Monday, June 23, 2008


One of the things that I've noticed about being a resident is how often we're apt to complain. Walk into any conversation and invariably the topic will come around to how stressful things are. It could be a difficult patient, a busy call or a tough attending who grills you remorselessly over insignificant details. Residency is hard work. A lot of the time you're on call every fourth night which means every fourth day you come home exhausted and ready to collapse. It's a challenging life and it extracts a lot from you, physically and emotionally, without offering any immediate, commensurate dividend. And the rising gas prices don't help . . . .

And yet, when I sit down and think about it, I don't really think I work that hard. There are so many people who work a lot harder than I do, and for a lot less money, who go unnoticed in this world. I remember an incident last year that helped me to understand this. I had gone home for my annual vacation and was out shopping with my mother. This was my first time back after I had started earning and I was naturally flush with money, dropping dollars at the slightest excuse, eager to both indulge and impress. We were at the vegetable market - my mother needed someone to carry the bags - and, feeling hungry, I stepped into one of the small cafeterias for a quick sandwich and something cool to drink. As I was waiting for the cook to make my paratha, I noticed a man come in. He must have been middle-aged, with a stooped back but very muscular, probably one of the porters at the market who carried your purchases back to the car. He looked tired and, as he walked in, the scent of sweat, dry and heavy, pressed off his body into the surrounding air. The man went over to the fridge and pulled out a small carton of yoghurt. He then asked the waiter to get him some bread and, while he was waiting for that, emptied the carton of yogurt into his plate and sprinkled some pepper over it. When the bread came, he broke off a large piece, dipped it into the yogurt and ate it in quick, hungry bites. That was his dinner. (He may or may not have also asked for an onion to add savor to his meal. It doesn't matter.)

When I am tired and exhausted, I like to think of that man, the one with the body odor and the large circles of sweat drying on his back, eating his simple meal. It replenishes me instantly with a perspective that I am grateful for. I feel blessed.


Anonymous brimful said...

You have so much more perspective than most that it really gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, if I keep reading your blog and try to keep my head on straight, I will not complain as much as the average resident does. And maybe I will be a decent human being too.

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just really wanted to tell you that u write so well. Evereytime i read ur blog, usually while killing time in between work, i almost alaways smile. Its such a pleasure

2:46 AM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

brimful: thank you so much for your gracious comment. i don't think i deserve it but i'm glad you enjoy reading here. residency is what you make of it and the trick is to find something you love (*cough* pediatrics *cough*).

anonymous: thank you very much. i'm glad you're enjoying it.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous mystic said...

As an attending...let me smile !!!

Welcome to wonderful world of Medicine !!!!!

4:39 PM  

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