Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 1, Dated Jan 10, 2009
Satwik(born 1976) is a surgeon in the Department of Vascular
and Endovascular surgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi. His debut
work of fiction,
Perineum: Nether Parts of the Empire, was published in 2007.
Perineum is a rogue and deviant sexual history of the British
colonial project in India. According to his wife, it is just smutty historical
fiction. She thinks that since he doesn't have the gilded academic literary
pedigree to write the definitive novel on anything, he tends to make his
work pornographic. His chestnut is that pornography clearly has its pecuniary
DR KEDAR Deshpande,
Head of Unit IV, Department of Surgical Disciplines, Ram Manohar Lohia
Hospital. Married, childless. Squat-faced wife, square and low set. Of
a scabrous ugliness that has no antecedent history of beauty. Both of
them are Maharashtrian Deshastha Brahmins, of the Rigvedi subsect and
lacto vegetarians. And from a long line of relentless endogamy.
On a vedic purity
scale that’s like having the moon on a stick.
Dr Deshpande is a
professor of General Surgery. What he likes doing most are cancers of
the mouth and the neck. Large resections of fungating masses involving
the tongue, cheeks, lips, palate, jaw bone etc and then reparative procedures
to fill the holes in the face with skin and muscle flaps harvested from
the chest. His patients, after they’ve been beguiled of their cheeks
and jaws and then restored with flesh from other parts, are called ‘Deshpande’s
Cyclopes’ by his students. They are his labour of love. He keeps
a fat photo album in his desk, of ‘before’ and ‘after’
photographs. There was a time when he was steeped in the management of
breast carcinoma. Now, for a while, it has been oral malignancies. Kedar
Deshpande is a man of middle height, civil gray hair and has a smile that
is quite fetching, but is proffered with such frequency that it loses
most of its fertility. He wears crisp shirts in pastel shades and ties
that are manifestly anachronistic in terms of length and width.
He fancies himself
as a Bellovian hero, a man of complements. Oftentimes, he thinks at length
about his place in the scheme of things. About the arabesque pose he assumes
on the boards of Academia. He is allegiant and truthful to the various
factions that make up his life. He is occasionally onanistic and very
grateful for the largesse granted by his broadband Internet connection.
He likes videos of
anal sex and facials. Sovereign in his fetish is not the anal ramming
but the fair, bleached anus. There is something rarified about the pink
pucker, the pastel anus.
Otherwise, he is faithful
to his wife. His wife, Anagha, has been abidingly non-orgasmic. Their
sexual activity, which was largely androcentric, had ceased in the last
decade. He remembers in great detail the first money shot of his wife’s
pudenda. He had beheld it with the utmost courtesy and rendered it the
homage that seemed due to inaugural ceremonies. He now wonders about the
Hippocratic definition of hysteria — arising because the wandering
uterus (light and atrophic from a lack of sexual activity) pressed upon
the heart and lungs and caused a minor constellation of symptoms like
shortness of breath, hyperventilation and an increase in heart rate. He
has now begun to chafe at her squatty harassed look. He hopes that she
will predecease him, carried off by some withering illness…
And there are times
when he thinks about happiness, its licit place, and what it takes to
be admitted there. Deshpande lives in the small, gated bureaucratic enclave
of Pandara Road, on the first floor of one of the double storeyed D II
houses that repeat themselves in the vitrines of Lutyen’s Delhi.
A lately kindled appetite
disturbs his mind. For some time now he has had a paraphilia. At nine
thirty every night, Kedar Deshpande leaves his wife in front of the television
and steps out for a postprandial walk. It is a slow-paced ramble through
alleys and service lanes that lasts about forty-five minutes.
In the course of his
nightly saunter, he looks into other people’s homes. He likes to
watch young couples through windowpanes at night. It isn’t standard
issue voyeurism but is certainly a variant. The frisson is provided by
asexual acts of conjugation. The living room indolence, the cavorting,
the cleaving, the meal making, the meal sharing, the reading of miscellanies,
the waiting, the greeting, the prattling. Descried with difficulty through
partly drawn curtains and permissive slat blinds. Their daily domestic
movements excite him: the everyday consorting that is, for every family,
sui generis. He waits outside the favoured homes, for fleeting parts of
a tableau, as his beloved twosomes become purveyors of their state of
domesticity, advertisements of their pluperfection.
It isn’t the
incident, precipitate kind of fetish that ends in a hand job. It lies
on the periphery, produces a certain kind of warmness. The tepid, pleasurable
exudate of self-pity.
RML is the most edificial
structure on Baba Kharak Singh Marg, if you discount Gole Dakkhana, St
Columba’s and Gurdwara Bangla Sahib because technically they aren’t
on Kharak Singh Marg, they just seem to be. RML is a small colonial building
with a large central cupola called the Nursing Home, a lowbrow caricature
of Lutyens’ other cupolaed erections. It’s middlingly pink
— governmental pink — and looks sad as if its days of trenchancy
have passed. A well-tended garden accoutered with joyous topiary and a
fountain occupies the space between the portico and Kharak Singh Marg
The CPWD sensibility
is plainly demonstrable in the physiognomy of the adjacent newer hospital
buildings. The Public Works Department endows its buildings with simple
and listless sarkari virtues. The absence of form and function is a sine
qua non. The OPD block is jaundice yellow. On the ground floor is a vestibular
space where patients line up for the OPDs. It’s like a railway platform,
thematically, filled with formations of the polymorphously afflicted,
welling forth chafing and churning sounds.
On the first floor
is Deshpande’s chamber. He spends his afternoons with exegetical
tracts on oral and breast malignancies, often bemoaning the smallness
of his own contribution to literature on the subject. He leaves at five
thirty, when the OPD block is empty Deshpande’s chamber is paneled
in the anti-lapidary style of government interiors. There’s a lot
of plastic and aluminium, plywood and sunmica and white gilt filigreed
sofas and the most anodyne of governmental accoutrem - ents, the white
towel on his seatback.
SHE OPENS the door,
walks in with little cautious steps and smiles slightly, as a way of introduction.
She brings out a folded piece of paper from her side.
Baba has spoken to
you about this,” she says in Marathi.
a full, puffy Newsboy cap on her head that looks particularly attractive,
and a thick, knitted scarf. Delhi University winter chic.
Her own introduction
of her condition is precipitous. “I think I have Phyllodes or perhaps
a large fibroadenoma,” she says without any sense of embarrassment
or anxiety. The annotation ‘Phyllodes’ swollen and ripe from
nourishment provided by the Internet.
to take stock of her. She is Limaye’s daughter. It’s the first
time he’s seeing her from close quarters, out of her teens. Anon
he shall see her without her optimistic winter clothing.
He rings a bell for
tea and asks cheerful prefatory questions about her father and her university
curriculum. He then steers the conversation to family and menstrual history
and goes through her mammography, MRI and needle biopsy reports. After
tea, he leads her to the examining table.
“When did you
first notice it?”
any articles of personal adornment. Nothing on her neck or even in her
ears. She has the most beautiful pair of breasts he’s ever seen.
Wonderfully avant-garde and tumescent. Prima facie, it’s more than
generic, hormonal tumescence. It’s like the nude in art and literature.
She raises her arms slightly for the armpit palpation.
An erstwhile lover
(who had recently shored up on art history) had managed to create a distinct
sacredness around her breasts by comparing them to those drawn by Norman
Lindsay, the Australian master. In his iconography and spectatorial consciousness,
the breasts on Lindsay’s women, particularly the oriental dancers
in the Sultan is indisposed, were qualitatively rivalled only by Eva Green’s
in the Bertolucci production The Dreamers. It was breast love at its most
The discovery of the
breast lump was in a state of drunkenness, during mammary intercourse,
as he squeezed her lubed up breasts from the sides and rubbed himself
inside the cleavage. The Bombay roll. After he’d given her a pearl
necklace, he rolled over and told her, “The right one feels funny.”
“A year ago,”
she says. Deshpande can smell cigarette smoke on her breath. “I
was examining myself in front of the mirror. My gynaecologist kept saying
it’s virginal hypertrophy or something like that. Turns out that
she didn’t know how to palpate breasts.” There’s an
ease and urbanity in the way she speaks about herself.
She kids about the
mammography machine that had seemed like a one trick pony to her. A noble
system but a large investment that could all but limn flattened tits.
As opposed to the MRI gantry, for instance, that could do much more. For
the first time, her breasts had felt like udders. They were picked up
(one after the other) by the technician and placed on the X-ray plate,
incarcerated, and compressed horizontally first, then obliquely.
strange. There aren’t any dilated skin veins. In fact there isn’t
a discrete palpable lump. Only a slight fullness on the right.”
He isn’t sure if that sounds lame or just inadequate.
has his way with her breasts, examining them in the supine and then the
bending forward position. They’re spectacular when they’re
falling forward. She’s going to be his bakunyu girl for a long time.
It’s also colourful
grist to his other interest, academic literature. He can see a review
article coming out of this, in a hallowed journal of breast diseases,
gussied up with this tremendous case report. The case of the non-palpable
Phyllodes tumor. The MRI images are brilliant. They show a well circumscribed
homogenous mass. In the mammogram, the neoplasm is like the birth of a
star in a faraway galaxy. These are images that document the variegation
and the glut that make her right breast beautiful. Evidence of the falsification
of anatomy. The only thing that he needs now is a clinical photograph.
IN THE darkness, he
looks over his shoulder at the Limayes’ house. It’s on the
first floor, looking out on Shah Jahan road. They’re not at home.
Limaye is a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Urban Development. He’s
the only other Maharashtrian in Deshpande’s immediate neighbourhood
and Deshpande’s best chance of acquiring membership of the India
The Limaye girl will
never come to him for the excision. She’ll probably go to a fancy
American Board certified plastic surgeon in one of those big luxury hospitals
(referred by Deshpande, treatment sponsored by the Central Government
Health Services), get silicone implants subsequently and become hale.
But will she be consummate again? Actually, he wouldn’t like to
operate on her. He dreads the before and after photographs.
She’ll be his
bakunyu milkmaid tonight. Even in its plight, there’s no way her
clinical photograph can not be eroticised. Partly because it was taken
with such unhealthy relish. He loves the way she sat for it, arms akimbo.
phyllodes or phyllodes tumour is a rare, predominantly benign, but a locally
aggressive fleshy tumour of the female breast.]