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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Excerpt # 29: Sex Rears Its Ugly Head

Excerpt #29:  Sex Rears Its Ugly Head
M. Bakri Musa (www.bakrimusa.com)

As I had more than my share of young female house officers in my unit, it was inevitable that sex would soon rear its ugly head. One morning, a young house officer stopped me as I was about to enter my office. Could she see me “in private,” was how she put it. Something about her tone and body language said that I would have a problem ahead, and a very big one.

            After the usual pleasantries and she was comfortably seated, she clamped up! Good! It was nothing after all. Great relief!

            Then I remembered my old village courtesies. Do not accept the first two refusals or demurrals. Keep offering or prompting. Sure enough, after my third prompting she let out, with tears streaming down her cheeks. I felt nauseous; I did not want to hear more. She had come to me, her superior, to seek my help, and I did not know what to do. I remembered a couple of my female classmates and colleagues back in Canada who had been harassed by the faculty and nobody helped them. They suffered in silence.

            My first reaction was to call Karen. Then I remembered that Karen had met her before. She (my trainee) would be embarrassed by that.

            When you don’t know what to do or how to proceed you revert to being very professional and clinical, to hide behind your pseudo detachment. Did you tell your husband? Yes. What was his reaction? Angry and helpless. Both were vulnerable in their own separate ways. Why not kick her tormentor where it would hurt him most? Laughter! Great, at least some release of the tension!

            As she continued on I felt less as a departmental head with a major personnel problem, more a young ram whose ewe was being “disturbed” by an old goat. Her harasser was not just any old goat. He was the senior-most physician, with a string of royal titles to his name. There could be severe consequences if I were to cross him.

            Then I remembered my alpha dog posture with the Ministry of Health official and how easily he cowered to me. I decided to be the alpha ram. My youth and physical vigor would intimidate the ageing Don Juan and his dwindling testosterone. I had read Jane Goodall’s accounts of chimps where the old bull would simply move away instead of risking a challenge from an upcoming male.

            By the time she finished pouring out her fears, I was no longer her superior or she one of my trainees. I was now into the raw brutal sexual imagery and energy of the animal world. In my most reassuring masculine voice, I told her that I would take care of the problem, mano a mano.

            She stopped crying, the power of the comforting voice of an alpha male! Then as an afterthought she told me she did not want to jeopardize my career on her account. I scoffed at her concerns! Far from being threatened, I felt emboldened.

            That evening I discussed the problem with Karen, in particular my decision to confront the old man. She was all for that. Missing in our discussions was the thought of possible adverse consequences to my career should this character were to fight back. That thought or fear never crossed our minds. We both felt that I should do the right thing. Helping my trainee was the right action.

            The next morning I went straight to her harasser’s office. I asked his secretary whether he was in, and when she replied that he was, I went right in after the perfunctory knock on the door. She was taken aback at my aggressiveness, especially my being very junior and a new staff member at that. Once in I turned around to close the door behind me.

            I saw in front of me a mousy old Indian man crouched in his oversized chair behind his equally oversized desk. I looked around and saw pictures on the wall of his being honored by the various sultans. I ignored those and stared him straight in the eye.

            After an appropriate intimidating silence on my part, I said in a calm but firm voice, “You have been bothering my girls!” I had my arms folded across my chest while standing ramrod straight. He offered me the chair but I ignored the courtesy and remained erect, my body that is.

            He avoided my stare and darted his eyes from one corner of his desk to the other. Then I walked towards his desk and he retreated slightly in his chair. I recognized that submissive body language. I leaned over and pressed my two fists on his desk, the knuckles facing him.

            “Stop it!” I paused. Then, “Or you will regret it!”

            At that very moment I felt physically much larger than he was, accentuated with his now slumped body in the oversized chair. In actuality he was only a little smaller and shorter than me, but with my standing over him, it amplified our otherwise minimal size differential. With that I walked out. Just before I opened the door, I turned around.

            “Think about it!” My parting shot.

            Back in the comfort of my office I felt good, like a real man should. It was easy. All I did was act like one. I had uttered only four crisp sentences, three more and each considerably longer than Cesar’s terse Veni, vidi, vici(I came, I saw, I conquered!).

I had no idea whether that would work. More to the point, while I hoped that my strategy would work, I was not in the least worried that this slimy character would use his power to go after me. He was but a rat.

            A few months later my trainee greeted me with the good news that her husband had his promotion. She was scared that her husband’s career would be the price she would have to pay. No, she had not been bothered anymore. I was relieved even though I had expected that her tormentor would cower and retreat. Those who prey on the helpless, be they female subordinates or the poor and powerless, are cowards at their core – bullies.

Next:  Excerpt #30 Sex And Corruption
From the author’s second memoir, The Son Has Not Returned. A Surgeon In His Native Malaysia, 2018.


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