Dr Suresh Venkita, our Group Medical Director, a senior cardiologist and an avid writer, has yet again shared this lovely story from his desk.

A Knife over Coffee


She was a maverick. She would never dream of doing what everyone does in a given situation. The day was already warming up, and would soon be very hot indeed. Temperature would soon hit the forties, she thought, and wondered how would she keep cool all day?

‘Okay, I am early, so I am going to walk to work’ she decided, bristling against the unfriendly, and uncomfortable, weather

Such rebellious thoughts always popped in her head like flash bulbs! She thought that her mind was often a galloping mare, wild and free, young and happy to be alive and healthy.

‘Okay, I shall sport my blue silk scarf today’ she decided, blue is cool, reached for it from the shelves, tied it around her head, chose her hand bag for the day, slipped on her sun glasses, all in matching shades of blue, and stepped out, walking briskly to the cafe around the corner.

She stepped in, and pondered at the desk before ordering. Coffee, hot or cold? She queried her mind which raised its rebellious head again. She recalled having read some where that you can beat the heat by imagining you are cold. She quickly decided to try it out. ‘Make it piping hot, please, I feel so cold, brrrr’ and ignored the puzzled look of the girl who served her the steaming brew. She looked for her favorite corner at the far left, near the window, and was dismayed for a moment to note that a man occupied that niche but also observed that he seemed restless and distracted. To her instant relief, she saw that he quickly got up to leave and as she walked briskly towards the now vacant seat he rushed past her, brushing her shoulder and almost toppling the mug of coffee in her hand. She swiftly recovered from the momentary imbalance, reached her table, took off her scarf and sunglasses and threw them, along with the handbag, on the seat beside the window and slipped in.

She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf…

But then, she didn’t know that!

She did not like or approve what she saw through the window. Everything and everyone looked brown, dull, dusty and dry. ‘How dreary!’ she thought. ‘I shall imagine them differently’ she decided. Her fertile imagination took hold promptly and the scene changed instantly: she saw dark clouds gathering, sun light dimming, rain falling on trees, wind lashing their trunks, green leaves sprouting on their branches, yellow flowers unfolding along the twigs and red fruits popping up at their tips, and the rain water washing and then dripping from them.

Her brain bloomed and brightened sensing the rapid evolution of colors- from brown to green to yellow to red!

Then suddenly the bulbs in her mind began to pop one after another in quick succession- chanting red, red, red, red!

That was when she looked down and saw red, the blood stained knife that lay next to her handbag!

Shocked, she looked up and out of the window and was shocked again, everything looked red for one long and frightening moment. Then she took an iron grip on her imagination, and reined in her mind ’Stop this, think, what just happened’?

There was a blood stained knife lying just beside her! What was it doing there?

Her incendiary imagination was on fire again as she looked out. The landscape changed, from busy urban street life to distant, tranquil and silent mountains and their luxurious and rolling grass slopes. In her mind’s eye she saw this itinerant hunter brewing his coffee over a camp fire, while keeping an eye on the broiling slice of meat over that fire, sensing acute danger and swiftly turning around to confront the 300 pound grizzly bearing down on him, rising on its powerful hind legs, reaching out to grab him with its forelegs from which projected the enormous and deadly claws, with its wide mouth open and baring its sharp teeth.

In one flash as swift as lightning she saw the knife emerging in his hand which caught the glint of fire on its blade. She recoiled as his sinewy and hairy hand, supported by his powerful shoulders, plunged the knife straight into the heart of the beast which jerked to its full height, stood still for moment as though frozen in time, tottered the very next and then tumbled, all etched clearly and sharply as in a black and white movie of the silent era. There was no roar, no scream, just a pronounced echo of the profound silence.

And now that knife was just beside her!

She shook her head and remonstrated with herself ‘That was wild thinking, come brace up, think straight’!

She looked out again to think differently, this time. That was when the floods came surging in! Within minutes the streets and the shops had drowned in bubbling blue water, the ocean was swirling around and the waves were lashing at the windows. She swam out in long and graceful strokes and began to circle in lazy strides. Her body felt light, warm, nimble and sinuous. She almost drifted off into a dreamy state when she sensed the shadow, also circling just like her and perhaps following her. She turned to see the great white shark, with its shiny skin of scales, distinctive tail fin and slightly open mouth with the long white and even teeth. She was comfortable with swimming, snorkeling and deep diving and was not afraid; she wished to be at peace with nature and in good terms with its co-inhabitants. But, in the passage of the next few seconds that equation and equanimity were shattered. The shark sharply broke the circle, turned and lunged towards her in one single powered thrust and, in a reflex as swift as lightning, she had reached for the knife hooked to her belt to thrust it deep into its chest and the blue water promptly turned a bright red.

She returned to replace the knife to its resting spot just beside her.

She scolded herself’ I have no time for this”. ‘No’ her mind responded’ you have! Just one for the road, please, consider it’.

‘Okay, I still have the last third of my coffee to sip’ she conceded and looked out again.

Everything had changed, it was all different! It was now a bustling bazaar outside, very oriental, electric and eclectic. There were a good deal of people, energetic, enthusiastic and engaged in an excited wager. A cock fight was on, the bets were being vociferously invited, were equally vigorously placed and the adversaries were entering the dry, dusty and mud caked arena. The cocks were tawny, taut and tense in the hands of their sponsors who were aggressive, mocking and challenging to their adversaries.

As the next fight was announced, and as the birds were almost thrown to the center of the battle ground in a flurry of fluttering feathers, she saw the glint of steelsharp knives strapped to their gnarled and ropey legs. She mentally placed her bet on a bird that turned for a moment to stare directly at her, quizzing her why she was there and challenging her to back him. And then suddenly it was a vicious and violent street fight, a fight to the finish, set to the deafening back ground score of raucous shouts, roars, screams and threats. Both dust and feathers rose, flew around and often blurred and blinded vision. Their skinny legs constantly moved, turned, withdrew, advanced and circled in the haze. Beaks and knives rose and struck till they drew blood, again and again, and colored the knives, drenched the ground and drained the vanquished.

She saw that the fallen bird was indeed the one she had favored. She instantly remembered the verse of Walt Whitman who sang’ O the bleeding drops of red, where on the deck my Captain lies, fallen cold and dead’.

With respect and in reverence she unstrapped a knife from his still leg and restored it to its seat beside her.

She stole a glance at that knife, and took in its well-worn wooden handle and its mean looking long blade with its crimson stain. She spoke to it ‘I have spun three tales about you. But what do you have to tell me? Will you tell me the truth or will you spin a tale too?’ She waited.

She was still in that dreamy state when she was snappily brought back to the real world by a smart voice over her shoulder’ Ma’am, can we talk to you?’

She turned to see a Police Officer, along with his small team of two, standing beside her. Seeing that they at last have her attention he continued ‘We need your cooperation Ma’am. We have a man who walked into our station just now and confessed to a crime; he stabbed a man to death in a scuffle in a back alley and claims to have left the knife behind at this seat where he sat to have his coffee.

Have you seen it?’

Silently she pointed to the knife resting beside her which they carefully packaged and removed, and left thanking her.

She looked out of the window one last time before she drained the last inch of her coffee and quizzed herself before she got up to leave ‘Now, why didn’t I think of that?!’


Dr. Venkita S Suresh,
Group Medical Director and Dean of Studies,
DNB and other post-graduate training programs.