There are times when I LOVE discussions with self-proclaimed VIP patients!
The typpikkyyal Mallu VIP (pronounced ‘Vyee-iyy-pee’) is a boisterous, oversized, middle-aged male. He insists on smilingly referring to himself ‘small and humble’- something he will remind you of again and again. He invariably flaunts a Rolexed, Rado-ed or Omega-ed wrist. His fingers are studded with multicoloured precious-stoned rings, irrespective of religion, each stone for a particular reason and season. The key to his Mercedes/Audi/etc is usually placed on the doctor’s desk, very prominently, as if he’ll gift it to the doctor if he’ll be made happy (though he never will). There’s at least a couple of thick gold chains around a fat, multi-layered, acanthotic neck. He smiles 24 X 7, as if the plastered smile is the reason that the world is still a happy place to be in. In reality, a look into his eyes will reveal that the smile is often a sinister mask.
The VIP is always well-dressed. Which means, if he’s male, he wears a superbly starched and stiffened, spotless white shirt. Usually, the saying now-a-days is that the whiter the shirt, the darker will be his secrets; and the stiffer his shirt, the looser will be his morals.
He’ll keep looking at his watch every half-a-minute. Not because he’s in a hurry, but because he spent 2-5 lakh rupees on it- he may well make the most out of it. OK, he behaves like in a hurry, but that hurry disappears when he’s speaking, and reappears when the doctor takes more than ten seconds to put his notes into the computer.
Most of them have a stereotypical sycophantic “friend” strategically seated behind them. The friend is not paid any fixed salary, but him and his family eke out a healthy living from the tips and incentives that he leeches out of “guiding” his richer friend. He is the person who cares for his VIP friend the most in the world. Maybe he even watches what he eats and exercises daily on the VIP’s behalf.
Somehow, my consulting room chairs, though decently broad, seem to magically shrink when some people try to fit themselves into them. The VIP has to maneuver particularly hard to fit his heavily fat-padded, enormous behind into in the semi-cushioned patient-chair which is meant only for the aam aadmi. The maneuvering is probably the best exercise he’s had to do by himself in recent times. As he adjusts himself in the chair, he reveals that he’s actually got a hi-tech treadmill at home, but he doesn’t use it to walk; he finds the machine more useful to hang his underwears to dry. He grunts as he makes a mental note that the chair is so tight- when he decides to get out of it, he’ll have to go through another round of immense physical strain to free himself off its suffocating clasp; or else it’ll remain stuck to his posterior- a nightmarish scene he’d never want to be caught dead with.
The VIP finds it a challenge to do all that maneuvering and wisecracking while trying to convey a “chilled VIP” attitude. All this hard work is usually meant to convey a strong social message to the small-time doctor that I am- “I AM VERY IMPORTANT”.
This is roughly how a conversation went, about a year ago. This conversation was worth remembering, considering the extent this guy went to. To my pleasant surprise, he came back to see me very recently!
(In between the medical discussion, he abruptly started off…)
“Doctor, how much experienced are you?… I don’t think you know the extent of my business dealings. My dealings are in hundreds of crores…. (later)… I know so many doctors… (later) … I have access to so many best hospitals in Gulf… etc..” … and then the arrogance-laden stunner: “doctors consultations fees are so cheap with you all… nothing compared to what I make!”
As usual, I expressed awe when faced with the stereotypical grandiosities, but was back to my professional interests in him in an instant, every time. I wondered if it was mania- a psychiatric condition- and it was not. Overall, he appeared to be pretty sane.
The consultation proceeded alright. It was pleasant overall and I managed to create a workable rapport. “Sir, its great to hear of your vast empire. Your businesses are really impressive to hear about. Thanks for placing your trust in me, though maybe for a short while.”
He seemed to be happy to hear this.
“We cost little, but we deal in … priceless … lives … like … yours.”
(Pause for a few seconds).
The measured tone usually works.
“Lets start simple before we go on to you uncontrolled diabetes, BP, knee pains and the rest. Maybe, say, let’s start planning with managing your obesity. Actually, let’s start a step before that. What you feel about your health?”
He left happy.
And came back now, after a year. To my surprise, he had stuck to the prescribed medicines, but not changed his lifestyle, and had not followed up elsewhere either. So overall, not much had changed in his health. But he was way more polite, and instead of blaming doctors and medicines, was gracious enough to reveal his amazing discovery that his unhealthy lifestyle was the main reason for his persisting ills.
We discussed again.
He won’t be back for another year, if I read him right. But he’ll be back- of that I’m almost certain.
He’s a different sort of a VIP. Like most ‘VIPs’, he came across as a person who wants to be nice, but is incurably tempted to maintain the typpppikkkkyyal aura of invincibility and “immortality”; in reality, masking his insecurities, and lamely hiding his greatest fear- of one day, losing it all.