The story of a surgeon with his four loyal wives

Yusuf K Dawood

I have four wives, Surgery, Rotary, Writing and Marie. The last wife is the prettiest and the youngest

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Therefore, I have four wives, Surgery, Rotary, Writing and Marie.
  • The last wife is the prettiest and the youngest

Above is the modified subtitle of my autobiography. In this first column of 2020, I wish to explain how I attained that diabolical title. I must confess at the outset that perhaps I asked for it!

Sometimes in the last century, KTN ran a weekly interview programme on TV and called it Summit. I was interviewed on it by John Sibi Okumu, a great interviewer appropriately on the top floor of Laico Regency Hotel. His first question: “Daktari, you are a famous surgeon, a published author, a senior Rotarian and a family person. How do you manage to juggle all these diverse roles?”

Realising that this was his opening question and my reply could make or break the interview, I took a little time to articulate an appropriate reply. I remembered Chekov, the Russian writer-doctor, being asked a similar question and his reply. He said. “I look upon medicine as my lawful wife and literature as my mistress. When I tire of one, I go to the other!”


I modified it to suit my locale and replied. “I live in Africa, where polygamy is allowed. Therefore, I have four wives, Surgery, Rotary, Writing and Marie.” I thought the crisis was averted until I got home and found to my horror that Marie had watched the live interview. She met me at the door and confronted me. “I don’t mind being one of your four wives because the other three are inanimate, but I do object to your pecking order!”

Once again, I took refuge in our African culture and replied.  “The last wife is usually the prettiest and youngest!” Marital harmony was restored and still prevails. Now that I have got this off my chest, I can tell a story which is intricately connected with ‘Four wives’.

It goes back to 2009, a year which was busy and lopsided. My three inanimate wives proved very demanding, forcing me to travel out of Kenya without Marie. For surgery, I travelled to Arusha, Zanzibar, Kigali and finally Dublin. For Rotary, I flew to Chicago for one week to undergo training as a Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator for Africa (RRFC), my new assignment for three years.

On the literary front, I finished writing my tenth book, a novel entitled ‘Eye of the Storm’, which was awarded the Jomo Kenyatta Prize. As for the ‘Surgeon’s Diary’, the editor doesn’t mind how often I travel out of Kenya and for how long, provided I give him the ‘diary’ to cover my absence.

Like Shylock, he demands his ‘pound of flesh’. Since I justify my polygamy on the basis that I treat all my wives equally, to compensate Marie, I decided to take her on Caribbean cruise for two weeks.

Now, a cruise always reminds me of a funny story that my anaesthetist, the late Sat Ramrakha told us as I was closing the abdomen after a difficult cholecystectomy to sooth my jangled nerves. It related to a lady’s diary while she was on a cruise:-

Luxury ship

Monday: Boarded the luxury ship which carries 1,000 passengers and 500 crew. Passed the day looking at the amenities, like gym, swimming pool, auditorium, restaurants, casino, lounges, bars and shops.

Tuesday: Invited to the captain’s table for dinner. Enjoyed the experience.

Wednesday: Same as Tuesday, except that the captain invited me to his cabin for coffee after dinner.

Thursday: Ditto. This time the captain offered me a Bailey with my coffee and made advances but met with resistance from me.

Friday: Same again; this time the dinner was scheduled in the captain’s cabin. Advances were vigorous. Became quite desperate and threatened to sink the boat if I didn’t give in.

Saturday: Wonderful feeling. Saved 1,500 lives!

I certainly couldn’t match my ‘diary’ with this lady’s diary with her saucy account!

For the first two days, Marie and I were busy surveying the ship. Most cruises give that time for passengers to familiarise themselves with amenities on board and get their bearings, before touching the next port.

Like aircraft, cruise ships are getting larger by the year. Our ship had seven floors and was like a floating hotel and at night, when it was lit up, it was a beautiful sight. The ship carried 3,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members, making an ideal ratio of two passenger to one crew. I reckon if the young lady in the story was sailing with us, she would have saved many more lives than she did!

Usually, in the dining room, especially for dinner, there are tables laid for two, four, six and eight, divided by early and late sittings. For breakfast and lunch, there is free seating because everyone saunters in at different time. Except when we are with our children, we book a table for six because that way, we find two interesting couples to sit with us.

Retained surname

Since on this cruise, it was just Marie and me, we asked for table for six. The other couple was Mr and Mrs Dawson. The other two were Mr Denham and Mrs Seymour, both behaving as a married couple. Initially, we thought that they were married but the lady had retained her maiden surname. Mrs Seymour was constantly tickling my ‘writer’ fancy, until at dinnertime, one evening she solved the mystery.

She confessed. “We are not married. We meet on this ship every year for two weeks. I have a husband at home in Devon and Ron has a wife in Newcastle. We and our spouses have taken separate holidays. Before we get off this ship, Ron and I will book a cruise for next year. We don’t communicate until we meet on this ship.”

Mrs Dawson naively asked. “Do you two share a cabin?”

Ron replied. “Yes. That’s the sole object of the exercise.”

“The change keeps our marriage alive!” Mrs Seymour added.

I hope Marie realises that the change I get in consorting with her three co-wives keeps our marriage eternally sparkling!


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