Koi Andar Aaya Tha Kya?

Bhavin Jankharia

This is one of those inside medical college jokes.

A slightly mad Parsi, let’s call him Zubin, was giving his final IIIrd MBBS practical exams. His long case patient was a 55-years old woman, originally from Uttar Pradesh. In those days (late 1980s), all practical exams were always held in your own institute and the senior registrars and lecturers would generally give a helping hand to the stressed-out students, guiding them with the history and often correcting them, if they seemed to be getting things wrong.

Zubin wanted to pass entirely on his own merit, without any help, so he told all his seniors to stay away. One of the senior lecturers assigned to the room kept his distance but stayed within earshot. Halfway through the case, his face started puffing up, he put his hand to his mouth, then ran out of the examination room and burst out laughing as soon as he exited the door…and kept on laughing for the next 2 minutes. Finally, he quietened down and told this story to a few of us, who had already finished our cases.

This is the background. In the late 80s, whenever we wanted to know whether a male patient had been exposed to a venereal or sexually transmitted disease, the politically correct question in Hindi, to find out if he had been with a sex-worker, was, “bahar gaya tha kya?” (Had you gone out?). The patients who came to the Municipal hospitals in Mumbai generally understood the question and would answer truthfully…or not. Rarely did we come across someone so naive or acting naive that we would have to explain the question in more detail.

Zubin wanted to ask his woman patient whether she had a history of exposure to venereal disease but had never faced such a situation during his earlier case presentations in the wards and hence did not know how to frame this question. His Hindi not being particularly good (his Marathi was worse and thank God, this was a Hindi speaking patient), he just turned the question around and asked her the opposite of what he would have asked a male patient, “koi andar aaya tha kya?” (Had anyone come inside?)  

The woman looked at Zubin uncomprehending, but before the lecturer could find out if she eventually understood the question or not, he ran out to tell us this story, unable to prevent himself from bursting out laughing.

Even while writing this, I can’t help smiling. This is one of those perverse situations, where using a literal opposite phrase just doesn't work...it only turns out funny, like this incident.

Zubin though, presented the case well and passed his exams and then left the country for supposedly greener English speaking pastures…and we never did find out whether the patient ever understood the question or not.

(Thanks Deepak for this story).

Medical Musings