All my life I’ve introduced myself as “Fred Nath N-A-T-H”. Why? It's because you learn quite early that there are people who, for the love of them, cannot hear ‘th’. It’s a sad fact my wife, my ex-wife, my three sons and my daughter all suffer with the same ‘speech’ impediment when introducing themselves.
It’s all my Dad’s fault. He was Indian – from Kerala. Before he settled in England (after the War) he was called Vishwanath Iyer. He felt it was too much of a mouthful so he became Dr Bishwa Nath. I never heard him spell his name out, mind you – maybe it’s the pronunciation.
Good chap my dad. When he was six he had a pet tiger. He recalls how it bit him. He was doing some reading at a table and the cat was playing at his feet. It bit him and cut his foot. My Grandfather immediately pronounced that a tiger ‘who ever tastes the blood of man’ will become a killer and took the pet away. It was destroyed.
Some years later Bishwa was sent to England and spent a miserable year at Eton. When his mother died, a he was sent home again. There followed many years of squabbling with his rather draconian father. When it came to careers, my dad wanted to be a doctor like his uncle, not a banker like his father. In the end he went to live with his uncle and qualified in Madras (Chennai).
When it came to betrothal, Bishwa refused. He didn’t like the girl and said no. There followed row after row with not only his father but he fell out with most of the family. When he read an advertisement in a newspaper ‘Elderly woman seeks personal physician for trip around the world’ he jumped at it. The trip took him away for a year and he told me he never regretted it. He had a year’s free travelling and the old duck was fit as a fiddle.
Cold-shouldered on his return, he left India and went to live in Singapore. I have his first driver’s licence. He worked as a Medical reporter and local physician for an Asian community. After three years there, I think boredom must have set in. He left and went to Japan. He learned to speak fluent, high-class Japanese and met a beautiful actress. Within a few weeks he discovered she was married and the man he had assumed was her brother turned out to be her husband. A quarrel ensued. The husband left. Within a year, the actress who was pathologically jealous, left too, leaving the young Indian doctor living alone in a wooden house, with rice-paper walls and a love of Japanese culture.
He became a lecturer in Chest Surgery at the local University, a subject about which he knew little, but I suppose he must have picked it up as he went along. If a patient of his needed treatment, he bartered. He could visit a patient who would make him a suite; he could dine for free at a patient’s restaurant or night-club. I think he had the time of his life until there were rumours of war and the Japs threw him out in the late thirties.
He met my mother in Japan in the mid-thirties. If you’ve a mind, I’ll tell you about that next time. I can’t vouch for the truth of all these stories but they always amused me!