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Taking the piss

Rudi Takes the piss....

It was 1st April 1976 and we were interns at Colombo General Hospital. Six months into our first job, we felt cocky, confident and enjoyed life to the hilt.

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

I was living in ‘329 quarters’ (one of the many hospital accommodations provided for doctors) with many of my friends, both batchmates and seniors. As an intern, work was busy but we were enjoying life. We still reminisce about some of the legendary parties in ‘329’ and the aftermath. A sense of fun prevailed at all times and many a lasting friendship was fostered during this time.

It was against this backdrop that the thought of an April Fool prank was hatched. I had an able ally in Kalinga Nanayakkara, a good friend and batchmate, who was up for this. Together we concocted a plan which we felt was in the spirit of an ‘April Fool prank’.

The accommodation had a live-in cook named Dasa, who looked after all our culinary needs. He made us morning tea and cooked all our meals. Tea was brewed in a large metal teapot, which I can still visualise to this day. We all helped ourselves to cups of tea from this teapot. Our plan was to dissolve tablets of Furosemide (or Lasix as it was popularly known at the time) in the pot of tea.

Dasa was in on the plan and he vowed to keep hush. For any non-medical reader, Furosemide is a cheap and commonly prescribed drug and it has the effect of making you pass large amounts of urine within a few hours of consumption, making it imperative you visit the loo quickly and frequently. We knew the tea would be consumed before all rushed off for their clinical duties. We would then assess the reaction of our friends when they returned for lunch.

Our concern that the furosemide might alter the flavour of the tea was allayed, when we saw our friends drinking tea without any discernible difference, before departing to their respective clinical areas. Kalinga and I exchanged knowing glances, amused that our plan was working. We too departed to our respective wards with keen anticipation of the events to follow. I found it difficult to concentrate that morning and found myself chuckling at the possible scenarios that were being enacted on the different wards, theatres etc.

Kalinga and I returned to our quarters early, so as to witness the reaction of our friends as they returned for their lunch break. Our friends came in ones and twos and there was no difference in their demeanour. As we sat down for lunch there was (initially) no discussion on the matter. One or two did hurry to the toilet as soon as they returned. Gradually, some began to comment on the ‘awkward’ morning they had and then others pitched in with their version of events. One abruptly abandoned his Professor’s Ward Round and rushed to the loo. It happened a second time and the ward sister felt sure he had an infective diarrhoea. A Registrar assisting his boss in theatre (ironically a Urologist) had to excuse himself twice to relieve himself. His boss was certain that he had cystitis. This gives a flavour of events that morning and I will leave the rest to your imagination – you will not be far wrong. Listening to these stories, Kalinga and I having stayed poker faced, burst out laughing. The cat was out of the bag!

To their eternal credit, our friends took it in the correct spirit and we all had a good laugh. There were the odd exceptions with supressed anger (they shall remain nameless). However, we all remained good friends and some of the ‘victims’ remain my close buddies.

It was certainly an April Fools Day to remember, and penning this article had me chuckling, despite the 46 years that have passed!

Prakash Rudra


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