Wish to do PhD was a late manifestation of my degree seeking behaviour. I am already a bona fide doctor - courtesy half of my life and all my brain, spent at medical college, to collect degrees of MBBS, Diploma and MD. But it was for this quirky desire to write ‘Dr Dr Gurpreet Singh Battu’ on my visiting card, that I wanted to do PhD. I wanted to write ‘Dr Dr’ because I wanted to trouble people and wanted to see their expression. Misprint? Learned man? Foolish fellow? Voting would be fun even if ‘Foolish fellow’ was the winner. 

I have been lucky enough to have friends who never question my wisdom. Or lack of it. They are always there to help me achieve pinnacles of erudition or stupidity. My lighthouse in this adventure was head of the department of MBA at university. He promised me PhD in his department. He guided me through application procedure and made me meet important people of his department who could be my guides in PhD. 

All I had to do was to clear the entrance exam. One mark for one question. To qualify, score 50 out of 100 in MCQ format. No negative marking. 

Exam was held in a newly constructed building - all glass facade and beautiful structure. Only missing link was air conditioning. As if someone had forgotten to include Mumtaz in Taj Mahal. There we were - hundreds of us, sweating it out for two hours to add ‘Dr’ as prefix. Rule was - nobody leaves the hall before end of two hours - condition of bladder was also irrelevant. 

I  attempted all the questions. I looked triumphantly all around and at the watch. I had more than half an hour to spare and stare. I started with scrutinising all the people in hall. I could see only the backs of the people who were seated in front of me. Not much amusement there. Looking back, I could see the faces of people seated behind me. Some were still attempting the  paper furiously. Few were sitting as if yet to start reading the question paper. Many seemed unworthy of prefix ‘Dr’. Others already had the looks of scholarly doctors. Looking back for long was not neck friendly. Or invigilator friendly.

Graffiti at the desktop caught my attention. Like any class desk, it was scratched upon till no space was left. Soul of the desk must have been buried heavy with all the scratches. Majority were expression of love for girls. Hoping that the girl in the amorous thoughts might sit at that seat one day. Or just venting out the emotions and leaving behind a legacy. We Indians have a natural knack for that. All the trees in parks, national monuments and public places have been stamped with a name, a heart and the piercing arrow. Even the train loos have not been spared.

Hearts and arrows were interspersed with few formulas. One of the formulas looked very familiar. I wondered. It took me around 23 seconds to realise that formula was one of the questions that I had just attempted. I flipped pages and realised that I had marked the wrong option. Wows. I raised my right hand in a scholarly manner and asked the invigilator if I could have the correction fluid. He  was at sea. He had come from some other department and had absolutely no idea. He consulted his fellow invigilator with the same result. Then he smiled at me and delivered stunning piece of wisdom –“Relax man. One answer won’t make any difference.”  I absorbed wisdom and oozed wisdom – “OK boss.”

Result was declared after a week. I scored 49 points. Exactly one point less than qualifying marks.

What I could not achieve in so many years, I did in three months.

We were taught about virus in MBBS. Bacteria, we were shown under a microscope. We grew them. They made colonies. Maybe they were invented by British. Only colony forming race is British. We played colours with bacteria and stained them.

Virus we saw only in pictures. Our teachers also had not seen them. Virus are not living organisms, we were told. They only make lives miserable for living organisms. Virus are just proteins. Talk about taking protein supplements. They invade cells in our body and make them do things that make the organ go crashing. Just like the computer virus. Only that reboot option is not always helpful in humans.

Wuhan virus holds the record of being the most discussed, dissected and abused virus till date. Virus has spread far and wide – infected millions and killed thousands. More than that, it infected WhatsApp and rather than lungs, affected brains. It turned everyone into scientist, researcher and publisher. And blind follower.

I now know Wuhan virus is – conspiracy of China against world. Or some bio experiment gone horribly wrong. Or transmitted because of eating bats. Or having sex with bats.

It spreads by air. Or does not spread by air.

I learnt mask can prevent spread. Or it can not. It should be worn by all. Or only by sick. Or only by health professionals.

It is a hoax. Or we are just panicking. Or it is a pandemic.

Covad 19 can survive on steel for 10 minutes. Or three hours. Or two days.

Doctor on TV advised to leave milk packets and vegetables outside for two days. After two days everything was rotten. I started taking risk and brought groceries inside.

Choloroquin and Ivermectin can be taken as prophylaxis. Or only for treatment. Or are not effective.

Alternate medicine is full of prevention and cure.

Virus makes all official and classified letters appear magically on WhatsApp.

Vehicle factories can produce ventilators also.

India is full of non believers who do not believe in red light, speed limit and helmet. They did not believe in lock down and roamed around giving personality to the word moron. On the other extreme are believers who believe virus will not affect religious congregations.

Virus can make a prime minister appear on national television, not to announce economic or health packages, but national request to beat utensils and light candles. Nikola Tesla is not alone believing in the power of 9.

I have imbibed knowledge much more than PhD curriculum. Only query is – who will issue me degree of PhD in Virology– University of WhatsApp ?


April 4, 2020.



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