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Home / Brunch / Humour: In praise of hospitals

Humour: In praise of hospitals

A walk down the sanitised corridors of bland food and curious procedures

brunch Updated: Sep 21, 2019 23:19 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
You’re ill and being served in bed, which is a privilege
You’re ill and being served in bed, which is a privilege(Shutterstock)

There are sections of the human brain that operate as safety vaults, the keys to which are never found at the time they are needed. Let me explain. I recently went viral. Which is to say, I caught a miserable virus that one night pinned me to the floor, knocking me out. The next morning, as I was admitted to the hospital, I felt that familiar, comforting feeling of having zero responsibility. All I personally needed to do was ask my doctor a few essential questions. Three days later, I left the hospital in better health but with that familiar feeling of dissatisfaction: those all-important questions remained locked away in the safety vault of my addled brain.

Health > Thailand

It’s odd to say this, but I am not averse to hospitals. Before you dismiss me as a masochist attention-seeking flake, consider this. All those life-saving facilities make me feel, well, safe. Medicines, too. Yes, one would much rather be healthy. But since mindfulness, yoga or quinoa cannot, in fact, prevent or cure all human afflictions, I’m grateful for hospitals and doctors. I’m even more grateful for that stray wave of good sense that made me invest in health insurance before my latest visit (The alternative was a trip to Thailand). In fact, I’m positively brimming over with financially solvent pride.

From the plasticky chai to the soup that tastes like tears, what’s not to like in hospital ka khaana?

People incessantly complain about “hospital ka khaana.” But from the plasticky chai in a flask to the soup that tastes like tears, what’s not to like? Okay, let me rephrase. You’re ill and being served in bed, which is a privilege. And the moment you start complaining about the taste of the offerings, you know you’re getting better and it’s time to go. Those resolutely flavourless veggies and character-building dals are a memory I use to perk up uninspiring meals at home. But most of all, there’s the IV. Instilling confidence, one cold drop at a time.

The fugitive fever

My current hospital stint began with a stutter. A very self-assured nutritionist walked into my room with a radiant smile, asking what my height and weight were. I don’t know if it was the virus or just my general ineptitude, but I blanked out like I was in Algebra class. When I hadn’t managed to recover for a few moments, she said she’d send someone to check. Sure enough, the next day before dawn, a couple of bright-eyed nurses arrived to record my height and weight, and I, barely conscious.

These absurdities play out continuously. You complain of fever, but whenever they check with the thermometer, there isn’t the slightest fluctuation from 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. An assisted shower turns into something quite bizarre when the nurse begins to enquire about your thoughts on Kerala. To top it all, you request for a Crocin every few hours, a reasonable wish considering your head is forever on the brink of explosion, and you are warned: “Don’t get addicted.” To make up for these little setbacks, I was tempted to utilise the special services offered by the hospital, which included a barber’s visit, and Holy Communion. Luckily, I was discharged before I could request either.

See me on Dunday

I remember the atmosphere to be festive in all my hospital rooms. Like the time I had jaundice and an aunt (rightly) thought everyone would like some yakhni pulao. Now how can one complain about retching and nausea when the delicacy is bringing joy to so many? Friends drop by, use the room as a meeting point, and then leave in various combinations for meals and other revelries. It’s not the same with every patient, of course, depending on illness and personality.Of all places, laughter is hard to come by in hospital corridors, and yet that’s where it’s needed the most.

In particularly desolate moments, it always pays to read the signs and lists in a hospital room. My guest pass yielded a few laughs with its visiting hours, including timings for ‘Dunday’. But the clincher was a sheet listing out the items in the room. Starting with bed linen and towels, it moved on to trays and remotes. The final item was rather more unconventional. ‘Bowel – 1’ it said, to my everlasting joy. I feel they should have used a colon as a separator instead of a dash.

From HT Brunch, September 22, 2019

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