The Firearm Fatality

I only recently discovered that my vision wasn’t 20/20 like I had deluded myself into believing it was. Sure I had been having trouble making out some of the words on the board during class for a while now, but I figured that as I was more often than not seated way back in the lecture hall, it was only normal that I couldn’t make out what was written in the brightly yellow-coloured box of some random Pharmacology flowchart.  It was about three weeks back, during a particularly fascinating lecture that my friend insisted I stop making goo goo eyes at the teacher. Now here I was barely twenty feet away from the board and I obviously couldn’t see properly. (And for the record the Pharma guy is certainly no looker either so no, I was not winking). So to finally put a stop to the squinting I got meself a pair of kickass glasses. I think I look like intellect personified. A friend says I look like Martin Scorsese, minus the bushy eyebrows of course. As if that makes me feel better. Humph!!

Another dead body arrived at the mortuary today. This time around it was a man with three gunshot wounds, two of them in his arms and one to the lower abdomen. The police-walas were being their usual crabby selves, not letting us enter in the beginning. But I suppose they had a reason to keep it all hush-hush since the man had died during a police encounter. Or maybe it had something to do with this cameraman filming the entire scene outside the morgue gate. Whatever it was, just as I was about to enter, the gate was very politely slammed in my face (I sincerely hope they don’t show that part in the evening news). It was only after the cameraman had left that the gates were reopened. But no luck watching the autopsy  today either. With the police breathing down the Forensic dude’s neck, he barely showed us the gunshot wounds, told us to take note of their general appearance and figure out whether it was an entry wound or an exit wound. I had scarcely gotten an eyeful when we were ushered out and that was that.

A short while later in college, with a bunch of us cracking up on the most inane of jokes, I suddenly realized that I had felt none of the horror or dismay that I had experienced upon seeing that first body.  I had just seen a dead man with blood splattered clothes, his body stiff with rigor mortis and  here I was almost completely unaffected. And it wasn’t just me. None of us were as horrified by the death of this person, this human being the way we had been the previous time. Sure there had been the initial tut-tutting over the death of a man, with a friend of mine severely critical of the police for directly shooting him to death and me pointing out that we could never possibly know the circumstances which eventually led to this shooting. But after that first discussion, it was life as normal. Was it because we had subconciously pigeonholed this man into the “bad guy” category, someone who had it coming to him? Or  have we already lost the capacity to become shocked because frankly, after a decapitation and limb amputations, a gunshot death seems mild by comparison. 

February 6, 2007 at 3:05 pm 1 comment

The Clinical Experience

As someone who has lived and breathed this city for the last twenty-two years, something which still amazes me is the innovativeness which the Karachi bus drivers display when it comes to decorating their buses. Their motto seems to be “The gaudier, the better” and they seem to follow it religiously.  Travelling in these garish contraptions is an interesting experience though not always a pleasurable one by any means. But the fare is cheap and so am I, and it was either that or wait two hours for my sister to pick me up after a long, tiring day so the bus it was.

It had indeed been a long day. The ward we have been posted to this month is about a mile away from the campus so its going to be a long march to and fro. Its a nice ward, newly constructed, leaving us all reasonably impressed  after the horror stories we had heard about the mess  that the government hospitals generally are.  The welcome we received was unfortunately kind of depressing. A young woman was being led away by a man, probably her father, weeping uncontrollably, wailing “Hai meri maan, hai meri maan” (Oh mother, Oh mother). It was pretty obvious either her mother was very sick or very dead. Turned out the latter was true as about five minutes later, a body draped in a white sheet was  taken away on a stretcher.  My first five minutes into my first clinical experience and I was reminded how inadequate I really am in dealing with the finality of death.  How exactly do you approach someone to tell them that someone so dear to their heart has died? Is there ever an easy way of doing this and is it something  I’ll take in stride say, five years from now? I guess only time will tell. For the moment, I just have to hone my bedside manner and of course prepare the list of Urdu equivalents to some of the medical terms because its highly unprofessional trying to remember the Urdu word for dyspnea hovering over the patient (not to mention highly embarassing).

So that was it. My first day in the Medicine Ward. And what better way to end a long day than by riding a Karachi bus in all its kitschy glory?  Unless of course you are riding a kitschy Karachi rickshaw.

January 31, 2007 at 2:01 pm 5 comments

Driving Woes

Getting up early in the morning for college is such a pain. I tend to put my alarm clock on “Snooze” and bury my head under the pillow. Its no surprise than that I am usually about 10 minutes late for my first class. Sneaking into the lecture hall through the back door, I have been exceedingly lucky that 7 times out of 10 the professor is PowerPointing his/her way through a presentation half-turned towards the screen. One of these days I’m expecting to be royally embarassed by a more vigilant and less forgiving lecturer. Which is why I have decided to put right my really messed-up sleep cycle during the two days we have been given off from college for the 9th and 10th of Muharram (Ashura).

This morning I left home at about the same time the class would have begun, cursing myself for staying up late to watch a movie which I had already seen twice before. To make matters worse, the blasted car wouldn’t start, which it eventually did about five minutes and fifty expletives later. So I am driving to college and thinking about this dream I had about how I crashed my car which is probably a subconcious manifestation of this article I read yesterday about how a study conducted shows that Aries are reckless drivers. Now I am driving along thinking about how its all a shitload of half-baked  theories and I almost crashed into the car infront of me!! Talk about being subtly put in your place by the Big Guy up there!   

College today was a real bore. Clinical postings will begin on Wednesday so aside from the usual classes, we spent the hour we got off in between watching a group of guys playing cricket behind the college building. This on the suggestion of a friend, who wanted to see the guy she has a crush on for the past two months, bat. Come Wednesday, hopefully we will have more interesting things to occupy our time.

January 27, 2007 at 10:42 am 3 comments

Foray into Forensics

Forgive me for sounding like little Miss Sunshine but what a lousy, lousy day to start a blog. No, really. At the risk of  coming across as a bit too  Chandler-isque…. Could it have been any worse? First there is the Pathology test that I totally believed I had cleared. I was of course way off base. It appears the only remotely positive thing about the farkin’ paper was the short note we were supposed to write on Gram Bacteria (you know those….ahem….Positive ones) which judging by the marks I scored did not turn out that positive as well.

An hour and an exhilarating Microbiology lecture (Yeah Yeah Yawn Yawn) later, the Forensic dude comes up and it turns out there is this body in the  mortuary waiting for an autopsy to be performed on it and he wanted us third year students to observe it. So down the three floors we went, about thirty of us in all, and trudged towards the mortuary which is right next door to the college. Now a career in Forensic medicine is definitely not the glitz and glamour that CSI purports it to be. At least not here in Pakistan. About this mortuary, the facilities provided here to the Forensic experts are positively archaic. The huge tree present to the right as we enter the dank interior is at least about a hundred years old and probably haunted by the spirits of the thousands who have occupied the autopsy table inside. It definitely has the eerie, haunted tree thing going for it. To the left is an old broken bookshelf with some cracked pots. What purpose those serve in these glum surroundings  eludes me, except lend a dilapidated air to the already morose atmosphere. The autopsy room inside was actually a small area with a raised platform with an autopsy table in the middle and surrounded on three sides by two elevated steps where we stood to observe and be initiated into the “art” of Forensic Medicine. It was not a pretty sight.The size of the bag present at the foot of the table kind of gave me an inkling of what was in store for us.

It was a young woman of about 20-25. Or whatever there was left of her. The limbs had been chopped off along with the head and the only thing that was there was her trunk and her legs up to her knees. From my vantage point, I could make out the condyles of her femur.  It was surreal I tell you. According to Pakistani medical jurisprudence, a male Forensic surgeon cannot perform an autopsy on a female body. So while we all waited for the female doctor to arrive, with the Forensic dude droning on about what he thought might have  happened, I stared with some kind of morbid fascination at the depth of depravity a human being is capable of. Unfortunately, we had to leave before the autopsy was performed because the police-wala would not let us stay. So the only thing I gained from this bizarre experience was an aversion to food which lasted the whole day, and maybe the first hand knowledge that a rapist and killer was loose on the streets of Karachi,  which by the way is not a very comforting thought.  

January 25, 2007 at 11:54 am 3 comments


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