by Mir Jalal

From the book "Dried Up In Meetings"
Azerbaijan International 1998, USA

"Take one teaspoon of this medicine." "Take these pills." "Place a wet towel on your ear twice a day and come back in two days."

To do what the doctor says isn't difficult, but it isn't easy, either­there is neither the time nor the inclination. But, I'm a very patient person. Whatever a doctor has suggested, I've done. If I haven't benefited from a doctor's advice, at the very least I've been respectful.

But one recommendation was always very hard for me. When the doctor finishes your examination, writes you a prescription and gives you advice, he then says, "Come back to see me in two days." Of course, the physician always wants patients. Treating patients is his job. But heading to the doctor's office isn't my job. If I spent two hours every two days with the doctor, how could I take care of my family? Who'd earn a living for them?

What I'm saying is true! Doctors ask you to return to the clinic, but who's about to go back? When people leave the clinic, they go without even looking back. If someone returns, he doesn't return on his own; it's the sickness that brings him back.

As is customary, I said good-bye to the doctor and left. Again, he told me to come back in two days. I said, "I will." But I didn't take the prescription to the drugstore, and I don't remember how many times, if at all, I put a wet towel on my ear. I do know that my earache was decreasing, little by little. Sometimes it wasn't noticeable at all.

Two or three days later, it was about nine or ten o'clock at night, and I was reading a book when the phone rang. When I answered the phone, a young and sweet-voiced girl said my name.

"Wait a moment, please. The doctor wants to talk to you."

Suddenly, Dr. Qaraguzov, the ear, nose and throat doctor, was screaming at me over the phone, "Hey Mister, I've been waiting for you! Why didn't you come for your appointment? Please come; you cannot leave the treatment unfinished!"

I didn't know how to respond; I couldn't say a word. Hurriedly, I wrapped a kerchief around my head and went to the doctor. On the way I began to think, "Yes, the world is not without good people, and there are good doctors, such as this one. I shouldn't think that he's a doctor working only for self-interest. This isn't true at all. First of all, I'm being treated at the government's expense. Secondly, Qaraguzov gets his salary whether he treats fifty patients or none at all. The fact that Qaraguzov was seeking me out and was paying so much attention to my treatment can only be attributed to his devotion and work ethics."

Having these thoughts made me appreciate Qaraguzov even more. I felt ashamed that he had to force me to come to be treated when all he wanted was for me to be completely healthy. Instead, I felt lazy and didn't want to go to his office, which isn't even far from my house.

At any rate, I did go to see the doctor. This time, he looked into my ear even more attentively than he'd done before. When he learned that my putting a wet towel on my ear had considerably decreased the pain, he became exceedingly happy. He pulled his instrument closer and adjusted his reflecting mirror. He began to examine my ear with the utmost attention.

"Comrade doctor, it seem as if you're drawing a picture of my ear."

Absorbed in his work, Qaraguzov didn't answer me and continued probing. "Don't move, don't move!" he said, as he moved around me, readjusting his mirror and the light, sometimes kneeling in order to examine my ear. He handled my ear so vehemently that I thought its skin was going to come off. I suffered patiently, waiting for the examination to be over. I promised myself, "If I get away this time, I'll never put myself in the hands of any doctor."

When Qaraguzov turned the light aside and put down his instruments, I was indescribably happy. As if passing an arduous and dangerous test, I heaved a sigh of relief, wiped the sweat from my forehead and got up to leave.

"Why are you getting up?" he asked, surprised.

"Haven't you finished?"

"I think I should examine your nose as well."

He examined my nose in the same manner as he had my ear. I gathered all my strength and waited for him to finish. Qaraguzov asked me some questions and wrote down the answers­my age, profession, address and my family situation.

"Comrade doctor, they ask you such questions when you are getting a job. How does one's family situation or profession affect one's earache?"

"Why are you so concerned?" he said. "These questions shouldn't scare you. We need these for scientific research. We want to know who our patients are, to which social class they belong. This knowledge will enable us to be useful to the people, and without such information the medical profession doesn't advance. If you were the only person with an earache, we'd have no problem, but this damn sickness is looking for ways to get into a thousand ears. It's our duty to fight it!"

I was in no mood to listen to what the doctor had to say. Sensing my impatience, he stood up, shook my hand and stated emphatically, "Come back in two days. I'll be waiting for you."

"But Comrade doctor, there's no pain left in my ear!"

"You can't feel it now. For five days there's no pain, but after five months it comes back and bothers you in such a way that you feel as if you want to die. I know your symptoms. I know them very well. You need treatment. You must come."

I went home disappointed and vowed to myself that I would not go back. That was it! Forgetting about my earache and about Dr. Qaraguzov, I went to work.


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