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February 8, 2008

Pimps of Pain...

...OR Misery means a million bucks…Or a million hit counts, or maybe even four. ‘Bad news is good news’, and it hasn’t been truer than it is today.

We read bad news, we comment on it, we charge by the minute on it, our political ideologies center around it, we ask for votes based on it, we sell it to nations; and if there is no bad news, we create it. Lawyers, doctors and most definitely the media would go out of business if it were not for bad news and someone else’s misery. Heck, we revel in misery.

As long as someone suffers, world economies will move, leaders will be impeached and elected, gossip magazines will sell, TRPs will soar and even Chicken Soup for the Soul series will sell only because there is bad news and we need feel-good, heart-warming stories to feel ‘better’. No bad news, no bloody chicken soup. Even technological advances come fraught with injurious-to-happiness warnings: Everything from coffee to cellphones and laptops can cause some form of cancer. It’s a wonder the human race has survived this long. With bad news being dished out from all quarters, it becomes tough at times… Keeping the jaunt in your walk, that zing in your smile and that hope in your heart that even if global warming, nuclear warfare, organ trade, drugs and mafia, rash drivers and stress-induced heart-attacks don’t kill you, HEY! It’s a fucking beautiful world out there.

Over the last three weeks, have seen a number of movies, a couple in the theatre, others on DVD. I saw Taare Zameen Par (stars on earth) on dyslexia and worried that I wouldn’t understand my child and will be a bad mother (will I be one at all?). Saw The Castle and was relieved when a simple man took on the government and won back his house that was being forcefully taken away. I wondered if terra nullius would apply to the Commonwealth Games village scam and if it could indeed be stopped. Then it frustrated me because of course the movie was fiction and nothing will happen to the case. Then it was Shawshank Redemption and it was heartbreaking when the “sisters” in jail bugger Andy - reminded me of Chandni Bar. Felt worse when Brooks hangs himself and when Andy is not guilty; so much for rehabilitation. I saw Syriana and nearly lost my head… What if tomorrow my son becomes a suicide bomber? Food shortage, resource shortage, haves and have nots… Which end of the spectrum will I be? Can I really keep my family safe? I felt used and like a mere speck in whatever is the global game. Because a game there is. Partner gently asked me if it was PMS. The first week it was. But then I was sniffling during Napolean Dynamite and Crackerjack, both of which are funny movies and got seriously worried about my mental health.

Today (Jan 7) I was at Tees Hazari - the biggest court in Asia - sitting flanked by a Mamta (custody battle) and an unnamed blind woman (alimony case). And for some weird, weird reason, it reminded me of hospitals and how the media, lawyers and doctors all survive thanks to survival difficulties that others have. Since I didn't want the nervousness I felt to show on my face, I scribbled in my notepad. This was written in court, typed out now…

I cannot decide if I hate/ dislike hospitals more than I dislike courts. (Amit Kumar versus Mamta, the reader calls, next up after them are Pankaj versus Neelima)

My first visit to a doctor was a pediatric clinic in small town Jabalpur, it was Dr Kumar’s, adjacent the old Coffee House. A visit to Dr Kumar’s always meant sambhar-vada for dad and masala dosa for the rest of us, with as many extra helpings of sambhar and the most amazing coconut chutney… Somehow, visiting Dr Kumar was never about being ill, it was a family outing. I remember Dr Kumar vaguely: moustache, specs, a kind voice for me and a stern one for Papa (since he would call the Doc at odd hours even if I like sneezed more than once). Growing up in and out of Jabalpur – as and when Papa was posted there – I had always thought that I’d take my kids to Dr Kumar’s. The good doctor is now dead, the old Coffee House has been shut and replaced by an Archies show room and right outside the clinic now, young boys stand beside their Hero Hondas and smoke.

As I grew older – and once Bhai came along – we started going to the various Miliatry Hospitals (MH) when ill. All doctors were Army Officers and therefore called ‘Uncle’, most had round bellies and big laughs. The nurses were always south Indian and wore starched white uniforms with bright, white stockings and polished-like-mirrors black shoes. All docs unanimously prescribed the same medicines. Erythromycin for ENT, Crocin/ Paracetamol for any fever, Enteroquinol for ‘loose potty’ and Baralgan for tummy aches. Oh yes, there was this unnamed, pungent, dirty maroon syrup for cough. The MH pharmacist always asked one to bring empty bottles for the syrup and Mamma had an assortment of bottles in various sizes, depending on how bad our cough ‘sounded’. The MH was all about familiarity, comfort, Mamma overreacting about a “mere cough”… never illness.

(The hearing is in Room 136, there are many families around. Almost everyone has come with someone. I am sitting alone.)

My next visit to a hospital was as an adult, unaccompanied by any other adult. Since it was neither Dr Kumar nor the familiarity of the MH, I decide to go to the best hospital, not knowing what doctor to trust. It was Max Medicentre. On hindsight, perhaps I chose it because of familiar colours: Only the MH’s olive green was now Max’s light-green-cream interiors. Most doctors seemed too young to be trusted and it didn’t help that I was ill and had come alone. Thankfully, the nurses were still south Indian, younger, but still as kind.

One such visit, I weighed 35 kgs, seriously underweight, was suffering from stress, fatigue and starvation and had to get myself to the hospital because anything I ate or drank – even two sips of water – was coming right out. I was severely dehydrated and weak. My phone outgoing was barred, there was hardly any money and I was absolutely alone. Had to contact someone on chat and request them to call the taxi guy. (Strangely, one blog friend from Canada had offered to call the cab...and then they wonder why some people blog? Perhaps I agree that "serious" bloggers don't write about their personal lives or their personal thoughts. But then, are you telling me that only world politics and the ups and downs of the market is "serious"? Fuck you). I had passed out upon entering Max and had come around to find myself on a bed, with a nurse preparing a drip and gently stroking my hair.

I was crying, she said it was exhaustion, I knew it was worse. “You’ve come alone, miss?” she asked. I nodded, ashamed to be weeping, ashamed to do it in public, before people I didn't know. She wiped my face clean, sat on the bed and continued to stroke my hair. “Don’t cry miss, you will be ok. Crying will make things worse miss.” The "affection" was professional and came with a bill attached to it; but absolutely starved for any recognition as a human being, it felt good.
Then she had proceeded to give me an IV. It had hurt because I was really skinny and the nurse said my veins were too close to the surface. But her attention and (professional) affection did me a world of good. Those were also days when I was delirious with a whole lot of shit going on in my head -- a lot of it spewed out on this blog -- even when pretending to be sane, so I took a picture while she plunged the syringe into me... and then with the syringe in my hand…and middle finger up. The nurse just shook her head. I hate going to hospitals, but am not going to give in that easy. She asked, "Just now you were crying miss, now you take photo, why do you do so?" I just smiled, didn't really want to spell out the "fuck you" bit.

(The partially blind lady has been coming here for three years. She was “left” by her husband for another woman, when she had said he couldn’t leave her, he beat her so bad, she lost her eyesight. He left her, no alimony, no nothing. Another woman is suing her husband and demanding Rs 10 lakh as alimony. The judge says, “Live and let live, if he doesn’t live, how will he pay you?” The husband earns only Rs 12,000 a month.)

My most recent visit to a doctor was two weeks back when Friend had a cracked rib (no, I didn’t do it). He’d been walking around with the fracture for two weeks before finally agreeing to see a doc. Check up etc done, we both skipped out, whistling and happy that it wasn’t anything serious. Out on the lawn, a family sat huddled next to a man on a wheelchair. All of them looked at the man, he just stared at the ground. We were in the Spinal Cords Injury Centre. Another wife was wheeling her husband around, taking him for his daily ‘walk’. We sobered up and walked quietly to the bike. He put his arm around me, gave a gentle squeeze, neither spoke.

(I am done… as I walk out, the scene in Tees Hazari is warming up. Tables everywhere, like a college canteen, with lawyers waiting for cases to walk up to them, some sitting with prospective clients, those poor enough to not be able to hire lawyers who sit in “chambers” that actually look like chicken coops. A farmer is sitting on the ground with his head in his hands… He has to pay more or lose the case; his land, to his own sons. I don’t wait to hear the case. I need to get out.)

PS: After an hour of stewing over Syriana, I demanded an answer to How Can We Feel Safe In This World. The answer I got: “I like to keep things simple. I am going to do what is right for those I love and do my best to keep them happy. That is what I know. It doesn't always have to be about the big things...” And that is what I am going to hold on to, else I will go mad. The small things... Like being able to cry unabashedly during a movie without another getting embarrassed or asking you to shutup or stop overreacting.


Maxine said...

hmmm.So you went to a court to think about hospitals? hehe muah.Irresistible.

rima said...

the maroon syrup for cold used to be benadryl.. i loved it as a kid, it would make me so dazed :D sometimes i even pretended to cough..
oh! u brought back too many memories.

crazyBugga said...

i am reading this post at 8 in the morning. Not a very cheerful start i must say. The synonyms for the word misery occur every two lines in this post. But i gess u have seen happier moments as well. Wat about doin me a favour thru ur next post?

And as for questions in ur previous post, the attachment was purely at a friendship level. Nothin wrong in missing friends rite?

Eve* aka jb said...

Bugger... next time if i come across such sad-incident-type people, will give them popcorn and say it comes from you. Also, will start putting up staturory warnings saying, "so-and-so post should not be read at 8 am." (smiles) will that do? Let me know topics that are NOT depressing -- since i seem to see the negative in most -- will try and write on those. No promises, i can never keep them.

Rima--- ah, THAT. funny, as a kid i seemed to dislike anything that gave me a daze, as an adult i can show quite a propensity for liking those! So youre a defence kid too?! Yea, yea!

Maxine.... MWAH. :)

Rima said...

nah! not a defence kid, but then i come from this small town bokaro, and could pretty much relate to the "friendly neighbour" doctor visits.
and quite a coincidence, after i moved to delhi, the first hospital visit was to the max. but thankfully, i was accompanied by my roomies :)
hey but 35 kgs?? and ppl call me underweight at 46 :)

FBM said...

Hi JB,

Superbly narrated. I remember the day very well & i actually didn't know how to get across to you to take you to hospital. All's well which ends well i guess.

Pointblank said...

hey... I was a lil reluctant to read a long post. But it was really worth it. But girl, 35kgs!! How did u geth there?? On second thots, I wish I was even remotely close!

@ur comment on my post

well... my friends are too young to consider divorce (assuming fights wud take atleast 2 years to end up as divorce) or havibg babies/ Oh Wait! some of them already have kids!!! whatever! But all those add-ons sounded true. And I have a feeling I will end up as point 4 or 6. Aint it nuff reasons for me to not get married at all???

crazyBugga said...

lets make a start then [:)]

avijit bakshi said...

Liked the 'PS.'. Good strong healthy conclusion.