Siddharth entered the waiting room to read the charts on display. These were about the medical tests to identify various physical disabilities. He read the qualifying requirements charts for eye sight, height, chest, etc and the last one pertained to weight. It was written that for 178 centimetres, which was his height, the qualifying requirement was fifty eight kilograms. He could feel his chest tighten with anxiety because he was about a kilogram underweight, at the best – or perhaps even more. He went out of the room to catch his breath and relax his shattered nerves. Sanjeev was still sitting on the bench, waiting to be called in for his medical examination.
“What happened Siddharth? You look worried” asked Sanjeev, concerned to see Siddharth looking uneasy.
“I think I am marginally underweight” replied Siddharth sadly.
“Hmm. The army is very strict about medical fitness. Deepak was disqualified due to knock knees”
“Are you sure?! I know Deepak” Siddharth exclaimed in disbelief.
“I met him outside the medical room. He looked devastated”
“All the best for your medicals Sanjeev. Hope to meet you in the academy”
“Thank you Siddharth and I wish you luck as well”
“Which one of you is Sanjeev Dogra?” said Lieutenant (Dr.) Rana of the army medical corps who came out of the examination room.
“Yes sir” said Sanjeev standing up. He then followed the doctor into the examination room.
Siddharth became worried that his dreams of joining the army in the footsteps of his illustrious father could end. A loud voice suddenly jolted him from these thoughts of despair and a feeling of despondency.
“Are you Siddharth Sharma?”
“Yes sir” replied Siddharth looking up from the floor to find Dr. Rana standing in front of him.
“Is it true that your father is the famous retired Lt. General Sharma of the Bengal Sappers, Corps of Engineers?”
“And you are very keen to join the army?”
“You look slightly underweight to me”
“Yes sir. It is likely that I am about a kilogram less than the requirement”
“Hmmm” responded the lieutenant looking carefully at Siddharth.
A few moments silence followed which seemed like eternity to Siddharth. He wondered if his worst fear was going to be confirmed by this smart lieutenant, even before his medical examination was conducted.
“It is now 12 noon. Have you eaten since breakfast?” the lieutenant inquired politely.
“No sir” replied Siddharth, rather surprised at the question.
“You will be examined in half an hour from now. There is a cafeteria in the building behind this examination room. Perhaps you may like to go over now and eat six bananas. Then you can return for your examination” said the Lieutenant before returning to the examination room.
Siddharth was puzzled at this suggestion from the doctor, but he thought that he detected a twinkle in his eyes. It would be sensible to comply with this suggestion because later Dr. Rana could be examining him. So he slung his satchel over his shoulder and walked over to the cafeteria.
“How much for a banana?” he asked the man behind the counter.
“Five rupees” replied the man without looking up.
“Okay, I’ll take six” said Siddharth handing over the money and gathering up the bananas. The man took out a bag for carrying the bananas.
“No need for the bag. I will eat the bananas here”
“Are you sure?” asked the man as he could not see anyone else accompanying Siddharth.
He sat at one of the tables in the cafeteria and stared at the bananas in front of him. All the bananas appeared much larger than the bananas he usually ate. Or was it his imagination, he wondered. It was a daunting for him to eat six bananas at one sitting. Nevertheless he took a deep breath and picked up the first banana. While three were eaten without much effort, he was feeling sick by the time the last banana remained on the table. The man behind the counter of the cafeteria was observing Siddharth all this while. He watched with astonishment when sixth banana was eaten slowly assisted by gulps of water. Siddharth’s stomach felt heavy after having eaten so many bananas together. There was a strong urge to throw up immediately. It took great restraint to keep his composure. After another five minutes, he got up and slowly walked to the examination room. He went and sat on the bench, hoping to successfully complete the stringent medical examinations. A few minutes later Sanjeev came out of the examination room looking downcast.
“What happened? Did you clear the tests?” he inquired from Sanjeev.
“No Siddharth. It was my bad luck to be detected with colour blindness. Anyway the army was not the preferred option for me. I only wanted to clear it for my own satisfaction. Good Luck to you” he said walking away towards the cafeteria. Now Siddharth got anxious that some medical problem unknown to him may disqualify him from selection.
Siddharth was called in for his medical examination at 12.30 p.m. He entered the room cautiously and was dismayed that Dr Rana was not present in the room. Instead there was another doctor who was inside, who beckoned Siddharth to sit on the stool next to him. He went on to explain about the various medical tests that would be conducted. Siddharth relaxed as he heard the reassuring voice of the doctor. When the doctor had completed, the nursing assistant who was also in the room started conducting the medical tests. Siddharth uneventfully cleared all the qualifying parameters of each test. While he felt more reassured with each positive results, he was aware that his weight will be the last medical examination. When he got up for his weight to be taken, his anxiety returned. The instant he saw the weighing scale his hopes vanished. The digital display on the scales would give the read out to the third decimal. There was no possibility of an incorrect reading.
“Stand on the weighing scales with your chest out and eyes front!” barked the nursing assistant.
Siddharth dutifully obeyed the instructions of the nursing assistant. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears while he stood on the scales. The nursing assistant bent down and seemed to take a long time adjusting the machine. He then straightened up and stood directly in front of the display. Siddharth could not see the readout! ‘If only I had gone to the gym for the past few months for some physical training’ thought Siddharth in despair while he was standing on the scales. He feared the worst as he waited for the nursing assistant to announce the result.
“58.310 kilograms” announced the assistant
Siddharth gave out an audible sigh of relief as this was 310 grams above the qualifying requirement. He took a chance to momentarily glance down at the report from the corner of his eye. The word ‘cleared’ was written by the nursing assistant on the medical report. However he would never know if eating bananas was the reason he cleared the medical examination. The dream to join the army had become a reality. He went out of the medical examination centre feeling elated at his success.