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The Medical Representative Who Cheated Death- A True Life Story

It was a hot Sunny day. I hurriedly finished my work for the day and had boarded the bus at 2:45 pm. I was on the bus waiting for my friend who was also working as a Medical Representative to arrive because very often the two of us used to go for work together. We were supposed to go back home by this bus which starts at 3:00 pm. It goes from this small town called Jaito to Bhatinda, both places being in Punjab state of India.

The Medical Representative’s job involves going to a doctor well dressed in pants, full sleeve shirt, necktie, and a coat or blazer provided the weather permits. This dress code is because the Medical Representative in an actual sense represents a company making medicines.

The job of the Medical Representative is to take a hard pamphlet with one medicine described on each page with the ingredients in the medicine, its side effect, which disease it cures and its other benefits. Everything is in a picture form, one medicine per page the company makes to aid the doctor to easily remember what medicine for which disease. It makes the life of the Medical Representative also easy.

The Medical Representative Job - A True Life Story

Each company has a Medical Representative in each part of the country. Some medicines may be the same compound but sold under different brand names by different companies. The doctors are also happy to get some medical representative daily to remind the doctor which medicine for which disease, what are their side effects etc without the doctor needing to take time out and read the books.

Secondly, the doctor can also give the same medicine with different brand names to different patients for the same ailments, so that the patients don’t feel that the doctor knows only one medicine for all type of diseases.Sometimes the difference between the prices of the same medicine sold under different brand names will be very high.

So the doctor could give a rich man a medicine for a disease with a high price tag and give the same medicine to a poor man having the same disease of another company under another brand name of the same medicine which is low priced. It is all business. The poor man will not buy high priced medicine and whereas if the doctor was to prescribe that low-cost brand medicine to a rich man then the rich man will have no respect for this doctor who prescribes a low-cost medicine. Some rich people feel that it is the cost of medicine they are taking which cures them and not the doctor who prescribed those medicine to him.

Internet Doing Medical Representative's Work? - A True Life Story

This was in the year 1985 when there were no smartphones, no computers, and no internet. Today things are different. Both patients, as well as the doctor, can access the internet and find out everything about the disease, everything about the medicine, everything about the medicine manufacturing company, everything about the hospital, everything about the doctor, the nurse, the staff, everything about the various brands of medicines of the same generic compound and what not.

Times have changed so much since the time I worked as a Medical Representative. A bus leaves from Jaitu every three hours for Bhatinda. If I miss this one at 3:00 pm, then the next is only at 6:00 pm. The driver started the bus at sharp 3:00 pm and my friend was still missing. I did not know if I should go alone or get down and wait for my Medical Representative friend to come back from work so that, the two of us could go back together. At least twice a week we go together for work as we used to make our work schedule to match each other as far as possible.

I was working as a Medical Representative for about 10 months with over 300 Doctors and nearly 150 Chemists in my list, spread over three districts in the state of Punjab in India. I visited each of these 300 doctors and 150 chemists very regularly and religiously at least twice every month. This was cut short after 10 months because I was selected for my Naval career and I resigned from my Medical Representative job. You can read My First day at the Academy where I was forced to a hair cut in the Barber Shop of the Academy, the moment I entered the gate of academy much against my will.

The Medical Representative Work And Salary - A True Life Story

My work plan for next quarter is usually sent at least 30 days prior to the commencement of that quarter. My visit to this village (now probably a township) called Jaitu, located about 50 km north of Bhatinda was according to that plan I had sent to my company about three months back. I was staying in Bhatinda those days as my father was posted there.

My pay was just Rupees 800/month and expense statement ran into Rupees 5000/per month which was a very big sum in 1985 in India. The company happily paid it so that the MR gets the benefit of not paying Income tax if money is paid as expenses. So the pay was deliberately kept low and expence statement used to be super high.

My first expense statement was below Rs 1500 and it was sent back unapproved by my senior because, I had put actual expenditures I incurred in cycle rickshaw, bus andordinary class train tickets. As per the company rules the MR is allowed First Class Railway fare to every place and they never ask if you travelled by First Class Train Ticket.

Medical Representative Travels on Virtual Train Track - A True Life Story

No train tickets were required to be attached those days. Just my expence statement signed by me was enough. I edited the expense statement and resent it to him this time for around Rs 3000. But he once again rejected it and told me to claim First Class train ticket fare to a few places where no railway tracks existed. He told me that my predicessors had been travelling first class by train to these places and I too have to go there only in first class trains running on the virtual railway tracks which my predicessors had laid long ago in his expense statement.

My expense statement was now bigger than twice my father's pay after rendering 26 years of distinguished Army service, even though I was yet to complete one year probationary period in my job. Despite my resignation letter, the company refused to release me, because in those 10 months, the sales had slowly shot up from Rs 2.5 lakh per annum when I had started, to Rs 36 lakh per annum when I left the job 10 months later and Rs 36 lakh was a whooping amount in 1986 for a small  company with just Rs 10 Crore turnover.

I had achieved it without any experience, this being my first ever job except that, and I had achieved this by sincerely followed my daily work plan irrespective of the heat wave, cold wave, terrorist attacks, strikes or anything else. Nothing could stop me. Believe me, no one would have found out even if I were to stay at home the whole month. But the sales figure would have gone down and told the truth in a couple of months to my company that I have stopped working.

I Cheated Death - I Got Down From That Doomed Bus Destined to Be Attacked - A True Life Story

I got down from the bus just before the bus started moving, cursing my friend, a Sikh by religion for not coming to the bus stand in time. Five minutes later he arrived in a cycle rickshaw, whipping the rickshaw driver with sweet abuses in pure Punjabi Language. We had no choice now except to take the 4:30 pm train back home because the next bus is only at 6:00 pm. I reached home two hours late that day.

Next day, as I was leaving home early morning for another town as per my work plan, our neighbourhood lady was telling my mother about a newspaper headline and I heard her say in Punjabi Laguage, "Dekho kya zamana aagaya hai behenji, Jaito Bhatinda bus mein do mone thhey. Din ke sadhey teen baje, bus rok ke kuchh logon ne talwar se donon kaa, sar kalam kar diya (Mona in Punjabi means, a person with short hair and Sar kalam kar diya means beheaded.)

What she was telling my mother was that, “See sister, what has our society become. In the Jaito to Bhatinda bus there were two short hair people or those who were not from Sikh religion, both were beheaded in broad daylight at 3:30 pm”. My mother not understanding what mona, kalam etc meant, started asking her what do these words mean?

Medical Representative

As I walked to the bus stand about two kilometres away holding my Medical Representative's leather bag, full of brochures, pamphlets and sample medicines, I wondered, what would have the today's news headlines said, had my friend reached the bus stand the previous day on time before 3:00 pm?

Would it not have read "Three Mona's beheaded in the Jaitu Bhatinda bus in broad day light?" Being a Sikh, my friend would have survived in that Jaito to Bhatinda bus massacre. But I would not have escaped death. God purposely delayed the arrival of my friend, to make me get down from that death bus, I believe. This is a True Life Story.

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