Excerpt of The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux
(Page 6 of 7)
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Anna Hunphunwoshi, sir. From Nagaland, sir. Kohima, sir. Very
Ive seen you in the spa.
I also do treatments in daytime, sir.
Are you eating, doctor? Audie said.
Thank you, no. I dont take food after six p.m. He spoke to
Anna. I will take some salted lassi.
We should follow your example, Beth said.
As you wish.
Three of those, Anna, please.
Thank you, sir. She stepped silently away, clutching the menus.
Where did you say you went to medical school? Audie asked
Ayurvedic Institute in Mangalore.
That makes you a doctor?
Ayurvedic doctor, yes.
Can you practice outside India?
Where Ayurvedic medicine is licensed, indeed, I can practice
Ayurvedic without hindrance, Dr. Nagaraj said. May I see your right hand,
sir? And when Audie placed his big hand in the doctors warm slender hand,
the doctor said, Just relax, and scrutinized it, and made some notes on his
That Indian script looks like laundry hanging on a clothesline,
The doctor, intent on Audies palm, said nothing. And even when
the waitress returned with the three tumblers of lassi, he went on studying
the big splayed hand. He made more notes and, what was disconcerting to
Audie, he wrote down a set of numbers, added more numbers to them,
subtracted, multiplied, got a total, then divided it and underlined the result.
Still holding Audies palm, the doctor raised his eyes and did not smile.
You had a hard life until age thirty-five, Dr. Nagaraj said. You
prepared the ground, so to say. Then you reaped rewards. You can be helpful
to a politician presently, but avoid it. Next ten years very good for name and
He offered his hand to Beth, and she placed hers, palm upward,
on top of his.
Those numbers, Beth said.
Good dates, bad dates, risky times.
How long will I live? Audie said.
Until eighty-five, if all is observed, the doctor said without
hesitating. He went back to examining Beths palm and scribbling notes.
I dont want to know how long Im going to live, Beth said. Just
give me some good news.
Happy childhood, but you have no children yourself, the doctor
said. Next ten years, excellent health. Never trust any person blindly,
especially those who praise you. Follow intuition. Invest in real estate. Avoid
crowds, smoke, dust. The doctor strained, as if translating from a difficult
language he was reading on Beths palm. Avoid perfume. No litigation.
As the doctor tensed, showing his teeth, Beth said, Thats
enough, and lifted her hand and clasped it. Audie glanced at her and
guessed that she was also wondering if Dr. Nagaraj was a quack. But that
thought was not in her mind.
Dr. Nagaraj perhaps sensed this querying, though he seemed
calm again. He sipped his lassi, he nodded, he tapped his clipboard.
I took my friend Sanjeev to Rajaji National Park to see the wild
elephants. They are my passion. Did you not see my collection of Ganeshes
in my office?
I remember, Beth said. The elephant figurines on the shelves.
Quite so. The doctor drank again. We encountered a great herd
of elephants in Rajaji. They are not the same as the working domesticated
elephants but a separate species. They saw us. We were near the banks of
the river. Do you know the expression Never get between an elephant and
Copyright © 2007 by Paul Theroux. Reprinted by permission of Houghton