Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Failure That Changed Me

A sea of faces loomed in front of me, as I stood on the stage, the microphone before me. I was in the ninth standard and just about to recite Mark Antony’s famous speech at Caesar’s funeral.

Flashback: My grandfather sat before me, nodding as I proclaimed, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen...” and went through the speech with nary a pause.
“Slow down, child! It is a funeral oration, not a train that you have to catch!”

I was living with my paternal grandparents as my Army Dad had been posted in a remote place somewhere in the East of India (locations were not to be disclosed!). Being the eldest grandchild, I was pampered silly and made to feel like a princess. My grandma made sure that I ate well, so well that ‘I just growed and growed’ as Topsy did in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. We had our own cows, and I could never refuse the soft fresh slices of bread liberally coated with white butter and sprinkled with sugar. (If you haven’t tried it, you have missed a slice of Paradise!)

To put things in a nutshell, I turned into Mark Antony, as his speech tripped off my tongue with ease. I could recite it even in my sleep.

Back to the present: As the sea of faces stared at me with single, undivided attention, I started in style. “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears...” and I got to the end of the first four lines, when suddenly, I caught sight of a pair of sparkling eyes that seemed to have an element of malice in them. I stared back like Mowgli hypnotized by the snake, Kaa’s huge saucer-like eyes.

The next thing I knew was that my eloquence had dried up. Mark Antony had disappeared, and in his place was a petrified creature whose knees knocked together as she stood, staring at a sea of faces that had now begun tittering.

I don’t know how I got back home, and, for the first time ever, my grandfather was shocked out of his wits.
“What happened, child? You knew the whole speech so well!”
I nodded in misery and vowed that I would never allow myself to speak in public again.

Almost twenty years later, I was an Army wife and we had Ladies’ Meets which were great fun, as they brought out the best talents in the station. I was prepared to enjoy myself to the hilt when our Commander’s wife burst a bombshell.

“Deepti, I want you to be the Master of Ceremonies for the Ladies’ meet. I know you will do a marvellous job!”

In vain, did I try and convince her that I would die if I had to face a crowd.

In vain, did I try and convince my husband of the very same thing. All he said was,
“You can do it!”

I had a fortnight and by the end of it, I was a wreck. Halfway through, I had realized that there was no way out, and I decided to write down my entire script, jokes and all, and learn it all by heart, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t encounter a pair of sparkling eyes again, filled with malice!

I spent all my waking hours learning my speech. I would sit on the throne, stare with glazed eyes at the mirror, walk in the park and even attend parties, muttering under my breath. People around me gave me strange looks, but they had no effect on me. I was too far gone!

Finally, the dreaded day came, and there I was, dressed to the hilt, looking at a sea of faces all over again. I began with trepidation. The opening lines rolled out, the first joke got a roar of laughter, and then, a miracle took place. I began to relax and enjoy myself. The hours went by, and by the end of the meet, I was throwing about lines like a veteran.

"How far that little candle throws its beams/ So shines a good deed in a naughty world"
                                                                                The Merchant of Venice - William Shakespeare

Even today, when I speak in public, I thank that wonderful senior lady who brought me out of my shell and made me realize that I could face a crowd and speak before them. The lesson I learned that day was that fear can be overcome, if one has confidence in oneself... a lesson which I have tried to sprinkle around as liberally as I can. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

'Maid' For Each Other!

Those were the days when every household could boast of three to four maids, to sweep and swab, cook and wash, dust and clean respectively. Today the old maids have retired and they have educated their children who obviously want nothing to do with menial jobs. The ubiquitous maid is now no longer that! Even carrying bricks at a construction site brings in more money, and the more educated folks are, the higher their aspirations, laudable indeed!

So the few rare maid specimens left behind have suddenly realized their worth. They have hiked up their prices, willing to shoulder the burdens of their predecessors only if they are paid for each separate chore. No longer are the lady of the house and her maid 'made' for each other, for even with compromises made, there lingers a strange kind of friction that causes frequent sparks!

My friend has a maid who has stuck to her for five years, but plays a cat-and-mouse game with her, despite the familiarity. Did anyone mention the word 'contempt'? The maid's ploy is simple and straightforward. She 'kills’ off one family member every time she wants leave. So first off pops one granddad, followed by a granduncle! The head count continues, with a parent here, an aunt there, a young cousin elsewhere who obligingly leaves for the Heavenly Realms, all at regular intervals. Each time, the distraught maid needs three days leave to go to a distant village and mourn with the family. Sometimes the killing is akin to the Solomon Grundy poem - not instantaneous, sickened on Thursday, worsened on Friday, died on Saturday and buried on Sunday!

Our maid is an amiable soul, rather gigantic, but a softie at heart. She seemed genuine at first sight, and I didn't realize that she was all set to develop an amazing relationship with us, a kind of affinity, you might say! For once, when I had a case of food poisoning and spent much time getting the rot out of my system, there came a phone call from Maid dear, sounding exhausted as she described similar symptoms in such graphic terms that I hastily put down the phone.

When my mother got wet in the rain and came down with a horrendous cold, misty eyed and red nosed, I could hear supportive sniffs from the kitchen as well. Our maid seemed to have got wet in the rain as well!

Came the day when I slipped on a pebble and strained my back. The doctor put me on one week of physiotherapy and traction, and when I got home, I was not in the least surprised when my maid walked in, clasping her vast expanse of a back, a look of agony on her face. The doctor had apparently asked her to 'put current' on her back and take bed rest. That was when I vowed that no member in our family would fall sick, at least not noticeably! 

And so it goes! No longer do medicines lie, strewn around on the dining table. My mother applies her balm on aching muscles only after the door closes on our maid. My husband hurriedly covers his mouth to stop a stray cough from emerging and I keep a wide sunny smile on whenever she is around to assure her that all's right with the world! Needless to say, our maid has been hale and hearty for the last few months, even as I send a silent prayer up in support! Along with a fervent plea that no one in our family dare break a bone!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Twisted - Shravya Gunipudi

“Imagination is just distorted reality.”
Shravya Gunipudi

‘Twisted’ captures the reader’s imagination from the first page of its prologue itself. Ria, the attractive protagonist, is involved in an accident that leaves her a trifle confused about her life and the people populating it. She begins seeing visions which leave her even more confused as repressed memories of childhood spring up.

“Somehow, after the accident, it feels like all my memory is there, but it has been jolted out of its place. The bits of memory are floating around in my head and it is up to me to put each part back where it belongs.”

Ria’s son, Dhruv, means the world to her. However, she is not as sure about her husband, Jay, whom she addressed by another name after the accident – Anuj. As visions assail her, the intensity of her emotions haunts her. Her psychiatrist, Lekha, and her close friend, Sanjana, try and get the missing bits of her memory back. When she meets her neighbour, Tanmay, she is further shocked and unsettled. Many interesting characters populate the pages of Shravya Gunipudi’s thrilling book – Uncle Raghu, Aunty Haritha and Sheela, Gaurav and of course, Jhansi, Ria’s exquisite sister.

Jhansi tries to reconcile Ria with her father, the father who left her alone with her mother, and moved away so that he could take care of the former. There are many hidden resentments within Ria’s heart at his so-called betrayal. Her mother’s words resonate in her heart.
“Sometimes we are so consumed by hatred that we forget how to love.”

What are the secrets that have turned Ria’s life into a mystery? What is the connection between Lekha, Tanmay, Anuj and Jay? Why does everyone around her try and protect her from the truth of her past? Who is the mysterious Gaurav and how is he involved in the whole web that has been spun around her? Why does her dead mother make sudden, whimsical appearances before her? 

‘Twisted’ tells a tale that keeps the reader on tenterhooks, as it takes a winding path that has a shock at every turn. Shravya Gunipudi’s style of narration is masterly especially since a plot, so psychological and convoluted, could have confused the readers out of their wits. Instead, it has clearly defined guideposts that aid them on.

For those that love psychological thrillers, this is a masterpiece. As it is for those who enjoy a good story!


Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Royal Affair by Preethi Venugopal

What happens when a beautiful English lady and the attractive scion of the erstwhile royal family of Sravanapura fall in love? Having met at Oxford, Prince Vijay Dev Varman is deeply attracted to the blue-eyed beauty, Jane Worthington, who is an Indophile determined to savour everything about his fascinating country, India.

Jane is a free bird who abhors restrictions. Her natural curiosity and open nature create ripples in Vijay’s heart, but lies and deceit make them break up, not once, but many times over. In fact, misunderstandings rule their lives and they end up playing hide-and-seek with their emotions.

Jane gets a promotional transfer to India, where she has to lead a team and anchor a documentary on the ancient monuments constructed by the Hoysala kings in South India. She also has a mission to fulfil there, to find her grandfather Bill’s twin brother, Daniel, a soldier in the British Indian Army who had gone missing in 1947.  Daniel, who had always been a hero in the family, had been seen in Bangalore and Grandpa Bill is determined to go to find him. However, his weak heart cannot take the momentous news and hence, he implores Jane to find Daniel and bring him back home.

On the other side, Vijay has now got engaged to Tejaswani, herself a royal as well as a bright management student, and the daughter of a successful businessman. It is purely a business venture as a pragmatic Vijay, who has had his heart broken, now believes that “Love, the most treacherous and ephemeral emotion, left in its wake only broken hearts and tears.”

However, fate has different ideas for them. Jane lands up in an impressive five-star hotel in Bangalore that is owned by Vijay. The two bump into each other and he promises to help her to find Daniel, agreeing to let bygones be bygones. The story moves on at an even pace as the two dig up yesteryear dancer and film actress called Rukmini Rai, and painstakingly try and put together the events that led to the mystery.

Finally, Jane goes back with Vijay to the grand Sravanapura palace, where she meets his charming sister, Kritika, as more of the pieces of the mystery are pieced together.
Who is the mystery woman whose portrait hangs in the royal gallery? How is Daniel connected to the Sravanapura family? How badly did the ensuing scandal affect relationships, and what role did Indrani Devi, Vijay’s grandmother, play in it?
Is Jane fated to be a scapegoat in the whole royal affair? Will she finally be able to fulfil her beloved grandfather’s final wish? Can she overcome the obstacles in the way of her love for Vijay? After all, handling heartbreak is never easy.

Preethi Venugopala spins a wondrous web of romance and suspense which holds the reader in thrall. She gives the reader an idea of the history of Sravanapura, a 500 year-old kingdom, which had proclaimed independence from the Vijayanagara Empire. Preethi also embellishes her story with various Indian details, like a Krishna Leela performance, the essence of an Indian biryani (in fact, food plays a significant role in the book!) and the excitement of wearing the perfect Indian outfit with all its adornments, all of which make her story come alive to its readers.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Avishi by Saiswaroopa Iyer

Saiswaroopa Iyer


Long before the times of Draupadi and Sita
Immortalised in the hymns of the Rig Veda
But largely forgotten to the memory of India
Is the Warrior Queen with an iron leg, Vishpala

Brought up in the pristine forest school of Naimisha, Avishi reaches the republic of Ashtagani in search of her destiny. When Khela, the oppressive King of the neighbouring Vrishabhavati begins to overwhelm and invade Ashtagani, Avishi rises to protect her settlement. But peril pursues her everywhere.

Separated from her love, her settlement broken, with a brutal injury needing amputation of her leg, can Avishi overcome Khela?

If stories about ancient India, especially those with strong women characters interest you, then Avishi is a story you must read!

Guest Post:

How did you decide to write a story about a warrior queen with an amputated leg and how did amputations work back then? It must have been a gruelling process in itself. Is this described in your book?

I discovered Vishpala while writing Abhaya where a young Abhaya is told the story of a certain inspiring female warrior from the past by her father. I was intrigued to find that the Rig Vedic hymns that mentioned Vishpala were actually the first reference to prosthesis in world literature. Even the international medical journals on the topic start with mentioning the Rig Vedic reference. For a brief period, I was appalled that we in India don’t celebrate this fact well enough. I strongly believe that stories choose their storytellers. It was up to me to explore that fascinating world and tell the story to respect the character who manifested to me.

Having a whole ancient world to reconstruct is not an easy job. It required me to be doubly sure of the topography, vegetation, tools and technology, metals and material available in those times. It also required me to challenge my comfort zones as far as creative liberties went. Coming to the process of prosthesis and amputation, there is enough material available about the history of prosthesis. The historical process of amputation did take the agony of the patient into consideration. With some effort, I could find sufficient information.

You can, of course, find the description in Avishi. And yes, it IS a gruelling process for the amputee as well as the doctor. The additional complication in Avishi was that the doctor supervising the amputation was the troubled lover of my protagonist with his own arc and journey. There was this huge emotional angle too.

In fact, this was the crux of the story that cemented the core of the characters to me as the writer. The woman who could withstand the ordeal and rebound could not be an ordinary warrior. The man who had the nerve to try a nascent invention on his beloved could not be an ordinary doctor. Their individual arcs had to unite here after a roller coaster ride of union, separation and reunion, besides the main plot. Some well-wishing critics felt that I was harsh with my male protagonist, SatyaJ. The innovator in him convinced me that his was not an easy journey. His journey challenged my creative comfort zones and I enjoyed delving into his complex character that had a lot of ancient science.

Thank you so much, Saiswaroopa, for sharing your thoughts with your readers. All the best and may your book soar!

Read an excerpt here:
The structure under the outcast control looked like an autonomous garrison. It was on the Southwestern corner of Vrishabhavati hidden by wild growth and as heavily guarded as the city square. Avishi counted two doors as Vyala carried her inside. From the inside, it did not look as dilapidated as from outside. The guards here were the ‘out-casts’ as the world called them. Unlike the guards of the city, they did not cover themselves with leather torso. Instead they wore loin cloth in various darker shades. Small and big weapons, strings made up of various animal teeth, tusk work and beads made up their ‘jewellery’. To Avishi, it looked atrociously out of proportion. But she also noticed the level of coordination with which the ‘out-casts’ functioned. Like they were trained to fight in an army.
“Untie her.” Vyala instructed Manduka, his forehead revealing wrinkles of dilemma. Manduka was happy to comply. Except for a few scars on his shoulder, the man had an enviable physique. But it was his nose that Avishi felt was the pronounced feature of his face. It was as though it was abruptly turned crooked by his right nostril. She could see that the Outcast Lord made no attempt to hide his displeasure about the predicament she presented him. What worried her more was that she found herself incapable of even walking to the closest stone seat and had to limp leaning on Manduka. The wound seemed deeper than she had imagined it.
“We don’t kill women.” He began and paused noticing her unimpressed glare.
“Is that supposed to impress me? Is that supposed to cover up the other crimes you commit for that monster Khela?”
Vyala shook his head, a resentful smile appearing on his lips, but for only a moment. “Whatever we, the outcasts do would be a crime in the eyes of others…you are?”
“Avishi, the Ganamukhyaa of Ashtagani.”
“But he said that you are a traitor’s...”
Avishi glared back at him showing no inclination to explain. She saw Vyala sit on the stone seat next to where she sat.
“If Khela does not find a proof of your death soon, we would have to incur his wrath! An atrocity against the outcasts would not even be seen as a transgression by anyone.” His lips pursed for a long moment.
Avishi wondered if he expected a solution from her. Something she would have to help him out if she had to escape alive. But before she or Vyala could speak, a sound of heavy anklets was heard. Avishi turned to her right and saw a young woman, not older than seventeen autumns scurry and then clutch at her bulging belly. Her arrival only seemed to increase the gloom on the faces of both the men.
“Brother Vyala, did he not come with you?” Her shrill voice made Avishi think she was even younger than she looked. And impregnated at this age?
“Go back to your room, Majjari.” Vyala hissed.
But Majjari was in no mood to heed her brother’s words. She eyed Avishi, her head tilted to left and brows knitting. Her eyes then brightened.
“So, he sent me a slave!”
“Slave, do you know how to groom my hair the way Queens do?” Majjari approached Avishi taking her arm. “And mind you, slaves don’t sit when their mistress stands!”
Avishi had decided that her patience was at its tail end when she saw Vyala hurry and pull Majjari away, making her wince at his grip.
“Listen, you disgrace! Nobody is going to slave for you! Scurry back to your room and dare not show that inauspicious face of yours again!”
Majjari shook his arm away with a hiss. “Wait till I become the Queen, you, worthless dog!” Her tone broke. “I shall make Khela punish you! I bear his prince! Mind you!” The fierce frown stayed on her forehead long after she countered her brother. Avishi saw Manduka intervene and lead Majjari away with endearments that one would use with a toddler.
Vyala’s shoulders slumped.
“You let Khela impregnate your own sister.” Avishi shook her head at Vyala. “Lord Vyala, where do I even begin?”
“You are nobody to judge us Ganamukhyaa. Khela promised us a slow integration with his military if…”
“You loot and kill for him? He gets the spoils hiding behind the dread of Dandaka?”
Vyala’s jaw clenched. “You’ve never been to Dandaka, Ganamukhyaa Avishi. If you did, you would… Why in the name of Mother earth am I even justifying myself to you.” Vyala gathered himself signalling at two other outcast followers. “Take her inside and treat her wound.” Turning to Avishi for a brief moment, he added with a tone of finality. “I shall do my best to not kill you, but I can’t afford Khela’s wrath on my people. Not now, Ganamukhyaa.”
Future still hung in balance. Avishi had to come to terms with the fact that any attempt to escape from here will only complicate things for her. And she truly needed her wound to be tended. The knife that wounded her might have rusted. Tears of frustration threatened to flow out of her eyes. She told herself to bide her time and regain her lost energy.

Grab your copy @

About the author

Saiswaroopa Iyer is an IITian and Venture Capital professional turned author. Her debut novel Abhaya, published in 2015, was a tale set in the Mahabharata period, exploring the legend of Narakasura Vadha. She likes to focus and expand on ancient Indian stories with strong female characters.

      Stalk her @     


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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Happy Children's Day to My Little Sparkle!

It has been a while since I wrote about my little sparkle, and what better day to do so than on Children’s Day?

Of course, by the time I wished her, it was almost eight in the night, maybe because my brain had taken a drain in the midst of all the packing we had been busy with. My daughter, Priyanka, put up a post wishing her little Zoya with the following words:  "Happy Children's day to my little munchkin and all the other cuties out there.You make life fun, crazy, adventurous and tiring - all at the same time." 

The first thought which whizzed through my mind when I read this was, "Just like her Momma!" When Priyanka was growing up, she too made life fun, crazy, adventurous and tiring for us, and we loved every moment of it. the whole roller-coaster ride! 

Zoya is one and a half years old, and time is flying by. A hundred different expressions cross her face in the span of a minute; sometimes curious, at other times, complacent. When she doesn't like something, her lower lip juts out, a giant tear hangs precariously as she assumes a mutinous attitude.

Just like her Momma whose lip used to almost touch the floor when she was unhappy or annoyed. She would stomp off into what we dubbed her 'kop bhavan', a hangover from the serialized  Ramayana, in which Queen Kaikeyi used to storm off into her opulent 'kop bhavan' when she was disgruntled with her hapless husband.

As Zoya traipses across the shopping mall, her sharp eyes dart around, falling on all the fascinating sights that surround her - the people, the lights, the colours and the noise. Priyanka once sent us a video in which we could see the little Missy going "Wow!" "Wow!" "Wow!" at every new thing she saw. She had an audience, of course, all amused at the sight of this tiny creature making her appreciation so obvious.

Her favourite spot is any eating joint, where she sits pretty on her own little baby chair, and eats French fries, chicken nuggets and noodles, taking sips from a straw that delves into a deep glass awash with juice.

Just like her Momma, who used to strut across the Army shopping centre, making a beeline for the ice cream counter. Once there, she would say clearly, "Bhaiyya, ice cream, please!" The said bhaiyya would promptly hand her a cup of vanilla ice cream, her staple, confident that her father would come and pay him for it.

Or the times when we would be playing Tambola at the Deolali Temple Hill Institute, and she would pick up her 'soffink' (soft drink) even before her dad picked up his not - so - 'soffink'. Dad's barbeques were legendary, and our little Miss would warm her hands before the fire, waiting for her piece of chicken to cook.

Music has played a significant role in all our lives. So, while we are thrilled when Zoya sings the English alphabet or 'Johnny, Johnny!", we are in raptures when she actually lisps 'Edelweishh, blesshh my Oya evva!" because Priyanka and I have sung 'Edelweiss' so often to her. The  moment we wait for is when she goes high like a little tweety bird.

Just like her Momma,who would dance to any music she heard on her chubby little legs. But the song that made us, and most specially her maternal grandmother tear up, was 'Kuch Na Kaho' from 1942 - A Love Story. At the age of eight or so, she would sing it, going higher and higher till she hit the crescendo perfectly. She even won a prize in school once after a rendition.

I am often amazed at the twinkle in Zoya's eyes, as though she has a secret joy within herself that lights up her entire persona. She is not yet two, but she has a wonderful sense of humour that sparkles forth through the mirror of her soul, her smiling eyes.

Just like her Momma, who also has large brown eyes that smile out when she wants them to. As a baby, she too was a good-natured soul, generous and particularly adept at shepherding kids younger than her, a trait that was appreciated by many a weary mother. At other times, she had a healthy streak of mischief that made her the perfect tomboy.

Like mother, like daughter! Isn't that what life is all about? Whether it is a question of the genes being passed down or a soul being reborn, it seems a miracle to see our little granddaughter follow so closely in her Momma's footsteps. Our hearts fill with joy when we see the beautiful bond that shines forth between Zoya and her Momma.

 And when she sees her Dada, who is busy holding down a strenuous job and doing his MBA at a frenetic pace, she goes crazy and hurtles into his arms, refusing to let him out of her sight. 

You wonder whether it is possible to love anyone that deeply, but then, my husband and I have been along that same path ourselves, as have our parents before us. And when Jodi Picoult says, "Parents aren't the people you come from. They're the people you want to be, when you grow up," it suddenly makes perfect sense.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Back Off, Back Ache!


“Ouch!” And that was it! My back decided to misbehave just as we were in the throes of packing, all set to move from Chennai to Kerala. It was not as if I had turned into a contortionist or anything like that. Oh, no, I was too smart to do that. And why, you may well ask!

It was around five years back that, in the flush of youth (ahem! ahem!); all right, I take that back. Around five years back, when hues of lurid burgundy had taken over the black in my hair, I decided that it was time I turned towards a healthier lifestyle. What could I do to get there without too much of a struggle?

Eat healthy? Well, that was a tough choice, because carbohydrates, proteins, sugar, oil and salt, I loved them all to distraction. Walking? Definitely a better choice if I could get off my back and move outside into O2.

Incidentally, to avoid misunderstanding, O2 happens to be the name of a health studio, (location undisclosed), which flashed its logo like a giant octopus spreading its tentacles around to snare in unsuspecting customers, like me.

So, there I was, running for all I was worth on the treadmill, my headphones blaring music into my ears, and as I looked around, I realized that all kinds of people do make up the world. There were the svelte types and the rock hard abs that appeared and disappeared like fireflies. One moment they were draped on the mat, and at others they were slithering up the wall like lizards. OK, I didn’t really mean that! But, they were all over the place and in my face, and looking too good to be true.

Then, there were the weight watchers like me who had enough weight to watch, and more. We groaned and moaned, twisted and turned, ran and cycled for all we were worth. We wrung out wet towels with our sodden feelings, hoping against hope that we would soon reach the pinnacle that we were aiming for... fitness.

A month crawled by, and so did I; I crawled to the gym, I crawled on the mat and I crawled down the weight chart, as I lost two kilograms when I should have lost ten. Weight lifting was also part of the training. Unfortunately, a weight trainer took a look at me and decided that I was equipped to lift more weights than I could. I did so, and I heard an ominous crack.

I had hurt my back! No doubt about it!

The crawling continued. Now I crawled to the physiotherapist’s clinic, and had traction to iron out the cricks on my back. It took me a week of that and a month of medicines to undo the harm the over-enthusiastic trainer had done me.

I also went for an MRI for my back, which entailed me lying on my back, clad in a hospital robe that was held up by a string and sheer will power, and listening to various wheezy sounds as the machine recorded every vertebra and ridge on my backbone.
“Please don’t move, or sneeze or turn, Ma’am!” came the warning. “Or breathe, perhaps!” I added to myself, as I strained not to move a muscle.

The verdict was alarming. Not the end-of-the-world alarming, maybe, but definitely, my-life-was-over alarming.

Of course, that was the end of O2 as far as I was concerned. No one else was concerned, of course, except my poor husband, who was the butt of my whines and tears. He bought me a gel belt which I could heat up and place on my back when it got too sore.

The prescription was simple. No bending forward, no lifting up any weights at all and no sitting at the computer. The last was the most difficult of all, for my entire life, personal and professional, depended on my work on my laptop.

 And now, five years later, my back creaked in protest and I was petrified that I would have to undergo the treatment all over again. Out came the gel belt, along with an ice pack, with which I blew hot and cold. Our apartment smelt like a Tiger Balm factory as I rubbed on ointment after ointment, hoping that my back would miraculously back me up.

Finally, we decided to go to a doctor, and he took one look at me and rattled out the three symptoms that had held me captive for the past one week – intense intermittent pain, inability to turn from side to side when lying down, and stiffness in the early mornings. While I nodded in bemusement, he prodded me gingerly on my back and then made me lift up my legs.
Finally, he uttered the magic words that made my heart sing.
“It’s just a muscle strain. No disc damage!”
Apparently, I had been having the wrong medicines and ointment! Lesson learnt: never self-medicate.

Did I need to go back to him after the week of treatment?
“No, no, not at all! This is only like a fever!” he exclaimed, and ushered us out with perfect courtesy, probably because there were half a dozen patients waiting patiently for him. It was then that I noticed a glass panel facing his room, through which the aforesaid waiting dozen must have been peering in at the sight of me lying like a beached whale, all the while being prodded by the good doctor. Some mode of entertainment, I deduced, as the television outside was wireless, literally hanging on a single frayed wire!

Needless to say, I was so pepped up by the good news that I spun around like a top when I got home, and am still doing so, medicines and all.

For, as the saying goes, “If you rest, you rust.”