Chapter 5, Pt 2 of 4
THE NEW ARRIVAL AND ASSISTANT DOCTORS
About seven in the morning Doctor Wells came in the room and said “Good morning” to me. He was a tall, lean and smartly dressed man with a bow tie.
He seemed to be cross with the nurse for giving him only half an hour’s notice. “One could not get properly dressed and drive here, a distance of three miles, in that short time” he grumbled.
Nurse Young listened to him in silence. “It is no good stopping him from letting off steam,” she said to me afterwards. “He likes to show off his authority.”
I myself was greatly impressed by Doctor Wells’ precise and gentle manners and his endless patience. Within a couple of hours of his arrival, I heard him say: “It is a bonny boy, Mrs Chowdhary. Can you hear him?”
And what a relief and joy it was to hear that first cry. Sheel came to see me and the baby soon afterwards, and we felt divinely happy. We talked about the name we were going to give him, about how many telegrams we should send to India, and so on. Nurse Young told me afterwards that Sheel even talked to her about the education this one-day-old baby was going to receive later on.
It took nearly three months after coming home that our baby could be trained to be peaceful most of the time. We hardly had any disturbed nights with him after that. He slept in his own room and we had to shut the door as well because of the draught. Thinking back now it sounds somewhat heartless, but there it was, these were the instructions and I followed them.
Mrs Smith, my daily helper, saw to it that our son, Vijay, became well acquainted with all the best manners and etiquettes of the English people. He called her Auntie Smith and would sit and listen to her for hours. She read many absorbing and beautifully written stories to him. She would mostly do that when he was having his meals to persuade him to eat more. He had always been slow and somewhat lazy in taking his nourishment and as time went on he became very finicky and disinterested in food. I was told that it was partly my own fault and that if I stopped worrying about how much he ate, he would recover his appetite. It never occurred to me then that even from that early age, children take a delight in making people, especially their nervous mothers, fuss over them.
I took him out in the pram regularly every morning and often when he had eaten very little breakfast, I thought he looked pale and thin, but true to their English habits everyone of the ladies who stopped to have a peep at him, said he looked marvellous, he had grown tremendously since she saw him last and that I must be proud of him. They would never say he looked pale or tired even if they might have been thinking that. I am against hypocrisy as a rule but I must say that I did appreciate their discreet remarks those days.
Of course, they always admired his unusually dark eyes and long eyelashes. Many of them said he was the image of his father. When Mr Pearce, a proper cockney old lady saw me out with the pram for the first time, she almost dived down into it and gave a hearty chuckle. “Chip off the old block, isn’t he? So you did not go astray, did you?” We had a good laugh, after Sheel told me the meaning of that remark.
Mrs Pearce was a real character. She was a small woman, or she seemed to be, owing to her stoop. Her silvery hair was often done up in curlers. She wore dangling earrings and her slightly wrinkled face was always lit up with a smile. Her frock and coat always seemed to hang on her. Every morning and evening at regular hours, she walked along leisurely to the “Laindon Hotel” to have some drink. For years she went there with her good husband, but now that he had joined his ancestors, she still kept up the routine and talked to nearly everybody she met on the way.
She always called Sheel “Dad” and would sing his praises all the time. Whenever she came to him in the surgery she would have her pockets bulging with sweets and just before leaving she would bring a handful of them out. “Here, have these,” she would say, “and another handful for your wife and the baby.” One day she even embarrassed him by saying: “Give us a kiss dad!” Sheel simply smiled and blew her a kiss. He told me never to offend the old lady. “She has a heart of gold,” he said.
A country doctor’s wife has to accept the fact that her husband is idolised by many of his grateful patients, men, women and even children. He can do nothing wrong, he is the best person on earth to them. You get used to hearing the phrases: “Oh, he is a darling. He is adorable. He is a real friend besides being a doctor. He has the magic touch. You are lucky to be living with such a wonderful healer and to get the prompt and best attention when you are ill.”