the-south-asian.com                                     January 2003

 

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JANUARY  2003 Contents

 

 Peace in South Asia
 - Is it attainable?
 Read what they have 
 to say:

 Introduction

 Swami Agnivesh &
 Rev Valson Thampu

 Ardeshir Cowasjee

 Lt. Gen Arjun Ray 

 Raju Narisetti

 Waheguru Pal Singh 
 Sidhu

 'Junoon'

 Music

 Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
 - 50 years of sarod

 Heritage

 Secular symbols of
 Sri Lanka

 
 2002 Round-up

 Books 2002

 Sports 2002

 
 
People

 Raju Nasiretti

 Mahreen Khan

 
 
Real Issues

 Corruption vs. NGOs


 Neighbours

 Letter from Pakistan

 Books

 'India in Slow Motion'
 - by Mark Tully

 Serialisation of  'Knock at every alien 
 door' - Joseph Harris

 

 Events

 South Asian Events in
 London &  Washington DC

 
 Editor's Note

 the craft shop

 Lehngas - a limited collection

 the print gallery

 Books

 Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

 
Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of
India

 
The Moonlight Garden

 
Contemporary Art in
 Bangladesh
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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Page  1  of  3

Serialization of

'KNOCK AT EVERY ALIEN DOOR'

by

Joseph Harris

About the author: Joseph Harris has written thirty-four short stories and over a thousand poems in literary journals and other magazines. His work has appeared in thirteen anthologies and in numerous biographies of poets and writers. He is a member of The Academy of American Poets and also a member of Poets and Writers, with a book of poetry published by Furman University Press. He retired as Headmaster of two schools and lives in South Carolina.

"Knock at Every Alien Door" is a narrative of his stay in India, where he went in 1944 on duty with the US Army. This was his first visit to India.

Chapter 9

A BRITISH RAJAH

He had one of those hyphenated British names implying class, which always for me poses a striking semantic analogy between hyphen and hymen; the removal of either signifying something lost.

Colonel Nigel Thorne Smyth was his name; in appearance only slightly less impressive than his moniker. His slight frame was topped by a gnomish head, fringe-bald, with the piercing eyes of an inquisitor who would give no quarter. Except for a tempering glint of humor when he smiled, his look was that of a fanatic. My first encounter with him was sheer intimidation.

I had gone to his room -- a small ward ordinarily housing four patients -- to schedule him for surgery at Capt. Jaffee's request. The other beds Mark and I had pushed into a corner to insure his privacy. He was propped up in bed reading, a stack of books on his bedside table. His bed had been pulled near the only window for light. He put down his book and glared at me.

"Why are you here?"

"Sir, Captain Jaffee asked me to --"

"I want to see him, not you."

"But sir, he asked me to schedule --"

"Sergeant, this is between Captain Jaffee and me.

Tell him I expect to see him."

"I was only --"

"I'm sure you understand me. Sergeant."

That curt dismissal was all I needed. I left the room, a litany of imprecations boiling for utterance in me. Who was this arrogant ass, and what was he, an Englishman, doing in an American hospital. I really smarted at such treatment, especially since he was not one of our own and now acted as if he were in command.

When I found Captain Jaffee and reported my encounter, he laughed.

"So you've met the Babu of Bengal."

"I can think of another name for him."

"He's really not a bad sort when you know him.

Rather interesting and quite learned. Written a book on Indian occultism, I think. Not my particular cup of tea."

"I don't understand why he's here with us. The British detachment is only a stone's throw away."

"He's not really in active service, as I understand it," Captain Jaffee explained, leaning his chair back against the wall. He raked the edge of his bushy black mustache with a finger, and took a cigarette from his shirt pocket.
"He's a hanger-on. Been in India most of his life. You know, ye old Bengal Lancer type. I don't think he and the current crop of British brass hit it off very well."

"How did you meet him?"

"At one of those British-American parties to promote better international relations. The only one I've attended, a month or so ago at the Grand Hotel in Calcutta."

I liked Captain Jaffee; we were friends. Since he was as unmilitary as I, there was never a problem with rank. We had been together in California before coming to India, at one point operating an infirmary in Pomona in the middle of an orange grove over the site of the LaBrea Tar Pits; the oddest assignment I ever had. He had badgered me for a while about not applying for OCS, and at one point had me seriously considering medicine as a career. I in turn had seen him through the worst Dear John syndrome I ever witnessed. He had met and married the daughter of a movie producer in Hollywood, a ballerina of striking beauty, and the second month of his stay in India she divorced him. For months he was barely functional, just this side of suicide. Even now I knew he still carried her picture in his wallet. His was Sturm und Prang of the worst kind.

I took the chair reserved for patients, propping my feet alongside his on the small desk.
"What's his problem?"

Captain Jaffee grinned, stroking his bushy black moustache.
"Assteroids."

"Can't the British treat hemorrhoids?"

"Believe it or not, I think it's sheer embarrassment. I don't think he wants them to know. Can you beat that?" Captain Jaffee laughed. "He asked me to do it. You'd think it was a covert spy mission of some sort. It doesn't amount to a hill o' beans. So we'll defrock him in the morning at nine o'clock."

"I'll be there." I got to my feet and left the Captain thumbing idly through the newest medical journal.

 

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