Saturday, 24 January 2015

On Pain

Pain is.

I always feel like writing about pain. Never do. May be i don't have the audacity to. I feel if i write about it she will lodge a more severe attack on me. Or may be i fear that writing might take her away from me. That would be suicidal. But then again, to survive, i have to write. So i thought about the other pain. The one some people skilfully overlook all the time. Physical pain.

Some people are like that. If it is happening to your body, you let it be. Some people are masochists. Some people think that by punishing the body with pain they are getting back at what their minds did to them. I would like to say that it is hard to explain. But there is nothing much to it. Some people simply supply a lot of pain to the body. Like how some people like NN, my roommate, ritualistically take vitamin pills.

When my body hurts i let it be. I wallow in the pain. Curse it and love it at the same time. I like to hide it. Define it and build theories around it. Like when i used to get migraine attacks in high school i would define it as a yellow cube sitting right in the centre of my brain. To kill the pain i would have to break open my head and pick it with thin tongs. When it was pulled out, it would make a click. Then the pain would be gone. It was only after practising this methodology for a long time time that i asked Sethuvamma to take me to a doctor. One month of pills and it was gone. Not fully, but the frequency was much less.

I am curious about the scope of it. I feel like trying out pain like clothes in a store. May not buy anything at the end of it, but just see how it looks on me. Like how once i saw a stapler and thought of how it would feel if i were to staple my skin. I tried it. Pressed it on my left thumbnail. It pierced through my nail and went a little into the flesh beneath. Good, i said, looking at the mirror in the trial room. Trial rooms are quite intriguing, you know. It's a closed space within a space which is not yours at all. Outside are people you don't like. The trial room is all that you have at a given time and space there. You cling on to it like it was your favourite doll from childhood.

When she wrote of Pain she wrote of songs. About strangers who left her with their songs. Of a lone sock which was left behind and never reached the laundry bag.
When i write about hospitals i will write only of them because her sock is still waiting. And my pain is only skin deep and a trial room reflection.

The first time i went to Medical College, College Street, Kolkata was to see a gynaecologist. I had not taken medicines for any of my petty ailments for a long time. Had not been to a hospital let alone a government owned one for my own consultation. And not alone. I had long gotten used to doing things alone. Walking, watching movies, shopping, eating out, i was only comfortable when i was alone. When i went to Medical College i felt cheated. I wanted someone. Not someone to guide me around places, just someone i could crack jokes to or bitch about bengalis to. Speaking of Bengalis the first thing which will piss you off here in Kolkata as a non Bengali is the truth that they only speak in Bangla. In Kerala, even if you look remotely foreign, people would try and answer you in English. Foreign is a relative term. If you were a girl and were wearing shorts or had your hair cut short people would like to believe you were a non mallu. Been there, done that, it's just silly anglophilia but during most of my first year here i was feeling happy about that situation at my native land. Here even if you asked for directions in hindi you would get a reply in Bangla none of which you would understand. You would have to repeat your question several times and tell them a couple of times that you didn't understand the language for them to start speaking in hindi. It all started to become easy when i slowly picked up the language. I can understand most of it now and can read if i take some time. On my first visit to the gynaecologist at Medical College i just got kicked around like a ball by a lot of people who showered me with instructions in Bangla. The doctor herself made me feel like shit. My depression was at its peak then and i lost a whole week to that experience, brooding.
[Then she called. Don't have to say more.] 

Today's visit was a cakewalk and made me realize how much i had acclimatized. I could read all of what was written on this board.

I learnt bangla script by comparing the writings on sign boards, buildings etc where it was written in both english and bangla. I walked a lot last year because i had a camera with me and this task was quite easy. So looking at the board i understood that my orthopedics department wasn't on it. So i asked around. When they said shoja i understood it was straight ahead.

Orthopedics because i had hurt my knee. The week i returned from my vacation was the worst. I couldn't sleep at night. It went past the standard 3 am barrier till sunrise. I would be starving by then. That's when i get out to have tea. A biscuit or two with it and then i would be able to sleep, tired. But i had forgotten it was winter. Weeping winter, not meek, not mild. When i got out and walked i thought it was better that i ran. That would keep me warm. So i ran. During summer sunrise is at 4:45 a.m here and during winter at 5:45 a.m. So after whole sleepless nights i would just run for an hour and head back, tired, around 7 am. On one such day i felt pain in my knee while running. Cute, i thought. It shot up while i walked and became milder when i ran. I was okay as long as i was exerting myself. After i got up i learnt that it was impossible for me to take a step without getting hurt. I had to shift the whole of my weight to my left leg and limp. I decided to punish my pain by walking normally. At night i played badminton. I ran for another day with the aching leg. By then my left leg had started aching slightly because of the weight. I stopped running but kept playing badminton. By the next day i had a conspicuous limp. People were surprised to hear that i was in pain. I felt good. I had done a great job concealing it. Then my schedule for the upcoming shoot was out and i realized i would have to run around a lot in the coming days. Hence Medical College.

This time at the hospital i looked around. Saw people. Quarreled with a guy at the mortuary when he refused to give me directions to a place, saw a dead body being taken away and felt nothing. This woman was there with two others and was in the X Ray room with me. It was saraswati puja day (it's always some puja or the other here) and may be that was why there were very few people there. Kolkata Medical College is a red bricked building which does nothing to me like what Medical College, Calicut does. But i like it now. I like it all.

I thought of my best friend who is a doctor now. (We talk once a year and meet once in three. No wonder i don't have many friends). She is in Medical College, Calicut, now and must be examining some patient like me there. She must be thinking of me too. The hypochondriac i am. I secretly want her to be a gynaecologist. So that there will be one good gynaecologist i know who doesn't treat patients like sinners in catholic institutions. 

I hate doctors because of the power they hold. I don't even know how to approach this problem. Will try to explain it. Everybody approaches a doctor because they want to live. Most people think they are going to die if they get sick. If not escape death, they go seeking help. With help comes a power relation. Ideally this shouldn't happen. Activists who get involved in issues shouldn't be about power, their involvement should be only regarding the issue. Likewise doctors shouldn't be bothered about the relationship with the patient. The illness and that alone is their concern. People don't feel obliged to a mechanic at a garage for having repaired their automobile. But in most cases patients are ever thankful to doctors for curing them. Even before the cure the mindset of a helpless person seeps in. Doctors are only human beings and are with all the flaws that fact entails. Many families even have a doctor whom they worship like god. My dream is a world where diagnosis and treatment of diseases is mechanized and when human beings have only to press buttons.

On my part i take efforts to never be thankful. Not just to doctors but to anybody who has ever helped me. Love is a different thing altogether. It's okay not to love too. What's important is to not confuse love with gratitude and obligation.

It was a muscle injury, the doctor said after examining the X Ray. I got three pills and was content. They were of different colours and looked good. Pain killers, something to make my muscle all right, cold compresses, and rest for a month. I took them and went straight back to court where i flirted with everyone and cracked jokes apart from playing poor badminton. I love the court and its people because it's fun. It's again a space i carefully found out from among all the rubble and ruin in this film school which almost killed me. Last week some of my playmates from Tamil Nadu celebrated Pongal. They made pongal in the badminton court. I scraped coconut for them. I consciously avoid being happy about Onam because the malayalees make a big deal out of it. Spreading malluness is something i hate. But anything for food is the general motto. Look at the poor tamilians with no human strength on court trying to make pongal.

When the effect of pain killers wears off i feel like slicing off the aching portion of my knee and pouring hot oil on it. Then put it back and stitch it back together. When around people i know i walk with a straight back. Otherwise i limp. To set my foot on ground takes effort. I won't rest. I press the area hard sometimes when i am resting. To remind me of the pain. No cold compresses. Not for a bad girl like me.
There ain't no pain which is unbeatable. There ain't no heartache which is forgotten. Pain is, therefore i am.


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