To compensate for all the time that she was ‘wasting’, Priyanka read the Hindu during the metro ride to Nehru Place while I shamelessly listened on to the conversation that two of my co passengers were having. She impatiently cackled at her watch when I wasted two minutes haggling with the auto wala outside the station. I ignored her.
I would not have recognised the building had I not been so sure of its location. The old structure appeared to have been pulled down and rebuilt completely, for not only was it taller than what I remembered, but also more modern and welcoming- a simple paint job could never have managed that. The chambers were still in the basement but the furnishing indicated that the doctor had prospered since I last saw him. He was inside, seeing patients in his office. He still seemed to spend as much time with each patient, as he did back in the day, and after every patient left, a pre recorded female voice asked the next patient to be ready to see the doctor.
Anticipating a long wait, Priyanka sighed loudly and flopped into a sofa, picking up an India Today from the pile of magazines on the coffee table placed in front. I craned my neck to watch a news channel that the receptionist was gawking at, on a television set perched on the wall. On mute.
After about an hour, when the disoriented female voice prompted, he pointed in our direction to tell us that the Doctor was ready to see us.
He looked the same as he had the last time I saw him. And he had the same genial smile, when he greeted me- as he had when I was ten. His hair looked much darker than before though. And more unnatural. But I managed to peel my eyes off his mane, to smile and introduce him to my friend. He checked her for around 10 minutes while continuously asking after the well-being of the rest of my family, and about what each one was doing, since his last consultation with them. For the three minutes in between that he didn’t, he was talking on the phone, with another patient, asking the person on the other end to come in with a chest X ray.
To Priyanka, he went on to prescribe a variation of the medication I had suggested to her, previously. I think our disappointment showed on our faces. So he enquired whether we always had a good breakfast before leaving for work. Priyanka replied that we seldom had the time.
“That is what is wrong”, he proclaimed, happily. “Here take a look at this”, he ordered, shoving pieces of glossy colourful paper in our hands.
A closer examination showed that the paper had DIET PLAN as the heading. Below, it listed all the essential micronutrients that the human body needed, and exactly what each of them did for the body. A table also enumerated the foods that were rich sources. I was quite sure I had seen that before in a fifth standard science lesson.
“What subject do you study?” the doctor asked Priyanka. She did not think that General Studies counted, so kept her silence. I helpfully said that I studied economics. He smiled then went on to lecture us about the role of carbohydrates and fats in our diets using banking terminology. My fifth standard teacher had been less patronising. I nodded at regular intervals while Priyanka just looked around helplessly.
He let us go after thirty minutes, but not before adding a bunch of anti-oxidants to the prescription. He also talked a little about the company that manufactured them, after express instructions from doctors and health care specialists like him. When Priyanka looked worried, he assured us that they were easily available. Heck, even his clinic stocked up on them- the receptionist would give them to us if we asked.
We asked. The pills were priced at 950 bucks a leaf. Both of us together did not have enough cash to cover that and the consultation fees.
“Anti-oxidants are fine, but I could just take tomorrow off?” She suggested. I concurred with her.
PS: After paying up the consultation fee, I had just enough money to buy us a chicken roll each, from Dadur Dokan in Market 2. Priyanka said she felt better even as she ate it.