drinking and free education

The near gale force winds and the "churuchuru" rain outside did not dampen the mood in my favourite waterhole. There was much speculation about how the rains would affect the World Cup games, while some were convinced the West Indies cricket team should be sent to every country that faced a drought to be sure they get plenty of rain.   

There were looks of surprise when Kavadath Nidahas, a lively member at all discussions at the bar, called or a third drink – one more than his regular two full shots on an evening. "Why the extra one asked a member?"

"Why not? I’ve decided to celebrate my freedom one day ahead, because my freedom to raise my glass to say cheers on the 63rd anniversary of independence has been denied by the Excise boys. "What independence without the Freedom of Choice, to drink or not to drink, that is the question I ask myself," he said.  He did not wait long after his third shot to wish all a Happy Independence and leave the place.

Not long after, there was the shocking news that Kavadath Nidahas had been rushed to hospital with injuries suffered when knocked down by a car when crossing the road.

"The driver must have been drunk…..Nidahas was very steady on his feet when he left ……and it is the same route he takes every evening", were among the comments  from his friends, who were all setting out to rush to the Accident Ward to see him.

The Accident Ward is known for its quick action in treating the injured. No sooner Kavadath Nidahas was brought in the doctor came rushing to his trolley. Blood splattered Nidahas, with injuries on his chest and legs, was conscious. He expected the doctor to ask him what happened and set about using his stethoscope. But before that the nurse nearby gave the doctor a look of caution.

The doctor bent down over the face of Nidahas and did some sniffing.

"Aha, you have been drinking" he said.


"Yes, doctor, I had three drinks, one more than my usual, but I did not knock on the car, it was the car that knocked on me."

"But you are now not the victim of a road accident, but the victim of your own drinking. I don’t think we can treat you for free. You will have to pay" said the doctor.

"But what if the driver of the car had taken more drinks than I?"

That is not our problem. That’s for the police to work out. Most probably he was not injured, but you are. So, now you’re the victim of drinking. We can’t treat you for free." The doctor was very firm.

"But doctor, don’t you see how unfair you are. I was not breaking any rules. All the signs on the roads are warnings against driving after drinks. There is nothing to say one can’t walk on the road after a drink or two, or even three, as I did" Nidahas said in good humour, despite the pain of his wounds.

By that time his friends from the waterhole had come near him.

"Someone must pay…we cannot treat you till then" the doctor remained firm.

But what abut Hippocrates asked Nidahas?

"What about him?"

"Haven’t you taken the Hippocratic Oath to attend to all those who seek treatment from you?"

"That was before colonialism, capitalism, socialism, state hospitals, independence, and circulars that govern what doctors do today. We don’t have a Hippocratic Circular. The officials who prepare circulars must be thinking that Hippocrates was the father of hypocrisy – being hypocrites themselves. But you have to pay to be treated here. This is a State hospital, maintained by public funds," the doctor made things clear.

There were several friends of Nidahas pulling out their wallets to pay…but he would have nothing of it. "Stop it. Don’t pay" he told them and then spoke to the doctor. 


"Forget circulars….doctor… you know who paid for you to be a doctor?" he asked a pointed question.

"Why my parents, who else…and what has that got to do with your injuries after drinking?"

"Everything…it was not your parents who paid your costs through medical college…unless your father too had a regular shot or two… You must have studied in a government school, right?

Yes…so what about that?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, everything…. what about the fact that it is the regular drinkers of licit liquor like me, paying Excise Duty and every other tax with every drink we take, who have paid for all of your learning through free education in school and in the university….it is the taxes collected from us drinkers that help maintain this state hospital and also pay for these nurses who are looking at me like a strange animal because I’ve had three drinks…..

"But the circular does not refer to free education....." the doctor seemed taken aback.

"Damn it, doctor…the cost of educating almost all of you who went to government schools and medical college, were met even in the smallest way, by people like my father and I, the millions like us who take a regular drink…and you have the gumption to brandish a circular against treating free for injury suffered after making a further contribution to educating some more doctors, nurses and some other public servants including permanent secretaries and others who draw up these circulars…. Tell me do you think this is fair?

More doctors arrived as Nidahas was making his point…..the doctors and nurses were looking at each other……One doctor gathered enough courage to ask a question." But didn’t you enjoy taking your drinks…how can you say it was in support of our education…"

"Well….whether I enjoyed the drink or not is not at issue…Yes, I enjoyed the drink and also enjoyed the fact that I was making some contribution to free education and free health services……whatever state they are in today….


The doctors took some time to respond. Nidahas was clearly in pain…. but soon he had another point to make….

"Don’t you have a circular that prohibits the treatment of those admitted with venereal disease?

"No, why?"

"Because most of them come seeking your help by doing something they got pleasure from…..why don’t you ask for a circular banning free treatment to anyone who needs medical help having done something that pleased him or her… will sure help put down the cost of free health……lead to the closing of most state hospitals….and let the private hospitals thrive……

The doctors were huddled talking about he Hippocratic Oath, the nurses put on a look of shock when VD was mentioned ……

And I had to rush this column to print on Independence Day.

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