by Anura Guruge
“New Hampshire Stories” sets out to chronicle noteworthy, but mostly amusing, events from my 3 decades in New Hampshire.
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Please read this post
for more about my induction to the Laconia Rotary Club ….
So per President Kinney’s instructions I did my two presentations to the club about my life, the first devoted to my early days.
A few weeks later, per the club edict that you really must mingle, I sat at the informally designated ‘head table’ for what was always an outstanding buffet lunch. The professional dignitaries invariably gravitated to this table.
On of those at the table was a recently retired surgeon from Laconia. Big guy in every sense of the word, but very nice. He had just recently been the President of some prestigious board of NE surgeons (possibly doctors). His brother was a dentist (in Laconia) and a member of the club. They always sat at the same table. The dentist was a chair-smoker. Whenever I saw him I would have these images of him, in the 70s (when I assumed there were no laws against where you smoked), leaning over his patients with a cigarette dangling from his lips.
I am seated diagonally from the surgeon; his brother seated next to him.
The surgeon puts down his cutlery, looks up at me and says: ‘So Anu, who is the MOST famous American author living in Ceylon … Sri Lanka?‘
I am stumped. I don’t know. I THOUGHT that maybe he was getting Arthur C. Clarke confused, but dared not mention that name.
I had, in my 1st presentation mentioned Arthur C. Clarke. Pointed out that he had moved to Ceylon in the late 1940s for the sunken shipwrecks that he dove (and for some other local ‘attractions’). Mentioned that my father knew him and that the very first telescope that I had seen (and used) belonged to Arthur C. Clarke. It was a brass telescope and Arthur had lent it to my father for a couple of nights. My father managed to find Saturn with it. Was I impressed and hooked. Wow. Yes, I could see the rings. I am sure Arthur gave my father directions as to where to point as my father, though an expert in many fields, is not an expert when it comes to the night sky. So I had covered Arthur in my presentation. So you can blame Arthur for my abiding interest in astronomy.
So, I am hesitating.
The surgeon by now is visibly getting excited. He goes: ‘Hhhhmmm. I thought you would KNOW. It is Arthur C. Clarke‘.
I am shocked. I am amazed. But, I have a knack of always hedging my bets …
So, I say: ‘You know, I am fairly sure Clarke is BRITISH‘.
This is a TRUE story with no embellishments whatsoever. But, can we PLEASE have a drum roll here …
He turns a bit pink and splutters:
‘Ha … He writes DAMN WELL for not being American’!
That to me will always be how I remember Laconia Rotary.