Friday, June 10, 2005

Insecurities of a Middle Aged Indian Expatriate- Part 3

Appan while opening the door to Dr. Hassan's office was thinking about his interview with Neyveli Lignite Corporation. It was his first job interview after graduation and he was terribly nervous, so nervous that while going into the room he tripped on the 'welcome' mat and fell down. The interviewer, a balding, middle aged Tamil Iyer, managed to lighten up Appan by remarking "Son, looks like you have fell into the right place." That line somehow eased the pressure on Appan and he managed to perform the interview decently well to get that job which guarateed him 160 rupees a month plus a home allowance of 60 rupees. Uncomplicated times where the stakes were lower, Appan thought. On entering the room, Appan saw that Dr. Hassan was talking rapidly in Arabic on his cell phone. He motioned Appan to take a seat. Appan didn't know enough Arabic to follow the doctor's conversation but he could clearly make out that Hassan was unhappy. Appan was closely scrutinizing Hassan's appearance. He looked a dapper young man, extremely fit, probably a shade short of 6. Then, Appan shifted his attention to Hassan's office, a neatly arranged shelf containing a lot of medical books. Appan was wondering how many of those books would have been read completely.

"The Doctor who previously occupied this office got too bored with those books that he left them here, I haven't read a single one, if thats what you were thinking of. I prefer reading lighter things." Hassan motioned to the Tintin comic lying on the table in the far corner of the room.

Appan, as expected was startled by Hassan's sudden interruption and his eyes followed Hassan's hands to the comic book which immediately brought a smile to his beleagured face. Probably, the first time his lips curled skywards through out the day.

"So, Mr. uh uh (bending down to get Appan's file from the cabinet) ah there it is, Mr.Uhppaaan. Did I get that right? Is it Uhppaaan? "

Yeah, thats perfect."

Appan stopped caring about how people pronounced his name 15 years back, the day he set foot on this country. But it still became increasingly difficult to keep track of the different pronunciations despite his name being all of 5 letters. Hassan was deep in thought as he leafed through Appan's file. That made Appan a little nervous and Appan was doing the best a waiting patient could do, think about what the Doctor would eventually say, " Appan, I am going to SEE you in entirety. Lets do an X-ray, CT scan and an Ultrasound to nail that tumour and send you home "

Before Appan could think of other creative lines, Hassan remarked

" Man, this file is so ancient that I need to take it to Egypt and put it in the Giza Pyramid where it should rightfuly belong. I have to get some new files into this place."

Appan looked clearly offended, and it showed on his face. So much so that Hassan realized his folly immediately and moved on to the next topic.

"So Sir how long have you been in the country?"

Appan realized that the sudden deference was because of the fact that Hassan saw his date of birth on the file.

"About 15 years."

"Thats, quite a long time."

Appan, didn't like how this conversation was shaping up. Appan knew he was old and the hints that this young doctor was dropping weren't getting any subtler. First the file now this what next?


Appan was almost about to say "You must have been in diapers when I started my career ." just like how those ageing hollywood stars with oozing sex appeal would say it with a toothy grin. But, Appan knew he neither had the sex appeal nor a multi million dollar pay check to back that line up.

" Sir, I have 10 more minutes for a coffee break. And, I have a pounding headache so I think I would be needing twice as much of turkish coffee of what I usually consume."

Appan couldn't believe his luck, if he made some coffee for this arrogant bastard he would be off the hook. Poor Chapparwal and Sen, but for a coffee they could have kept their jobs. But there seemed to be a minor problem, he didn't know how to make Turkish coffee nor did Vasantha. Coffee for a career, a governement doctor in India would have asked for a lot more. These guys have a lot to learn about making most of an opportunity.

Hassan continued, "So what do you say we head down to the cafeteria take a premature break and then call it quits. My treat."

Appan was perplexed, so does that mean he is medically unfit even before the health checkup. If that were the case Appan was quickly thinking of the different lawyers he should approach.The sad part was that he didn't know any, the disadvantages of being a law abiding resident.

"What about my Medical test ?"

Hassan gave Appan a wicked smile.

"You are perfectly fine, you just had a test 2 years back. You are good for another year. They have changed the rules, its now once in three years and not two. I think someone messed up somewhere and didn't realize that you are good for a year."

Appan couldn't believe his ears and was speechless. He already started making a list of dos and donts. No more Heinekens, Yoga classes, No more unnecessary spending, Save a lot more for Sanjana's wedding, Start looking for grooms for Sanjana, maybe its time for him to dye his hair like Ghelot and coverup a few years.....

"Mr. Uhppaaan, are you alright?"

Appan immediatley snapped himself out of his reverie and blurted out, " I am perfectly fine doctor, lets go to the Cafeteria "

While on their way to the Cafeteria, Appan was thinking what could have possibly happened if he had given the health test. He mentally made note of approaching a private health center and getting a complete check up done, he didn't mind spending the money because he really wanted to know how healthy he is. He is not getting any younger, checkups and medication might be as regular a feature as paying phone bills. Appan strangely realized that the days of offering a silent prayer to Tirupati for his well being and the token 100 rupees in the Hundi has gone by.

The cafeteria was overcrowded and Hassan shouted over the din to Appan saying

"Ironically, the owner can never pray for the health and well being of his countrymen because that would mean he would have to close his Cafeteria."

"Coming to think of it you can't too."

Hassan laughed heartily

"Well said Mr. Uhppaaan. So what will you have, you should try the Turkish coffee?"

"I don't drink anything caeffinated, I think I will have Tomato juice, a rich source of anti-oxidants you know." (Concluded)


Blogger Sriramkrishnan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Sriramkrishnan said...

Funny how I was dreading a sad ending. I am actually beaming that all is well. I would have been very unhappy with an unfavorable (for me) ending

3:43 PM  
Blogger karthik durvasula said...

good story. enjoyed it.

this i thought showed u mature as a writer -

'He already started making a list of dos and donts....coverup a few years.....'

trying to capture the everyday rib-ticklers we indulge in. expecially after such an ordeal. kudos to u.

btw, what was the first post? haha.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Arul said...

I too was thinking on the terms of a sad ending.. Was waiting for u to finish the story.. Continue the good work da...

6:08 AM  
Blogger Akshay said...


You ended it so well man though you took your time the story was good. Hope you write more of these but then i must say the kind of suspence you have maintained in between the different parts kept up the interest and curiosity level pretty high.

11:46 PM  
Blogger pagala'k' said...

@ Sriram and Arul : How can one expat make another expat suffer?

@ Karthik: Thanks for the review. if you notice I have post a link of your blog on the "blogs that I read" column. Well I guess for selfish reasons, I hope some publisher reads your review about my story and gives me a book deal ;).

@ Akshay: Thanks for waiting buddy. Just dropped in to your blog. Looks like you are travelling a lot.

3:17 AM  
Blogger Akshay said...


and theres lot of travel still in the pipeline and things are fine as usual. Catch up sometime

11:27 PM  

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