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A lesson in just enduring pain

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A young man’s caste as his identity

As a medical professional working in rural Rajasthan for some years, I encountered several socio-cultural experiences while interacting with different patients — as any doctor would, in the different regions of the country. One such incident that stands out for me in my experience is of a young boy that I treated.

The boy, who was 10 years of age, was brought to my clinic after he had had a fall while learning horse-riding. On examination, I found that a part of his tongue was actually hanging by just a shred of tissue.

Initially, I was tempted to snip the tongue and do a dressing. However, remembering my Professor of Surgery’s advice on how the tongue could heal by itself, I decided to suture it instead.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t give the boy a local anaesthetic, as that would have made it impossible to achieve the proper alignment of the two parts of the tongue.

The boy was an extremely cooperative patient. While suturing his tongue, he was absolutely quiet and composed. Throughout the process, I was taken aback at the child’s high pain threshold. Post the surgery, I gave his attendant the requisite follow-up instructions and advised the boy to report to me after five days.

During the follow-up appointment, the patient as well as his attendant had smiles on their faces: the tongue had healed completely. As a result, I removed the stitches as well.

Since this was a unique case, my wife was a witness to both the appointments. Amazed by the boy’s composure during the surgery, she asked him, “While your tongue was being stitched up, were you in pain?”

When he replied in the affirmative, she exclaimed, “But you didn’t even cry!”

To this, he replied in Marwari, “Rota kaise? Rajput joh thehra! (How could I cry? After all I’m a Rajput!)”

At such a young age, his caste identity and the characteristics that set apart that identity had been so embedded in the boy.

nugulvady@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 9:04:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-lesson-in-just-enduring-pain/article19699455.ece

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