Login   Sign Up 


You must leave now Mr Seevaratnam

by Archer Two! 

Posted: 17 June 2008
Word Count: 2338

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

You must leave now Mr Seevaratnam’ said the pretty little Chinese nurse. ‘Mr Harman needs to get some rest’.

‘You better go Ranggit, she’s vicious when she’s riled, is Nurse Adolf Wong’, whispered Mike Harman, managing to force a smile through the pain.

Ranggit Seevaratnam said his goodbyes, outwardly cheerful but inwardly worried that time was rapidly running out for Mike, his best friend since they met at school forty years ago.

As Ranggit was walking down the long corridor towards the hospital exit he bumped into Nurse Wong.

‘Finished for the day’.

‘Yes. It’s been an exhausting day; I’m looking forward to a nice relaxing bath’.

‘I am sure it must be very demanding to be caring for people as sick as Mike, even if you try to stay emotionally detached’.

‘Yes. Especially nice people like Mr Harman. Despite the pain, and the poor prognosis, he never complains.’

‘If you are not in a hurry, would you like a coffee or something across the road?’

‘Thanks. That would be nice.’

‘My name is Ranggit by the way’.


As they walked out the main door of the hospital the Singapore heat hit them like a wet blanket. They crossed the main road as quickly as they could and dived straight into the air-conditioned relief of the Ah Ching coffee shop and bar.

The bar was quiet. They settled into a corner table well away from the few other customers and ordered long cool soft drinks.

After a brief silence whilst they both were thinking about poor Mike, Ranggit asked ‘How long do you think he’s got?’

‘We’re not normally supposed to discuss patients with non-relatives, but I know you are the nearest he has to a relative, and that he has told you himself everything we have told him, so I know he would want me to be frank with you. In the absence of a bone marrow transfusion the doctors say he has probably got another three or four weeks. Six at the absolute most. Given that he has no relatives, and not the easiest of blood groups, the chances of finding a match are slim I’m afraid.’

‘I thought about as much.’

Carol could see that Ranggit was very upset and trying hard to hide it. ‘Tell me’, she quickly added, ‘How long have you been friends?’

‘Since school’ Ranggit replied, his voice at first a bit emotional as he gradually recovered his inner composure. ‘We both went to a minor public school in St. Albans. We were both a bit different from the others and because of that we became best mates’

‘In what way different?’

‘Well, I was the only Asian in the school, let alone Sri Lankan. Mike was different because he was adopted when he was a baby and his parents lived in a council house. There was no way they could have afforded the fees, but the school offered a few scholarships to promising boys who passed an entrance exam and a subsequent interview. Mike was the only scholarship boy in our year. All the other boys came from relatively wealthy backgrounds, so he felt unable to make friendships because he would have to take them home at some stage.’

‘But weren’t your family wealthy too?’

‘Yes, but I was also different so it didn’t matter’.

‘How did you keep in touch after school? You must have gone separate ways’.

‘Yes, we did. I went to Oxford and studied law, while Mike went to business school for three years, specialising in food sciences. We kept in touch though, and spent quite a lot of time together during vacs. It was always planned that I would go into the family trading business in Colombo when I had graduated at Oxford. Mike’s future became uncertain when three months before the end of his course his parents died in a car accident. I invited him to stay with us in Sri Lanka whilst he got over the loss of his parents and worked out what he would like to do for a career.

‘Did he come?’

‘Yes. He originally only intended to stay for a couple of months, but my Father was very impressed by him and offered him a job as an assistant in our product research department’.

‘I bet he was good at his job, wasn’t he?’

‘Oh yes. Very good.’ Ranggit paused whilst he reflected a moment and took another sip of his drink. ‘Then one day, two years later in 1978, he saw a tourist poster for the Maldives. The poster showed a picture of fishermen catching tuna from small boats, virtually with hand lines. He came back to the office later that day, clearly excited and insisted that I went for a drink with him after work to discuss something very important. You have no idea, Carol, of the scale of his vision on that day. To cut a long story short because I don’t want to bore you…’

‘No, please carry on Ranggit, it’s very interesting.’

‘Well, Mike knew that fishing stocks were being rapidly depleted all over the world - and still are for that matter. Here was a picture of an island nation that most of the world had forgotten about, or had never heard of in the first place, obviously teeming with fish being caught using techniques that have been used for thousands of years. A potential goldmine. The more we talked about it the more we could see it becoming huge, if only we could put together a plan and find the money for modern equipment.’

‘Wow! So what did you do?’

‘We went to my Father.’

‘Well, my Father immediately saw the potential and agreed to back an approach to the Maldives government. At the time the Maldives was very backward, and the government ministers somewhat afraid of foreign businessmen. Nevertheless, after numerous visits and endless haggling and assurances, the government agreed to the establishment of a company in the Maldives majority owned by my family company along with 25% for the Maldives government and 24% for Mike. Mike set up a base in the capital Male and lived there for 10 years.

‘Was it a success?’

‘The sales of fish were easy, and I was in charge of that from Colombo. However, getting the fish ready for export was very difficult to begin with because Mike had to oversee the construction of three processing and freezing plants, and the locations were so remote. No number 8 screws in stock at the local store out there! Any supplies had to be imported, so six week hold-ups were frequent. However, in time these problems were overcome and we all made a lot of money.’

‘Why did Mike leave? I suppose after ten years he had had enough.’

‘No, he was forced to.’

‘Forced into it? That sounds dramatic.’

‘Well in a way it was.’

‘Really! What happened?’

‘Promise me you will never tell Mike I told you this.’

‘Oh, look Ranggit, I’m sorry if I pried. If it’s something you shouldn’t tell me then let’s change the subject.’

‘No, it’s OK. I know how much Mike appreciates the caring way you have looked after him since he came into hospital, and I know that he wouldn’t mind me telling you as such. It’s just that in his final weeks I don’t want the subject to come up and the hurt to be rekindled in him.’

‘Of course, I understand, but perhaps it is better if we change the…’

‘No Carol, it’s so good for me to be able to speak about my best friend in this way to somebody I know I can trust.’

‘Well, for a while it all went well. Mike set up the office on the main street in Male, and the Minister of Fisheries appointed his daughter Salima to act as a liaison between the government and the company. Salima was perfect for the task. She had been educated in an English school in Singapore, was therefore fluent in English and understood the European psyche. She was also demure and very pretty, and over a period of a few months Mike fell totally in love with her. Of course, she came from a very traditional Muslim family, and although she undoubtedly loved Mike, there was no future for them together. Mike wanted to speak to the Minister, but Salima said that he would never agree to a marriage and that if he suspected any sort of feelings between them he would have Mike deported and banned from the Maldives. Mike spent five years of his life seeing the lady he loved almost on a daily basis, but unable to touch her.’

‘That must have been awful. How do you manage to live like that?’

‘Well, of course it was difficult. Sometimes his feelings would get the better of him and he would try to cuddle her, even kiss her when he thought it was safe. Because she was in love, she sometimes found it difficult to resist as quickly as she should.’

‘And I suppose they eventually got caught?’

‘Well yes. It was rather unlucky really. To cut a long story short, Salima had a brother called Ali. Ali was a nasty piece of work who was fiddling the government big time over tourist projects. Mike found out, and being an honest sort of guy reported him to the Minister of Tourism. Ali was dealt with, but not before shopping Mike and Salima to her Father. It was like a bolt out of the blue because they had no idea Ali had seen them. The result was that Salima was confined to the house and Mike deported back to Sri Lanka.’

‘How awful’, said Carol. ‘Has Mike ever seen her since?’

‘No. My father went to the Maldives in 1990 and negotiated the sale of our company’s shares to the Maldives Government. Mike lost his shares, but he had made enough to be solvent for the rest of his life, and he decided to live here in Singapore. He felt Sri Lanka was too close to the Maldives for him to have any chance of making a new life.’

‘Did he ever marry?’

‘No. Salima was his one love.’

‘So what happened to Salima?’

‘We don’t know. When Mike was taken so ill I phoned the Maldives and spoke to Salima to explain the situation. I told her that he was not expected to live for more than a few months without a transplant. I told her that I hoped she would come to see him before he died. She sounded stunned, but very suddenly said she had to go, and put the phone down on me. I have tried to call again on numerous occasions, but they say she is not there.’

‘Are they preventing you from speaking to her?’

‘Yes, I think so. I can’t be sure of course, but I think that they realised that she hurriedly put the phone down because she was speaking to Mike or someone connected with him, and they made sure all further communication was blocked. Whether she is married or not, I have no idea.’

Carol was visibly moved. ‘So sad. Does Mike ever mention her now?’

‘I know he would give anything to see her, but I do not mention that I tried to contact her because I do not want him to feel that she is rejecting him at such a time.’

Ranggit paid the bill, and he and Carol left the bar to go their separate ways home. They both spent a very sad and thoughtful evening.

Two days later, the phone rang on Ranggit’s desk.

‘Mr Seevaratnam?’

‘Yes, Ranggit Seevaratnam speaking.’

‘This is Mount Vernon Hospital, Tanglin Ward. Could you please come to the hospital urgently?’

‘Yes of course. I’m on my way.’ Ranggit ran out of his Singapore office and hailed a taxi. ‘Please God’, he thought, ‘don’t let him die before I see him one more time to say goodbye’.

The journey, which actually only took 20 minutes seemed to take a lifetime, but finally the taxi pulled up outside the hospital. Ranggit threw a Singapore$50 note at the driver, and without waiting for change, ran into the hospital and into a lift to the third floor. Then he ran along that interminable corridor that he had walked along two days before with Carol Wong, until, out of breath, he finally reached the ward sister’s desk.

Carol was there.

‘How is he? Am I in time?’ Ranggit spluttered.

‘Yes you are in time’ said Carol. ‘But before you see Mike I want you to come into my office.’

Ranggit was much keener to see Mike first, but Carol Wong was insistent and he reluctantly allowed her to lead him into her office.

For the first time Ranggit was almost totally stunned. Looking older, but just as beautiful, Salima said ‘Hello Ranggit, I want to introduce you to someone’.

‘Hello, Ranggit. My name is Simon James’.

‘When my family heard me speaking to you’, said Salima, ‘they put the phone down and prevented any more calls getting through to me. When I heard your news I was naturally devastated and I contrived to get away to London without my Father knowing. I knew that Mike was adopted and I used all our London Embassy connections to track down Mike’s history. It took three months, but I have finally found Simon who is Mike’s half-brother. Simon is a good match and is keen to donate his bone marrow. We, that is, the doctors, Simon and I, did not want to raise Mike’s hopes until we were sure. It is thanks to you, Ranggit, that this has come about, so shall we go and tell him together?’

The operation was arranged for the following Thursday.

You must all leave now Mr Seevaratnam’ said the pretty little Chinese nurse. ‘Mr Harman needs to get some rest’. ‘Otherwise he won’t be fit in time to get married.’

2336 words

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

NMott at 17:25 on 17 June 2008  Report this post
Hi and welcome to WW.

A productive start, keep going.

I' m going to be tough on you and point out a couple of beginner' s mistakes, because I think you have the potential to improve quickly and move onwards and upwards from this point.

Firstly, you are in too much of a rush to get the background story in in the opening chapter, with the result that the dialogue between Ranggit and Carol sounds a bit ' un-natural - You, the writer, are putting words into Carol' s mouth to elicit as much information as possible from Ranggit about his past friendship with Mike soley for the reader' s benefit ("he' s leading the witness, your Honour"). Personally I' d like to know more about Ranggit and Carol because they are ' in front of me' , whereas Mike is some disembodied person they are talking about and the reader is liable to forget the majority of this info. within a few chapters - you have a whole novel in front of you in which to feed in the background info. It would be nice to have a few counter counter questions from Ranggit asking Carol about herself.
Secondly, at times the two characters are a couple of talking heads, with no actions or description to split it up.

I certainly don' t think you should tear it up and start again, first drafts are always rough (I have scenes in mine that are very similar to your sample above) and these early chapters will form a useful outline for the story - it helps you to get the characters straight in your own mind, and as you get to know them you can build on their story. You should carry on and at some point a natural beginning to the novel will present itself, and then you can comeback and build on the inital chapters, or cannabalise them and feed parts of it back into the novel.

Happy writing

- NaomiM


My apologies, I've just seen from your other post that this is a short story, rather than the opening chapter of a novel. I now see why there is so much info. about Mike. I think you should break it up with more general chit chat between Ranggit and Carol as they get to know each other over a cup of coffee, and drip feed the background info. into the coversation.

Archer Two! at 11:59 on 18 June 2008  Report this post
Dear Naomi,

My apologies, I' ve just seen from your other post that this is a short story, rather than the opening chapter of a novel. I now see why there is so much info. about Mike. I think you should break it up with more general chit chat between Ranggit and Carol as they get to know each other over a cup of coffee, and drip feed the background info. into the coversation.

Thank-you for your comments, especially so quickly, I agree with you and will do as you suggest.

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .