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D Hall

Date: 06-Dec-2017


Prologue: For this essay, I have the luxury of writing the truncated line – Any resemblance to anyone dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

You can have as many guesses as you want about the full form of D. Originally it expands to Dissection. That is where the young entrants to any medical college get their first peek into the human body. Stress is on ‘into’, coz to have a look ‘into’, one has to dissect it open.

But I guess D is left as such to suit all situations. First and foremost is Dread. Ever since I cleared the entrance test for admission to medical college, known seniors in the college as well as known doctors long beyond their college days, made sinister jokes about facing the dead bodies. My only experience till then, was dead body of grandfather of a friend. We had gone to pay last respect out of camaraderie, and after half an hour of tiring grim expressions, we were back laughing and joking all the way. We went nowhere near the body, anyways it was well draped, and the finest incense aroma filled the air. For us, it was just not anybody, it belonged to grandpa. That actually made it a friendly body.

Per se, the bodies in the D Hall are unknown, and unknown is always assumed to be intimidating, unpredictable, dubious and of questionable friendly quotient.  Even though I still have not accepted the idea, but I always wonder, why are we afraid of dead bodies? I mean, it’s the living who perpetrate crimes. I have never heard a dead body committing a murder or raping someone. Leave aside living, dead do not harm the other dead of their community. They do not arson or loot. They don’t even protest. All dead bodies have the same religion. But still we are afraid of dead bodies.  Sometimes I feel, the living should follow the dead.

On the D Day, we were primed with opening lecture on how and why to respect the dead bodies.  How they made this great sacrifice so that we could dissect them and learn what lies beneath the skin and in the hollows of human bodies. I was already feeling guilty about someone doing so much for me. I made a mental note of whispering a thank you in the ears of the body since it was practically not possible to send a card.  I am sure the collective heart rate of the class was more than that of spectators in a houseful football stadium. Most of the faces had anxious look. We were filed in a single row and led to the Hall. It was a big hall with rows of tables and each having a dead human body, covered with a cloth. The hall was full of unbearable acidic smell of formalin, the chemical used to preserve the bodies. This was in stark contrast to the aroma around the body of grandpa. I am sure, many of the bodies lying there, must have worn best of the perfumes before deciding to make the sacrifice for us.

Soon, we were allotted the tables and the teachers. So, the whole class was now divided into batches and gathered around different tables. Teacher of each group made the introductions and spelled out the rules and regulations. Hearts were thumping in anticipation.  Finally,the cloth was removed and the living and the dead came face to face. Many gasps from the living filled the hall. The dead did not  even bat an eye lid. That was the irony – living were afraid of the dead, but dead were not afraid of the living. I still feel, it should be other way round.  Gasps were followed by a loud thud, followed by another thud and another. Confused looks around the hall made the discovery of two girls and a boy who could not stop their emotions at gasps and were now lying flat on the floor, apparently unconscious. D Hall staff must be used to this scenario, for they displayed no anxiety and helped all the fallen soldiers to their feet and escorted them to a side room to offer water. Dead bodies did not have a normal look or texture, they looked kinda synthetic, mummified.  That took much anxiety out of the interaction. Dead bodies were not interested in any kind of interaction, they just stared at the ceiling.

Making the first cut in the skin was almost difficult, as if the body will shriek. Or slap. One really waited for a wince, a response. But the bodies were least bothered. They were really cool. They were refrigerated actually. It must be an anatomist who discovered that beauty is skin deep. We all can vouch for that. What lies beneath the skin can never inspire a poet.

In the next one and half years, we made friends with the bodies. We even named them and talked to them, asked them to guide us whenever we got stuck during tests. We learnt it’s a blatant anatomical lie whenever someone says – my heart beats for you. Dead bodies don’t lie, their heart beats for no one.

Sept 12, 2017.


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