Posted December 1, 2009on:
“WHAT?” HoD and the Dean almost shouted in unison. “What do you mean he is harassing you?” demanded the Dean.
“Whatever I have to say, I will say in front of my uncle!” Khyati said adamantly.
A look of worry passed between the two faculties. They were having a fair idea what would become of Dr. Artha’s career as well as his personal life if what Khyati was saying comes into full public view. There were some nagging doubts about the way Khyati was taking the matter further. She seemed to be enjoying the whole situation. Also Dr. Artha’s conduct till date has been pristine. Something was not right but they did not have a choice but to go ahead with the inquiry though both were trying not to make this official. They refrained from suggesting Khyati to put her grievance on paper.
“Fine. We will talk about this on Wednesday as I am out of town for two days after the weekend. But till then ask your uncle to leave Dr. Artha alone.” said the Dean after much deliberation.
“Yes sir.” With that Khyati exited herself. It was obvious that her “yes sir” did not really mean “yes”.
Once she was gone, the Dean and HoD sat there in silence, both trying to gather their thoughts.
“Ask your female students in your department about Dr. Artha’s behaviour. See if we have missed anything. We will meet again on Wednesday. Hope this whole episode does not turn into something of a disaster.” With that he dismissed HoD.
On her return to the department she summoned the resident doctors. As it turned out, none of the doctors, male or female, had anything ill to say about Dr. Artha. But all of them had been threatened by Khyati’s men to keep their mouth shut or face the music. They were almost in tears. They were now not only scared for Artha but also for their own lives. But now HoD was sure that Khyati’s allegation was not true or was it? Could Artha have misbehaved with the girl? Was it possible for so many people to be wrong about a person? She did not have any answers; not at least now.
After he convinced the bullies about Artha’s disappearance and his ignorance about his whereabouts, Kunal contacted other friends; they deported Shobha’s parents stealthily. Suddenly their lives were on a giant roller coaster ride. It turned out that all of them had been threatened to face the “consequences” if they stood by Artha. They just wished this nightmare was over and they return to their normal lives.
Artha called HoD on Sunday, two days after his sudden exit. He told her about his whereabouts and wanted to get some assurance about the whole scenario. HoD told him to stay put wherever he was and asked him to keep in touch with her and no one else. Also since she feared that her landline was being taped she asked him to call only from PCO. She wished him luck and asked him to call again onon Wednesday evening.
All of Artha’s friends were on tenterhooks for the next couple of days. The feeling of dread was palpable in their every action. The mood was subdued in the department. Other medical faculty members too were feeling sorry for their favourite resident doctor. But the PhD doctors were smug at Artha’s predicament. Though never openly, these PhD doctors were always at loggerheads with medical doctors and were now having some sadistic pleasure at one of their students getting back at a medical student. They knew Khyati was wrong, but what the heck!
Wednesday, at 10 in the morning the Dean’s office was jammed pack with faculty members, Artha’s friends and colleagues, Khyati and her uncle.
“Khyati, I hope you know what your complaint can do to Dr. Artha’s career and life.” started the Dean solemnly. Khyati and her uncle smiled wickedly as if saying, “That is exactly what we want!”
“Now girl, tell me again what problem you have with Dr. Artha.”
“Didn’t you hear her properly last time when she said that she was harrased?” interjected “uncle” heatedly.
“Sir, this is my office and I am talking to MY student. Please let us take this further. I want to know how exactly “harassed” she is!” the Dean replied with an edge to his voice. “Uncle” was taken aback with this sudden change in the Dean’s attitude.
“Now, Khyati, tell me what is your complaint and how exactly were you harassed by Dr. Artha?” the Dean seemed to be losing his patience.
“He harassed me mentally.” Khyati was taken aback too by the subtle anger in the Dean’s voice.
“He…he… scolded me in front of the whole department…”
Khyati looked down.
“WHY?” When she did not answer the Dean shouted “What had you done for which your senior had to scold you, as you put it!”
“Speak up lady! We don’t have the whole day and your complaints can jeopardize some doctor’s life.”
“I had not completed the task assigned to me.”
“You are telling us that because you did not do the work you were assigned, your senior reprimanded you AND you consider that to be harassment?” There was mockery in his question.
Khyati was feeling humiliated in front of the whole gathering. She was trying hard to substantiate her claim but it was getting increasingly difficult. Her uncle tried to intervene but was silenced by the Dean’s stern look. Khyati tried again.
“He talks to the female doctors and colleagues and jokes with them.”
There was a collective gasp from the audience. Were they hearing right? She had a problem because Artha talked and joked with female of the species! Immediately Khyati realized her mistake and she changed her statement again.
“I mean he back slaps them and tease them and…” her voice trailed of.
“So what is your problem? That he does that to other girls or that he doesn’t do that to you?” the Dean was having trouble putting the lid on his anger.
“Yes girls, what do you have to say to this?” the question was directed towards the ladies gathered in his office. They looked down. They were threatened to keep quite. They were worried about their own careers and lives. The Dean frowned and so did HoD.
“What? Are you girls trying to tell me that Artha, indeed, misbehaved with you too?” There was a ring of disbelief in his voice.
“No sir, he is the nicest person we have in our department. He has not done anything to me or any of us. The others are not speaking up because we have been threatened to keep quite. But I can’t keep mum. He is the best senior, the best doctor and the best person…” the girl’s voiced trailed off and her eyes brimmed with tears. She looked around her and quietly urged others to speak up.
Slowly others too chipped in. And collectively they all threw Khyati’s allegations out of the window. The smile spread over the Dean’s face. Khyati was fuming. She looked at her uncle. He was baffled at Khyati’s allegations. He had not bothered to verify them, never thought that Khyati was out to get back at a doctor without his fault. But he kept his thoughts to himself.
Others were asked to go back to their respective departments. Now only the Dean, HoD, Khyati and “uncle” were seated.
“Now, tell me sir, what you think. The boy is not at fault. You just witnessed it. He is running for his life. Ask you men not to harm him.”
“I want his unconditional aplology.” fumed Khyati.
“For what? He hasn’t done anything!” reasoned HoD.
“I don’t care. He apologizes or I will see to it that his medical registration gets cancelled. You know once it is done, he is doomed.” said Khyati adamantly. She looked at her uncle for support; he mumbled something, still lost at the turns of the event.
“Nothing doing, I won’t permit anything of the sort.” The Dean was bewildered. Khyati smirked, mocking the very authority of the head of the institute, knowing her power too well.
The Dean saw that Khyati was hell bent on destroying Dr. Artha for some unfathomable reason. She had goofed up this time and could not come up with any reasonable charge. But she might be more vicious next time. He also knew her political connections. However unreasonable it may sound, it was better for Artha to apologize, albeit verbally, and be done with. The chapter will be closed.
“Okay, I will ask him to apologize. We will meet here tomorrow. Is that okay with you, sir?” The last question was directed towards Khyati’s uncle. He nodded his head but the earlier aggression was missing.
“Artha is going to call me tonight. Do you think it will be safe for him to come back?” HoD asked the Dean with concern once they were alone.
“I think even the “uncle” was taken aback by Khyati’s unfounded allegations. I don’t think he will back her in anything else now. Plus, we have assured her that Artha will apologize to her. Her ego is balmed. I don’t think there is any harm in asking Artha to return.” The Dean sighed heavily.
The next day Shobha and Artha entered the Dean’s office with HoD. Khyati and her, now subdued, uncle were already seated..
The Dean escorted Shobha out, looked at her kindly, as if he did not want her to witness her husband’s humiliation. Shobha’s eyes filled with tears for her beloved. She sat outside the office, silently crying and praying to God to give strength to her husband to endure the inevitable.
Inside the Dean’s office; tears glistened in Arha’s eyes; tears of humiliation, tears of impotent anger, tears of shame…
“Say sorry!” coaxed the dean.
“But Sir, I did not do anything…” his voice trailed off, his eyes pleading.
Khyati stood there, looking at him with venom in her eyes.
He looked around, as if to find some support, someone who will tell him that it was all a joke and he was free. What he found were three solemn faces, with down cast eyes and sympathetic look.