It all started with the RCP asking me for a copy of my original degree certificate for applying for GMC registration.This was for a year of stint as a sabbatical in the United Kingdoms.They had asked for a certificate of goodstanding from my medical college with a current date which did not in the least make any sense because the last time I had had any contact with my medical college was twelve years back and I could not figure out the logic of it all but since the requirements are there in paper ,you do not question it, you make a wild dash across the country and the memory lane ,that is if you have any memory of the place at all.
I started my journey from Dehradun taking the early evening bus much against my sister’s advice and reached Anant Vihar bus stand in the early hours of the morning half awake.Wanted a taxi home but got pushed into an auto rickshaw which was all fine but for a sudden urge in the middle of the journey to sing psalm 21….there I went ‘The Lord’s my shepherd…..’.No I was not scared or anything,I just had this urge to sing and I did it much to the surprise of the auto rickshaw driver.By the time I reached my sister’s place in Dwarka,I was all but asleep.I dashed into the bed barely managing to take my sneaker’s off.
Next morning two changes of morning tea still had me deep in the sluberland.By the time the third cup came and I had sort of woken up to the world,I realised that my purse was missing with all the cash I had in hand and the debit cards,pan card ,etc.
My sister and brother-in law were at it cancelling my account .My sister gave me the money I required and everyone including the travel agent gave me a sound advice about getting into the right train,etc…and he had no clue about the morning ‘s incident.
The ride in the Rajdhani was relaxing.I prayed a short prayer asking the lord to give me an interesting company for the journey and he placed a sweet couple in their eighties.Their exploits kept me entertained.
Hitting Kolkotta,I headed straight for the university.Reached the enquiry where the person asked me to go to a counter three shops away in the street where a collosal metal gate with an equally formidable lock greeted me.With a deep fear of anything beaurocratic in India with it’s corruption and equal dislike of work in any form, deeply etched in my sub-concious I fluttered around like a head-less chicken.
Half an hour later there was some activity.The clerk had some problem trying to figure out what form he could give me.
They needed my marksheets which I was not sure was in my bag,and they also needed the Kolkotta university registration number which again did not make sense because I had opted for the medical council of India registration and I did not have the local registration.The signature from the principal of my college took the cake,I had to travel twelve hours to reach my college.
I needed the degree now and they added that if I paid the emergency fee I would get it as early as one month.This again did not make sense st all.I decided to go to the diploma section and request.An irritable clerk ,declared that he could not produce the certificate before two to three months and the local registration was a must…that meant going through another set of beaurocracy and God only knows where I was heading for.
I went to meet the controller of examination who handed my case over to someone who had been allocated the work.The gentleman was kind.He asked me to get the signature and the recommendation from my principal and he would see what they could do.As I was leaving,the clerk called out over his shoulder that I should find out from my medical college if the degree had reached there.
Just to clear the doubt as to why I had taken so long to come looking for this precious bit of paper.As soon as my internship was over,I got into my post –graduate course.The degree was not out then so I made do with the provisional which stated clearly that I had applied for the degree ,was eligible and would get it in the due course.I went headlong into my post graduate studies without looking back and never really had the need for the piece of paper because I had one for my post-grad which I received during my convocation.It was also the pre-conceived fear of the clerks sipping tea who had this bad habit of asking for tea money which kept me post-poning the entire gambut.It was the RCP which had got me going.
I took the train to Bankura,watching ,observing humanity as one can only in India.The slums of Kolkotta disgusts one and even as I watched out from my window ,I suddenly remembered my sister screwing up her nose in one of the government hospitals in Delhi and asking ‘Why can’t they keep themselves clean?’That was the thought in my mind.The sludge,the pigs,the shanty holes ,unwashed babies running around barefeet….this was nothing to write home about ,it spoke of human dignity at it’s lowest level.There really was no excuse for the filth,poverty one can empathise with but filth is something else altogether..As I looked out ,to my horror I saw a young chap hastily get behind a half broken tin roof lying against the wall ,to clear his bowels.The rawness of the whole incident left me shaken….That was his loo.
My co-passengers were the typical Bengali bhadralok ,Bengal is famous for.One hour into the journey and they had taken the official position of my guardian,bargaining with the tea vendor, making sure that the coconut water fellow gave me the sauce of the coconut after the juice was over.
On the way I saw stretches of marigold plantations which was something new from my earlier expeditions.
I reached Bankura at around eight o’clock in the night and I checked into the only one of the two decent hotels in the place belonging to a family we used to vaguely know as medical students.
The place was nowhere in my memory,nothing looked familiar.
The next morning while riding the rickshaw to the college the zigsaw started fitting in and I even guided the rickshawala through the short way to the administrative section.
My time in my college was a breeze.Everyone seemed so cordial and willing to help.
The clerk in the student’s section had been expecting me.He handed me the character certificate which I had requested for through a mail I had dropped earlier and much to my delight the lady took out an old register and started searching for my name.Three or four huge envelopes lay inside the register and one of them contained my precious degree certificate.All I had to do was sign the register and the certificate was in my hand.The relief I felt was so immense that I was almost emotional.I thanked them profusely and with a deep gratitude in my heart to the Lord who had been so good to me I booked a flight to Delhi for the next day and boarded the late night train to Kolkotta.
I reached Kolkotta in the wee hour of the morning ,hovered around the station till I found some steps where there was a cross-ventilation.I sat down there and finished reading a book,enjoying the breeze,feeling happy, in two hours straight before I took a taxi to the airport knowing that I was still too early.
Here I am in the airport now….found a plug point for charging my lap-top sitting on the floor writing this up……
I am yet to figure out why I had to make that journey to the forgotten recesses of my life to experience that amazing grace….!