God, it’s good to be King
The first time Ram ever had an actual one on one conversation with Mr Jamal was during his Surgery Rotations at the end of his 4 months. It was almost a year ago long before the Sheila’s untimely demise. He was due for his final assessment; a nerve-wracking sit-down viva voce with the Head of Department himself. Ram had only prepared as much as time allowed him to, apart from all the parties, the stoning, and the sleeping- all essential parts of course. He beat himself over the head repeatedly as he did before every exam since school. ‘Mr Eleventh Hour’ his father used to tease him, and though it had been 10 long years since his father had uttered those words to him, the very thought of the word sent shrills down his spine, as though the man was really standing there tormenting him.
He tried sitting quietly on his side of the desk, but his mind was erratic, his eyes moving all over the place, unfocused. He chose to stare at the wall clock- sharp 0830H, when the man should have been there. Ram tried holding his fidgeting leg down with one hand while he used the other hand to wipe his neck with the end of his tie. He was stunned to see the AC dial turned all the way down to 19 and yet the room felt like a furnace.
The door barged open catching Ram by surprise. ‘There you are,’ said a tall, slightly pot-bellied middle-aged figure.
Ram adjusted his posture, both forearms on the table, ready to face whatever was coming.
‘Well, you have come to the end of the road. So, shall we begin?’
‘Ok,’ Mr Jamal smiled. He loved these little sessions that forced young impressionable interns to prostrate themselves before him. He was the king, and it was time for the court jester to frolic before him.
‘So, tell me a little about the colon anatomy, from its embryology until adulthood, why it has different blood supply and how would that help a surgeon in understanding the risks and treatment options in oncology.’
Ram gulped a hefty amount of saliva. ‘Erm,’ he started. There’s the foregut, midgut, and hindgut… and..’ his flow was interrupted.
‘and when does that happen in the fetus?’
‘Let me rephrase that. How many months pregnant does she have to be in order for us to know when the different “guts” come about?’
He never remembered what he said that day, just that he failed, and that he had to do the whole thing again, after 3 months of extended training in the posting. Those were the worst words any house officer ever wanted to be associated with, and it was a first for Ram. He was initially devastated of course, and then did a whole lot of self-reflection. He took 2 days sick leave just to wallow in self-pity and drown himself in alcohol and pot.
‘I think I’m moving out,’ he remembered staring at Daniel at the doorstep of his room. Daniel was struggling to remove his socks from his aching sore ankles. He stared back at him half-asleep, irritated, and exhausted after a long night. ‘What?’ he asked back perplexed.
‘Look, my entire life needs re-organizing,’
‘Yes,’ Daniel agreed, ‘you sit and stew in there the whole day. I hardly see you come out to the living room even. And you smell man. Like really,’
Ram glared back at him, eyes locked, ready for a fight but Daniel knew his friend better than to get intimidated. ‘I’m serious man. Take a shower, stop drinking, and maybe just talk to somebody about this. You clearly don’t want to talk to me.’
Ram sneered. ‘Maybe it’s because you’re happy. And you’re entitled,’
‘Bullshit, don’t make this a race thing. You just want…’
‘Want what?’ Ram stopped him midsentence, his fists gradually tightening. Daniel saw right through the projection of anger at him but he was in no mood to indulge. He broke eye contact. Exhausted and Ill prepared for confrontation, especially with his best friend, he said, ‘look I really like her. I’m sorry man,’ trying to diffuse the situation.
‘Fuck you, this isn’t about Jen,’ Ram dashed out of Daniel’s room. Daniel’s knees desperately urged him to handle this some other time, and the more his palms caressed his 1000 thread-count bedspread, the temptations took over and soon enough, he dove back and sank into his sheets in his drying sweat stained shirt and slack.
The viva voce didn’t particularly affect Mr Jamal. To him, Ram was just another candidate who wasn’t worthy of his grading much less his respect, and as per regulations of the department, he will leave the posting when he is deemed so. His mind however was more pre-occupied with a certain lady specialist who was training under him. It was her first pheochromocytoma and adrenelectomy, and Mr Jamal had let her take reigns of the situation while he finished up with Ram. However, toward the end of infuriating session, he noted his phone vibrating up his pants and over his left thigh. ‘3 missed calls?’ He smiled wondering what happened. ‘Do I have to go save her now?’ he chuckled to himself.
He barged in the operating theatre fully scrubbed. ‘Yes?’ he nodded calmly at the young surgeon with her finger in the patient’s abdomen, sweating from her brows with a dedicated house officer just to hold a gauze to her forehead and wipe on queue.
Mr Jamal stared at the beeping monitor, the bags of red and yellow heavily being infused from elevated stands, and Dr Riz, the anesthesiologist oncall shaking his head in disapproval. ‘Judgy bastard,’ Mr Jamal mumbled under his mask with his eyes squinted above a hidden fake smile. As soon as his gloves were on, he pressed his side against the young surgeon. Ms Tan graciously backed away a little, her finger still trying to occlude a bleeding vessel in the operating site.
‘Just how many clamps did you put in here?’
‘3,’ she answered.
‘5, the operating nurse replied.
‘Ok, keep them coming,’ he said while he poised himself gently nudging Ms Tan’s finger away and started packing the abdomen with gauzes.
‘Blind clamps don’t really do the trick. You might as well dry the place up a little more till you get a good view and repair the vessel.’
‘Houseman?’ he shrieked at the young girl holding the gauze. ‘Yes Dr? I mean Mr Jamal?’ she frantically responded.
‘What are the vessels that supply the adrenal gland?
‘Erm…? 3 suprarenals, from the inferior phrenic, aorta and renal,’ she replied correct but hesistant.
‘Of course you don’t’ know.’ It was common knowledge that Mr Jamal was a little hard of hearing at times. ‘Let’s have a class later,’ he urged. The house officer nodded although nobody was looking.
‘There!’ he exclaimed proudly as he showed Ms Tan a tiny nick at the aorta. ‘Satinskys please, and 4/0s,’ he held his hand out to the operating nurse as she readied the clamps and sutures for him.
Ms Tan dictated the operating notes while the house officer from earlier wrote it down on paper. Mr Jamal instead went outside to meet the family and have a word with them. ‘Hold on,’ Ms Tan figured she should be there herself.
‘He is stable now, but there was a complication. He lost blood, and he is going to be in the ICU for at least a day or two depending on stability. I’m sorry it happened but the surgery per say went smoothly. The tumour was large and that was the reason the vessel so easily bled out. But your thoughts and prayers really helped him through the whole thing. He went in very confidently, I’m certain he will come out of it confidently as well,’ he surmised.
The mother of the patient nodded, trying to hide her uneasiness. She rubbed her shoulders and thanked him with the kindest smile. Ms Tan stood from an awkward distance away before Mr Jamal noticed her and called her out to the corridor before he left.
‘I’m sorry boss, I really got most of it out but,’ Ms Tan tried apologizing still shaking from what happened earlier.
‘But, I wasn’t there, and I stand by the decision that I shouldn’t be. It’s your first time and I get it,’
‘I have assisted many but,’
‘But it’s never the same SOLO. The tear wasn’t huge. Provided Riz takes good care of him in the ICU, everything is going to be JUST fine. Was he rushing you?’
‘Who? Riz? No! Why would you say that?’
Mr Jamal shook his head, ‘Nevermind. I’m just looking out for my staff that’s all.’
Mr Jamal grabbed hold of her shoulders. ‘Look at me, it’s done. We got the tumor out. Now go get a drink, call up your husband. Buy your kids some KFC like most people do.’ Ms Tan reluctantly smiled, not at his humor but his attempt.
Mr Jamal having saved another day, spent the remainder of his time checking his phone for any more ‘Bat signals’ while he slowly changed out of his scrubs back into formal wear. ‘So did he pass?’ a text read from Dr Satya. It was befuddling at first but then it clicked. ‘Oh, Ram’ Mr Jamal deduced.
‘Didn’t know he was a patient of yours,’ he texted back.
‘He isn’t, just the son of friend,’
‘So? Did he?’
‘3 months then,’
The BMW stood proud among the others, waiting for her master to arrive. ‘Call wife,’ he proclaimed as a king should.
Ram had been planning for days. Ever since Daniel blurted out Mr Jamal’s name when they spoke about Sheila and the roof, he was hell bent on gathering information and maybe even getting a chance to exact revenge. Mr Jamal had constantly ridiculed him at work, making him feel worthless, incompetent and just plain angry. He blamed him for starting it, the regression of Ram’s own personal character and many others like him, and this was his chance, if he ever got one to bring that “pompous ass” to his knees.
He would visit regularly the hillside around 10pm, park his car in a lonely corner between some trees and watch Mr Jamal’s residence from afar.
They lived large and the house was no mere feat of architectural prowess, apt for the marriage of a surgical consultant and an attorney. It was designed from scratch, something you would pay a lavish amount to ensure it looked like no other house in the neighbourhood. The display of wealth wasn’t just something the couple that lived there indulged in, as they were also quite infamously charitable. The house also helped with the parties and intimidated others. Most importantly, it waned off nosy neighbours from prying into their lives and their lifestyle choices.
As soon as you would get past the gate, the walkway invited you to something akin from Oz, with carefully trimmed bushes barricading the sides to guide you forward and a cascade of green emanating from them paving the gardens left and right. The bushes would continue to dress the perimeter of the household, encircling it all the way to the back. The flowers interspersed shone only brighter and more sensuous in the moonlight.
The house was three storeys high, toward the back, the top two floors would slowly merge into one with a spiralling stairway and a tall window overlooking the hilltop. The living room was immensely huge, boasting the décor of old Victorian motive with a tad mixture of a modern American fireplace. Islamic writings decorated the top where the deer mount would be, and the fireplace was a crisp LCD monitor that played anything they want with its speakers firing from all edges of the room.
The bedroom was the most exciting of places. Satin, Eqyptian cotton, and Persian carpeting played with each other and coveted every nook. The room even smelled “sexy” as the couple always envisioned.
Natasha, the wife poured Mr Jamal a glass of chardonnay and offered it to him while he rested on the couch.
‘Thanks,’ he accepted it from her while she walked swaying her hips in front of him and attended to his side. Their glasses clinked.
‘I had quite a day today,’ Natasha said.
‘So did I,’
‘You want to talk about it?’
Mr Jamal stared into the glowing eyes of his dear wife; the one true love that possessed him all these years and was still doing so. He was always very perceptive of her euphemism, ever since they dated in college. Her skin too felt warmer, soft and hairless after a fresh waxing.
‘My client who got his store back was very pleased to have won the case. As a token of gratitude, he asked if he could help me with anything.’ She gulped the remainder of her glass and got up to her feet, holding her husband’s hand. ‘So I got a few free toys from his shop. Toys I’m dying to show you.’
Mr Jamal chuckled while he finished his glass. ‘God, it’s good to be King,’ he mumbled as allowed his wife to guide him upstairs to their chambers.
Ram had memorized every square inch of the place by now, but just having some low-resolution pictures of women entering the house alone wasn’t going to suffice. He had been bold enough before but he never had the right equipment. He needed a DSLR that could shoot at night and a ladder and it was set. The outer perimeter brick wall had glass shards above it but there was an unfortified side, a small part where the glass were scanty and some even broken. Getting past that would then get him into the lawn.
As the couple went up to their room for a night of sensuous foreplay and erotic fun, Ram had stationed himself right outside their window. He opened a small crack where the lens would peek through and control the camera from outside while he stabilized himself over a tiny ledge. The flowers and bushes provided the best footing for the ladder. He then climbed up to the side of the house and noted a spiral staircase past a large window and the master bedroom next to it. He had to do the rest by climbing on the narrow ledges until he had reached the window of the bedroom. With a bit of luck, his nudging worked and the panes opened just shy a few inches for the DSLR camera lens to gentle slip through.
The couple were already inside, undressing each other. Ram couldn’t stand to watch and so he clicked record and just peered away, looking past the hilltop, trying not hear the noises. ‘I could sure use some grass right now,’ he told himself. He managed to make minimal adjustments to his position while they kept grunting and moaning.
Suddenly, a blaring siren rang. ‘What?’ he shrieked, and his body shuddered. He lost his footing and fell over, landing hard on the bushes. The siren continued as flashing lights blinded him from the underside of the roof. He saw the window open and Mr Jamal pop his head out, pushing the camera down, it landing straight on Ram’s chest, breaking apart to several pieces. Mr Jamal squinted as he peered down, trying to make out a figure.
‘Shit!’ Ram panicked. He got up holding on the camera parts and started to run. His ankle snapped midway but he forced himself to reach the brick fence. Three pushes and he was above it. The glass shards cut his wrist a little, but there was very little bleeding. He jumped to the other side and started running down road, back to his parked car hidden between the trees. He perceived many lights being turned on in his peripheral vision, even from other houses from miles away.
He sped toward the car but then more flashing lights blinded him- a striking blue this time, and he blocked his eyes with his palms to protect them from all that glare. Soon, it was everywhere surrounding him. A voice spoke over a megaphone. ‘Knees on the ground, hands above your head,’ and kept repeating it until he complied.
‘Shit!’ he breathed hurriedly, sweating from all his pores. His wound finally started to bleed. His head was pounding and he only felt the pain after they forcibly pulled his hands to the back and cuffed him.