Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Land of Hope and Glory

Yesterday was Graduation Day for the Class of 2006, some of whom I have got to know a little, so I went along to see what was what. CMC, as explained before, was set up in 1901 by an American woman to address the need for women doctors to minister to the women of India, who were not allowed to be attended to by men. In the late forties CMC admitted the first male undergraduates. The number of students per year remains at the level of 60 per year, as established by Ida Scudder. The ratio this year was 28:32 women:men.

The course is based on a traditional English Medical degree, with some American structure thrown in. It is a 5 year course during the first 2 years of which they do Anatomy, phyiol, biochem, blah blah. Then they start doing clinical rotations. After they qualify they spend a year as an Intern at CMC and then start residency (which is the American bit). The graduation ceremony takes place half way through the graduates Intern year.

As a ceremony it ranks with the Trooping of the Colour for pomp and circumstance. In fact Pomp and Circumstance was played as one of the key marching tunes. The final year medical students, the girls in beautiful white saris and the boys, with slicked back hair and nervous smiles, in blazers, carried 2 long strands of fabulous-smelling tuber rose and jasmine flowers twisted into a thick rope, leading a procession of all the graduates, postgraduates, MDs, PhDs and Faculty professors around the campus garden grounds before enteing the auditorium for the prize-giving ceremony. They slow walked to the tinny strains of Fanfare for Common Man, by Aaron Copeland and Land of Hope and Glory, by Edward Elgar. Hundreds of proud mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunties and uncles stood around with the finest array of digital camera-ware seen, capturing every moment as tiny electrical impulses. Younger sisters were wearing dresses stiff with nylon lace and starch, younger brothers had army-shiny shoes and hair. Parents who had gone through the same ceremony many years before, of whom there were many, were humming along with full eyes and a quivering lip. The graduates looked proud, nervous and defiant as they marked the start of their new life as a doctor.

All the girls wore saris and it was clear that they weren't use to them. Some had uneven hems, some even showed the skirt underneath, many walked not really knowing how to accomodate the thick pleats at the front, but they all looked beautiful.

The ecermony went on for a couple of hours or more and I sat outside with a friend and watched as the dusk turned to blue fairy lights strung through the garden and along the edge of the building. The delicious aroma of dinner, organised and served by the students in the first and third years, wafted through the trees. We went back in and had a look at the end of the ceremony. The fans busily turned above the heads of patient families waiting for the 3 seconds of glory for their son or daughter. The clapping was minimal by this stage, until the award for the best teacher, awarded on the basis of a student poll for three years. A retiring professor, who had been teaching for decades and therefore known by old and new students alike received an overwhelming spontaneous cheer and standing ovation as his name was called out. My friend, with tears in her eyes was clapping furiously, he had taught her 25 years ago. Everyone stamped and clapped and roared their approval at this accolade. And the professor, Dr Rao, beamed delightedly. A beam for which he is famous and no doubt contributed to his award.

After the dinner (which I did not attend) there was student entertainment. We sat and watched for a while. Pictures of class outings and people studying in messy bedroom; in jokes about the class clown; cheers at everything the class dude did or said; beautiful serious singing interrrupted by tuneless joke singing all encouraged by shouted comments, clapping and laughing from the audience of their fellow classmates.

If I felt even faintly nostalgic about my medical student days it would have brought back memories for though this college is thousands of miles from my college, it seemed just the same. Medical students are curiously alike.

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