My Medical Schooling in the 1960s

Renu Jalota


Renu Jalota, born in 1942 in Lahore, grew up in Tatanagar and Benares with two brothers and three sisters. Father was a Professor of Psychology.
At age 16, I trained in 80-meter hurdles. Came second in national semi-finals by split second, and narrowly missed representing India in the Asian Olympics. I got my MBBS in 1964 from Government Medical College Amritsar, and then my M.D in Pathology in 1968 from the Post Graduate Institute, Chandigarh. In 1969, I joined the University of Utah as a resident in Pathology. After some job changes, in 1982, I moved to Denver as a family physician. I retired in 2007 to pursue my hobbies, but ran into medical problems.
I am an avid mountain climber and have climbed up to 22,500 ft. without oxygen. I have trekked in both Indian and Nepalese Himalaya. Have also done glacier travel in New Zealand and Tasmania. Never married, I have remained independent and active in social and political circles. I visit India often.

When Banaras Hindu University announced the results of I.Sc. (Intermediate science) in June 1959, I was placed in the first division (more than 60 % marks), in premedical subjects. So the next step was to get admission in to a medical college. Mom's best friend suggested to her to try the medical college in Amritsar, as it was established by the faculty of the Lahore Medical College (before India's Partition). Students were selected on merit basis, and minimum age was 17.

Sounded good to me, as Lucknow Medical College and Grant Medical College in Bombay required a grueling Premed Test for admission. I was 17 years old and wanted to do some fun activities during the summer vacation, rather than be a book- worm during the precious summer break.

So, Mom and I f took the overnight Howrah express train from Banaras to Amritsar. It was a one-day journey with sleeping overnight in the train. My first visit to this city and state of Panjab in India. We stayed in the luxurious guest suite of Mom's first cousin's "Khanna house" located conveniently across from the campus, barely 50 yards walk. Uncle Khanna was mom's first cousin, a successful businessman. He treated us with affection and hospitality.

He lauded my mother's idea of leading me on the path of higher education to become a medical doctor. (One of Mom's close buddies was a medical doctor, who practiced as a solo family/ general medicine for a few decades, mostly charity as her husband was the main breadwinner in her house.)

Next day, we walked down to the medical school, and applied for admission. I was accepted in to the first year of our 5-year medical course. My Mom paid the whole year's tuition, boarding and lodging fees, and left me under her cousin's custody. The yearly curriculum ran for 11 months and students were given 1 month of vacation time every summer. So, Khanna house became my home away from home for weekends and local holidays.

The next few summers I took the overnight train to Banaras for summer vacation and came to enjoy the long ride home. The train chugged through plains, going through different states with cities and made several stops at several small towns and passing thru agricultural villages in between. Approaching cities one got the view of small houses interspersed with bigger and taller buildings, which usually were temples, mosques and government buildings. In between the cities one saw the agricultural land with irrigation canals decked with flocks of white egrets and local birds, occasionally spotting peacocks, adding to our delight. At night, fireflies were fun to watch. Nestled in these green areas were little farming villages with cattle, crops and thatched roof- mud houses. Every now and then, kids came close to the train tracks to see the big coal engine locomotive, at times waving with happy smiles.

We spotted mud ponds, where energetic kids would be swimming and splashing around. Enjoying the cool down in 100-115 degrees F temperature. Water ponds got our attention and we pointed out white, pink, red, yellow water Lilies with excitement. Hyacinths and other wild flowers like yellow lupine flowered in abundance. Agricultural fields, usually an acre or more of cultivated sunflowers for its oil, filled the countryside with it' sharp sunshine beauty.

Going through wooded areas, we saw the light filtering through in between the trees. The light filtered through trees and cast long shadows of the trees. The moving train made it appear as if the light and shadows were playing hide and seek.

During these train rides, I befriended a girl, Ratanmala Gulati, who was a medical student at Ludhiana Medical College. She was fun company. We (myself more often) would get down on to the platform during the various train stops and bought hot tea, served in small disposable clay cups and spicy snack  served in small bowels  made out of leaves invariably of banana trees from the vendors, loudly advertising there products. The stationmaster used to whistle, his assistant rang a bell and waved a green flag to warn the travelers for final boarding of train, before the train started to move. So, at times on hearing the loud whistle we had to run to board the train, which was thrilling. Ratanmala used to watch out for me, yelling "Hurry-up!"

I befriended Uncle Khanna's younger daughter Indu Khanna, who was a little older and more mature. She took me under her wings. I had spent most of my childhood in Tatanagar (Bihar state in India) and Banaras Hindu University (State of UP, India). I was not used to the local culture and a different language "Punjabi". The local dress code for girls was Salvar-Kameez (local pant / shirt version) in contrast to western dresses I was used to, which gave you more freedom in movement. I adopted the local dress after Mama told me "do in Rome as Roman's do ".  So I got several new Salvars and Kameeze with chunni (light weight long scarf) that could be wrapped and draped around shoulders, head and neck areas, as per need or fashion statement.

My next appointment was for room assignment in the girl's hostel and Indu escorted me. It turned out to be a large house on a couple of acres land, with smaller housing structures turned in to a girls' hostel. The new girl students were pairing up for 2 or 3 bedroom accommodation. I didn't know any one so I was looking out for invitation to join anyone. I spotted a pair of tall girls from Hoshiarpur. I made eye contact with the taller girl, Vimla Bhatla, who asked me to join her and Rajni Sharma.  So we became the threesome to share a room, with three chairs and a small table. We each got our cots and bedrolls.

There were no wardrobes or bookshelves. Indu Khanna took me to the local market, where I bought the cot, etc., and their house help transported my chest (metal suitcase, 3x2x2 feet) that my Mom had packed with clothing for all three main seasons: fall, winter, and spring. She knew In advance that I would be away from home for almost a year.

I wrote a letter home about my dorm room. My older sister Asha (doing her Masters in French literature at Sophia College, Bombay) learnt about my hostel situation. She was in a luxury government hostel, located on Marine Drive with sea beach just across the road in front of her hostel. She was on the lookout for a solution, and found it. She mailed me a portable, hanging wardrobe, rectangular in shape, made of green colored plastic. It had 9 hangers. (A bigger version of the single coat hanger you get from the dry cleaners and packing dresses or Suits for travel purposes). It was installed with help from the staff that was employed by the makeshift hostel. It also got attention. Girls came to see this strange hanging wardrobe. I was the only girl who had a camera and was snapping around, taking pictures of my new domain. ("Girl with gadgets.") Our room opened up to a nice size open veranda, overlooking the sprawling lawns and gardens.  A  Bougainville vine hung on one side of our room veranda, with pretty pink flowers that bloomed for 6-9 months.

Aha! Here is our first day in the Anatomy class. Dr. Diwan, professor of anatomy, walks over the podium on the lower level with a large blackboard behind him. He takes a sweeping eye view of the fresh batch of medical students seated in an auditorium styled lecture theater. He first took a roll-call. He looked at each student to put a face to the name after their YES SIR responses. I don't recall having missed any classes by me or others. The attendance record of the class was almost perfect.

Names were called in alphabetically arranged lists. The first one listed the girl students, and the second one was of boys. Out of a class of 100 students, 20 were girls. The first lecture was more about the codes of conduct in the college and the format of lectures.

Although it was co-education, girls and boys were carefully segregated. We were in separate hostels. Girls sat in the first three rows of auditorium styled lecture theaters. Boys and girls were allowed only to meet in groups of 4-6.

All of a sudden, Dr. Diwan spotted me in the first row, the smallest person in the class. He asked if I had ever exercised. I spontaneously replied,"Sir, I am an athlete!" in an affirmative manner. He asked me back with a surprise look on his face, "Which Sports?" So I told him, "80 meter hurdles".

Then he announced that the school holds an annual athletic meet and challenged me in a "dare you mode" to participate. That evening I sent a letter home asking my mom to mail me my spikes (running shoes with a metal spike) and sports clothing (shorts and shirt).

Since that day, my class fellows started to call me "athlete" for sarcastic teasing. They had already recognized I was not only petite but also spoke Hindi instead of local lingo (Punjabi) and was labeled "Girl from Benares". Not only I felt like stranger but also was a stranger to the locals!

This story became viral in the campus, as Dr. Diwan was known to be a strict disciplinarian, and demanded good conduct and best grades from the students.

The senior girl students were surprised by my boldness, specially when they saw my size. They cautioned me to be respectful to our professor. After a few months, the annual athletic meet was held. I had the athletic coaching in high school at age 14, and participated in the amateur athletic meets at the state level in 80-meter ladies low hurdles, as the starter in Relay race. Also participated in the national inter-university level in 80-meter hurdles and starter in relay race at age 16. In the latter meet, in 1955, I was placed second to Elizabeth Desouza from Bombay University. She was 6 feet tall with spikes and starter device. I narrowly missed winning.  It was a close race. So, she qualified to go to the Asian Athletic meet that year. In those days, the Indian Olympics Committee could only afford to send just one athlete for each event.

So, having received my sports package just before our medical college's athletic meet, I put on my shorts shirt and spikes, and headed to the athletic field on our campus. I stretched and went for a warm up jog. This created a spectacle. Students and people came out of woodworks to watch me, as this was not the cultural norm. None of the participating girls wore shorts. They all wore pants and shirts.

I saved my face by winning First prizes in 100 and 200-meter sprints, and in high jump. They didn't have the equipment for 80-meter hurdles that I was trained and excelled in.

The state of Punjab had three medical colleges in the cities of Amritsar, Patiala and Ludhiana. All medical colleges also taught dentistry courses. The medical schools held annual athletic dubbed "triangular meets." I was invited to join the team. We had a meeting, and were coached about the format of our college team and formalities by our medical college athletic coach. He was a tall and strong burly guy. He instructed us to stand in a team format, with girls in the front rows and boys in the back. He chose a tall boy as our team leader. He was assigned to hold our college flag. Then, he asked if anyone knew and can call cadence for the team to march. I raised my hand, and he asked me to call the commands and so I did with a loud and clear voice. (I used to play flute in our high school band!) He was impressed by me and I became the cadence caller. He also commented, "Such a small person but commands in loud and clear voice."

During the triangular athletic meet, I repeated my first prize winnings in the three events, to the surprise of new audience and contributing to our team for the best scores, winning the best team Trophy. The sarcasm of athlete label was replaced by the pride of our class / college achievements.  I became the girl who could clear her own height in high jump, that's the word that went around. Of course, exaggerated. I cleared 4'3" and I used to be just 5 ft. tall.

Life in the hostel was also new to me. All toilets and showers were in a detached building. We had running water but not hot water, which was not a major issue as the climate was mild and one needed hot water during the months of December and January. We were helped by the kitchen staff providing us with bucket full of boiling hot water in the individual showers. This hot water we mixed with cold water in a separate bucket, and used large plastic mugs to wash ourselves.

Latrines were squatting Indian style unlike the western toilet seats that I was used to. As a kid, I used to spend long time on the toilet, reading comic books in the quite privacy of the bathroom. My parents were aware of this habit of mine. My mom would sent my younger siblings knocking on the door - a reminder that toilet time is up!

We also had to do our own laundry. Each girl had a bucket where laundry was soaked in the soap, later rinsed hand ringed and hung on a rope provided by the hostel for drying. I learned the process but quickly jumped to the offer by one of the hostel maids, who used to clean our rooms to do my laundry for 5 rupees a month. The in-house Dhobi (laundry man) was available for ironing of the clothes.

We also had a leisure room with daily newspapers, some assorted magazines, and a local radio that relayed local news and pop music stations for some entertainment.

The dining hall was long with tables arranged in a U-shape with chairs outside, for roughly 150 girl students, mixture of medical and dental students.

The chief cook in-charge of the dining facility was addressed as Panditji (Ji connotes respect). He used to serve food from inside the U-shaped table where as students were seated outside of the table (a clever and efficient arrangement). We ate all our meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner in this room. Breakfast was a choice of porridge, eggs, yogurt flat or baked bread with tea or milk. Lunch and dinners were basically vegetarian rice/flat bread, lentils, legumes, plain yogurt and assorted vegetables. A non-vegetarian dish (mutton) was served once a week. Sunday breakfast was traditional Punjabi dish of Alloo-Paranthas (pan-fried potato bread) with plain yogurt and mango pickle.

The food had customary chili pepper as per the local custom, but I was not used to it. So, I was unable to eat much. I was basically eating the bread and drinking a lot of water. Panditji noticed this aberration and consulted the hostel Matron. He offered to take a serving out of all items in the meals before adding the chili pepper. He did that for all the years I lived in the dorm. I feel privileged for such thoughtfulness on part of our Panditji.

Each dish was served separately. Before serving the meals, he would announce the dish being served. One day the vegetable was bhe (lotus stems) which I was not familiar with and declined it. Another time I declined the serving of tinde. I spontaneously punned Bhe and Tinde Bhatinde ke (from)! - a town in Punjab, where one of my class-girls was from, a town named Bhatinda. Obviously, she took it personally. And used to get  teased off.

Panditji would come back with second and third servings, and made sure that all the students got their fill. Breakfast was in early morning. We came back for lunch from the campus. After classes, we had the option of buying snacks from the vendors who were allowed inside the gated make shift hostel for this purpose or order from the kitchen of dining room.

A vendor with fresh fruit and juicing machine attracted most of the crowd, as everyone cared for a refreshing fresh fruit or juice.

After three years or so, the new girls' dorm was ready. We all moved in to this facility and enjoyed single cubicles with attached facilities. And improved recreation lounge with table-tennis, etc. We had good group dynamics in the boarding house. We shared textbooks and sets of skeletal bone sets for studies.

There were occasions when I convinced our hostel matron (a very caring soul) for her permission for us (group of girls in my class) to go for picnics in the farmlands behind the hostel. She wholeheartedly supported our venture (bless her soul). She was aware that the Principal of our school, a renowned Surgeon was my Mom's best friend's son-in-law.

I had to get her permission to leave by myself and visit the Principal's house two blocks down our hostel. I used this privilege usually on afternoon hours of weekends with eagerness, as Mrs. Santokh Singh treated me with affection and Victorian style hospitality. The cold drinks served in the sprawling lawn of the Principal's house (A faculty house property of college campus with well-kept garden and lawns by college gardener) was real cool (pun intended).

She used to give me tips as to dress with high heel shoes and head coifed with a bun instead of my long pair of braids, to look more lady like (grown-up). So I got introduced to high heel shoes. Initially it felt uncomfortable like I am walking on my toes but eventually I got used to it. Facial make-ups with lipstick and jewelry I had already shunned in high school as un-necessary elements for my activities and time constraining. I never used make-up.

For the picnic, Panditji would pack us aloo-paranthas, yogurt, water, and plates, etc. These we carried ourselves to the farming area behind our makeshift hostel, and enjoyed picnic in the wide-open space and fresh air. (Mama used to organize family picnics in outdoors, so I picked up the family tradition from her.) Most of the girls enjoyed the picnicking and it became a regular event to look forward to.

Picnic on farmland. Taking a breather against the haystack. Amritsar 1958. Medical college classmates.

At a pond. Scrutinizing reflections. Mirror on the wall has better ones! Sudershan and Bimla. Farmland adjacent to hostel. 1958 Amritsar.

Maternity ward. Full term patient being checked for fetal heart beats through Fetoscope. With permission of nurses, patient. They were happy to be photographed. I gave them copies. Amritsar maternity ward 1961. Kala and Renu, and nursing staff.

Although the classes were co-education, the boys and girls were segregated, so the interaction was limited to class seminars and discussions. Invariably some boys would make loud comments to get girls' attention, during the classes or sporting events etc.

The course was divided in to three professions (stages). First profession (akin to freshman) covered Anatomy and Physiology. For Anatomy, we all got our textbook- Gray's Anatomy and a complete set of human skeleton (bones) The one I had came in a 20x18x10 straw case (small suitcase), which I shared with others as it was expensive. An expensive item and students did not care to spend that much money.

We all had to dissect human cadavers that the college arranged for. To start with, we suddenly realized the gruesome nature of dissecting a cadaver. We were provided one human body part of the cadaver at a time wrapped in formaldehyde soaked cloth. Formaldehyde, an acid a preservative, has a sharp stinky odor to the extent to cause burning and watering of eyes. Each part was shared by two students, each table had four students dissecting the same part, and required to compare any differences in anatomy. We started with upper limb, which the paramedical staff brought in a formaldehyde wrapped cloth, a real stinking sharp odor, which added to the initial dread. But curiosity and the thirst to acquire the basic knowledge took over the initial hesitation.

For human physiology, besides our standard textbook, I received another iconic book, Pavlov's Physiology, from my dad. Our Physiology professor, Dr. Shiv Kumar Sharma, had a magnanimous personality. After finishing each of his lecture, he will invite questions and discussion. One time he looked at one of the students, who displayed quizzical look and quivering lips. He pointed at him and said "you - you are a Confused Mass of Protoplasm!"

On another occasion, he demanded an answer to his question pointing to one student who looked quizzical and not sure how to answer. So he pointed at him and said, "You - you A Handsome Dial". Of course, some of us were having a non-audible belly laugh.

Another associate professor Dr. Kharag Singh had a sharp, loud and clear voice. My class fellows punned in to a poem. "Kharag Singh ke kharakne se khulti he khirkiya." (When the loud speaking prof. talks the windows vibrate and open up!) "Khirkiyo ke Kilmer se Kharkta he Kharag Sing." (When windows open, than Prof. Kharak Singh roars.)

In the second profession (akin to sophomore), we learned Pathology, Pharmacology and Jurisprudence. The pathology textbook was gripping to me, specially Boyed's (British Pathologist). It was very well written with a flowery language that brought to the cellular level. I had also read novels by famous author A.J. Cronin. His "Final diagnosis" was iconic to me. The movie of the same name was a Box office hit.

The glamor and glory attached to the final diagnosis in a patient was fascinating. Investigating the causes of various disease processes and researching the cause of cancer "hit the spot".  I fell in love with Pathology, it offered venture in to unknown territory. MY FIRST LOVE OF LIFE.

The third profession (akin to senior level student) was Internal Medicine and Surgery, ENT, and Obstetrics and Gynecology. We also had practical teachings in the hospital both out and in-patients. Initially, we observed the faculty take patient history, do examination of the patient, make an assessment, finalize diagnosis and treatment plans at times with aid of blood, urine tests,  EKG, X- rays etc.

The professor of OB/GYN was Dr. Philips, an elegant Anglo- India lady. Her iconic remark for a condition Placenta Previa (where patient is imminent danger of massive bleeding and death) was "the patient is sitting on a volcano, it can burst anytime," stressing the need for the doctor to be very vigilant in this situation.

Dr. Malhotra, professor of cardiology, added a comment after a lecture on heart disease. "When the patient is sick and weak, unable to talk, friends and relatives flock around, and they disappear when he recovers when he could use company during rehab." One of his iconic description of Tachypnea was "Aram ka pahalu Nahi, karat ka badanla mushkil hey. Sun a tha dil he dai taraf kya bait taraf bhi dil hey" (Tachypnea condition when patient tosses and turns around in bed due to cardiac he wonders, heart is on the right side. Is there one on the left side too?)

Dr. Chutani, professor of internal medicine, lectured us diabetes, patients suffer from tingling sensations (paresthesia) around their ankles, so his iconic statement was "Aunts (ants) crawling around Uncles (ankles.)" He also emphasized on different degrees of obesity. He said there are four stages of Obesity.

1. Graceful

2. Tolerable

3. Morbid

4. Ridiculous.

Also, when a female walks in with enlarged belly, the differential diagnosis is 5Fs:

1. Flatus (gas)

2. Foeces (stools)

3. Fluid (Asitis)

4. Fetus.

5. Pseudo pregnancy.

Swaran, one of my classmates, once remarked, "When I read the symptoms of all these diseases, I identify with the symptoms till it say ‘Loss of appetite'. That's when I rule out the disease in me." She had a healthy appetite. A big girl but not overweight.

The academic competition was fierce and palpable, as everyone wanted to achieve the highest score to be a "Topper". Flunking was not an option. Exams were subjective, hand written, and papers were reviewed by the faculty and scored from 0 to 100. The student with highest score was called "Panjab 1st". Also, for short, called "Topper."

So, most of the time was focused in studies. Annual class picnics with local sightseeing were organized by the faculty. Annual poetry recitals, declamation and debate contests were also held as extra-curricular activities. Students were selected for dramatics and music (solo and group vocal) for inter-varsity meets, which were held annually. Occasionally there were "Fancy- dress parties".

The girls' hostel was off limits to outsiders. Guests were allowed to visit only with hostel Matron's permission. So the boys from our college used to walk on the road outside the hostel wall (6 feet tall, brick wall) and talk loudly to get the girls attention, on off days. Once boys from our batch grouped together and while walking outside the hostel wall, and sang loudly, a made up song modified from Bollywood movie "Jaroorat he Jaroorat he,Ik Shirimati ki, Kalawati ki seva jo Kare patijee ki" (Require a wife who will take care of my dear self). To this, the girls figured out a rebuttal of "Jaroorat he Jaroorat he, Ik baiman ki Shrimankee seva jo Kare meri Jaan kee."(Require a husband who will take care of my dear self").

The college campus had lawn tennis and badminton courts. The former were mainly used by the boys, and girls were in the badminton court. Once a few of us girls were watching the tennis play. One of our class fellow was a good tennis player. He was skinny and tall (nick named "Skeleton"), practicing with other players. Suddenly, two boys from our class Appeared close by and started a dialogue, "Hey, what do you see?" To this the reply was, "I see 3 x-rays, one of skull, one of chest and one of pelvis." 0f course, this was a joke to tease our class's best tennis player but mostly to get the girls' attention who would burst in to laughter.

After five years, we all passed the exams, followed by 6 months' mandatory internship. Then we had the graduation ceremony with robes and caps. After the Hippocratic Oath, M.B.B.S. degrees were handed to all of us.

So here is a batch of fresh graduates all dispersing out and finding there vocation to practice the newly acquired skills. Some went to work in their hometown clinics as general practitioners, while a large majority went on to pursue post- graduation in different specialties, starting with residency programs at the PGI (Postgraduate Institute) located in Chandigarh.

My dad had already joined Chandigarh University as Chief and full professor of the Psychology Department, and moved to Chandigarh. So I was back living at home during my Post Graduation, while my class fellows were in the PGI's dorm.

I picked Pathology for my post-graduation speciality. I was intrigued with the idea of research, exploring the new frontiers in medicine. Having read biographies of Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Madame Curie, I was looking at the glamour of research, and glory of Nobel Prize, during my premed.

I was the only of my school batch to pick Pathology for post-graduation. The chief of Pathology, Dr. Aikat, from Calcutta University, interviewed me for resident position. His first question was, "What is your interest in pathology?" I replied, "Cancer research." He nodded his head, and assigned me to work under his wife Dr. Mrs. Meera Aikat, whose interest was researching the early stages of cervical cancer. I was her first student, so she was delighted and put me to work.

We all were required to write a thesis (dissertation) in our specialty. My thesis title was "Status of Dyplasia in Cervical Cancer: A Clinico-pathogical Study". I went to Gynecology clinics collecting Pap smears, often taking small biopsies. A lady technician was assigned to me to keep track of the data such as date of sample Collection, coded name of patient, etc. So, when we went back For further sample collection we kept track of progression or regression of the state of dysplasia, which was not well understood at that time. Patient consents were taken.

The research grant money basically funded by central (Federal government) was used to give free exams to the patient participating in the study. We had a good response from these women folk. They not only liked the free exams but were also eager to know the outcome of the study. In hindsight, I appreciate their contribution to our research, which would not have been possible without their participation.

The experimental part was on Swiss strain mice, a special strain of mice that were prone to cervical cancer. They were caged in a special room with other animals for experimental purposes. A team of technician used to take care of feeding these animals, cleaning their cages, and bringing them out for exams, pap smears, biopsy. Autopsy when found dead.

I used to use a carcinogen, after weighing the minute amounts, made a solution with sterile saline water and applied the solution to the mice cervix. Collected Pap smears on a weekly basis and catalogued to see how it progressed and to which stage.

While we were all in different specialties, we still participated in the hospital grand-rounds and interdisciplinary lectures and seminars.  Coffee breaks in the PGI cafeteria provided the arena to catch up (gossip) on who got married or moved, etc.

One day I overheard about ECFMG (Education Council for Foreign Medical Graduates) in USA.  This was part of the brain drain of professions such as Medical Doctors, Engineers etc. the US, in the 1960s. A senior PGI staff heard it too, turned his face to me and asked, "Are you also going for ECFMG certificate?"

My pupils dilated and curiosity lead to look for detailed information. Having heard a lot about America from my maternal Grandfather, as he had been to New York City, by sea, for promotion of wholesale of Indian Fabric.  He had patented this in Srinagar (Kashmir, India), and manufactured in a mill that he owned. It was called "TABI silk." It was a very and thin raw silk fabric material, with delicate texture. A high-end fabric for formal dresses.  He loved New York City, which he used to sail to for business purposes.

When I was around 9 years old, he gave me a book Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw. Grandfather was 5' 7 " tall, strong looking frame, dark hair, fair complexion, and penetrating grayish blue eyes. In Europe, he used to be mistaken for an Italian. He met Bernard Shaw at a Bus stop in NY City. Shaw started a conversation with him. They boarded the bus, ending the evening dinning together. Grandpa's sense of humor and philosophy was akin to Shaw's.

Grandpa loved NY City, and had an interest in making New York as his wholesale business base. But my grandmother did not care for the carnivore community. She was pure vegetarian. At only satvic bhojan. So it was ruled out in a flash!

I had heard a lot about USA. So, I jumped on the information and sent my application for ECFMG exam. I had to pay $ 75 fee\; this was arranged through my first maternal cousin, who had already joined Du Pont chemical firm in Wilmington, Delaware.

I passed the exam and received the ECFMG certificate. Then, I got a catalogue of US universities that I could apply for residency in any specialty. I skimmed the pages and picked up Stanford, John Hopkins, and University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Stanford I knew had the first Neuropathologist, whose book on neuropathology has just come out. I was impressed by his work. John Hopkins, as famous Internist Sheela Sherlock was invited as visiting Professor to PGI. She was well known for her work in liver disease, specially related to Alcohol, and the various complications from alcoholic cirrhosis. Her iconic Remark still rings in my ears, "Alcoholics are NOTORIOUS LIARS!" Which still hold true as majority of alcoholic live in denial. That's why Alcoholics Anonymous takes alcoholics for rehab, only when they come voluntarily. The University of Utah had world famous professors in various medical specialties. So, I applied to these three universities.

And ended up at the University of Utah.


© Renu Jalota 2018


I admire Renu's(a classmate) powers of recall. Of course, I am familiar with many of the names and reputations! Amazing thing is that in the enforced repression of those days('discipline'?), I never talked to her. Even PGI days did help matters as pathologists were in a different building and interacted very little with clinicians. Getting to know Renu in the U.S. I have to acknowledge her as a very courageous and generous person who speaks her mind.

Delighted to read Renu's memories of life inside the "walls". Her experiences are very similar to mine; she is too kind!. I knew Dr Basanta Kumar Aikat well . Meera a first rate cytopathologist and I worked on numerous ICMR projects. It just happened that iconic figures including Drs. Diwan, Chuttani, Dhall and Wig among others left the sinking ship of Amritsar for PGI Chandigarh. Amritsar has so much talent and potential that the nation is unable to tap and utilize- what a shame!

Splendid. I had left Amritsar( GlancyMecical College) before the author joined. Much enjoyed her account. Thank you

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