It all started with a nagging pain in my tummy, which rapidly developed into a raging ache, high fever, blood tests, CT scans and a perforated appendix disgorging all manner of unmentionable things into my belly. The upshot: emergency surgery and celebrating the turn of the year in a hospital.
Initially, I didn’t really mind.
Bacchanalian fantasies of spending New Year’s eve partying wildly with pyjama-clad patients, dancing with catheters and guzzling booze out of chamber pots flashed through my mind.
I felt deeply for those poor patients who couldn’t move out of their beds but consoled myself with the thought that they could very well be fed the whisky intravenously. Alas, nothing of that sort happened.
The operating table was a kind of narrow box and your arms are spread out on either side, resting on two supports. Naturally, when a doctor asked me how I felt, the obvious thing was to tell him I was being crucified. It was also a trifle disquieting to hear a doctor ask another to make sure the table didn’t move. He must have nailed it down with a hammer later, because the operation passed off without incident.
The problems began after the surgery. Weird thoughts entered my brain. Why was the fever and pain not subsiding? Were the doctors hiding something? Could it be they had taken offence at something I said?
I suddenly remembered I often snore loudly when asleep. So when they gave me anaesthesia and I fell asleep at the operating table, could it possibly be, horror of horrors, that I had started to snore? What would the doctors think? Here they were, busy carving up a chap’s innards and with blood all over the place and all the patient does is snore loudly at them all the time. Who could blame them if they thought I lacked respect?
The nurses, of course, were life-savers. Their positive attitude is to be seen to be believed. Consider this snippet I overheard:
Nurse: Hullo, you are looking good today.
Patient: Nurse, I am not able to breathe.
Nurse: Can’t breathe? Fine, fine, not a problem. Anything else?
There’s a lesson in that for all of us.
But even the sunny optimism of the nurses couldn’t compensate for the food. The hospital’s ‘vegetarian-food only’ policy seemed to be to scour the kitchens of Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet Gulag and Guantanamo Bay for the most horrible vegetarian recipes known to man. These are then cooked gleefully by retired poisoners at the hospital.
After two days of eating the stuff, I started dreaming of ways to murder the dietician, each method more painful than the first. But luckily, we hard-core meat eaters are a resourceful breed. Despite being searched thoroughly, smuggling in legs of chicken proved to be child’s play for dedicated relatives.
I soon realised that a smooth egg and chicken smuggling operation went on right under the noses of the security guards. During visiting hours, guards often wondered why they invariably saw hordes of large-chested female relatives entering the hospital and hordes of thin-chested female relatives leaving it. Size 36 in, size 34 out.
They probably put it down to the dejection of seeing their loved ones in pain.
Thankfully, I am now back at work. The medicines helped, of course, but it was the chicken tangri that did the trick.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal