Friday, January 15, 2010


I squirmed in my seat. Dr M looked determined. There was no way I could deter him. He explained that the test was beneficial for me and would reveal much more than was discernible otherwise. He, in short, insisted on a TVS - Transvaginal Ultrasound of the Pelvis. Till now I have always had Transabdominal scans. There were many a justifications(excuses??) which I could dish out in favour of the latter. I was unmarried, never exposed to sexual intercourse and above all suffered from a psychotic fear of any form of vaginal intrusion (probe in medical terminology)- be it an impassive clinical examination.

However, this time. no amount of argument or convincing could make Dr. M change his mind. I requested an LA. He looked aghast. "An USG under LA! You have already had a surgery. What's there to fear now?" "You can do anything when I am not in my senses" I relented to be a little permissive. His face changed colours from pink to red to crimson to various hues of purple. "Aise thodi na hota hai!" he blurted. For once, I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. M completely off guard. His confident composure, the patent of professionals, cumbling down like sand dunes.

I remember the last time I had got a Pap Smear done. The gynaecologist had given me a disgusted look and told me to keep my mouth shut as I was in the process of bringing the whole hospital down with my persistent screamings. An once-upon-a-time-white, rubbery curtain separated me and my sister. She held my hand (moral support!) underneath the opaque sheet. I clasped her hand so tightly that my rings dug into her palm leaving hideous marks on the soft skin. I lay spreadeagled on a make- shift stretcher-cum-bed howling in pain, shame and wholesome fear. The doctor, struggling to take a smear, kept on soothing me until her patience gave way to disgust and anger. "What nonsense! I am just doing a test and not raping you," she shouted at last not able to keep her cool any longer. She shared the room with another gynaec, as an OPD arrangement, who kept on examining patient after patient, without any sign of being disturbed, by my constant, more than the usual level of loud implorings of "leave me alone". That day I realized how unemotional and dispassionate doctors could be!

As Dr. M wrote down the three obnoxious letters on the prescription, I feared history might repeat again. This time in Dr. V's chamber in front of the mute USG machine.

I think my sister, after her previous experience, dreads the idea of extending moral encouragement to me on 'such ocassions" and God knows "such ocassions" are no more rare in my life now.

Dr. V headed a well-known radiological centre, in a well-to-do locality, which was filled with professional and dangerously detached looking nurses and assistants. They had a mechanical approach and an unsympathetic air about them. I was sure my hesitation would seem a waste of time and an unnecessary fuss (even sub-normal behaviour) to them.

As I waited for my turn, I could feel the beginning of the jitters. My palms were gradually growing colder and a slight shiver wracked my whole body intermittently. An one-liner devotional song kept on repeating interminably somewhere in the background. I tried to concentrate on it. Failed. I decided to hum a catchy tune of a contemporary Hindi Film song. I did for a while. But the song lasted for three minutes, the wait too fact, never ending.

It was after a nervewracking one hour that my turn came finally. Dr. V had two slices of chamber (one big room partitioned in two with similar interior/arrangement) with two monolithic USG machines hogging maximum space and two scrawny wheeled beds almost cowering next to the partition/wall. She shuttled from one room to the other scanning patients with bursting bladders.

Inbetwen one such shuttle service, she had smiled a hullo to me while sizing me up at the same time. She was short, fragile and very smart. Grey-haired and bespectacled. A sort of diva (may be an inappropriate expression in so far as her profession is concerned, but suits her persona very well as she is petite and fairy-like and does not one bit look like an authority on radiology) in her domain of competence.

I was ushered in by one of those robot-like assistants. After the initial intro, I added a quick supplementary, "Dr. M has specially referred me to you Dr. V; this is my first shot at TVS." And I am scared stiff.

I was not new to the procedure, given the number of times I had been subjected to the rigours of the test. First, it would be a KUB scan. I had to hold my urine while my bladder protested vehemently under duress. Each time she pressed the probe on my kidneys, I felt like peeing all over myself. But she was kind and understood my discomfort. Sympathy supplemented by the diagnostic figures displayed on the monitor of the mean machine, dominating the claustrophobic interior, which in my present paranoic state of mind, seemed to double as an ultrasound room and an STF (State Task Force) torture cell!

"672 cc of urine, you are holding! she ejaculated, "My God! You must be cursing me. Go and relieve yourself." Small price, Dr. V, for freedom.

When I re-entered after a few minutes, the stage was set for the prime time show. I was told to undress partially. I balked and then surrendered as alternate option was next to nil. My legs were drawn apart under the sheet which covered my lower half. Dr. V pep-talked as she tried to insert the probe into may vagina. She knew her first timers by heart.

"The vagina is a very tensile organ. It gives way by itself" Dr. M had explained to me as he prepared me for the TVS. For him it was just an organ; for me it was a part of my body which had never experienced an external invasion. The probing was akin to trespassing on forbidden grounds. Dr M-style motivation continued, " You have already had a laparascopy which means your hymen has already capsized. You will not feel any pain on account of the probe" To hell with your hymen, Dr M. The fear and pain are figments of the cerebrum and have nothing to do with surgical incisions or hymenal captivation.

Back to Dr. V's chamber. The assistant was giving me strange looks. Dr. V was on the verge of loosing patience. My whole body showed rejection syndrome. My vagina refused to be tensile(Sorry, Dr. M, your prognosis proved wrong, in this case), all muscles were taut, the probe was slipping out. Inhospitable land there, Dr. V. No barging in allowed.

Dr. V at last settled for an endo-vaginal probe (a sort of peripheral search, I gathered). She wished I could open up a little more to allow a deeper probe and a resultant better view. I felt guilty helpless and contrite. I couldn't help her anymore. I could feel the probe moving left and right, the ocassional clicks on the keyboard and soft beeps of the monolith. My sister was not allowed to hold my hand this time. She sat next to the door and crooned softly to me, " Beta, if you are not patient, how will the doctor know what's wrong inside?" My sister, mother of two hulks. The word "beta" comes very easily on her lips, (sometimes, inadvertantly so, while addressing her husband as well which has inspired many a standing jokes in the family) even for her sister , in her late 40s, who is hulkier and bulkier than her two offsprings put together and even more.

At last, Dr. V announced that she was taking the probe out. The ordeal was over........

The second time, after two months......................

I was alone. My sister sat outside. The nurse would not let her in. "Koi zaroorat nahin" she said sternly. I decided to play some mind games. As Dr. V inserted the probe, I was ready to be whisked away from that disinfected room. I was floating.........away..............away...............further away. For fifteen minutes I imagined myself to be somewhere else. The experience this time, though not pleasureful, was not devastating either. When I came out after a quater of an hour and told my sister that it was all over, she was perhaps a little surprised by my stint of bravery, which was not always forthcoming. At least I fought the boghart my own way. Soon I would be a veteran in this game, Dr. M, with your fetish for half yearly TVSs.

Two things worth recording here.........................

My sister realized that Dr. V had done her USG when baby Ashwin was in her womb. Ashwin, my nephew, is now a gabru jawaan of twenty. When Didi told this to Dr. V, her uninterested reply was"Must have". Another example of "serene placidity" of medical proffession. They never ponder upon life's wondrous ways..............medically unsuitable, perhaps, to waste your emotions and feelings in being amazed or amused or just muse over the miraculous twists and turns, curves and full circles , linear or spiral equations and movements of life.

Dr. V, during the first session, had asked me casually whether I had ever had an unwanted sexual encounter which might have left an indelible scar on my mind.

In response, I had promptly changed the topic.......................

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