To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Sunday, April 20, 2008
I remember an anecdote in Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat where the chap has a tendency to imagine that he suffers from the symptoms of any disease he happens to read about or hear about. I suffer from a similar tendency, though maybe not in so high a degree! There was a time when plague hit the headlines, and though I cautiously avoid reading the newspapers, one morning my eye accidentally hit on it. I was curious to know about this plague thing, but before I had known all about it, I had a sinking feeling I had it. I was suffering from the plague, I was pretty sure. The symptoms could hardly be mistaken. Nothing really came of it though; I used to practice my last dying words in the privacy of my bedroom—what a waste!

Knowing my weakness or whatever one may call it, I try not to familiarise myself with the intricacies of the medical lexicon. A doctor once told me, “Half knowledge is dangerous” (am ashamed to admit I hinted to her in a weak moment of what dire malady I suspected myself of having). I have taken her advice seriously ever since and decided to be ignorant. I have very little knowledge of how the body works; if you ask me to feel my pulse, chances are I won’t know where to find it; if you ask me to clutch my kidney, chances are I will have but a vague idea of its location. I have very little knowledge of how medicines work; if you ask me to have a crocin or a prucin, I shall blindly follow your advice, provided you’re a doctor of course! Bottom line is, I don’t really have a clue, and I feel it’s better that way, because if I did have half a clue, I guess it would not do me much good.

I have come across a lot of people who absolutely relish talking about their health problems. Backaches, heartaches, sprains, colds, and what have you, they will give you a detailed list of all they have been suffering and before you think of a way to escape the lengthy harangue, they would have started on their neighbour and the friendly neighborhood dog. I am a little wary of speaking to such people. I am one of those who hide their faces behind their palms when a surgery or operation happens on TV. As a kid, I would wait for the operation to get over and the doctor to come out of the room and say “isse ab dawa ki nahin dua ki zaroorat hai” …or … “humne toh bahut koshish ki magar hum so and so ko nahin bacha paye” before I would open my eyes. Talking to the above mentioned people is a trauma for one of my type, as you can imagine. They will explain the details of a medical procedure or the exact nuance of someone’s bodily suffering in such clear and excruciating detail, that short of actually plastering their mouth, you will do everything to change the damn topic.

I personally rarely speak about any illness or sickness I’m suffering from (purely out of consideration for others like me who would rather be spared the bare facts of the case). If I have a cold, I rarely go out of my way to tell people about it. If asked though, I admit to the fact, and hurriedly divert to a different subject. If I have something minor but irritating, say a swollen foot, and I am looking for some general advice, I am in a fix. I obviously have to go to someone who professes some knowledge of these confounded things, and I obviously have to prepare myself to hear a lot more apart from the exact insight I’m looking for. I’m guessing this is how a butcher feels when wringing a chicken’s neck—nauseating but it’s got to be done to get the meat. (I may be transferring my own sensibilities to the butcher; I have practically no idea of what a butcher feels or if he feels at all)

I’m sure there’s much to be said about being aware of one’s body and how to take good care of it, not being wholly dependent on outside agencies for advice or help, and to be abreast of what’s happening in the world of medicine. But like I said, I’m better off being a novice! …A good friend of mine, who quite contrastingly, is heavily into all this and loves to explore health and related issues, has started a blog on the topic. His last post on ‘water’, and whether we are having enough of it or too much, reminds me of a joke—

“One afternoon, a man went to his doctor and told him that he hasn't been feeling well lately. The doctor examined the man, left the room, and came back with three different bottles of pills.

The doctor said, "Take the green pill with a big glass of water when you wake up. Take the blue pill with a big glass of water after you eat lunch. Then just before going to bed, take the red pill with another big glass of water."

Startled to be put on so much medicine, the man stammered, "Jeez Doc, exactly what is my problem?"

The doctor replied, "You're not drinking enough water."