Friday, 17 February 2012

The River And The Stars

In the warm summer evenings, when the sky was bright with stars, Kadavai would come out of the village and sit on the river bank, until the night was half advanced towards the dawn. Only when everyone else had long gone to bed would he return to his hut.

Nobody ever cared to ask why he did this, but then nobody felt comfortable around Kadavai anyway. He had a face like a statue carved out of granite, and a reputation as a warrior that had never been challenged amongst the Seven Villages. The people spoke to him with awe and respect, for it was well known to all that one day he would be the Great Father of the Seven. Even the children fell silent when he walked past their games, and watched him solemnly until he was out of sight. But none of them knew the worm that ate away at Kadavai’s soul.

Each night after returning from the riverside, Kadavai would lie silently on the pallet next to his wife, and stare into the darkness for hours until, sometime before dawn he would fall into an uneasy slumber. And though she shared all other parts of his life, Kuruvi never could find out what it was that kept him from his rest and roiled his dreams so that he cried out in his sleep.

Kuruvi was as slender and pretty as Kadavai was stern-faced and muscular, as vivacious as he was silent, as gentle as he was fearsome, like the sparrow after which she was named. Many were the young men of the Seven Villages who had sought her hand when she was younger, and many were the hearts she had broken when Kadavai had swept her away and made her his own. But she had found happiness with him, and had hoped that he, in turn, would be happy. But that, it seemed, was not the case.

Many times over the years, Kuruvi had tried to ask her husband what the matter was, but he had never answered her. It was not as though he was being rude – it was as though he didn’t hear the question at all. He would stare blankly at her, and finally turn away, as if she had said something that was completely meaningless.

But Kuruvi was never the kind to give up. One evening in the last of the summer, she left the hut and walked to where he was sitting by the riverside, in the light of the stars.

He saw her coming and looked away, staring over the water, even when she was standing at his shoulder. “Go away,” he said, in the tone which he used only when he demanded instant obedience, which everyone in the village knew and feared. “Go back to the hut.”

“No,” she replied. She defied him often, but this was the first time she’d denied him when he’d used that tone of voice. “Not unless you tell me what’s troubling you.”

For a moment she thought he would get up and walk away, but all he did was turn away so he was sitting with his back to her. She waited, and when he said nothing more, she sat down beside him. After a while she touched him, gently, with her long thin fingers. He stiffened, but allowed her to massage his neck and knead his shoulders, until she felt him relax a little.

“What is troubling you?” she asked him again. “If there is anyone who has a right to know, it’s I.”

He said nothing for so long that she thought he was not going to answer. Then she heard him sigh, very softly.

“A bad time is coming,” he said.

“A bad time?” She was confused. “What do you mean?”

“The worst of times,” he said. “So bad that they will make the worst of the past look like heaven, and death will seem mere kindness.”

“I don’t understand your words,” she said, her voice trembling slightly. “What are you saying?”

Instead of answering, he shook himself, as if waking from a dream, and glanced over his shoulder at her, with a smile. “Nothing,” he said. “It’s a foolish fancy. Come here, it’s a beautiful night.”

So she went to him and they made love on the riverside, and then they went back to their house, but there he cried out again in his sleep, and she held him tight until the dawn.


The river will run red,” he said quietly.

She looked at him, startled. It was several days later, and she was sitting beside him on the river bank, watching him as he watched the stars. It had become a routine over the past few days for her to come out and sit with him, and he no longer objected. She, too, had stopped asking him questions. She just sat beside him, stroking his arm or shoulder gently, until it was time to go back to the house.

Tonight, as the fireflies had flitted through the bushes like sparks, he had stirred, glanced at her, and spoken.

“What do you mean?” she asked. “The river will run red?”

“I can see it,” he said, conversationally. “It’s coming closer. Each year, each summer, it comes closer.” He pointed out at the river. “Can’t you see it too?”

“See what?” Kuruvi leaned towards him as though that would help her understand what he was talking about. “I don’t see anything but the river.”

“Can’t you see the glow in the sky, as though the clouds are turned to blood? Can’t you see the red on the water, so that you can’t tell if it’s reflected fire, or if the river runs red with the blood of the people? Can’t you smell the burning?” He sighed suddenly, and shook his head. “No, of course you can’t. It’s only I who can see it, sense it.”

“Husband,” Kuruvi said, “I can’t see anything.”

“I’ve been watching it creep closer,” Kadavai replied, still looking out at the river. “It began several years ago, and at first I thought it was merely a dream. But it returned, more and more vividly. Each summer it grows clearer, and nearer. I can see the fire in sky, the red in the water, and I can smell the burning in the air. I can hear the screams.”

“What is it?” Kuruvi asked. “Can you tell me that? Is it that the village will be destroyed by fire?”

“All the Seven Villages,” her husband said, “not just this one. By sword and fire, and the danger is on the way. Not all the warriors of the clans can hold it back or turn it away. I do not think the Seven will see another summer.”

“What can we do?” Only later did Kuruvi feel faintly surprised that she had not doubted him for a moment. “Should we approach the Elders? The Great Father himself?”

“And what will they do?” Kadavai snorted. “Even if they don’t dismiss it immediately as the raving of a madman...”

“They won’t,” Kuruvi said. “You are the greatest warrior the Seven has seen, and a future Great Father. Everyone says so.”

“Yes, and that is the only reason why they won’t laugh at me to my face. But can you doubt that they will laugh as soon as my back is turned? And what can they do anyway – since I can’t even tell them where the danger is coming from, and from which quarter?”

“Is there anything anyone can do, then?”

For a long time he was silent, and she felt the warrior spirit flow into his muscles, as surely as if she could see it.

“Yes,” he said. “There is.”


The people of the Seven Villages had dwelt on the bank of the river for as long as the oldest myths went, as far as the beginning of the world. They rowed on it in canoes, and fished and swam in it, and it was the centre of their existence. But they never followed it upstream to its source, for there dwelt mighty Moonjoor Himself, the Maker of All Things, and to gaze on Him was the greatest sacrilege anyone could imagine.

“It is the only way,” Kadavai said, as he painted his Symbol of Power on his great canoe, the biggest one the village had. “I shall have to travel upstream, until I either find safe haven to which to move our people, or Moonjoor. If I find safe haven, we can still escape the doom that is rushing upon us. If I find Moonjoor...” he shrugged. “If I find Him, I’ll see what happens then.”

Kuruvi had watched his preparations without comment. “What if someone asks where you have gone?” she enquired. “What do I tell them?”

Kadavai shrugged. “The truth. What else?”

“They will say you are committing a sacrilege. And not everyone loves you. Your enemies will not let this opportunity pass.”

“Tell them I have gone insane if you want. It does not matter. What matters is whether I can save the Seven.“

Kuruvi inclined her head, as if listening to an inner voice. “When do you intend to start?” she asked.

“The days are growing shorter, and autumn will soon be here.” Kadavai applied the last of the paint and pulled the canoe round so that the Symbol could dry in the sun. “We have no time to lose, so I’ll leave tomorrow morning.”

“If you want.” Kuruvi turned away. “I’ll get things ready for you.” There was something in her voice that made him glance at her sharply, but she was already on her way back to the house.

That afternoon the clouds began to gather, and as darkness fell the sky split apart with lightning and rain crashed down in torrents. There could be no question of sitting out on the bank that evening, so Kadavai and Kuruvi had an early dinner and went to bed. Kadavai waited until he was certain she was asleep, and then got quietly up and went out into the storm and down to the river.

By the illumination of the lightning flashes, he pushed the canoe down to the water and climbed aboard. He had just picked up the paddle when the boat swayed. He looked up to see his wife staring down at him.

“Did you really think I’d let you go alone?” she asked, holding on to the boat. “Have you really that little understanding of me?”

Kadavai stared up at her, his granite face betraying nothing. “I wanted you to be safe,” he said at last.

“Safety means nothing if I’m to be without you and worrying.” She stepped into the canoe and sat behind him. “Besides, it will be a long and weary journey, and I can paddle as well as you.”

Kadavai did not argue. There was no point arguing with her when she used that voice. With a thrust of the paddle against the bank, he pushed the canoe into the river and round to face the current.

The thunder cracked overhead and the rain came down harder than ever as they left the village behind them.


Dawn had not yet lit up the east when they saw the first of the other boats.

Hours before, the rain had weakened to a drizzle and finally stopped, the thunder too dying away to a distant grumble. The clouds overhead had broken up, throwing a mix of moonlight and shadow on the water, making it difficult to recognise the shape of things.

At first, Kadavai and Kuruvi had both paddled, until the fury of the storm was past and they could afford to take it in turns. Now, because the water was more dangerous, they were paddling together again.

Here the river was joined by another, the mingling of the two streams of water being marked by flotsam and turbulence, due to which they had to be extremely alert. Otherwise they might not have noticed the other boat at all.

It lay low in the water, long and black and menacing like a lurking crocodile. Kadavai could see the hunched figures of men in it, strangely misshapen in silhouette, moving rhythmically as they paddled in unison. There was another behind it, and another, sailing down from the tributary river.

The first boat had already noticed them, and begun to turn in their direction. Kadavai and Kuruvi could see the water under its bow, white and clear against the dark of the river, and knew it was picking up speed. With the current behind it, in only minutes it would be within javelin range. They could see a figure in the prow already poised, arm held back and ready.

 Not for nothing had Kadavai earned a reputation as the greatest warrior the Seven Villages had ever seen. Courage in battle he had, but more than that he had the skills to use that courage effectively. Of all those skills, he was one of the greatest canoeists the Seven had known. And Kuruvi his wife was at least as good as he, and in many respects better.

So it was that Kadavai dug a paddle into the stream, swinging the canoe round so sharply that it spun round on a new heading like a live animal, and the javelin hissed by overhead and splashed harmlessly into the water. And so it was that he and Kuruvi leaned forward, paddles thrusting into the bosom of the river, and shot past the long black boat and upstream. A quick glance over their shoulders showed them that the long boats were clumsily turning to follow them.

“We must warn the Seven,” Kuruvi said, her breath coming in gasps.

“There’s no way we can get past them and downstream,” Kadavai called over his shoulder. “Besides, the people could never prepare in time. And so long as they follow us, the Seven have a chance.”

“If they catch us, they will kill us,” Kuruvi said.

“All the more reason that they should not catch us,” Kadavai said. “Are they still following?”

Kuruvi threw a glance back over her shoulder. “Yes.”

“Good,” her husband muttered. “Come on.”


By the first light of the dawn they could see the war-bonnets on the men in the boats, tall and ragged, which had made them look misshapen in the darkness. They could see the flash of war-paint on their faces and chests, and hear their strange ululating cries. They could almost smell the miasma of hatred that hung over the three long boats. And they knew that the attention of the men was fixed on them, nobody else.

“Why don’t they simply go on downstream?” Kuruvi wondered. “They don’t have to chase us, do they? The Seven are there, defenceless before them.”

“They don’t know where the Seven are,” Kadavai replied. “They may not even know the Seven exist. They are merely out to destroy anything and everything they find.”

They did not speak again for a long time. It was weary work fighting up the current, and yet it must have been harder work for the enemy warriors, because their boats were so much heavier and longer than the canoe. Yet they did not give up.

“We can’t go on like this forever,” Kuruvi said. “Sooner or later we must rest.”

“Neither can they,” Kadavai pointed out. “Sooner or later, they must, too.”

And yet it seemed as though nobody would rest. All through the day they toiled upstream, and behind them the three boats came on, implacable as stalking crocodiles, not getting any closer, but not falling behind either. When darkness fell, Kadavai took the chance of steering the canoe to the bank, and they drew it up on the shore, hoping the others would pass by. But, instead, they too made camp a short distance downstream, close enough for the couple to see their bonfire on the shore. And when they set out before dawn, the first light showed the three boats back on their trail again.


Out on the river, the winds bring the tidings of the changing seasons. The warm breezes of summer give way to the gusts of autumn, and winter comes like a knife cutting pieces away from the stars.

Kadavai and Kuruvi had long since lost track of the days and weeks, and now only kept track of time by the changing seasons. Each day they paddled further up the river, through great forests and between towering cliffs, sometimes carrying the canoe up rapids. They had long exhausted the food they’d had with them, and ate what they could find, succulent fungi on the banks, edible plants by the river, fish that they could catch. And behind them, sometimes lagging, sometimes closer, the three boats came on, still following.

Long ago, Kadavai and Kuruvi had given up all thought of ever returning to the Seven Villages. It was enough that they were leading the danger away from the Seven, upriver; but as the months passed, even the thought of the Seven faded from their minds. It seemed as if they had always been on the river, fighting their way upstream.

They hardly spoke any longer, but they hardly needed to. By now each could tell what the other was about to do in advance, almost as if they were the same person. They didn’t even have to look at each other any longer. They had almost stopped looking back at the pursuers, and it had ben many weeks since they had talked about them.

One evening, when winter had the land in its icy grip, the river suddenly broadened out into a lake so deep and clear, so tranquil, that the canoe hung over the reflection of the stars as though it was floating up in the sky among them; and the cold seemed not the cold of winter so much as the absolute cold of the spaces between the worlds.

And then, at last, Kadavai put up his paddle, so that the canoe drifted to a stop in the water, and smiled at his wife. “This is it,” he said. “I don’t want to go any further.”

She, too, had taken up her paddle. “Nor, to tell the truth, do I. But what about the...others?”

Kadavai smiled again. “I think, in these months that they’ve been following us, they’ll have been changed as much as we have. It would be remarkable if they hadn’t. Perhaps they will have found a measure of peace. And even if they have not...”


Kadavai shrugged. “They’ve been following us all the while. At least they deserve to be told our appreciation for their tenacity.”

“They’ll be here in the morning,” Kuruvi replied. “We’ll know either way.”

Overhead the stars wheeled slowly, and the night passed, and beneath them the river flowed slowly along its course down to the Seven Villages, and beyond, far, far away to the waiting sea.  

Copyright B Purkayastha 2012


Monday, 13 February 2012

Holy Tidings of Great Joy

Hear, O People, and hearken well, for this is the most important news of your lives;

For the Lord Butcher commands you, that you shall lend Him your ears, without asking for surety or interest thereof; and if He doth not return them to you, that is your loss and yours alone.

And the Lord Butcher commands you, that you shall cease and desist a little while from your labours, so that you might hearken unto Him, for He hath brought you Holy Tidings of Great Joy. And when you begin your labours anew, you shall do as He commands, and not the shallow dross that passed for work all these miserable years of your lives. And in that you shall be content.

For hear ye, sons and daughters of naked apes who first learned to walk upright on the African plains; that the Universe hath more wonders than you know, or ye can know; from pulsars to whale songs, from dark matter to ball lightning, from Olympus Mons to Lady Gaga.

And that these Wonders, be they as small as a quark or as titanic as the Enclosed Curve of Spacetime itself, are only the creation of Great Cthulhu, He whose Prophet the Lord Butcher, and the Lord Butcher alone, is.

And hear ye, that Great Cthulhu has decreed, verily, that He is risen, in the sunken city that men call R’lyeh, and that He will no longer tolerate worship of the vile impostor, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

For Great Cthulhu hath vanquished the FSM in mortal combat, and eaten him, meatballs, noodles and all, and washed him down with ale aplenty; and Great Cthulhu belched afterwards with contentment. RAmen.

Thought ye that something which looks like this:

could survive in single combat with this?

Verily, the late and tasty FSM is a false god; and it is not meet that a god who has been eaten and turned into excrement, even excrement bearing the divine Stink of Great Cthulhu’s Holy Bowels, should be worshipped.

Thus, verily, the Prophet Lord Butcher enjoins you to forthwith cast the idols of the vile FSM into the outer dark, even through your windows into the public street, caring not if they should brain some innocent passer-by, and join yourselves in worship of the Great One.

And the Prophet Butcher declares that the One True Prayer, which all Believers should utter seven times a day, and ten on weekends, shall be Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn; and anyone who does not repeat this Great Prayer shall be liable to much more dire and immediate Holy Punishment than merely the Fires of Hell.

(What? No, the Lord Butcher will not teach ye how to pronounce the holy words; you must find the One True Pronunciation for yourselves. He who cannot pronounce them lacks Faith, and will verily be treated as all Heretics are, and be eaten by Great Cthulhu as entrees, even before Unbelievers who dare demand tawdry Proof, and who shall be the Main Course. So do not ask that question again.)

Now silence your tongues, and listen to what more the Prophet Lord Butcher, blessed be His name, has to say;

For Great Cthulhu has decreed the Prophet Lord Butcher His Vicar on Earth and His ruler over all men and women, from the oldest to the very child in the womb, for babies are tasty. And He commands, through the Lord Butcher, that ye shall build Him a Temple of gold and diamonds, silver and platinum, and the Lord Butcher shall lack for no comfort; for, verily, He is the Chosen One, who has been given a Whip of Fire to wield over you.

For listen, ye children of naked apes, and understand: if you will not obey, Great Cthulhu will rise from the waves, yea, and eat you first, even before the Heretics, who will become the Main Course, and the Unbelievers, who will merely be the dessert. And only the True Believer will be saved, as long as he believes, and so long as Great Cthulhu lacks not other things to eat.

And then Great Cthulhu will eat the True Believers as well, for He is as ever-hungry as one of the Black Holes He has created. But the greater your piety and belief, the later He shall eat you. So bend your backs and serve the Great One.

The Lord Butcher has spoken.

Weirdest Dream EVAH

Warning: Potentially yucky post. Not for the weak of stomach. Or not. Suit yourself.

Last night I dreamt that I’d gone to a sex clinic for a bit o’ nookie.

Now, a sex clinic, in the dream’s world, was a place where men and women could go to get their rocks off with robots, therefore preventing sexually transmitted disease, unwanted pregnancy, and also morbidly bottled-up libido. The clinic was a place with whitewashed walls, black thinly-padded operating-table like beds, and glaring white lights. Not very great for libido.

Anyway, my “partner” was a female robot (not a sex doll, a sentient robot), who resembled an animatronic figure, very much like this:

So we shut the door and removed our clothes, and she put a pillow and a sheet over the operating table and lay down on it, and I got on top of her and...

at that very moment...

...I was no longer looking through my eyes but from her (the robot’s) point of view. And I could see myself, not as myself, but as a tree. Yes, I was a tree with white wood, peeling brown bark, a priapic wooden penis like a knob, and a head of leaves very much like a Brussels sprout.

So this wooden penis penetrated the robot (this being from the robot’s PoV, she – and I – could see it vanish between her legs, where there was a darkish patch of faux hair) and then I was shifting back and forth in appearance between a tree and an equally animatronic version of myself, as I thrust away jerkily just like a machine, until I had an orgasm.

Then, as I pulled out of her, my PoV shifted back to me and I saw, as she got up from the table, that she was leaking semen from down her back and there was a perfect pool of it on the pillow just beneath her head. And the semen was baby-puke green.

What the eff?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

How I Got Fired From My First Job

I was fired from my first job for being too sincere.

This is likely to be a somewhat puzzling statement, so let me explain.

My first job after graduating from dental college was as a staff dentist at the Ramakrishna Mission Polyclinic (the Ramakrishna Mission is a Hindu monastic order with a presence in numerous countries) in this town. I was the second dentist – the first was someone I’ll call Sam, a former classmate of mine (though never a friend) from school who’d gone to some fifth-grade dental college in Bihar and who was hardly interested in his job. He was, and I’m not making this up, incapable of distinguishing between a deciduous and permanent molar tooth; I’ve watched him extract the second under the impression that it was the first. I’ve watched him grind up an antibiotic tablet and put it in an infected tooth in the name of treating it. No, I am not making any of this up. And it was significant because there was only one dental chair and I had to wait for my turn after he finished his specimens (including chatting to his friends who turned up to gossip in the guise of getting treated).

He was also appallingly lazy, unwilling to work, and – as I discovered later – actively trying to get me fired. The monk in charge at the time was someone I’ll call Soumrajyananda (that was not his real name – all Ramakrishna Mission monks take names ending in –nanda after the take their vows – but nor was it the name under which he was known). Soumrajyananda was a nice guy, relatively speaking; also one of the last of the well-qualified monks, computer-literate (something of a rarity at the time), qualified to drive a medium-sized truck, and with at least a working knowledge of construction. He also had little tolerance for bullshit, so he didn’t give any credence to Sam.

Sam finally got himself fired after insulting the Ramakrishna Mission in front of a specimen who he didn’t know was a devotee of the Ramakrishna Mission, and after that I was in sole charge of the clinic; which was something of a mixed blessing, even if it did free me from Sam. It was a mixed blessing because it wasn’t at all easy to do the work I was supposed to do.

At that time (I’m talking about the mid—nineties) the dental clinic was new and, to put it mildly, primitive. How primitive? Let’s say that as a student, I was using more sophisticated equipment. (Fellow dentists will know what I’m talking about when I say that the chair had a cord-driven latch-type handpiece, no suction, no three-way syringe, and no light-cure unit or ultrasonic scaler.) I didn’t even have an assistant; during the course of treatment I had to mix filling materials and between specimens I had to clean and sterilise the instruments by myself – quite apart from the paperwork.

Ah, yes, there was the paperwork. I had two registers, one (which I had to demand before I got it – apparently they expected me to keep the details in my head) for appointments; the other one was for a daily accounting of specimens by name, age, sex and treatment done. At the end of every month I was expected to make out and submit a report which broke down the specimens by sex, treatment, repeat appointments, new appointments and so on. I never could find the reason for this report since it never seemed to make any difference about the way they handled the clinic.

This was the procedure for handling a specimen (it’s significant because it had a direct effect on how I ended up being fired). A specimen would come to the registration desk, and buy a treatment card. He or she would then (according to his or her own description of which kind of doctor he or she wanted to visit) be directed to one or other of the various physicians, homoeopaths, the dentists – only I after Sam was sacked until, as I’ll describe, two more were appointed later – the radiology clinic, or whatever. Suppose a specimen came to me, and needed a filling. I’d have to – after entering the details in the register – make out a requisition slip for a filling. The specimen would go back to the reception desk and pay the fee for the filling, then return to me, and show me the receipt; only after that was I able to do the filling. It was the same for every bit of treatment. If I ran out of, say, anaesthetic or filling material, I’d have to go to the office and ask for more. As the number of specimens increased, obviously, these trips became more and more frequent.

You can understand that this was hardly the most efficient way of doing things. It worked OK in the beginning because there were hardly any specimens, but after Sam left and I began working as I thought someone in my position should work, the specimen count began shooting up and up and up. In the beginning there were maybe five specimens a day, and I’d read a novel in between. Within a year I was handling twenty to thirty, including surgeries and root canal work – and all of it, one hundred per cent, alone.

Now, by “day” I mean “eight am to twelve noon”. Those were the official working hours, six days a week; but since, as I said, I was working far beyond my capacity to comfortably handle specimens I used to find myself still hard at work at two in the afternoon. Most of the time I was so exhausted that after work was over I’d just sit and rest for half an hour before the four-kilometre walk home. I was walking home because I couldn’t afford any personal transport; there was no bus which went more than halfway, either. I was being paid, for all that work, two thousand rupees a month. By comparison, now I earn more than that in a single day, and even then it isn’t enough. And since many of these specimens couldn’t come later in the day, and they all wanted appointments in the morning before going to work, I ended up going to the clinic by seven in the morning so I could sterilise all the instruments, get everything ready, and start working on them by half past seven or a quarter to eight. I’d usually have to leave home by six-thirty.

I said the equipment was primitive. It was so primitive that I ended up bringing some of my own instruments so I could work more efficiently; and I lost all of this equipment when the clinic burned down.

What? Oh, yeah, some months after Sam was sacked the clinic burned down one night, after an electric fire. The electric wiring was too shoddy to have circuit breakers, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise. The entire building had to be reconstructed; I helped in raising funds to pay for that reconstruction. The upside was that I got a slightly more modern dental chair (dentists: one with a compressor and an airotor handpiece, but still no scaler or light cure unit). Soon the new clinic was busier than ever.

Then another dentist – let’s call him Sharad – was employed to “help me”. In practice, this meant that he hindered me more than anything, because there was just the one chair, and we had to take it in turns to do the work, while the reception desk took the opportunity to increase the number of specimens because there were now “two of us”. I found myself coming earlier than ever, and leaving later.

During these days I had other interactions with the Mission people. I helped them to set up a vermiculture unit, and I went out with them on occasion to the villages to conduct dental health camps. Also, I remember paying for a couple of specimens’ treatment since they couldn’t afford it. They never paid me back, either.

Around this time, Soumrajyananda was transferred elsewhere and was replaced by someone I’ll call Bandarananda (from Bandar, monkey; privately I used to call him the Monkey Monk). This creature had neither the faintest idea of administration nor anything by way of ability. Nor did he even have the faintest idea how to behave.

Things rapidly went from bad to worse under Bandarananda. We still had only one chair, but now there were three dentists – three of us competing for that one chair. As the one who had the largest number of specimens, obviously, I had the greatest problems. And there was not the slightest hope of making the Monkey Monk understand this.

I’d said before that each time we ran out of material we’d have to go and ask for a replacement. Bandarananda decided we were using too much, for reasons of his own, so he decided that we should have only say one bottle of anaesthetic at any given moment in the clinic. Once that was over, we’d have to go and ask for more.

And since we were seeing twenty or thirty specimens a day in the clinic, the anaesthetic, and gloves, and all other materials got exhausted at an extraordinarily rapid pace. Usually, I had to make a couple of trips to the office each day to ask for replacements. I don’t know what Bandarananda thought about it, but I strongly suspect that he decided I was stealing the materials from the clinic. He was that kind. In any case, I kept on having to prove that I needed more material before he’d, very reluctantly, give it to me. 

During this time there were other things happening in my life. For one, my dad was in the process of dying of cancer, and I got occasional telephone calls at work to update me on his condition. Also, I was preparing to set up my own private clinic, and Bandarananda was well aware that I’d be leaving eventually. I still believe that this was at least partially responsible for what happened.

One morning I arrived at work, as usual, at about 7 in the morning, to find that the dental clinic was locked. The guy in charge of unlocking the building (an assistant in the pathology lab) told me that the administration had specifically ordered him not to open the dental clinic before eight. So I was waiting, along with the specimens, until the clinic was opened – and then I had to clean, sterilise, and start up everything before starting work. It was almost half past eight before I had the first specimen in the chair.

About eleven in the morning I was called to speak to Bandarananda. Without even looking at me, he informed me that I was dismissed and there was no need for me to come any more. When I demanded a reason, he claimed that I was getting "too many phone calls" and that I was bringing in my own private specimens in the mornings before 8am and treating them with the clinic’s materials. Allegedly, I wasn’t sending them to the desk to get themselves registered. Well, I’d have to be remarkably stupid to have done that, since I was entering all the names in my register, the one I had to maintain to give a monthly breakdown of whom I was treating, and what treatment I was doing. If I was bringing in my own specimens, wouldn’t I have simply avoided entering their names in any records? I mean, that’s common sense, isn’t it?

Frankly, I wasn’t too unhappy at being fired, since it freed me to concentrate on my private practice. It also freed me to tell Bandarananda exactly what I thought of him – which I did, in quite colourful language, and loudly enough so I’m sure enough of the other staff heard for word to have got around. Then I went back to the clinic, finished working on all the specimens, and only then did I leave.

The laugh was on Bandarananda, actually, since most of my regular specimens followed me over to my new practice. And later he also ended up sacking both the other dentists, and getting blacklisted by the dental supply firm which used to provide the materials, so yah boo sucks and screw him too.

But it still seems strange to me that I was sacked because I was working too sincerely to suit him.