The narrator – a melancholic, retired Indian physician now living in London – rehearses his life story and its secrets that he plans on telling his adult daughter when she visits him from America. Dr. Kaiser Shah (sometimes called “Dr. K”) sent his only child, young Sara to a boarding school in America after her mother, Atiya died of cardiac arrest. Since then, father and daughter have rarely seen one another.

For more than twenty years, Dr. K worked in a hot town in the Middle East yet never got to know or understand its people. His only friend was a troubled hospital anesthetist, Biju. Dr. K was employed by the local hospital and assigned to the Accident and Emergency department. The hospital administrator, Sir Farhad (a man Dr. K feared and revered) was an enigmatic figure of authority. Dr. K was obsessed with accumulating wealth. When Farhad offered him an opportunity to earn extra money, Dr. K had no qualms accepting the new part-time position: punishment-surgeon. He would supervise criminal sentences requiring physical mutilation that were imposed by a judge.

Biju sarcastically told his friend, “You are at the cutting edge of your profession, Dr. K” (111). Yet there was no humor or humanity at presiding over the amputation of the hands of a father-son team of thieves or a maid convicted of stealing jewelry who underwent a similar clinical maiming. The hospital routinely accepted these “punishment cases” referred from the Corrections department and constructed a special operating theatre on the top floor for these “special ops.” Over a decade, Dr. K figured his involvement in this injurious punishment amounted to at least twenty cases.

Raucous Biju gets accused and convicted of stealing drugs from the hospital. His penalty was removal of a hand. Dr. K pleaded on behalf of Biju with the hospital administrator but to no avail. Dr. K was not convinced of Biju’s guilt and would not participate in the amputation of his friend’s hand. Dr. K resigned his post as punishment-surgeon and eventually settled in England with plenty of money for a comfortable albeit lonely life.


This disturbing and at times dastardly story displays more than a slight hint of Franz Kafka’s influence including the brutal application of “justice” and a byzantine bureaucracy. Even the physician-narrator’s nickname, Dr. K appears to be a nod to Kafka.

The novel illustrates the personal and professional downward spiral that can occur when empathy and morality are subjugated to the pursuit of wealth and status. The story raises troubling questions about the participation of doctors in the legal system’s punishment of criminals.

The reliability of the narrator is tenuous. He may be in denial or perhaps his memory has grown fragile and corrupted. Remorse seems mostly absent. The story warns of the preponderance of lies we tell – to oneself and to others. Dr. K will not be mistaken for a model doctor or a good man. He has participated in hideous acts of cruelty, been an absent father, and placed the acquisition of money as his main priority. The opening line of the novel is a blunt confession and a succinct conclusion: “I did it for money” (3)



Primary Source

Tell Her Everything


Melville House

Place Published

Brooklyn, NY



Page Count