Sunday, October 25, 2009

Games Doctors Play: A Play

Scene 1: Medical College Hospital, Ward 1.

Actors: Dr1, Dr2, Dr3

The stage is too brightly lit with numerous over-head lamps, with only one hanging mike at the center visible to the audience. Walls are painted regulation drab yellow - plaster peeled off in patches. Red spit marks bottom right. One old fashioned ceiling fan with cob-webs making creaky noises occasionally.

Drs 1 and 3 are sitting at a table at the end of a long ward. They are both male, in their mid - twenties, unshaven and apparently tired. Dr1 is sulking, Dr3 is writing into a case-record.

Dr1: "I hate him. God, How I hate him!"

Dr3 looks up from the case-record, looks at Dr1, and resumes writing.

Dr1: "I could kill him with my bare hands right now."

Dr3: "I am sure you could."

Dr1: "How could he? I had it all planned for the evening."

Dr3 does not respond. He appears not to have heard.

Enter Dr2 (Right). She is of about the same age as Dr1 and Dr3. She is wearing a white coat, and is greatly excited.

Dr2: "Guess what?"

Dr1: "Him dead?"

Dr2 looks at Dr3, who winks back. She chooses to ignore the remark.

Dr2: "Not yet, but we got another H1N1 admission today. Lady, pregnant, 7 months."

Dr3 stops writing. "One of our own?"

Dr2: "Nope. This one's ref from _________ multi-specialty. Software engineer."

Dr1: "So, What's new? Just another swine flu case."

Dr2: "My! You are today worse than usual, what happened? On second thoughts, dont tell me."

Dr3: "They got a bed for her?"

Dr2 looks at Dr3 with an expression of surprise.

Dr2: "And since when has that started to matter? They throw out, the moment a patient is diagnosed, and we take them in, no questions asked. You ought to know that."

(Exits Left)

Chorus: "You ought to know that. You ought to know that."

Faint wails arising from Right.

Dr1: "I can hear them now, that should be them."

Dr3 rises from his seat, goes to Right, looks out and returns to his seat

Dr3: "You're right. Its the new party. How did you know?"

Dr1: "What do you think how I know? I've been in this ward for a month, 've been on duty here 24 straight hours now, and next to the H1N1 quarantine unit as we are, I can hear them day in and day out."

"I can even tell what's happening just by listening to them. Here, last week, remember the old woman with her beads?"

Dr3 tries hard to remember for a moment. He does not respond.

"I could hear her non-stop reading from the scriptures, day in and day out, and the once or twice I went past that way, I saw that not only was she reciting her prayers, but she was counting her holy beads without pause, as if her daughter's life depended on it."

Dr3: "I remember now. That was one of our own. But she.."

Dr1: "Yeah, the same one that passed away last week. I was the first to know 'cause the old lady had quit praying. I had a good night's sleep that day. She was beginning to get on my nerves."

Chorus: "He had a good night's sleep. He had a good night's sleep"

Dr3: "And now that you've been asked to stay on for another shift, am sure you'll get closely acquainted with the new party as well."

(Exits Right)

Dr1 stays in his seat for a while, gets up, looks out (Right), returns to his seat.

Sound of Loud crying can be heard once again from Right. Enter Dr2 (Right).

Dr1: "Not dead is she?"

Dr2: "No. But the baby.."

Dr1: "That one was a goner alright. They'd be lucky to get the mother."

Dr2: "That they'll be. She got Oxygen Saturation less than 40% in her blood, I am told."

Dr1: "I really wish they wouldn't make so much noise. Its giving me a headache."

Dr2: "Could you for once stop being so cynical?"

Dr1: "Cynical! What's cynical about asking for some peace and quiet? And what's with all these lights anyway? Ask them to replace a broken one in the OP and it takes ages, and here, just look at it, burning away without a care! The obscenity of it!"

Dr2: "Relax. Have you forgotten this is a play and we are on a stage? They need to watch your every move."

(turns and gestures to audience)

Dr1: "Then why just one mike? Wouldn't they want to listen to me as well.. perhaps hang on to every word I say?"

Dr2: "Tell you what.. I don't think they do. I think they would rather look at you than listen to you...(Chuckles) you especially. Who wants to see a doctor whine anyway?"

Dr1: "What's this, a bloody pantomime show? What sort of an audience is this?"

Dr2: "You have been working too many hours"

Dr1: "The old man doesn't think so. Just gave me another shift."

Dr2: "Still do you have to be so bitter? Don't you know half the work-force is on strike?"

Dr1: "May be its better this way. At least I wont have to go to my room at the Quarters"

Dr2: "How's that a good thing to be?"

Dr1: "The room mates are all at the Labour room. Our focus of H1N1 outbreak, you know. Their colleagues had been confirmed to be infected last week. Now they have started showing symptoms as well, and yet they are asked to report for duty."

Dr2: "And yet you share the same room!"

Dr1: "You got a better idea? They did not throw me out when I got dengue fever 3 months ago."

Dr2: "Get yourselves diagnosed as infected or not. They have begun to take nasal swabs at the labour room, I hear"

Dr1: "You hear a lot, dont you? And yet you hear only so much"

Dr2: "Then get it done from the General Hospital. They have an H1N1 cell too."

Dr1: "That they do. And I had planned today to get myself checked there today evening. Guess its not to be"

Enter Dr3 (Right)

Dr3: "Its in the news. The labour room as the focus of infection. They have started shifting the patients out."

Dr2: "As usual. Too little, too late"

Dr1: "My! THAT was Cynical of you"

(Loud wails arising from Right.)

Dr1: "I think I am gonna sleep comfortably tonight after all"

Dr2 goes right, looks out, looks back at Dr1, exits Left.

Dr3: "She's much to learn yet. She still believes."

Dr1 is silent, lost in thought. He goes to right, looks out, and doesn't look back.

Over-head lights are dimmed one by one, until only one over the right window, illuminating Dr1, remains. It stays lit for a small while, and then that too is put out.


  1. OH MY GOD. That just scared me to death, considering I stay in a city so staurated with swine flu cases. And I have a very bad chest infection and cold myself, I'm getting myself checked today.

    Brilliantly depicted. The pregnant software engineer touched a chord.

  2. Brilliant is what I can echo! If young doctors can get to be cynical like Dr1, I shudder to think of the older! No wonder there is such hue and cry about abolishing private practice. But then, what is the point in cribbing? It is one's choice, to be a soldier, to be a doctor or a banker.

    As I have suspected right from the first day, you are a 'multiple personality', Gopu! :D

  3. @Thresia: H1N1 is not necessarily serious in every case. As the tertiary referral centre, only the most serious cases come to the hospital in mention. You can get the test done from the General Hospital.

    @Bala: Its not many-in-one, dear friend: its all just this one. Am reminded of my fav line about the line dividing good and evil cutting right across every heart..

  4. a touch of Hemingway here. read more of his works, especially short stories, and see how he brings on the effect without putting it into words. for instance, 'a clean and brightly lit place.' you are doing great, but keep working on the craft.

  5. They drain out all traces of emotion, right? And I can't blame dr1 for being cynical.
    Nice post Bluebird. I like the theatre backdrop to this post.:)

  6. I am a bit flabbergasted after reading the post.
    I read in between the lines and saw a doctor's helplessness and concern. I also found a bit of cynicism, which under the circumstances, is understandable.
    I hope the doctors, who most of the time serve us pretty dedicatedly, have a better life someday in government run hospitals. It will be such a pity otherwise.

  7. @Venu: Thanks, I will.

    @Destiny: They sure do. Thank you

    @Aparna: Thanks for still believing.

  8. That was the side of the doctors that most of the patients do not see or do not care to see, we end up seeing just a soft spoken but aloof guy, or at times even a callous person in a white coat..this opened my eyes to the reason behind that veneer. superb skills at screenplay!

  9. Yes Sujatha, but yesterday someone died who was under my care, and in spite of myself I found myself to be vaguely disappointed if not outright sad, and I was pleasantly surprised that I could, still.

  10. This is really nice. I think only a doctor can actually talk about the life of a doctor like that. Nice screen play i must say. The next time i see a doctor i can think s/he could also have a heart like us or for that matter yours :-)

  11. Thank you, Imagination. Many people in the profession, including yours truly, are not very good at handling sympathy. I suggest you keep your kind words to yourself during your next doctor visit. Just give the guy a chocolate instead. :-)

  12. Sorry I had to disable comments. There was no other way I could stop him from coming. No offence to you.
    I apologize for leaving a totally unrelated comment here. There was no other way of getting in touch with you. Are you on facebook?

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Hi Aparna. I was beginning to wonder if I too had not been among those responsible for you having had to take the step. I was too lazy to move from Orkut to Facebook, you can catch me at orkut or Thanks and TC.

  15. This can be well adapted for a short play.

  16. @Haddock: we are working on it. thanks

  17. I liked the way you write. The emotions are subtle yet deep. Keep at it.
    Take care

  18. thank you, exuberance! you take care too

  19. Happy New Year, Doc. Busy with studies?. Have a great year!

  20. Happy New year dear friend...! Haven't heard anything from you for so long...Seems you are busy!

  21. @Venu, Imagination: Thank you and I wish all my friends here the very best for each day of their lives not just the new year.

    A lot has happened of late, but I shall be writing soon. My fingers have been itching to write for sometime now, which is a good sign, and I am waiting for the writing to come through me again.


Thanks for giving me this moment of your life.