Early last week I woke up with a fever, a blocked nose, a raw throat and a tummy that ran like a motivated Ethiopian. If you’ve lived in Mumbai long enough, these symptoms aren’t an immediate cause for worry. Maybe you ate something. Or drank something. Or you did something really reckless, like go out and have some unprotected breaths. I also diligently started on an early treatment regimen of ignoring everyone’s advice.
The next morning, I was worse. “Please go see a doctor”, texted my mother. “Take care, drink lots of fluids,” said my sister. “LOL Mubarak ho. Ebola hua hai, marega tu,” texted my best friend. And so I finally went to see the doctor. I spent some time in the waiting room and read every magazine there, because even when you’re sick, it’s important to keep up with the current affairs of 1994. My doctor is a charming, avuncular gentleman, so imagine my disappointment when I was told he wasn’t there, and I’d be attended to by his temporary replacement.
The worst thing I expected to hear that evening was “You have dengue, and two of your arteries are blocked with actual chunks of pork rib”, not “Hai heathen, you broke civilisation.” And she kept going... I got a lecture about my fall from grace, and how I should rejoin the flock. It was like being treated by Aastha TV. Representation pic/Thinkstock
The temporary replacement in question was a middle-aged lady who first meticulously noted my name and medical history. Then she studied it for a while before announcing her prognosis. “Joshi,” she said. “You are Brahmin.” While I’ve always known the caste system is a disease, that was not the judgment I was expecting.
“Err, yes.” I replied.
“But, according to your own medical history, you drink.”
“Brahmins should not drink. You also eat non-veg, you said. But… you are Brahmin?”
“I… just do”, I said, actively wishing for a butt-injection for the first time in my life, just to make things less awkward.
“You know, earlier, what the job of us Brahmins was?”
I wanted to say “To take a steaming dump of intellectual superiority over everyone who wasn’t one?” but instead I went with “Grhhhh?”
“To give everyone knowledge. But now you eat non-veg, and drink. Society is spoiled.”
What a great day. The worst thing I expected to hear that evening was “You have dengue, and two of your arteries are blocked with actual chunks of pork rib”, not “Hai heathen, you broke civilisation.” And she kept going. As she tested my blood pressure and checked my throat and measured my temperature, I got a lecture about my fall from grace, and how I should rejoin the flock. It was like being treated by Aastha TV.
I was too sick to argue, other patients were waiting, and to be honest, the doctor gave me the air of being one of those people with whom debate is impossible; that crusty middle-agedness where there is what you believe, and there is what you don’t, and never the twain shall meet. I wanted to tell her I was an atheist, but I get no joy from instigating heart attacks. I wanted to tell her that I hope she doesn’t judge everyone who sits across the table from her on their last name and lineage. And I wanted to tell her she was an insult to the avuncular, always warm, never offensive gentleman whose chair she was in. The difference being, I didn’t want to shove my beliefs down her throat in an environment where they were irrelevant. So, I just took my prescription and went home, relieved that it didn’t say “Bhagvad Gita (thrice a day, before meals, except Tuesday, when you shouldn’t eat)”. And the next time I get sick, I’ll just resign myself to death, because it’s obviously just God punishing me for turning my back on my high birth. Woe is me.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi
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