"No man! I don't want strawberry, I am not a white man... I want a plain drink!" the voice, which could have belonged to a white man, boomed from behind in the direction of the bartender. We, a friend and I, who were sitting on the bar stools, turned back: the man was in fact dark and bald and jolly. If he had made the statement for effect, he had succeeded for we turned back to look at him. He smiled at us, shook our hands, and soon we clinked our glasses. He was so jolly that he could have been Santa Claus -- a hairless, beardless one though.
Islanders (with the exception of the British) are usually jolly people: soaking in fun and sand, soaking in sun and sand. And our Santa Claus belonged to one of the islands with the Indian connection: he hailed from Fiji. To me, he was the Fijian counterpart of Trinidad's Naipaul: both had grandfathers who were taken by the British to work as labourers in sugarcane plantations. Their fathers, as in the sons of the indentured labourers, didn't quite know what to do: they were caught between a generation of 'slaves' and a generation of young men who wanted to break free from the slave mentality and make it big on their own. One of those young men, V S Naipaul, won a scholarship to Oxford. Another of those young men won a scholarship to study at the medical college in Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh -- and that was the bald, dark man we were drinking with. His name: Dr Ram Naidu.
"I was the last candidate to get the scholarship. That was 1976. After that the Andhra Pradesh government stopped the scholarships (for the people of Andhra origin living abroad)," he announced, while ordering a round of tequila for us. "Today I practice in Brisbane. Come there sometime. We shall have a good time."
The conversation I am quoting here is rather sanitised. The orginal was peppered with fuck-this and fuck-that. In between the 'fucks', we asked him what kind of a doctor he was. He replied by making a pistol out of his palm -- with two fingers as the barrel and a rotating thumb: "Guess what does this imply... If you guess it right, I will buy you are drink." When we could not guess, he made some more thrusting motions with this two 'barrel' fingers. Then we got it and were about to say it when the Naidu fellow pre-empted us by announcing: "Gynaecologist! I am a gynaecologist. But in Brisbane I am a GP (general practioner)." At this, a young man sitting in the bar with his girlfriend asked him: "Doc, I have high BP, what do I do about it?" The doc, the ever horny Mr Naidu, went over to the young man and said: "Don't smoke. Don't drink. But fuck as much as you can."
The young man flared up. "Doc, this is not Fiji! This is India, this is Tamil Nadu, and moreover, this is Chennai. You can't use such language, that too in front of a lady." Doctor Naidu apologised to the lady and returned tamely to our side of the bar table. "So doc, what do I do for my BP?" the young man yelled from across the table. "Come to my clinic in Brisbane, I shall tell you," the chastened doc replied.
We pretended as if nothing had happened between the doc and the young man. I told him, "Doc, you say you are 50 but you look 40!" Dr Naidu was pleased. "You know how to stay young? Just shift the fulcrum. Shift the fulcrum! Shift the fulcrum!" and he broke into a jig. What he meant was: dance. In other words: Exercise. Move your butt.
It was quite interesting to see Dr Naidu gyrate to the pub music in order to emphasise the importance of moving your butt. Then he suddenly stopped and leaned towards us: "You know something? As long as a man wakes up with a hard-on in the mornings, he is fine. There is nothing to worry about." He then broke into a 'fuck'-peppered laughter.
I had finished my beer by then and I left. I knew, courtesy Dr Naidu, that I was fine.