Thursday, March 31, 2011

A day in the life of an intern in cricket-crazy India

On 30th March, 2011 India and Pakistan played a crucial semi-final match for the Cricket World Cup 2011.
The entire nation was worked up into a mad frenzy, and almost everyone was gathered with friends, or family, or strangers, somewhere, watching the match, eating, drinking, shouting, cussing, and cheering.

I was working on my night shift at the hospital, from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am.

Don't feel sorry for me, I really didn't care much about the match anyways, except for an hourly update on the score. (Yeah, every Indian I ever knew is going to disown me after reading this). I didn't even watch too much of the first half of the match, though I was at home. (Now they'll never want to see my face again and will probably refuse to acknowledge my existence till the end of time).

8:05 pm: After having taken an exceptionally empty local train, to the hospital, I start my shift.

The first couple of  hours of the shift were normal, pretty much the same. I can't even say that there were lesser patients than usual. Of course there was this excitement in the air, and this eagerness in all the patients to go home real quick. And there was the match commentary running in the background from someone's radio, where we worked, in the Casualty Department.

9:00pm: A case of poisoning came in. The young man, in his mid-twenties, had tried to commit suicide by consuming about 250ml of a pesticide an hour back. When he came in he was conscious, with no visible adverse reactions having developed as yet. We put in a Ryle's tube and started the gastric lavage immediately. Over the next one hour, however, he worsened considerably, and vomited 4-5 times.
After all the initial management, he was to be transferred to a higher centre for further specialised care, since the hospital I work at is quite small and not well-equipped to handle such cases. And being the intern, I was given the job of accompanying the patient in the ambulance.

10:00 pm: The patient is in the ambulance, everyone's getting ready to go. The patient seemed to be in some kind of stupor, quite disoriented and languid. He was just lying there on his trolley and groaning. We hear the first firecrackers of the night. No one paid much attention, of course, except the patient. He, on the other hand, woke up from his stuporous sleep, and said slowly, but clearly: "India jeet gaya, phatake phod rahe hain. India jeet gaya!" ("India has won, they're bursting the crackers!")

I just stared at him dumbfounded. Then I quickly checked the score on my phone. Pakistan was something like 160/6 at 36 overs. Yep, India was definitely winning. But the match was far from over. Anything could happen. But obviously, some zealots had already started the after - party with the crackers.

So yeah, I let him think his happy thoughts of India's win the for rest of the trip. Would probably give him a reason to live and recover or something. He remained awake after that for the entire trip, talking about the match, and even telling us why he had tried to commit suicide (unemployment).

10:40 pm: We've reached the bigger hospital since the roads were all empty, handed him over and are now returning. Pakistan was 8 wickets down and the last few overs of the game were being played. The ambulance driver and his assistant just couldn't resist stopping at a roadside TV store to watch the match, though we are obviously not allowed to do such things, and then once they made sure we were winning, they even treated all of us to ice-creams as celebration!

10.45 pm: On the way back, we see hundreds of people dancing, and cheering for India, it's like a big festival. Even though I've lived in India all my life, and am used to all the cricket mania, I'm still surprised. The unadulterated happiness on the people's faces is infectious. Firecrackers are bursting everywhere, children are dancing, men are shouting: "Indiaaaa, Indiaaa!!" For the first time in my life, I think I truly understand what cricket means to the masses. It's beautiful.

11.05 pm: We're back. Within the next hour, a flurry of patients turn up. Some of them were just waiting for the match to get over, now they can go to the Doctor. A whole lot of young men come in, covered in gulaal. Many are drunk. A couple of them got into a fight, smashed each other's heads. Part of one's scalp got avulsed with a tin roof while he was running around celebrating India's victory. Two-three bumped their head with something or the other. Many of them were slightly drunk. And, none of them cared the least about their injuries. Their wives and mothers just hauled them to the hospital. They're sitting in this group inside the Casualty, and as each new patient comes in, they examine his injury, ooh-aah over it, and go back to discussing the match. And their tons of relatives wait outside the Casualty and create a din.
I try my best to suppress my laughter, because it's a hilarious sight, and we give them all their injections and dressings as fast as we can, just to get rid of all the noise and commotion.

11.30 pm: An 80 year old granny comes in. She was watching the match with her family all cooped up in their living room, and some one got excited when India took a wicket, thumped her on the thigh, and wham! Something broke. She comes in on a wheelchair, smiling even, we get an X-ray, and there's a fracture neck femur.

1.30 am: Finally the patients seem to be lessening. Now, the more drunk ones start turning up though. One patient comes in with an IT fracture, with about 10 people accompanying him, one of them being some kind of local goon. They say they were playing cricket when he got hurt. (At 1.30 am they were playing cricket!) The on-call orthopaedician is not available at that time to see the patient. He doesn't turn up for the next hour. In the meanwhile, we take X-rays, give him painkillers. The local goon, who is of course drunk, creates a ruckus and threatens: "Main ye akkhha hospital phod doonga!" ("I'm going to smash this entire hospital to pieces!"). Security comes in, the CMO comes in, the orthopaedician is still nowhere to be found.

2.30 am: Orthopaedician turns up, swings his arm over the local goon's shoulder and then it's like they're long lost friends. Pretty soon things calm down and all is forgotten. After the orthopaedician leaves, everyone stays up to bitch about him for a while. I have to admit, it wasn't entirely uncalled for (the bitching).

3.30 am: I try to go to sleep. I spend 15 minutes applying Odomos and finding a clean bedsheet. As soon I settle down, a patient comes in. I give up on the sleeping when patients keep turning up at 15-20 minute intervals. I start writing this post in my mind in the meanwhile.

The rest of the morning goes by as usual. I leave at 7.55 am from the hospital, drink a bottle of Sprite, since the water at the hospital can't be trusted to be safe, hop onto a train and head home.

9:25 am: I've had breakfast. I fall asleep while trying to write this post on the computer.

6.00 pm today: I wake up, hog for an hour. Then write this. Have one more meal, before finally posting it, right now.

Now I'm ready to go back to sleep. You've read all about a day in the life of an intern in cricket-crazy India.

How was your day? Tell me about it.


  1. I had 12-8pm Casualty posting that day. Pretty much the same scenario. Doctors, nurses, helpers, patient and their relatives all discussing cricket more than disease. But none of this is anything far from what is expected of us (as people of cricket-crazy India). What I found a little bit inordinate was patients discussing match details with us the next day, that is once their presenting concerns were addressed. Ofcourse all wanted to get better by saturday too.

  2. //11.30 pm: An 80 year old granny comes in. She was watching the match with her family all cooped up in their living room, and some one got excited when India took a wicket, thumped her on the thigh, and wham! Something broke. She comes in on a wheelchair, smiling even, we get an X-ray, and there's a fracture neck femur.//

    this is so absurd but funny .. patients kuch bhi history dete hai .. might be true :D

  3. I was at home after returning from duty at 2. And still did not watch the match, because I find it boring.{Yes,I have survived zillions of you-dont-deserve-to-live looks from people all around}.

    For the final over though I couldn't help but switch on the TV; the commotion and frenzied shouting from the boys hostel of a college that is right opposite my place was simply irresistible!

    And today,my batchmates are taking us out for lunch. Why? India won! :P

  4. I had casualty posting from 12-8pm that day. Pretty much the same scenario. Doctors, nurses, helpers, patients and their relatives, all debating on match more than disease. But this is nothing far from what is expected of us (as people of cricket-crazy India). What I found a little bit inordinate was patients discussing match details with us the next day, once their presenting complains were addressed to. Of course everyone wanted to get better by Saturday.

  5. Thanks aayushi..for a beautiful account of the day..but that's how we Indians are.. emotional to the hilt for cricket.. perhpas one game that binds everyone together.. none bothers in a stadium who is sitting next.. great..

  6. I'm actually quite jealous of you. My account of the match was quite different, spent with a person i had obviously forced to accompany me, in a shady restaurant in a village. India won, that's what matters.

    By the way, the local police were the ones who were going all out with fireworks that night! (I meant crackers, not guns (How stupid of you to assume that!)

  7. Hilarious! :) I cannot watch cricket either. I love that everyone around is so emotional about it but I just dont feel the same way..

  8. Much more interesting than my day! I love the story about the young man who had taken pesticide, not the fact that he had wanted to kill himself obviously, but that the cricket could immediately change his mood and make him happy again. Brilliant.

  9. This is an awesome post on so many levels. I have always wanted to know the life of a doctor in India. :-) I was going to write a similar blog post too - only I *was* SO very much interested in watching the Ind vs Pak match, but I had a mock OSCE (guessing you know what that is? It's SO cool to meet fellow medics!) that morning (India match-startking time!) and it. was. TORTURE!! I will write about the cricket world cup frenzy soon, I feel it is something that must be documented - it's a part of history now! :) I hate being too busy to sit down and write properly when I have so many ideas buzzing around in my head!!

    I love how it is difficult to escape cricket fever, even as a disinterested doc busy with patients. :-) Did you watch the final match at all? Surely you must have been caught up in (some) of the fever of it, it was in your city after all! I am so jealous that you are in India, wish I was there so much - pfft, this cricket fever is wasted on you ;) hehe. :-)

    This one is just out of curiosity - what is it like with Mumbai trains, do you feel safe on them? At all hours? I am trying my hardest to organise a small elective (have you heard of that? Somehow my fellow Indian medics don't seem to have heard of it... :S) in Mumbai so it was from that perspective extra interesting to read about your experiences as a junior doc!

  10. very funny and true :)

  11. LOVED LOVED LOVED the post!
    I had tears (of joy. of passion.) in my eyes while reading this, because it sent me back to that amazing day!
    Beautifully written account!

    *off to read other posts on this blog*

  12. Seems like internship is the same everywhere, same casualty posting, similar mamas and mausis.