Monday, November 07, 2005


As I was being driven through Teluk Gong, on the way to one of my afternoon visits to Min, dark clouds were beginning to gather above the tin roofs of the warehouses and shanties. When I arrived at Min's house, I found Min sitting on the steps of the front porch. I could see immediately that he was not well. He looked totally washed out, and his eyes kept on closing.

"Min! What's wrong?" I said, as I squatted down beside him. His head flopped over to one side as if he was falling asleep. I took his arm and gave him a gentle shake. His eyes opened and closed. A sickening feeling crept over me as I considered the possibility that he might be seriously ill and might be going to die. Was this how it was going to end for Min? This was the Min I was so proud of having rescued and who had become my chief buddy. This was the lovable Min with whom I had happily explored Jakarta and beyond. This was the Min who loved to dance strange dances and sing strange songs. Now he was looking at me with frightened eyes, which he was struggling to keep open.

"Wati! What's wrong with Min?"

"He's tired," said Min's mum, as she came out to the porch. She didn't seem to be wildly happy to see me.

"He looks doped. Has he been sick?"


I felt his brow. There was no sign of fever.

"He looks as if he's going to topple over. He looks drugged." I suddenly remembered how he had looked when he had been in Dr Bahari's clinic and it occurred to me that now it was the same, but worse. "Has he had one of Dr Joseph's pills?"

"Yes," said Wati.


"A while ago."

"How many pills?"

"About three."

"Can I see the box?"

She brought me the container, which had only two pills left in it, and I read the label. It said to take half a pill three times a day, only if required. "How many pills has he had today?"

"I don't know."

Min's older brother appeared, looking worried.

"Can you get Min something to drink?" I said to Wardi. A glass of cloudy water was fetched and Min was able to take a few sips. "I think Min's been given too many pills."

"Maybe, Mr Kent," said Wardi.

"Can Wati read?" I asked bluntly. My heart felt rage but my numbed brain stayed calm.

"She never went to school," said Wardi.

"I think you'd better guard the pills in future," I said to Wardi. "Min should get no more than half a pill a day, and only when he's very naughty."

"OK, Mr Kent," said Wardi.

"I think Min should go to the Teluk Gong Hospital," I said.

We took Min to my van, supported by me on one side and Wardi on the other. The traffic was heavy but at last we reached the emergency ward. An elderly and affable Chinese doctor examined Min and the box of pills.

"He's fine," said the doctor, to my very great relief. "He's just had a little too much of the medicine. No problem."

We took Min for a gentle walk and he slowly began to revive.

I decided that we would not go back to Dr Joseph for any more pills.