The wait had already been long enough. Gopalrao's back was beginning to hurt. There were a lot of other patients waiting with him, and he had been forced to contort his body into a painfully compressed form in order to let a seventh person occupy a bench meant for six. 'Why do people have to get their entire families along to such a morbid place?' he thought to himself. That the kid seated next to him - grandson of the patient after him, he assumed - was making faces at him was not helping lift his spirits at all. He had already been in a terrible frame of mind, much beforre he had entered the clinic.
A week ago, Dr.Bapat who practised from the village in which Gopalrao lived had referred him to Dr.Anil, a well-known Oncologist in Mumbai city. The signs had gotten increasingly worrying - rapid weight loss, lumps in the armpit, warts on his neck and groin area, frequent bouts of headache and nausea - Dr.Bapat feared there was more than met the eye. A biopsy on some of the skin lesions showed symptoms that were compatible with lymphoma. Hence, he thought Gopalrao needed to get some tests done by an Oncologist to determine whether he was okay or not, and for further treatment if necessary.
Gopalrao had never heard about Oncologists. He thought his condition might be rare, and he'd finish with his appointment in no time. The huge crowd at the clinic was therefore a big shock for him.
Finally, after more than 90 minutes of waiting, his turn arrived. He pushed the door open, without knocking. He saw a grey-haired, pot-bellied man, wearing a white coat, with a stethoscope around his neck, seated at a desk, staring at a computer screen. The man did not turn once to look at who had entered.
Gopalrao quietly stepped forward and sat down without being asked to.
After 5 minutes of screen-gawking, all Dr.Anil could say was, "Yes?"
"Doctor Saheb, my village doctor sent me to you. He says you can see me and tell me whether I have cancer"
"Hmm", he hummed, "What do you do?"
"I'm a humble farmer back in my village"
"Hmm. Show me your file"
Gopalrao handed over his file.
It took hardly 20 seconds for Dr.Anil to scan the file and come to a quick solution.
"Okay, lie down on this bed."
The doctor plugged his stethoscope into his ears and moved the scope around his patients body real quick.
"You can get up now."
After they were seated again, the doctor was out with his verdict.
"We will need to run a few tests on you. We will need to take a few blood samples. The test results will come in about 14 days. Okay?"
"Alright. Go outside and make your payments at the reception table. After you make your payment, you will be taken to the lab for your blood samples." Having made his point clear, the doctor went back to his monitor-gazing state,
"Thank you Saheb", Gopalrao said, without eliciting a response.
He walked towards the reception counter and asked feebly, "How much?"
The receptionist met his sullen gaze with a cold one and said, "Consultation fees and blood test charges". She then handed him a receipt.
What he saw left him dumb-founded - Rs.3000 for consultation fees and Rs.20000 for the blood test.
He felt a sudden shot of pain in his chest, that quickly spread to his arm and up to his jaw. He collapsed on the floor, gasping for breath.
As he took in his last few breaths, he wished for instant death instead of burdening his poor family with treatment costs and debt that would last for a lifetime.
He got his wish.
Death is a bitch...but sometimes it's a little less cruel than some doctors.