The Inside Story

Not an uncommon experience this: An on-and-off joint ailment raising its ugly head without warning; a sudden shoulder surgery that puts even your arms at, er, arms length for weeks; and a long recuperation/therapy process that promises to be more painful than the pain that the painkillers killed. But then, on the flip side, which also becomes the positive side through a simple switch of attitude, trauma can also turn into a good teacher.

Even in case of external provocations like accidents and infections, illness is intrinsically an inside job. At the mental level, you are as ill as you think you are, that is, once you factor in whatever is in store. On the physical plane the acceptance should be of our ignorance of our own innards and their workings, and how fragile and vulnerable the human body is. The resultant demolition of assumed infallibility and the demise of ego is a lasting lesson. Yes, the same could be achieved by arduous spiritual practices. But a dose of anaesthesia works quicker: Nothing can be more humbling as getting knocked out for hours, your prone body at the mercy of strangers and scanners, resuming a dazed existence with no idea of time or place and worst, struggling endlessly just to make your bowels answer nature’s frantic calls! ‘I’ is a lie!

Despite my deep allergy for biology since school, I happen to know health is wealth. We should never take our body for granted. One can take a long detour on this subject but suffice to say that, notwithstanding the giant strides in medical science much of our physical being remains a mystery. The scalpel has barely scraped the skin’s surface. ‘Body language’ is still Greek and Latin, … no, make it German and Sanskrit, beyond common understanding. On the psychological front, less said the better. Indeed, on both counts, there is less and less to claim credit for as more and more unravels. There may be smart gadgets and smarter doctors, but the body can outsmart and outwit them all. Again, intervention may be a doctor’s decision; industrious insurers would be eager to indulge you too, at least till the initial payment; but healing remains the body’s business. It brooks no interference here. This is said not to undermine faith, but to encourage better care of body when fine, and when not, allow its alliance with the calendar to do the work.

I for one prefer to trust my doctors, not just owing to my ‘biological’ aversions. There is a daily deluge of surveys, suggestions and sundry discoveries that it is impossible for ignoramuses to sift and salvage the truth from the debris of info. I am not one of those diligent or paranoid googlers and email ‘forwarders’ that get excited over such stuff inundating the internet. There was a big divide even before the digitals widened it. We always had to reckon with the eternal but essential debate between traditional wisdom and modern practices; between tested home remedies and ‘toxic’ tablets et al; between ice packs and hot bags. Recall the old cliche on common cold: You can cure it in a week with medicines or leave it alone so it vanishes in seven days! Differing opinions of doctors, wide variations in hospital care and costs, and Governments’ abdication of its public health duties have caused havoc in patients confidence. Reckless commerce and detached doctors compound the confusion. Some ‘specialists’ and tests often give us this morbid feeling that the practitioner licence is actually a learners’ licence even as our body is turned into a lab.

And yes, the idle devil’s workshop introspects a lot too. The impotence does get to you and the near and dear. You almost empathise with out-of-power polticos, a fast expanding elite club now. The alarm over more inaction, boredom and dependence overwhelms. But soon, you are ashamed at cribbing over small, temporary inconveniences while it could have been worse. And you are amazed at those who are born or live with disabilities and carry on with nary a complaint. We have to rise on our own mental crutches and writing this in ‘short hand’ is my way, a small but significant self-assurance, nothing else.

I beg a couple of more weeks of leave of absence. I might torment the reader earlier too. But not being a natural ‘dictator’ and just in case a therapist dictates me to lay down my arms longer, here is wishing a very happy and most certainly, a very healthy new year!

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Jawahar T R