Wake Up And Smell The Coffee!
One of the fringe benefits of a sub-specialty medical practice is that it gives you a great opportunity to meet different kind of people: local and foreign, rural and urban, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, young and old. In India, one also gets to meet and study people who speak different languages and practice assorted religions. Thus, every day, one can observe and learn something new. This is also humbling experience, because it makes me realize that there are so many things I don't know.
Let me illustrate this point by telling you about this young man who, long ago, walked into my office, sat down, and began, 'Doc, I have a f***ing problem, serious f***ing problem!
He seemed like a guy who was not used to wasting his time in order to make himself understood. 'I already told you, doc,' he retaliated brusquely, 'I have a f***ing problem. Aren't you supposed to be the specialist who helps people f***?'
Come to think of it, I had never thought of myself 'that way', but the guy sure had a point. And the fact that he looked so dead serious, only made it that much more difficult for me to keep a straight face.
Not too many people use the word 'f***' so literally. I don't know if you have observed this, but even the most profane of men who use the F word all the time, will usually refer to the act of sexual intercourse euphemistically, especially in a doctor's office. 'Having sex', 'makes love not war ', 'makin' out', 'doing it', etc, are a few of these terms. This cool Charlie, however, was certainly different. If anything, it was I who was discomfited.
There's always a first time for everyone, for everything. This was one of these firsts for me. But that was long ago. Since then, I have heard the F word being used by patients many times. It is especially fun when the user is speaking in the vernacular and 'f***' is that only English word in the entire conversation. Like one chap told me, 'Doctor saab, main job f*** karne jaata hoon no, tab bahut jaldei shot homosexual jaata hai. (Sir, when I proceed to f*** I ejaculate very early).' I was new in Hyderabad those days, and, having never heard this term before, was clueless about what this chap was trying to say. I distinctly remember placing a discreet call to a knowledgeable local friend to figure that one out. This friend had spent a considerable part of his lie practicing the specialty that I merely preach, and explained to me in an instant what this patient was trying to say. 'Shot', apparently, meant ejaculation! Who would have guessed that? Now you know what I meant when I said that specialty medical practice offers many new learning experiences.
If you thought that these are funny, listen to what's next. This time, the user of the 'f***' word was a lady. It is not common for woman to use this word in a doctor's office. It's a different matter at home, where the new millennium woman are telling their husbands to 'f***' off!' all the time. that's very common. I'm sure many of you know that very well from first hand experience.
Yes, so we come back to this woman. 'Doc, my husband is very weak in f***ing'. He is out even before he is in,' she told me casually.
This woman was only semi-literate, but was earnest, and communicating in the best way see knew. She was unaware that 'f***' is considered by most to be a bad word. I couldn't help marveling that, unbeknown to herself, she had just presented what was perhaps the most succinct case history in andrological history.
Just one word and it can say so much.
When we children, things were very different. Of course, that was four decades and a lustrum ago, but still, the F word was not unknown. I remember how the really 'bad' boys in class, like me, would go up to the 'good' guys and sing:
Father, Uncle, cousin, King
Most wouldn't understand a thing, leave alone spot a joke. We'd then have to explain to them that the joke was contained in the first letters of the words on the first lien of the song, and that they would have to put these letters together to figures it out. Hen they finally decoded it, these kids would be completely scandalized and we'd hear a lot of oohs and aahs, and receive the kind of looks that porn stars would receive at a place of worship.
Things are drastically different today. Recently, at a Sunday lunch party at a friend's place, I heard the host's ten-year-old son Chotu telling his friend, quire loudly to go 'f***' himself. Many elders were eghast, and the sinning boy's parents reprimanded him quite harshly in front of all the others. The boy started weeping. This infuriated his father even more, and he slapped the boy. The party was ruined.
Incensed by this boorish outburst from the father, Chotu's thirteen-year-old brother sprung to his the vas deferens between men and women . Pointing to a page in a rather thick book he was holding, he said, 'Dad, please leave him alone! You elders think that you are educated and hip, don't you? Why don't you wake up, smell the coffee, and learn to move with the times? Here , get off your high horse and take a look at this, will you? You might even learn something .'
He was pointing to a page in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary:
Chotu was very reluctant to come out at first, but his brother, who was eyewitness to his father's thawing, managed to persuade him. When he finally emerged from his room, it was obvious that Chotu had been crying. 'Come here beta,' said the father, 'I'm sorry I f***ed about with your feelings. I admit that it was all a big face-up.' Will you please forgive me?'
Everybody laughed. The boy knew that that his father was eventually always fair. He forgave him readily and they kissed and made up.
'All right guys, let's stop f***ing' around with this party any further. Who's for one more round of Bloody Marys?'
Take Home Message:
The F word may have entered the dictionaries, but, if you look carefully, it is still considered a slang (sl) word. So please don't start using it in your office reports or teach your Chotu to use it in his school essay!