Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Truth by Rudy Ravindra

Subbu's father is determined to plan out Subbu's life, starting with medical school, but fate has other plans; by Rudy Ravindra.

Subbaramachari, his near and dear called him Subbu, was at best a mediocre student, but due to his father's relentless efforts he got into a medical college. Subbu really didn't care to deal with blood and the maladies of his fellow human beings.

He said, "Dad, I'd like to go into hotel management, I can get a good job at a five-star hotel."

His father thundered. "No son of mine will be a bloody waiter. You should be a doctor. We need a doctor in the family."

Subbu said, "But, but, dad..."

"No if and buts. You study hard. I'll make sure you get into a medical school."

His father shelled out a small fortune to push Subbu into one of those colleges, where if one paid a good amount of money, just about anybody was admitted, irrespective of grades. Once he was in, Subbu worked hard, crammed Gray's Anatomy from cover to cover, and dissected the cadavers of homeless people. After five years of drudgery, he got his medical degree, and got his license to practice medicine in India.

One of his teachers had a word of advice to his uninspiring student. "Subbu, I think you are better off dealing with simple patients, you know what I mean, colds, coughs, fevers, etc."

Although Subbu might not have been a well-versed physician, he was not without some innate smartness. He knew exactly what his teacher meant. Accordingly, he started to scout for a small office in an underserved area in the outskirts of Bangalore, where patients tended to be less demanding, not like those in the big city.

Again his father, instead of letting Subbu dispense some colored liquid to the unsuspecting poor, had another plan. "Nonsense, my boy. I've spent a lot of money on your education. If you open up a practice in some Godforsaken village, you won't make any money. Most of your patients will pay you in kind, rice, banana, vegetables... no, no, no. You are going to America. I already bought your ticket."



So, Subbu arrived at San Francisco International airport, and was greeted by a smiling immigration officer, "Welcome to America, Sir." It must be noted that Subbu came to America long before the horrors of 9/11, and there were no scowling TSA security guards, speaking Russian-accented English. The Americans must have imported some of those laid off KGB workers from Russia, after the thaw in U.S.-Russia relations, when the cold war was over, to the dismay of the Pentagon propaganda machine. The whole world knew that the Pentagon was hard at work to find another enemy; otherwise, the lily-livered liberals might demand a cut in its bloated budget.

Mohan - Subbaramachari's brother, an engineer in the Silicon Valley, made a decent living but was by no means rich. His wife, Prathima, earned some tax-free money by babysitting.

Great things were expected of Subbu, the doctor. His parents hoped that, once he became a full-fledged doctor in America, Subbu would send money towards a dowry for his sisters' weddings. Although good looking and educated, without a hefty dowry, the girls had no hope in hell of finding good husbands. Everybody expected Subbu to pass those examinations necessary to practice medicine in America. Mohan and Prathima mollycoddled him, provided him with all the necessary facilities - his own room, a nice desk, and a comfortable swivel chair

But, Mohan and Prathima were disappointed when he didn't pass. They thought, after all, it was Subbu's first attempt, next time he'd do better. In another six months or so, Subbu took all those tests, and again failed miserably. This time he didn't get the same sympathy and understanding. Prathima gave him dirty looks, and stopped serving him innumerable cups of strong coffee. Mohan said, "Subbu, I really can't afford to support you anymore. I'll give you another chance. I'll pay the fees for your next examination and that's it."

Unfortunately, it was not for the lack of hard work that Subbu failed even the third time. He failed because he couldn't fathom the multiple choice system. In America there were too many choices, and they all appeared to be so great and so right. Only after trying a particular soap or a tooth paste, you found it didn't suit you. But in a multiple choice questionnaire, once you picked an answer, that was final. A wrong choice, you were doomed. In India, there were no choices. You married a woman, you were stuck with her for the rest of your life. You took up a job, you worked at it all your life and then you retired; nobody ever got fired, and nobody ever thought of moving to a different town in search of better prospects. In India, there were no multiple choice questions. A typical question would be, 'Define and describe the urogenital system'. You simply answered the question. You didn't think, did they mean the male or the female system? You kept your head down, wrote rapidly, filled up four of five pages, and hoped and prayed that the examiner would be kind to you. All the examinations were of the same type. Direct questions, no trick questions, no multiple choice. So, all a candidate had to do was to memorize his text books, and know the type of questions that would be given in an examination. The upper classmen compiled a list of questions they were asked in their examinations, and during the course of many years, a booklet with many questions (for every subject) was at the disposal of the newbies. In America, Subbu drowned in the sea of multiple choice. Since he couldn't swim, he sank, and sank very deep. No life guard to save him. No busty Pam Anderson to whisk him out of the sea, and to give him mouth to mouth.

Once he failed the examinations in his third attempt, he had to hit the pavement to find a job. His medical degree was not of much use without the additional training at American hospitals. While he was ready to work even as a nurse's aide, no hospital would hire him. So he told himself to forget about the medical profession, and look elsewhere. Tired after his failed attempts to find any job in the health care sector, Subbu went into a gas station to buy a soda. The owner of the gas station, an Indian guy, asked, "You are fresh from the boat?" Subbu looked at him blankly as he didn't follow what the guy was talking about.

"Vat, saar, you not knowing vat I said? It means you coming from India newly."

"Oh, yeah, yeah. I am new here." He took a big gulp of his ice-cold drink.

"So vat you are doing here, saar? Are you a engineer or a doctor?"

He was ashamed to tell the fellow the truth. "No, I'm looking for work."

"Ve vant a gas station attendant. Do you vant to vork for us? My brother and me own this place. Ve live here fifteen years. If you like, I vill talk to my brother. Come tomorrow, same time. Ve vill pay six dollars for hour, all under the table, you no pay income tax, good for you. And don't worry about green card. Nobody check."

Subbu thanked the fellow and walked to the bus stop. On the way home he did some rapid calculations in his head; he would make about one-thousand dollars per month, tax free. So, he started to pump gas, clean windshields, smile at customers who sometimes were kind enough to tip him, while all along his heart was filled with sadness. More than his own agony, he had let down his family members. Many times he toyed with the idea of returning to Bangalore to start his own clinic in one of those new developments which were mushrooming all around the city, thanks to plentiful jobs after the government opened up the markets. But what would he tell his relatives and friends? That he failed miserably, that he couldn't pass the exams? That his medical degree was a useless piece of paper in America? No, no, no. That wouldn't do. He had no choice but to stick it out.



Then, almost overnight the gloom turned to glee when the bodilicious Babita entered his life. She was drawn to him, like a north pole of a magnet to its southern counterpart. In spite of his considerable intellectual drawbacks, he was blessed with good looks and charming manners. He oozed sex appeal even while filling a gas tank, and even while handling the most unromantic gas pump in the entire Golden state. He was irresistible even though his hands were greasy, and his body all sweaty on a hot summer day.

Babita was the only daughter of an Indian entrepreneur who made his millions in the dotcom boom era. She pulled into the gas station in her shining brand new Mercedes roadster. In addition to filling her tank, Subbu also filled a void in Babita's aching heart. Babita had just then broken up with her boy-friend. She was tired of her social scene where most of the guys were pretentious or shallow or both. She was looking for some fresh blood, unsullied by the glitz and glamour of her world. When she saw Subbu, it was lust at first sight. She liked his simple and shy manner, his engaging smile, and his dark curly hair. Having been around the block, Babita figured that Subbu didn't have much experience with women. And from her perspective that was a good thing, as she felt that she could train him. She told herself, Here's a clean slate, start afresh. So, every day after he got off work, she whisked him off to the Bay area's hot spots.

When she was sure he was ready for the next step, she took him to her place for some fun and frolic in the kidney-shaped swimming pool. Babita was in a skimpy of bikini designed by one of those ladies who did these things for the annual Sports Illustrated swim suit issue. Babita, looking irresistible in that piece of clothing which left almost nothing for imagination, squirted water on Subbu, and playfully pushed him into the water. Since Subbu didn't know how to swim he managed to land in the shallow end without getting a head injury.

After horsing around in the shallow end, they adjourned to her luxury condo where everything was posh - custom-made furniture, plush carpets, original paintings, high-tech kitchen gadgets etc. Babita poured a generous amount of well-aged red wine into Steuben wine glasses, and turned on the stereo. While the lilting song of Asha Bhonsle played in the background, Raath Akeli hai... Babita disappeared into her bedroom, and in a few minutes, emerged wearing nothing but a bright orange thong, a matching bra and high-heeled sandals, and danced to the sexy tune. Subbu put his glass down, and kissed her. After a prolonged foreplay, they moved to the bedroom. Babita sensed that this was his first time, and helped him along to find his way. The couple moaned and groaned and writhed under the white satin sheets.

She asked, "Subbu, did you come?"

They were just beginning, and Subbu felt insulted that she thought he lost it so quickly. He shook his head, and continued with his mission.

She said, "Stop," and gently pushed him away.

She got up, and examined herself. There was blood on her thighs, and on the white sheets. She was puzzled. She wiped herself, and again examined. She shook her head, and brought a wash cloth and cleaned the blood off Subbu's member. She said, "There. Now I know what happened. You are bleeding, the blood is coming from this spot," and pointed to the junction where his foreskin was attached to the glans. She quickly put pressure on the area, and stuck a Band-Aid.

"I'm gonna to take you to our family doctor right now."

The doctor said, "Normally the foreskin is completely retractable from the glans. In your case, this didn't happen as the attachment was rather tight here." He pointed to the offending area with his gloved finger. "Part of it was torn off, that's why you bled. It's a superficial injury, nothing to worry about. I'll send you to a surgeon to detach the remaining piece of foreskin... you won't have any trouble in the future."

She dropped off Subbu at his place and returned home. After he did his job the man was dispatched post haste. She didn't care to waste time in meaningless chitchat, didn't care for company. And she loved her solitude, her music, and her writing. While the events were still fresh in her mind, she typed up a short story, The Foreskin Fiasco, to be filed along with her other innumerable manuscripts which were yet to see the light of the day. Babita wasn't in a hurry. She was fond of telling her friends that if she were to depend on her writing for a living, she would have perished long ago of hunger.



Being a dutiful son, Subbu agreed to marry a girl arranged by his parents. They demanded a huge amount of dowry, after telling the bride's parents that Subbu was a doctor in America. But they left out the most important part: a practicing doctor. Without telling a blatant lie, they created an impression that Subbu was minting huge sums of money in America. To be fair to Subbu, he was blissfully unaware of his parents' tricks.

Now Subbu was faced with the dilemma of informing his lady love that he had to go to India to marry a girl he never saw, a girl he didn't know, and most importantly, a girl he didn't love. Subbu looked into Babita's eyes, "I can't disappoint my parents. My whole family depends on me. I have to marry this girl, my parents chose her with utmost care. I can't build my life's happiness on the unhappiness of my near and dear ones. I just can't be so selfish. Please forgive me, I can't continue this... our, our, umm... friendship."

Babita replied, "If the plane leaves the ground and you are not on it, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life." It was quite obvious that Babita had internalized all the memorable dialogs in Casablanca, and used them in her own life, whenever she got a chance.

Babita continued. "There is no rule that we can't see each other, even after you get married."

"B... b... but..."

Babita said sternly. "Don't be a sanctimonious prig. You will be my man until I..." She stopped herself before she uttered what was really on her mind.



While Subbu was in India, Babita had this strange feeling of loneliness, a feeling that hitherto eluded her. She was always happy to see her men come and go. In the past, she didn't feel she was ready for a commitment. But now, the initial lust at first sight was now slowly but surely turning into love, a novel phenomenon for her. This Subbu, he's something else, so decent, so obedient, never argues, always smiling, does her bidding. Now he's cavorting in the arms of another woman, probably even enjoying it. For the first time in her life she felt jealous. But sanity prevailed, she told herself, don't be stupid, she should have known better than to start an affair with this Indian guy. These arranged marriages!



Subbu married the humble and timid Satyavati - a name derived from Sanskrit, meaning 'lover of truth'. It was ironic that Subbu's parents were anything but truthful. After a brief honeymoon at Ooty the couple arrived in California, and began their life together. He didn't have much in common with his wife. She was a naive girl, cooked and cleaned, and waited patiently for him to come home in the evenings.

Pretending he was a doctor, Subbu went to work wearing a white coat. Subbu and Babita resumed their affair. Babita, for an otherwise reasonable woman, was extremely demanding. Making love to Babita was akin to participating in the New York marathon. Babita was a perfectionist, and expected nothing but the best from her man. Once Subbu got over his starting troubles, Babita didn't spare him. She made him jog five miles every day, followed by pushups and belly crunches. She believed that improving one's stamina was the key to a successful performance. And she didn't spare herself either, practiced what she preached. So much so, after all that physical activity, followed by a long session of love-making, Subbu was exhausted when he returned home late in the evening.

Satyavati, his lawful wedded wife, didn't get a chance to experience his sophisticated moves. Nevertheless, he did his part. No flowers, no romance, no foreplay, and definitely no post-coital nibbling. Just in and out. Satyavati bore it all with fortitude. She didn't know any better. In due course Satyavati got pregnant. Since they didn't have health insurance, Subbu decided to deliver the baby at home. There were some unforeseen complications. Satyavati died, and the baby survived. The Good Lord knew that she couldn't handle the truth. So, during child birth He took her away into His arms. Her parents failed to reveal the truth that Satyavati suffered from a congenital heart condition.



Subbu's parents, in need of more money for their daughters' wedding, decided to find another girl for Subbu. So they told Subbu to get his butt back to Bangalore for another wedding ceremony. But this time, Subbu was uncharacteristically firm, stood tall and erect, and told his parents to take it easy with the brides. He told them he found Babita, the sweet maiden who never stopped loving him, who sacrificed so much for him, and who was now willing to raise his child as her own.

Then everything fell into place for Babita and Subbu. After a decent interval, they tied the knot. Subbu became a kept man, and Babita finally found a soul mate.

4 comments:

  1. A wry and humorous tale, executed with pithy characterisation and a pacey narrative. Many thanks,
    Ceinwen

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  2. Hi Rudy, I think you have certainly delivered a satirical view of the character's cultural background where family forces seem to dominate, or else interfere with the younger generation's lives. I found that the style and tone of the writing was authentic making this a completely believable story.
    Regards,

    James.

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  3. I enjoyed this. Perhaps it could use a little more 'show than tell' but then it's a fast-paced story and the narration needs to move the action along. Keep writing!

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  4. Subbu is my kind of guy, stumbling into great good fortune. I'd love to know how the marriage to Babita works out!

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