Consulting fees in A Municipal Hospital: Rupees Ten only
(This is for you , Aamir Khan and Satyamev Jayate)
When I realized I had to get ENT testing done at a Municipal Hospital (for a certain certification), I tried to be optimistic despite a fair amount of trepidation.
And my fears were not unfounded.
The ‘new’ OPD bulged with erratic masses of men, women and babes – in – arms that sprouted from never-ending queues. Some sat outside on the steps and a few even climbed atop a counter whose raison d’être the authorities had forgotten.
Confusion mixed with the heady fragrance of stale champa flowers worn by a group of women added to the market-like noisy ambience of the OPD which was in strong contrast to the quiet and somber OPD of private hospitals.
Desperation hung in the air. Only an hour remained to get the Case paper made before the counter closed for the day.
Windows 5 and 6 had the second-longest queues (these were for Ophthalmic and ENT Case papers) while the longest queue at Window No.4 was for renewing an existing Case paper (cost of a new one being Rs.10/-).
The shortest queue (almost non-existent) was at Window No.9 (for psychiatric cases).
I took my place at the end of the queue to Window No.5 hoping to use Creative Visualisation to make the queue move faster.
Through half-closed eyes (cr-vis, in progress), I noticed the other 7 unmanned windows. I also noticed the young man in front of me, frantically gesticulating to a young woman with an infant in arms, who was at the head of the queue. She would stand there for some time and then come back to the young man who would mutter something before she repeated her march towards Window No.5.
Was I curious to know what’s happening? Let’s just say, if I were a cat, I would be on the 9th life already.
The young lady was presumably trying to prevent people from breaking into the queue out-of -turn and failing miserably at that.
The hands of the clock were moving faster than the queue and I was desperate not to repeat this process on another day. The Case paper was to be had today and the testing had to be completed too.
Five minutes later, I was at the head of the queue and politely requesting friends, relatives and family members of those standing in the queue to go outside the OPD. They acquiesced. I was secretly relieved.
On the other side, the young man, who was in front of me in the queue, was doing the same. His wife took his place in the queue.
Now that the queue was a single file, with no chance of anyone gate-crashing the queue-party, I turned my attention to the Man on the other side of the window. A gentle request to hasten the process met with no smile but the queue now moved slightly faster.
I felt optimistic about my case (someone was holding my place in that queue).
Suddenly, loud sounds of women and men quarreling assailed us. Two women and a man were disputing their place in the queue in front of Window 6. They went on repeating that they had been waiting in the queue for hours, quite forgetting that all the others has been, too.
Almost 50 pairs of eyes were suddenly turned towards me, the temporary monitor/ class-disciplinarian.
I was expected to solve this feud. A couple of voices even verbalized their expectation that I would do the needful.
“Why should I? My queue is orderly and my number is not far from the window”. I was shocked at my own hesitation. Ashamed, I intervened in the altercation and tried to pacify the disputants.
And while trying to get the second queue in order, too, I asked a question to myself, “Why couldn’t we, who were standing in the queue, discipline ourselves enough to wait in a single file and also not be the one to break into a queue out of turn? Why was someone required to monitor us? Was this an in-born trait or could it be learned? Would being educated make a difference in this situation?”
What do you think?
(To Aamir Khan and SJ, because in the very first episode AK said that if any change has to come about it will be when each one of us changes).