I was ecstatic the day I received my letter from “my first software” company confirming my appointment as a Software Engineer at Mumbai. My joy knew no bounds. I was looking forward to a new company, new friends and new work. The Big day came by and I soon joined along with another 34 trainees. We were all segregated into a batch called “ITP Jan 99” for the next six months.
It was a world not very different from the college one – lots of free time, loads of canteens around (SEEPZ had a variety of food joints which were always haunted by the software folks), free email and net access. The only difference being that we were also getting paid a whopping 12K per month for all this. Forwarding emails between the group members was one of the primary things that we used to do in our free time.
I was not an ardent email user before joining this firm and hence email became a new passion for me. I used to even read those junk mails which used to claim that “if you don’t forward to 10 people in the next five minutes…blah blah blah” and earnestly forward it across. I clearly remember one of them — it was on an AIDs racket going on in Mumbai city; a gang goes around in public places with syringes containing HIV virus and victimizes innocent Mumbaikars leaving a public message “Welcome to the World of AIDS”. It was a very common scene in theatres, cinema halls and other crowded areas (the email claimed). I was frightened out of my life. Being a hostelite, I used to frequent movies and theatres when ever possible. Plus my travel involved an hour and a half of commuting one way to work. For the first month, I avoided all theatres. While commuting in trains, I used to be wary of people around me and try to walk in secluded places.
I couldn’t stand being away from the movie theatres for more than a month. So I did start going for movies again, but used to sit with my back arched to the seat, lest if someone did try to prick me with a needle from behind, the needle would not find its way to me. If I got a bruise on my body (I used to get it frequently), I would examine it closely to see whether it was due to a prick of a needle poked into me of which I was totally unaware of by a perfect anesthesiologist gang member.
My software firm had a compulsory medical test to be cleared within the first month of joining. So one fine day, the entire batch of 35 people found their way to “Holy Spirit” Hospital. It was like a “baby’s day out” for all of us since it was more of a paid picnic. We all lined up for a blood test and then a physical examination followed by X-rays, etc. By the time all the required tests were done, it was nearly time to head back home. The hospital said that it would send across the results directly to the company and so we need not come back.
A week later the medical test results did come in and my friend told me that some employees were asked to go in for additional tests for varied reasons. The employee ids for these people were displayed on the notice board.
Fear again gripped me while I went on to check the bulletin board. And to my horror my id was amongst the 3 people who were supposed to report back to the hospital. I found myself almost shivering. I could think of all the reasons why I was being called again “suppose the AIDs gang had victimized me, suppose I was detected with cancer, suppose I had brain hemorrhage, etc”.
The next day morning I went back to the hospital — this visit being distinctly different from the previous joyous affair. When I gave my employee id and company name at the reception, I was asked to see the OPD department. On reaching there, I was met by a nurse who looked as if she had come straight from an Amrish Puri movie — with a stern face and stiff jaw. She had some case papers containing a lot of details which didn’t make sense to me. She peered at me suspiciously and in an akimbo pose asked me “When were you relieved from the hospital?” I didn’t know what she is talking about but I answered her straight “I was not admitted to any hospital”. She was taken aback but she requested me to wait for the doctor to come in. The wait seemed like eternity to me though it was only 10 odd minutes. I almost chanted aloud the names of all goddess and gods that I knew. I thought of all the good things in life I would do if I escaped unscathed from this place. The doctor finally came in and took my case papers. She was a sweet looking angel (that is what I think of her now). She glanced at me for a minute and looked at my X-ray and it took her less than 10 seconds to realize the bloomer – my x-ray got interchanged with that of some Tuberculosis patient who had a hole in his lungs (or was it heart). She asked me to repeat my x-ray and within another 10 minutes I was out from the hospital.
I fled out of there and didn’t even bother to wait by to check on the payment for the x-ray.