ENT Pre-finals Viva, Third year, MBBS
I have to admit, I am not prepared for this. I have taken this third year way too lightly and now, I kind of regret it as I, due to the sheer good luck I seem to have, am supposed to have this viva with one of the most dreaded faculties in this college. He is not someone who asks amazing question which could trick you or someone who just has those furious and irritated eyes every time he sees a medical student because obviously we are lesser of humans than him. His biggest problem ironically is with the whole female gender, even though he works at one of the only few all women medical colleges in this country.
Well, let’s name him something. Dr. Charles Shobhraj, as I can obviously not take his name and he, like the name and the character (you know if you know), he be a fancy, sophisticate dude, until you really know him.
So for a little background, Dr. Shobhraj was always someone you didn’t want to have an eye contact with in the hallways, you knew he never saw you for who you were, a medical student but always for whether you were an XX, XO, or XY. You never wanted him to ask you a question in class because even if you knew it, he would never acknowledge you and he was one of those rare people who openly showed how much he hated being around so many women.
I had always heard stories about his sexist behaviour. Asking students, why did they bother studying so much if marriage is ultimately their destiny , saying to his post graduate students how badly he wanted more male students as he was tired of all these “girls” and commenting on ladies’ heights as to passing or failing them as “marriage material” on that basis.
So, this day it is finally my turn. Honestly, I know I am putting my hands in the lion’s mouth by even being here but I must be crazy to still go for this viva.
So, my roll number, 103 is announced and my heart is beating so fast, it could just jump right out of my body.
I stand at the door of Dr. Shobhraj’s room and he is sitting there, in all his glory. I am so afraid to even ask if I could come in. As I finally muster the courage of opening my mouth, he looks up and says, “Wahan khade rehne ke number nahi milenge.” (You won’t get marks for standing there.)
Instantly, I am reminded of how badly I have always wanted to avoid this conversation, the number of times I ran like crazy because I didn’t want him to comment on how I was late in his class and just how many times I had greeted him in the corridors and he has looked right through me.
I want to say something but obviously can’t so I just enter the room and he asks me to close the door behind him and so I do. Terrified.
I am generally nervous during vivsas, but this time nervous is an understatement.
He takes my answer sheet and without giving it anything more than two seconds of a look, he starts pointing out some ridiculous mistakes, example : why isn’t your name written in capital letters. -_-
After some time, he does come to more relevant questions and I answer only a few.
The whole viva didn’t last for more than six minutes but it feels like eternity.
With each question, he sees my face going paler, my answers going more incoherent and well, this is just a regular medical school viva.
But, Dr. Shobhraj being Dr. Shobhraj, keeps on asking increasingly twisted questions, not all of them difficult, I know, but beyond a point it becomes obvious that I have just admitted I am not prepared and he is having fun with this.
I think I am around five minutes into the viva when he asks me something which has made me write this blog.
He asks me, “What does your father do?” (Note: Not parents)
I tell him my dad works in the Defense.
He says, “So you must always have shifted to lot of cities?”
(I am about to respond.)
“So you have always lived under privilege.”
I don’t know what to answer. I am shocked by this question.
He says, “So why become a doctor? You could have done an honours degree and married an Army man. Majboori toh nahi thi. (There was no need for you to do this course)
He smiles, knowing very well how infuriated I am.
I want to say so many things. I want to tell him how this was unprecedented, how my family history is none of his business, how he doesn’t know anything about my struggles or my family’s, how he needs to grow out this sexist mindset and how mad this makes me.
But I just gulp this huge blob of saliva at the back of my throat and not say anything. I just go numb.
He asks me again, “Huh?”
I remain silent.
He just gives me that sly, disgusted look and asks for my roll number again and asks me to leave.
I say “Thank you, sir.”, as I am obviously grateful for this day in my medical education when I was made to feel less of a human because of my gender, made to feel like a lesser qualified or deserving person and was indirectly told that this degree would be in much better hands if only I was a man.
I leave the room, quickly pack my bag, leave the department, take the first auto and head home.
On my way home, the conversation keeps repeating in my head, on and on. What could I have said to him, if I did speak up would I not be jeopardizing my chances of passing this year, shouldn’t I have skipped the viva, how come is this man not accountable for this behavior; it’s 2018, should I still have been ready for this non sense?
This takes me back to a random day in second year when I had a realisation.
I am studying at Lady Hardinge Medical College, which is an all women’s medical college in Connaught Place, the center of Delhi, the capital of this openly patriarchal and conservationist country like India.
I cannot describe how empowering this realisation was.
I can say this for every graduate of this college that the strong feminine energy in this campus and the wonderful ideologies we have shared during the five and half years of this course has made us stronger and powerful.
But its days like these, and yes there are many more examples when I seriously cannot decide what I feel more; anger or sadness.
I experienced this kind of behaviour while studying at a women’s college, where there is only one gender and no real comparisons can be drawn among colleagues on that basis, what about other colleges, workplaces or organisations where you actually have all genders to be compared to?
I don’t know how many achievements it will take for women to be seen at par with everyone else, how may tables need to be headed by females to actually have a real place in the society, how many young girls need to secure high ranks in all those nationwide and worldwide exams in order to not be questioned about the legitimacy of their presence.
Why is there still no system where I or anyone could have shared this experience or at least felt like I could have said something back and someone would have my back?
And moreover, why should this happen and why should I even have to write about this?