S called late Thursday afternoon to tell me that M had just flown in from D and she and M both thought it would be a good idea to catch up sans spouses. It had been a long time and we hadn’t even had any drunches and I was really, really tempted.

But I was tied up!

I had promised to take a “shidori” lecture the next day for the new I/I batch of GSites. “Shidori” is a Marathi word for the food packet that a mother gives her child to take to school and the idea was to pass on some “shidori” “gyan” that might help them through their years in medical college and beyond.

I had earlier asked my Facebook friends for advice and received many suggestions. I finally decided on the theme of how the only constant is change and how these new young to-be-doctors would have to constantly adapt to the changing times given the changing expectations from patients, from their own lives and from the authorities running the show, ending with how some things like the doctor-patient contract continue to remain unchanged and sacred.

I was struggling and uncomfortable with these thoughts, because I realized that these I/I students had not yet come into contact with patients and would perhaps not fully understand the context of my words at this stage in their lives.

At 7 pm, I gave up, called S and M and decided to join them at Mai Tai for dinner.

And we had a blast! The food was nice, the bourbon warm and flush and the ambience just the correct pitch, blending in to lend just the right glow to our friendship of more than 25 years since medical college days, allowing us to yak, gossip and bitch away with complete abandon, without worrying about fall-out. I hadn’t been this spontaneous in a long, long time.

And I remembered how just the previous Saturday night, after spending a loud, raucous, unbridled time with close radiology friends at the Shanghai Club, as I sank into the sofa at Mh’s place, where a few school-friends had gathered to spend a bachelor’s night, since his wife and daughter were out, I realized that among close friends like these, I didn’t have to worry about how I looked or what I said or how I behaved.

They were all my stress-busters. And that was my epiphany!

These 17-18 year olds were going to be practicing medicine till the age of 80 for the next 60 years of their lives. And what makes a good doctor is the ability to have respect and empathy for oneself, for colleagues and peers and then patients. And to be able to do this, and to maintain sanity among the stress of work and dying and suffering patients, to prevent utter callousness from devouring us, we need support. And the support comes from family…and friends. And the best friends are those made early in life…in school, junior college and medical college…friends who tolerate you for who and what you are and accept you as in Billy Joel’s words, “…just the way you are.”

I got up at 4 in the morning, put these thoughts together and went ahead and delivered my “shidori” around 10 last morning.

I don’t know how it went down with the students. But in passing the “gyan” “shidori” to these young kids, I managed to give some “shidori” to myself as well.

Thank you S & M and Mh & the gang…thank you for just being! And thanks B for letting me be with them!


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