Saturday, September 29, 2018

And They Live Happily Ever After! #MyFriendAlexa

                                                                 The Social Rush

“Once upon a time...” is almost always expected to end with “... and they lived happily ever after!” I remember sitting at my grandmother’s knee, staring at her expressive face, waiting for one wondrous tale to get over so that she could start another. Whether she spoke of Krishna and Sri Rama, or the Panchatantra, most of the stories ended happily, and I preferred them that way. Besides adventure, bravery and excitement, love too played a vital role, in making the stories dovetail into sagas of fulfillment.

So I grew up with stars in my eyes, hoping to find the ideal man, despite all my mother’s frantic matchmaking efforts to divert my attention into more suitable, but definitely less exciting, avenues. When he finally walked into my library, and much later into my heart, a dashing young Army officer with brown eyes and dimples to die for, I realized that the “once upon a time” period had begun. Those were idyllic days, the days of courtship, when we saw everything through rose-coloured spectacles, as birds chirped and imaginary violins quavered their romantic tunes. As he read a million books to impress me, I preened in my dusty little library which boasted of one measly fan that hardly caused the musty air to circulate.


Meanwhile, more plots were afoot! Our families had other ideas for us, as they brought other proposals our way, trying to tempt us with bio-datas that beguiled. Maybe those plots worked against them, as we finally made up our minds and decided that we would strive to live happily ever after. And in the twinkling of an eye, we were hooked, booked and cooked!

I often wonder how weddings in Hindi movies are shot and displayed in such detail. Every moment is recorded, as the bride and the groom are groomed to perfection and look bandbox fresh. I, for one, remember nothing of my special day, as everything happened too soon. Kerala weddings are the shortest functions ever; before you can blink and open your eyes, the wedding is over and done with.

My to-be husband was in less of a daze than I was. To date, he remembers the saris of all my friends who attended the wedding. However, when it comes to mine, he has no clue, his excuse being, “Well, it was such an unusual colour... you can’t blame me for not getting it right!” It was much later that I realized that Army guys had the skill to recognize aircraft that were mere specks in the sky because they had the eyesight of a hawk.

Marriage was a whole load of fun, especially in Army circles. As a new bride, I did not have to cook for the first fortnight, as people called us over for breakfasts, lunches and dinners... and all the little teas and coffees in between. So there we were, along with three other newlywed couples, shuttling our merry paths from meal to meal, where we gorged on every kind of delicacy. Love and happiness were in the air, and God was in His heaven.

                                                                 Famous Fashionista

Till the day when I had to light a gas stove and had no idea how to! I had never entered the kitchen in my life and here I was, looking desperately at all the different coloured dals that mockingly smiled off the shelves at me. Those days were a true test of love, as I tore my hair out in handfuls. My poor husband ate everything manfully, maybe due to his Army training, and got to see dishes that had never been cooked by anyone before. The pressure cooker burst a couple of times, unable to stand the strain, even as I liberally doused ladies’ finger with water and created a strain of upma that glued people’s teeth together.

I could never live the latter down. The Unit bachelors loved raiding their senior officers at midnight, and their normal routine was to make a beeline towards the refrigerator and clean it out completely – bread, eggs, meat, veggies, chocolates and everything that was edible. However, one morning, they landed up for breakfast.

“Ma’am, today we want to taste your haath ka khana!” Ignoring my dismayed expression, they sat down at the dining table, a gang of spirited youngsters who genuinely wanted to have a good meal.

                                                    House Poulette -

There were no eggs and bread as the refrigerator had been cleaned out the night before by them. That was when a brainwave struck. Upma seemed the best solution... if solution was the right word, for what I produced was more of a gooey paste that stuck on to the spoon as though its life depended on it.

Sheepishly, I set the gooey mess on the dining table as five pairs of eyes looked at it in shock. However, they were too well-mannered to say anything. They dug in manfully, as I waited in trepidation. Five minutes went by, and then ten! The silence continued, and continued... till I realized that the upma had caused their teeth to stick together, making them unable to say a single word. Like I said, I never did live that down, ever!

We had a sahayak who was obviously better versed that I was at naming the different dals, which were yellow, red, green or black to me. When he realized that they were Latin and Greek to me, he took it upon himself to educate me by putting little labels on them. So masoor dal turned into Mysore dal and arhad acquired a religious tinge as he dubbed it ‘har har’ dal. When I tried to articulate the latter, I wondered why folks around me went ‘ha ha’ at my ‘har har’!

When I look back at those days, I wonder how my better half sustained himself; on love and fresh air, perhaps. We both lived and learnt, as the years went by. In two years we received the greatest gift ever, when our little daughter was born to further forge the bond between us. Today, she has given us a priceless gift in the form of our granddaughter, and we continue to live happily ever after!


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Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Miracle of Love - Fiction - Post Number 8: #MyFriendAlexa

Credits: Col. Gopinath Menon

The waves crashed on the rocks, a sound that Sudesh loved, as he sat feeling the freshness of the spray on his face. Voices echoed around him, and he could feel the vibration as people jogged along the beach, and his sightless eyes turned towards the movement. He had been coming to this spot for many months now, ever since he had shifted to Mumbai, after his mother had passed away. 

The sound of the sea evoked a vision that he could only feel, not see. He could smell the delicious puris that Ram Prasad was frying, very near to where he sat. Every day the cheerful proprietor would look for a moment when there were few customers, and hand over a plate of piping hot puris and delicious potato curry to the gentle blind man who sat there, so young and so uncomplaining!


Sudesh heard the tinkling of anklets near him. "Who is it?" he asked curiously. "May I sit here?" asked a soft voice, and he had a sudden mental vision of a lovely young girl, delicate and lively. 

"Do sit down!" he invited, "That is if you have nothing else to do!" He heard the thud as she sat down beside him, and sensed the smile in her voice. "I am a regular customer of Ram Prasad's, and a great fan of his puris. He told me about you the last time I was here!"
They were interrupted by Ram Prasad who brought two plates of hot puris, and they sat in silence, munching away contentedly, not wanting to break the silence.

"You haven't told me your name!" Sudesh asked suddenly. "Kavita!" she replied, and the ice was broken. They began to talk about all kinds of subjects, and Sudesh tried to conjure up her face. Was she short or tall, fair or dark? He sensed that she had long hair and sparkling black eyes, judging by the easy way she laughed. Her heart-shaped face would have an expression of mischief, and there would be a round red bindi in the centre of her forehead. He wished he could have a glimpse of her. What did she feel when she looked at him? Pity? He hoped not because he hated being pitied.

The hours flew by as though they had wings. They had already drunk two cups of masala chai and the breeze had grown stronger, as the sun prepared to set on the horizon. Ram Prasad was closing up shop and it was time for Sudesh to go home as well. "Goodnight, Sudeshji!" Kavita's voice tinkled in his ear.

                                                         Credits: Col. Gopinath Menon

"Will I see you again?" he asked, rather ironically, and she laughed as she replied, "Why not! You couldn't keep me away from Ram Prasad's puris!"  Sudesh heard her go with a strange pang in his heart. He had never felt this way before.

For a change, he kept sitting, immersed in his own thoughts. He felt a warm glow at the thought of his new friend. But how could he, a blind man, harbour such thoughts about any girl? He tried to imagine Kavita's face again. Maybe she was like a poem herself, judging by her name! He imagined her large lustrous eyes smiling at him, giving him hope.

And suddenly his shoulders slumped. How could he expect a beautiful young girl to marry a blind man like himself? When Ram Prasad came by to guide him back home, he found him sitting listlessly, a picture of dejection.

"Sudesh Babu, I thought meeting Kavita would have cheered you up! Instead, you are sitting like a monument of despair!" Sudesh got up with difficulty and groped around for his cane. "Ram Prasad, don't introduce me to any more girls!" he groaned. "I liked Kavita, even though I have no hope that she will ever reciprocate!"

Ram Prasad whooped in joy. "Congratulations, Sudesh Babu! She is a lovely girl!" He went on happily. "I have been trying to bring you two together for some time now!" as Sudesh heard him out in disbelief, he said, "She is a beautiful person. When she was young, she was involved in an accident in which she lost her eyesight! Never once has she complained or thought of it as a disability!" 

Sudesh listened, lost for words. He was elated because now he could ask Kavita to marry him. He was strangely happy that he himself was blind because he could always imagine her large lustrous eyes looking at him with hope and love!

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Friday, September 21, 2018



The colourful balloons soaring against a blue sky catch one’s attention at first sight, bringing the sense of joy that balloons always do. ‘A Skyful of Balloons’ is a novella by the erudite wordsmith, Santosh Bakaya, a story set in a sprawling bungalow in Raj Bagh, Srinagar, where the ebullient Priti lives with her parents.

“She talked and talked.
And talked
Like a babbling brook outside her house, she babbled on.
And on and on she went with a bright-eyed exuberance.
But one day she turned quiet. Extremely quiet.
The moon and the flowers no longer sent her into a tizzy.”

The story is that of a boy and a girl, extremely close friends, whose conversations veer around poetry and literary allusions, painting and Russian writers. They banter in good humour as they spout lines from Romeo and Juliet, The Ancient Mariner, and Alfred Tennyson. Nursery rhymes collide with fairy tales, and even the Cheshire Cat makes a rare appearance. It is these wonderful moments of camaraderie that hint at the deep enduring love and romance that they share. At one moment, Priti is petulant, and at the next, she smiles with mischief as Vicky throws a Shakespearean repartee at her that she cannot resist.


Priti’s parents, the Rainas, pamper her unabashedly, as they celebrate her birthday with numerous thoughtful gestures that delight the child-woman. The Dhars, Vicky’s parents, consider her as their own daughter. Having grown up in the same neighbourhood, it is taken for granted that the two are fated to marry.

Just when the readers have quite lost their heads over this charming girl, she goes into a shell, refusing to allow the wall she has built around her to crack. Santosh Bakaya is a seasoned writer who knows how to play on the heartstrings of her readers, all the while keeping the suspense alive.

Another forte of Ms. Bakaya is the lyricism that she employs in her descriptions of nature and her beloved Kashmir.

“Every day for the fortnight that they were there, the twilight trembled on the mountains; the breeze rapturously kissed the pine and the fir trees, the feisty foam-flecked Lidder broke into song, or was it someone singing soulfully in the distance?”

                                            Lidder - Travel Tales from India and Abroad

 The Lidder has a personality of its own, as it flows on in “a mad celebration” on “a mischievous spree.”

“Soon night spread its black transparent wings, and in one amorous sweep took the lake in a hug. Wavelets, carried away by the romance of the moment, rolled and rippled with a musical splash. In a spurt of magnanimity, the sky dropped streaming threads of gold into the lake, the bejewelled skies reveled, the waves sighed dreamily, becoming one with their love.

There is a bit of the leprechaun in Ms. Bakaya herself, as she waxes eloquent on romance. “The shikhara moved on, in sync with the music of their banter and boisterous laughter, and seemed to be heading towards some idyllic fairyland where imps, pixies and elves, enthused by their love, were getting ready to waltz and tango to their every whim, every fancy, every dream, every idiosyncrasy, and an invisible leprechaun waited at the end of the rainbow, a big bright smile on his face, holding aloft the hidden pot of gold for them.”

Ms. Bakaya encompasses the passing of time in two crisp lines that span over a decade.

 "The ribbing, the bantering, the leg-pulling, the sulks, the tantrums, continued endlessly.
Then ten summers, autumns, winters, springs passed in the blink of an eye, flying by as though in a roseate dream.”

Why does this bubbly girl suddenly begin to experience nightmares that make her feel as though "she were being swallowed up in a black, bottomless abyss?” What is the connection between her and the seven-year-old boy with “the bluest eyes” ever seen on a human face? Is it an indication of tragic events casting their shadows ahead? Why does she continue to listen to her own sounds?

The novella ends as beautifully as it begins, as the reader is left with the image of a crackling fire in the fireplace, and a feeling of warmth as the strains of Frank Sinatra fill one’s heart.

“But as long as you love me so,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
But if you really hold me tight
All the way home I’ll be warm.
The fire is slowly dying
And, my dear, we’re still goodbye-ing.”


Ms. Santosh Bakaya's other books: 


And the talented wordsmith herself!


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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Her Father's Voice - Post 6 - #MyFriendAlexa

"And before long, the music, the views rushing past the window,
my father's voice and the narrow cobblestone streets all merged
            into one, and it seemed to me that while we would never find answers
                to these fundamental questions, it was good for us to ask them anyway."

Orhan Pamuk

Deepti had always been very close to her father, maybe because she was the eldest of three girls. Dad was an Army officer and hence, she had been brought up as an Army brat, travelling with her parents to various wonderful places in the country. Every two or three years, she would be uprooted, and weep buckets of tears as she left her good friends, who would promise to write to her. She had got used to living in two rooms, flats, cavernous bungalows, mansions with eighteen rooms and of course, in one room in the Officers' Mess.

Her sisters were much younger, and they played together, fighting over toys and books. For them, she was the older sister, who was grown up enough to have a room of her own. When Dad was posted to Panagarh, her parents decided to pack her off to her paternal grandparents in Kerala, so that she could finish her high school with no major upheavals. After all, studying in eight different schools in as many years is no minor feat!

Dad himself came to drop her off. He knew just how strict his father could be as he was the Headmaster of a boys' school and venerated in the city. Dad and his two brothers had been brought up very strictly, and he didn't want his daughter to be so stringently brought up. He also hoped that she would bring in a ray of light in the lives of his aged parents.

Waking up early in the mornings was always a Herculean task for Deepti. Dad understood, and he never insisted that she should get up with the lark. Or the koel, in this case! However, he emphasized that she would have to go to bed later, to make up for time lost. He himself revelled in the early morning air, the scent of the flowers and the balmy day before the ghastly mantle of pollution and smog descended.

                                                                             Ann The Gran

 "Father, she is not used to getting up very early in the morning. Do let her sleep in!" His father had rolled his eyes, but acquiesced. The young Miss was very close to his heart, as she was his eldest granddaughter. Her grandmother too doted on her, as she ordered melting-in-the-mouth cupcakes from the bakery, and fed her on delicious sandwiches with white butter and sugar. Since they had cows at home, the milk was amazingly creamy, the butter even more so. Even when Deepti was grown up, she could taste the goodness of that amazing combination of butter and sugar, which aided her to put on oodles of truant kilograms.

Her grandmother loved to play Scrabble, and she would wait for the afternoon when the two of them would sit in companionable silence, poring over unique words to play, as the balmy breeze blew outside, punctuated with the lowing of the cows in the sheds alongside.

                                                                  iStock - Scrabble stock photo

This separation started off a correspondence between father and daughter, spanning two years, when thoughts took wings and metamorphosed into ideas. These letters came in like a breath of fresh air when she missed her parents, and always made her smile.

One letter read, “Education is a process which continues right through your life, but what you attain from textbooks will never be lost to you”, advice which made her glance at her chemistry textbook more fondly. Dad loved reading, [both her parents did], and expressed his desire to be locked away in a room filled with books. To her petulant comment, “I hate Math”, he made it a game with mazes and puzzles that tickled her brain.

One particular paragraph that caught her interest went thus. “The time spent in the playground is never a waste [a healthy mind in a healthy body], the hours you devote to general reading makes you better equipped [wealth of knowledge neatly packed in many a book, recreational reading relaxes you [all work and no play…] and the strains of music refine you [music being the food of love]. She wondered how “one little head could contain all he knew.

Dad would come down often, bearing gifts from Mom - bundles of storybooks, pretty clothes, hand-drawn cards from her kid sisters and loads of love. "We all miss you, you know!" he would tell her as he ruffled her hair. She missed them all too, but she was happy in her own way, even though life was simple. 


She would go to school, where, after the first few days, she made many friends. She still remembered her first day with dread. She had worn her uniform, her shirt tucked tidily in, along with polished black shoes and smart pigtails. When she reached her class, she could hear titters. As she looked around, she realized that she stood out like a sore thumb. None of the students wore shoes as it was the rainy season. Neither did they tuck their shirts in, but let them flow over their skirts.

"What are you thinking of?" Dad's voice startled her as she stood in her old room, years later, her old room which had been painted pink in her honour. Deepti smiled at Dad. "Remember how Grandma insisted on painting this room pink, even though it was a little violent to the eye?" she smiled. Dad nodded. "She loved you so! And she didn't want you to miss us, or your home."

Deepti looked at the bookcase which still had some of her old books on it. She picked up a well-thumbed copy of Julius Caesar, which fell open to Mark Antony's oration. “I will never forget how Grandpa helped me learn 'Friends, Romans, Countrymen...' by heart." She had been chosen to participate in English Recitation and Hindi Elocution at school. "He would make me recite it every day, correcting my pronunciation, telling me where to pause and breathe, and how to make the speech effective. I could have said it backwards by the end of it!"

                                            Twenty19 - How to Overcome Stage Fright

Her face flushed as Dad gave her a quizzical look, his gentle eyes amused. She had climbed on stage, begun her speech with confidence, and suddenly all the eyes staring back at her made her falter. She had stopped in confusion, and the speech which she knew so well flew out of the window along with her confidence. Her mind went blank and she stood there, wishing that the earth would open up and swallow her. As tears streamed down her face, she had made a quick exit, refusing to go back on stage for the Hindi elocution.
“After all those hours of practice...!" she said ruefully. Dad's reply soothed her down. “The question is not whether you win or lose, but whether you took part in with true spirit – which you did. Public speaking is not easy – you have to cultivate it and groom it!”

"Dad, do you remember my final year in school?" Dad had called 1977 a red letter day in the calendar of her student life. Deepti still had the letter he had sent her on the occasion. "We wish you all the very best and hope you come out in flying colours!” He had gone on to write, “I remember fondly your first year in school in Delhi, when you howled your way through the entire year. You have come a long way since. You have passed through several schools, gained varying experiences, learned to differentiate good from bad, and most of all, developed the confidence of working by yourself.”

Soon she was back home, happy to be in the bosom of her family again, as her two young sisters vied for her attention. The first thing she did was chop off her long straight hair, hair that had been lovingly oiled and combed by her grandmother. But Deepti wanted a different look, a smart new haircut that would go with the times. The next time her grandmother saw her, she almost had a fit, which made Deepti feel rather guilty. But what was done, couldn’t be undone, as a great soul once said.

After a year, her father opted for premature retirement, and Mom decided to settle down in a little town called Thrissur in Kerala, to start a school of her own. Dad had to complete his last tenure at Mumbai, before he could join his little family. Her sisters had joined school there and she was all set to begin college.

 “Tomorrow you will be joining college – starting a new phase of life. At this juncture, a father’s love is extending its warm tentacles to wish you all the very best in whatever you undertake during your collegiate career.” Dad’s letter had ended thus. “Do remember that a loving father is waiting to hear from you often about your exploits, your hopes, your disappointments, your successes, your failures – your essence of life!”

Mom surprised her with a moped to commute to college in. Thrissur being a conservative little town at the time, there were plenty of folks to ridicule her for making a spectacle of herself, especially since she was the first girl to ride a moped there. Dad smilingly reacted to a comment of hers. “It is good that you experienced the booing as well the clapping, in good measure… you should not shy away from riding your moped to college. Yes, there may be booing, but soon they will turn around to clap, to look up to you as somebody who could not be discouraged.” To her astonishment, that was exactly what happened.

                                                                      Creative Market

"Deepti, what happened to that friend who sat behind you on your moped and slipped off?" Dad had a twinkle in his eye.

"Oh, that was so embarrassing, Dad!" she smiled. "There I was, whizzing away, at full speed, talking nineteen to the dozen to her, as I always do. But after a while, I could not hear a response and I turned my head to see why. To my shock, there she lay on the road, a hundred metres away, and I had not even noticed that she was not with me!" Dad and she both burst out laughing. Luckily, her friend had not sustained any injuries, apart from a few minor scratches.

Dad pointed to the album of match labels that lay on the dusty shelf. "Remember how we used to eagerly look out for different match boxes?" Of course, she remembered... the way they used to soak the matchboxes in water so that the glue would come unstuck. They also collected postage stamps from various countries. "Dad, I used to wait for your letters, not only because I missed you all, but because you would send me exotic stamps in them!" The excitement of seeing a new stamp infused both of them with enthusiasm. There would be a brand new stamp inside every letter, and she would use it and send back a letter to Dad so that he would also have a copy of the stamp for his own album.


"Dad... I missed you at my wedding!" she turned around, but he was not there. “Dad, where are you?” she said, raising her voice slightly. Where could he have wandered off to? She looked around the room, and walked into the next room, calling out for him. The rooms loomed - empty, dusty, silent! And suddenly there he was, the unmistakable twinkle in his eye, unmoving as he had never been. She moved closer to him, tears flowing down her cheeks as she saw the black and white photograph that eclipsed the mantelpiece. 

28th September 1978 brought a rather poignant message. Her father had gone back to Mumbai after a short stay at Thrissur. The whole family had seen him off at Cochin Airport. “The picture of the four of you – the most precious people in the world for me – as I saw it through the porthole of the aircraft still lingers in my mind. Even our stay separately today is for the provision of a secure and steady home for the three of you so that you can grow in an atmosphere free from anxiety and uncertainty.”

                                                                    Getty Images

 Was there an inkling of some unsettling event in the horizon?  For he further wrote. “Be your mother’s right hand in running the household. There are many, many things that you can do at your age to make things easier for people around you.”

On the 7th of December, her seventeenth birthday, she received a gift of books, with Dad's message, “With sweet memories of this day in 1961, when such a wonderful gift as you, was received by your mother and me!”

The New Year of 1979 brought a further missive from him. "The motto for you in the New Year that starts today, your eighteenth year, should be to take part with full self-confidence and adequate preparation in whatever you do, without worrying as to what the results are.” He ended on the following note. “On the 7th of December, 1979, I would be glad to hear from you that you have been guided by this motto in your activities.”

 She waited to tell him that she had followed his advice, but the day that he had spoken of dawned and it was a sad and lonely day, for her father passed away at the beginning of the year, on the 29th of January, 1979 at the young age of 42.

She vividly recalled the day when her best friend’s father suddenly passed away – and she had written to her father, horrified at the sight of the tears, the anguish, the finality of death. He had promptly written back “… it is indeed dreadful to lose one’s parents, who have done what they can during their lifetime to make you what you are – that too with all love and affection”. Years later, she was to read these fateful lines again as they ironically found an echo in her own life.

There was so much more he could have told her, so much more she could have learned from him. She longed to tell him of her exploits, her hopes, her disappointments, her successes, her failures – her essence of life … only he was not around to guide her anymore. But, even at the darkest moment, when she missed him desperately and needed his guidance, she would open up his letters. She knew, in her heart of hearts, she had captured her father’s spirit on paper.


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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Back Off, Back Ache! Post Number 5 for #MyFriendAlexa


“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.

                                                          McPherson Acupuncture Cartoon

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.” 

                                                                    Quotefancy - Helen Hayes

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