“I am all set for tomorrow's surgery paper. So, shoot your questions,” he challenged. I sniffed at his breath to check if he had been on a pub-crawl. For, he was a veteran of a thousand exams who, having flunked successively, had taken root in the college campus like a mighty oak.
I queried him about appendicectomy. In a jiffy, he conjured up a chit from his shirt collar. The chit, neatly folded like an accordion pleat, contained the answer written in telegraphese. Further barrage of questions saw a rush of chits sprouting out like skin rashes from all over his body - his socks, belt, cap and even his briefs. He, indeed, had 'answered' all my surgery questions with surgical precision! But his scheme had a flaw which proved to be his undoing.
For, his answer sheets provided the examiners with a smoking gun in the form of a series of parentheses containing things like vide infra, vide supra, refer to page No 1920 etc. An advice that an interested reader could update his knowledge by referring to the article 'Pathogenesis of sporadic cases of tuberculosis, Lancet, 277:1008, 1967' nailed him good and proper.
There were other plots of his that were relatively successful. They were of such ingenuity that, had they run aground, they would have kicked up a storm in the local print media triggering headlines such as ‘daredevils climb drainage pipes to deposit answer sheets in exam-hall toilets’. Or ‘Exam candidate faints, recovers both consciousness and answer sheets in rest room'. But despite his exploits at the theory, the viva-voce proved to be his nemesis.
The howlers he inadvertently churned out at the orals were legion. To a question about the salient features of pneumonia he replied "Its 'p' is silent, sir." When asked about the first measure to be taken on encountering a patient with severe chest pain, he glibly said "Call a doctor." His cure for intense itching was simple 'scratch vigorously.'
And a day came when one of his erstwhile classmates became an examiner who offered him a bail-out package. The terms of the offer required him to swear on the 'Bhagavad-Gita' that he would spare the humanity the benefits of his healing touch. And with the embargo in place, he was pushed through the exams after posing knotty (or naughty) questions like ‘which part of the body aches during headache?’ etc.
Today he is knee-deep (with 'k' silent) in his father's flourishing poultry business somewhere in the north. And, true to his graduation vow, he never dabbled in medicine. Except, maybe, when one of his chickens went down with Chickenpox!
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