The announcements came through loud and clear.
“Air India flight 712 to Bombay – Calling all passengers to check in”
It was November 1993, and Andrew Cox was on his first visit to India. He had been contemplating this trip for the last five years. But there had been only a chilling silence from Ameesha. He couldn’t blame her for wanting to forget him. That unnecessary slur on her professional competence could not have happened but for him.
“I’ll never forgive myself for that lapse….. Not for as long as I live. If I can be sure that she has moved on and is happy again, I’ll feel partially absolved.”
He recalled with sadness, her tragic exit from Nuneaton.
“I could not hold her back after that incident. If ever I’ve seen desolation, it was on her face that day. All she wanted to do was to rush back home to the bosom of the woman who loved and cared for her.”
There had been no communication from her since then. He had written her a couple of letters, even enclosing a newspaper cutting that he thought would make her feel better. And then at last, her Christmas card had arrived. Though it was just a card with her signature, it had given him hope that she might have forgiven him.
“Perhaps this is an ideal time for me to visit India and mend fences,” he thought, as he made his plans. “I’m going to surprise her and see for myself what she has made of her life.”
Ameesha or Amy as everyone called her had come to Nuneaton Maternity Hospital from neighbouring Coventry. Her Consultant had strongly recommended her for the post of Registrar in Andrew’s unit. Andrew Cox was not the most popular figure at the hospital. Slim, athletic and handsome to boot, there was arrogance in his mannerisms that turned most people off. Amy had been warned of his temper tantrums. Housemen trembled at his footfall and nurses became so agitated in his presence, that they merely invited more caustic remarks from him.
Andrew recalled the day Amy had come for her interview. Sitting across the table, he had fixed his penetrating gaze on her, his long fingers caressing his neatly trimmed beard for effect. But instead of intimidating her as he intended, she returned his look with the hint of a smile playing on her lips.“Something amusing you?” he asked.“Those white blotches on your beard! They’re very becoming, like a little boy who has spilled porridge down his chin,” she giggled.
He had been initially shocked by her cheekiness, but then burst into laughter.“You’ll do,” he said after a few minutes, and it had set the tone of their relationship – a strictly working relationship that lasted for as long as she worked with him. He was a tough taskmaster but also a patient teacher. As his confidence in her ability grew, so did her responsibilities.
“In some way, she made me feel different,” he reminisced, “I was no more the arrogant bully the staff took me for. I felt well disposed to the world at large. Even the coffee breaks were something I looked forward to. We talked on every subject under the sun, from Politics to Medicine, from Music to Religion. We agreed on some things but differed on most, and she always stood her ground and refused to cow down. That’s what made me admire her. Not like the other Indian doctors who were so eager to please, and too timid to contradict me.”
And then one day, Amy had come into his office and announced,“I’m going home. I’m homesick and I’ve been away too long. Besides, there’s nothing to keep me here any longer. I have my post graduate degree in hand.”
Andrew could tell from the look on her face that something had upset her. He hoped it would pass in a day or two.
“I can’t understand your hurry to go home. You should make the most of the opportunities you get in this country before going back. I was hoping to train you in Laparoscopic Surgery. It’s catching on fast, and there’s so much one can do with a little practice. Think of the many women you’ll be able to help back in India with this “key hole” technique. If you stay and learn, you’ll never regret it. But if you’re still adamant, I can’t hold you back. Remember, if Columbus had turned back no one would have blamed him, but no one would have remembered him either.”
“What he says is true,” thought Amy, “Why should I runaway?”The insult she had suffered the previous evening at the hands of the man she loved had shattered her. He had publicly humiliated her and called off their engagement, in the presence of a group of Indian doctors.
“It would be cowardice to run away. I’ll show him that I don’t care,” she decided.
So Amy stayed. It was a wonderful learning experience. Andrew was an excellent teacher, and something of a perfectionist. And she was an eager student, dexterous with her fingers and diligent in her work. As he became more confident of her expertise, Andrew delegated to her more responsibilities. It gave him more free time to pursue his own hobbies. Tennis took up his evenings, and on weekends, he rode off on his bicycle, binoculars dangling from his neck, in pursuit of his other hobby – bird watching.
Ameesha was something of an enigma. Indian yet so unIndian in her ways.
‘Amy Brent’ where did she get such a name, he wondered. The British had colonized her country for so long, and there were thousands of Anglo-Indian brats left behind. But Amy was this dusky beauty, with large expressive eyes and a small button like nose, and didn’t look anything like a mixed breed. Her curly hair fell in waves over her shoulders, which she bunched up in a pony tail whenever she came on duty.
Andrew had just dozed off when an Air hostess nudged him.“Sir, our duty free in-flight shop is about to be closed. We’ll be reaching Bombay within an hour. Would you like to buy something?”
Perhaps he should buy her a gift he thought, as he scanned the catalogue.
“What can I buy for a pretty girl?” he asked the hostess.
“A bottle of Chanel, Sir”
He couldn’t remember if she ever wore perfume.
“Boy, am I excited!” he thought, “Haven’t felt this way since I was in my teens.”
Yet this excitement was tinged with doubt. How would Amy receive him? What would he see reflected in those dark limpid pools? Anger? Resentment or hatred?