Open the boot of your car,’ ordered a police officer when I was stopped at a naka for a routine inspection. After inspecting the boot with a torch, he came to the driver's window and said amiably, ‘Sir, are you a doctor?’ I nodded. He signalled his subordinates to remove the barricade and waved me good night.
I was taken aback by the courteous behaviour of the policeman. How was he able to guess my profession? Perhaps my immaculate dress sense gave him a hint. I kept thinking on the way. But somehow, I liked the way I was treated, and slept peacefully.
A few days after this incident, I happened to go to a luxury hotel along with my son to meet an old friend. Cars were being checked thoroughly by security guards by opening trunks as well as bonnets. As soon as one of them opened the trunk of my car, he shouted to his colleague, ‘He is a doctor. Let him go.’ The man gave me a foot-thumping salute and let me pass without lifting the bonnet.
That set me thinking. Neither my car bears any insignia of a doctor nor do I carry my stethoscope. How come the men who matter are so courteous! Not used to such ego-boosting gestures, I felt as if my long career as a clinician was finally paying off.
Once again, one Saturday morning, when I was hurrying to my clinic, I was stopped at a police checkpoint because of a red alert issued by the authorities. Every car was being checked and documents were being scrutinised, besides video recording. An officer asked me to open the car’s boot and instructed me to bring out the relevant documents while he examined the trunk. I was a bit nervous because the pollution certificate had expired a few days ago. I was thinking of an excuse to escape the penalty when he shouted, ‘Let him go.’ The cop came towards the driver’s seat and said, ‘Have a nice day, doctor. You may go.’
I heaved a sigh of relief.
Pondering over the recent spate of prestige-enhancing incidents, I realised there must be something in the boot. Whoever opened it had an instant change of heart.
Last Sunday, I opened the trunk of the car to discover the reason behind the preferential treatment I had been receiving for the past few weeks. A normal saline bottle was lying there. A month ago, I administered intravenous fluids to my mother as she was suffering from gastroenteritis. One of the bottles was left behind inadvertently.
I picked up the saline bottle and gave it a thumbs-up before removing it from the boot. At the same time, I felt obliged to live up to the deep sense of faith and respect people in general have for the noblest of all professions.
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