The Connection: A Surgeon and a Soldier

The Connection: A Surgeon and a Soldier

by Manisha Rathi


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475989298
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/28/2013
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.49(d)

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A Surgeon and a Soldier

By Manisha Rathi

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Manisha Rathi
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4759-8929-8



Sameena understood what having butterflies in one's stomach really meant. It seemed as if there was a whole zoo in her stomach, complete with growling noises. There was a lion, as she could hear the roar, and an alligator, as she could feel the slithering motion in her belly. She hadn't slept all night and had turned into a staunch believer in God and destiny over the past twelve hours.

Well, she thought nervously, she had been good; she hadn't even told a single lie for two months now or cursed or gossiped for a whole week. The much-anticipated day had arrived. There seemed to be no point in going over it a million times in her head. Had she done well enough to qualify in the medical entrance exam for one of the apex institutions in the country? Three medical colleges close to home, which was New Delhi, had already granted her admission, but this college was the one she wanted to go to.

The past two years had been spent in the pursuit of knowledge—slogging, cycling from one coaching centre to another, and suffering from sheer exhaustion. Sometimes she felt she should look like a monster with a huge head and a tiny body, considering that her brain was the part of her body she had used the most.

Sameena had checked for fangs in the mirror off and on, glad to see a reflection at all, as she was almost a vampire, working through the nights. Well, she figured, being a professional footballer was an option, as her calves were muscular due to the twenty kilometers of daily cycling.

On entering the study, she saw that Mom and Dad were looking at the computer screen, at her result. Sameena stopped when she saw her father's face. They avoided her gaze, and she noticed their grim expressions. Then her mother left the room. What now? Would she have to settle for one of the colleges she was not a fan of, or should she try again? Could she spend one more year—an eternity it seemed—in pursuit of that which she had already slaved for, along with losing the respect of those who thought she was actually worthy of success?

Dad looked down at the ground as if he had to face the firing squad without being given a meal of his choice. She cringed and wished she had not wasted any time watching the occasional television program or talking to her friends on her phone, her only connection to the world of late. She was aware of her heart sinking; her teen world collapsing.

Suddenly Dad grinned and shouted, "She's in the list, time to party!"

A true Indian family reaction was to stuff his mouth with enough sugar and fat to cause instant diabetes and obesity. Mom was proud of the fact that she had managed to keep a glum expression, being the weak link in the family of dramatists.

Mom was a gynecologist, and Dad was a surgeon. Sameena felt like she was joining the family business and was a pedigreed doctor already.

The rest of the day went by in a blur. Adrenaline was pumping and people were calling, visiting, and writing congratulatory notes on social networking sites; her parents were ecstatic. Dad kept saying she took after him, making her wonder if he would have blamed it on Mom if she hadn't made it.

Her only sibling, a brilliant Ms. Know-It-All three years younger, could not understand what all the fuss was about. Sis had been a genius ever since she popped out of the womb. She probably told Mom and Dad how to take care of her, Sameena thought with a smile. Anyway, her family was the best. They loved each other but also pushed each other just a little to "give their best," which was actually a pain.

All her relatives and their relatives; people they had only heard about; and those who walked the dogs, cut the hedge, cooked for them, ironed their clothes (and their next of kin) were informed through the local grapevine, faster than the time needed for neurons to transmit impulses to the brain. The number of relatives who announced they were going to grace their home with their presence was mind-boggling. It seemed like the whole nation was going to descend on them.

Sam, as her family liked to call her (she guessed it was due to sheer laziness; her nickname made no sense at all) asked her parents where everyone would stay, but they were calm and were in a haze of parental pride, which was known to cloud reason.

Sam ran next door to tell Annu, her best friend. Annu planned to study at an arts college in their town because her parents had several children and could not afford to send them away to study.

* * *

The next day, a lady came home to congratulate them. The visitor then broke down in private with Mom, talking about her son who had become a drug addict after he did not qualify the previous year for any medical college. Sam was in the next room.

Mom said, "All children are like that."

"But your child made it," said the lady accusingly, as if Sam had taken his place.

"I assure you, it's just a fluke; it happens sometimes," Mom went on soothingly.

"Do you think my son can improve? He wakes up late, his room is a mess, and he's not interested in studies."

"You should see my daughter Sam. On Sundays she gets up at lunch, her closet is a war zone, and she studies only if she has to," Mom continued. Somehow Mom felt comfortable talking about her children's shortcomings rather than their achievements. She was a little superstitious despite her education and felt people less fortunate would begrudge their success and cast an evil eye.

"My son is a drug addict since he failed to qualify for medical entrance exams last year," sobbed the lady.

"I will ask my cousin to take care of him. He's a counselor for children," said Mom.

Everyone knew the cousin was a psychiatrist and half-crazy himself, but nobody called him that since it meant he was to be consulted only if someone had attempted suicide or was a serial killer.

It seemed even the family's dogs were barking much more today as if bragging to their canine friends.

The day flew by on a sugar-and-adrenaline rush. It was time to watch some television and eat junk food. Sam sprawled on the bed with their two dogs.

The dogs were Miss Penelope Precious (Penny), who was a cross between a Samoyed and a spitz, and Mr. Timothy Tree-lover (Timmy), who was a cross between a spitz and a Pomeranian. They were very close to Sam and Sis and did not allow anybody to enter their rooms. They ate fruits (especially mangoes), chapattis, vegetables, cucumber, ice cream, chocolates, milk, and sometimes meat.

Penny was smart enough to eat sugarcane by peeling off the outer tough skin, taking the juice out, and leaving the husk behind. She ate litchis by neatly peeling them, eating the fleshy part, and leaving the nut. The family was convinced Penny was a human soul trapped in a furry white body, as she was smarter than a lot of people they knew. Timmy doted on Penny, and was in fact, her pet.

Sam was lost in her thoughts, when Penny and Timmy let out low growls. She heard a noise. It was coming from their terrace. She went out, shutting the door behind her. The moon was beautiful. Suddenly she was aware of a noise, and she looked around to see a man jumping onto the terrace from the roof above. He had obviously not expected anyone to be there at this time of night. Sam froze, her heart pounding. Her legs turned to jelly when she saw the man had a sharp object in his right hand.



Sam froze for an instant, which seemed like eternity, while the dogs barked as they had never done before, clawing at the door. The man looked at her, then turned his head at the sound of the dogs barking. Why hadn't she listened to her mother when she had told her to learn self-defense?

She was rooted to the spot, then she remembered a kung fu pose she had seen in a movie earlier. Immediately she assumed the pose: left leg slightly bent, the right one raised with the foot rotated inward, both arms raised to shoulder level and crossed in midair. She thought it was all wrong, that she must be looking like a traditional Indian dancer rather than a kung fu fighter.

The man was silent, immobile, menacing. Suddenly the door to the terrace was flung open by Dad. The man panicked and jumped down from the terrace and fell to the ground below with a thud. He lay there, howling in agony, holding his right leg with both hands. Dad looked at her. She was still in the "monkey in the snake's shadow"—wait, was it a "snake in the monkey's shadow?"—pose.

Shaking his head, Dad said, "Let's rush downstairs. You have managed to scare some man enough with your—" he gesticulated vaguely—"with ... that."

They ran downstairs, accompanied by Mom, Sis, and the excited dogs. The man was stammering and apologizing. "Please don't hand me over to the police. This is the first time I've tried to rob somebody. I was hungry; I am jobless—I promise I will never do that again."

Timmy decided to bark furiously, and the man shuddered in fright. Since it was the first time somebody had taken Timmy seriously, he increased the volume of his barking and growling at the stranger. The object in the man's hand was a plastic scale that he wanted to use to open windows!

Dad took the man to hospital, not revealing the circumstances of their meeting. There was no fracture. They gave him food, and Mom soon arranged for the man to work as part of a team of laborers who were repairing the roads in the city. The man in charge knew Sam's parents and gave the novice robber a chance. He reported back after a week that their "thief" was doing very well in his work.

When Dad recounted this incident to anyone, Sam's fighting stance was the highlight of the episode, with everyone laughing at her.

That could only happen in their home, Sam thought. A man tries to break in, and we give him a break!



"What is so fascinating about a woman with bazooka breasts?" asked Sameena. Her younger sister thought for a moment and said, "I'd have to guess that it has to do with men's desire to be mothered and smothered. What about the attraction for the bottom?"

The two sisters were lying side by side on a narrow bed on the roof of their parents' home. They often did this for a while every night, looking up at the stars and discussing the mysteries of the universe. Sameena was seventeen, and Sis was fourteen-going-on-forty.

"Now, the advantages of the bottom I can totally understand, given that the human race sits for a huge proportion of its life span, so it is butt natural," said Sameena, pleased with herself for being punny, if not funny.

"Guys are rather dumb if they find fat more attractive than the human brain," said Sis drily. "The human brain stops functioning the moment the he-man part of their brain is activated ... or is it the effect of the Y chromosome, I mean the reason why they behave like that?" Sam pondered. "Do you think I'm gay, talking about female anatomy?" she added as an afterthought.

"I'd say you were happy and definitely not homophobic, but you are not evolved enough to be gay. Most people who are gay are much better looking and smarter than you," said Sis, controlling her smile. The sisters often jumped from one topic to another, often with no connection to the previous sentence either of them had spoken.

"When they tell us to read the small print, surely they mean the print that gives the health warning on products or the expiration date on them," Sam went on.

"I think marriage contracts are the worst. How can a relationship be started and ended by a signature on a piece of paper?" Sis whispered. As usual, the two sisters spoke about their own muddled thoughts, often at a tangent to what the other was saying.

Sameena sighed and half whispered, "What is love?" Then she proceeded to answer her own silly question with a silly answer: "Love is saying what you want, without sugarcoating crap and calling it candy; wanting to be with each other through disease and disaster; never having to say sorry and thank you; and telling each other one would rather be with each other than anyone else, forever and in every lifetime."

Sis was not impressed and had to voice her own thoughts, a compulsion that seemed to run in the family "Love is that elusive, euphoric monster that is always unconditional, not influenced by age or wrinkles or physical appearance, not related to money or success—forever, faithful, demanding! Oh yeah, truthful, and most important of all wiping tears, mucus, blood if need be!"

"God, why were these low-waist jeans invented? What a waste! Once I saw a guy riding behind another on a bike, and I could actually see his hairy bottom. I could not eat for three whole hours." Sam grimaced and punctuated it with the requisite, "Ewwwww" and "Yuck" (three hours was an eternity in Sam's life).

"I've seen girls who are quite slim pour themselves into a size smaller than they should and get a roll of fat above these jeans," added Sis.

"I strongly advocate that jeans that produce tires should be re-tired," said Sam.

"I recommend that one has the right genes and the right size jeans," said a smiling Sis.

"Why do they call it hotmail? Why not hot-female?" Sam was talking nonstop.

"One should keep smiling; you never know when someone up there will take a picture," said Sam.

"Huh?" Sis was amazed.

"Don't tell me you don't think that lightning means God is taking pictures of us?" asked Sam.

Sis raised her voice, "Sometimes I can't believe you study science."

"Rain means somebody is pissed off and pissing down." Sam was enjoying this thoroughly.

"If you say you feel photosynthesis is synthetic, and plants should carry out photonatural, I will kill you," whispered Sis.

"Why is bitch an abuse, while calling a man a dog means admiration?"

"Never understood that. They should call the female dogs lady-dog, as they are gentle and smart," Sis said. "Anyway, some call them 'beaches,' so it's not really abusive."

"Have you noticed older men seem to be sought after, while women are over the hill with the first wrinkle?" Sam went on.

"Absolutely, even with their dyed black heads and white beards!" said Sis.

"I read somewhere that there are three stages in a woman's life: she is looked at, looked over, and overlooked," Sam went on.

"Maybe there are stages in man's life: he is "pamper-ed" (wears Pampers); he's hatched, matched, and detached. I think I read that," Sis said.

"Would you ever consider plastic surgery—not now, but when we are really ancient, like thirty years old?" asked Sam, with a shudder.

"Nope, because my pancreas, spleen, and brain would be mismatched with the younger, abnormal version of me, and besides, I've never been concerned about my physical appearance," said Sis.

They knew that Sam was thinking about an aunt who had got fat sucked out from her tummy and butt to put into her cheeks and lips and breasts—or so everybody said.

"Old people are so worried about the silver in their hair, the gold in their teeth, and wrinkles. They get obsessed with that awful-tasting organic, all-natural healthy food and their all-unnatural surgically enhanced appearance," said Sam. She added, "Shorter men generally have bigger egos and cars and French beards."

"Now that is not true. Maybe you have met the wrong ones," Sis retorted. Starting another train of thought, she said, "Green tea is supposed to be healthy. All I see is people greening with delight when they drink it."

The night after Sam had succeeded in her academic pursuit, and was on her way to joining the family business of medicine, the family had gone out to dinner at a fancy restaurant that had a buffet with self-service. It happened to be Christmas day. Sam went to the food- and-beverages manager and asked politely, "Merry Christmas. Just for today, don't you offer elf-service?"

Mom and Dad smiled sheepishly and pulled her back to the table. "You have to stop punning in public, unless you are with those who get it," Mom whispered.

The topic went to one of Dad's old classmates, a lady he said he admired. "Dad, you are blushing," said Sis.

"I'm not fair like you ladies. Even if I wanted to, I'm incapable of blushing, can only blue-ish," Dad smiled.

Excerpted from The CONNECTION by Manisha Rathi. Copyright © 2013 Manisha Rathi. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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