“At about eight in the evening, the patient opened his eyes and stirred slightly in bed… He sent away the assistant and sat beside the patient. At about eleven, the patient opened his eyes and smiled at his friend”
(Narayan, Malgudi Days: The Doctor’s Word, pg. 20)
The repetition of the narrator using the words “the patient” to describe Gopal creates a sense of distance between the doctor and his friend. The introductory paragraph of the short story establishes the fact that this doctor is known, and well liked for his blunt honesty in regards to the situation of his patients. That’s all they are to him. Patients. He can distance himself from them which allows him to do his job. This dear friend is now also being identified as a patient so that the doctor can focus on treating him like he would any other patient. “The patient opened his eyes and smiled at his friend”. Gopal is coming back to him, reminding the doctor that this man is more than just another patient.