Do you know anyone whose retina required emergency surgery? You’re right, neither did I — not till I was forced into having one of my own, that is. Now, it turns out, everybody knows somebody whose aunt’s first cousin had one, too, and as witness to that stellar event, they just have to share the news and its incumbent set of dos and don’ts with you. At last count, I know 82 people whose families have faced similar vicissitudes, and they would like to persuade me, mid-treatment, to seek another medical opinion, offer myself to the ministrations of only their trusted doctors, or at least open myself to the options of alternative healing.
Friends must also be feeling obliged to send something — anything — to assuage their guilt about being well while I’ve been under the knife, so to say, and while it’s a solicitous gesture and I am truly overwhelmed, might they not have been a little more sensitive? To send books to someone who has to steer clear from reading for some length of time is an act of a little thoughtlessness. Still, at least I have a shelf full of books to turn to for when the doctor says it’s okay to read again. Even though they all consist of just three titles — the other 53 should be good to give to those in imminent danger of temporarily losing their eyesight, which, if the queue outside the eye surgeon’s chamber is any indication, is as common as this season’s cold.
Everybody loves a sick person, if only because it gives them a chance to talk about their own illnesses that no one had bothered to ask about in a long time. I can now say with a degree of conviction that I am surrounded by friends who are all ill to a lesser or greater degree. One has rosacea (so we know his red nose isn’t indicative of alcoholism, guys); at least two have irritable bowel syndrome (that explains their temper); there are some who seem to spend all their time in hospital OPDs; some simply talk — at great length — about mysterious diseases stalking their interiors. My own illness has been like a contagion — it gets everyone else talking about their ailments. Weighing in on perspective, we are a seriously ill nation.
Everyone is also an expert on diets. As I write this, I am surrounded by sheets and mails forwarded by concerned relatives and friends asking me to take/never undertake fasts, and eat/give up meat, alcohol, legumes, rice, sugar, desserts, butter, oil, fats, ice creams, salt. I am asked, variously, to renounce/insist on dinner; savour/shirk soups and salads; add/lose weight to cope with the antibiotics.
It’s all so confusing, I am glad to have a bunch who’re willing to chant on my behalf, forward chain emails that promise to deliver me from further misery, slip in a quid to a priest to say special prayers, or handhold me through sacred ritual baloney. I can’t really hope to repair my body without adequate band-aid for the soul. I need to urgently shed negative energies and generate positive karma. As a result, I have been asked to cleanse myself of all thoughts, good or bad, empty my mind, refrain from talking in a form of enforced vipassna, do yoga, walk barefoot on grass, join/abstain from the gym. It’s all very confusing, so if it’s all right with you — and even if it isn’t — I’m switching off the phone, disconnecting the mail, and retreating underground for a while.