we were all working .Many of my friends(yours truly included) got engaged during internship and waiting for lord and master’s phone call every other night was a part of it .Most of us got married too, and many of us were carrying our first children by the time we left Mangalore. It was , in many ways, an abrupt transition , from carefree intern to wife and to-be mother, and embryo PG.But I wouldn’t have it any other way-not for anything in the world.
Days of wonder and magic, of beauty and health and youth,-five and a half lovely years that shine in this life as we look back. A bond that binds us, no matter how much we deny it or resist it. Days of laughter with friends, of successes won by hard work, of the transition from bewildered teen to adults. Of lessons in which only life could teach us-of learning to recognize, respect true and try to emulate knowledge and humility and greatness when we saw them. Of friendships which have lasted so far, and may last a lifetime, please God.
At the end of two decades of having joined KMC-we joined in November 1993-having worked in myriad places and with so many people, in different institutions, I can only say that we were blessed with sincere and honorable and knowledgeable teachers. Biased and stuffy as it sounds, I can only say that, KMC imparts an indefinable polish to its students and teachers-you just cant find that anywhere else. Watch and observe for yourselves and you’ll know how true it is.
Watching those whom we studied with, now as assistant professors in most of the departments in KMC itself brings pride and happiness to all of us.
Times were far more simpler then-fun for us was an occasional dinner at Hao-Hao, a once in a blue-moon expedition to St Mary’s island. And of course, the movies we attended with our friends, taking care not to bunk class as much as possible.Happiness was working hard and seeing your good grades posted on the notice board,of going home each sessional holiday with a clear conscience and watching the loving faces of your parents and siblings as they spoilt you. We had so much less, in one sense-and were immensely wealthier in so many ways more.
A green building on a hill, shrouded in sheets of falling rain. Roads full of pot-holes, damp clothes on clothes lines shared by a million others. Moments of homesickness, and of warmth and laughter, too. The unforgettable hostel food. Standing at the huge windows of the anatomy dissection hall, watching the coastline of Mangalore and the unending carpet of coconut trees below. Coming from Wenlock and Lady Goschen Hospitals in the softly falling rain.
Love, success, failure, lessons and still more lessons (and I don’t mean merely the academic kind).Laughter and tears, fears and triumph.
Life itself, then.
About the author: Anonymous (The author is an ex-student of KMC, Mangalore from 1993 batch.)
About the editor:The editor is Subhathira Rajasekaran of 3rd BDS MCODS.
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