It was a crisp winter morning. Though the morning sun looked warm and inviting but I just wanted to laze around in my warm bed. I could feel my soft blanket relaxing every part, or rather every aching part. The pain in my neck had subsided somewhat but like all of life’s problems this too just kept on lingering. I drifted into sleep again when the clanging of the doorbell woke me up with a jolt.
“Madam ji! Madam ji,” the maid was shouting, asking me to open the door.
It was already past eight in the morning. My husband and daughter both were fast asleep. I stood up groggily, glanced at the innocent face of my five-year old daughter and felt guilty. She had been almost pleading with me for the entire week to take her out on the weekend and I had just replied a nonchalant, “Ask Daddy sweets! Mom will take you out next week.” Her resentful and hurt face flashed in my mind and I wished so desperately that my energy and stamina would come back.
I put on a shawl and opened the door, ready to face the onslaught of Shanti’s temper for keeping her waiting for so long.
“What madam ji! I was ringing the bell for ten minutes.” Shanti’s paan prevented the hurricane of words that generally followed when she was in a hurry, which was always. I was expecting her to ramble about it more as was her habit but she just stood there watching. Watching me.
“Madam ji are you all right? You look so sick!”
“Oh! Do I look so bad without make up?” Shanti and I laughed at the joke.
Actually Shanti was right. I was not sick in layman parlance but I was what I termed as an ‘achy and shaky’ being. Achy because my body was made up of pain and not cells and shaky because I suffered from frequent headaches and dizzy spells. At 35 I felt like I was 75. For five years I had experienced pain in the neck and shoulder area, almost soon after my daughter Nikki was born.
Pain can be simply described as an unpleasant sensation but after living with it day in and day out for five years I could describe it so much more. I had developed an intimate relationship with it. I had coined specific adjectives for the various sensations that I felt, much like the cute epithets that one coins for their loved ones. I could draw cartoon characters based on my pain. Ah! I could write essays, songs and even poetry about it. But the doctors! They just did not understand. They poked here and there, squeezed blood and subjected me to countless tests. After innumerable trips to various specialists and tonnes of money wasted I knew so much about many terrifying diseases that I could write a book on it. The terrifying prospect however was that I had none of them – what I had nobody knew! I would have been labeled a hypochondriac but for the saving grace of stiff muscles that indicated that I was still in my mind.
I dashed off to the mirror and examined my face. My eyes looked dull and puffy with too much sleep. I just looked very tired. The constant pain made me look older than I was.
“Hey Ms Nandika! So you are not sick, you are just a hypochondriac.” I said this to myself and laughed. I was glad that the human voice aged more slowly and gracefully than the face. And I was sure that the eyes never aged. I had heard many times that the eyes are the windows of a soul. They reflect the truth. I peered into mine, curious to know what they said about me. Just then my daughter walked to where I was standing.
“Mom! I am hungry,” Nikki demanded.
“Arre beta. When did my darling wake up?”
“Papa is also awake and wants a cup of tea.”
“Oh my papa’s princess. Tell papa that mummy is coming with tea.”
My husband Dev and I knew each other from college. He was shy, down to earth and sadly unromantic! After ten years of marriage, however I realized that love that is stable, which flows like an undercurrent is what makes a marriage rock solid. He was my silent anchor and support.
“Here is your chai,” I said placing the cup on the bedside table.
“Nads! Do you remember Shimpu?”
“Your cousin Shimpu?”
“Ya right. He will be coming today. He knows a very good doctor. He knows that doctor personally. He has even talked about your case with him and taken an appointment for today evening.” Dev was positively elated while I just looked at his face expressionless.
“Hey Nads! Let us just consult him once. If you don’t find him good we will not go.” My husband tried to reassure me. He knew that I was fed up of going to doctors, fed up of trying a new treatment and fed up of my stupid condition that just would not go away.
“Dev! You just never give up hope! I don’t think I will ever get well. Besides I have no problem in going to a new doctor. I just know that it will be a sheer waste of time. He will tell me some exercises, some do’s and don’ts for posture, this and that and ask to come back after ten days since after ten days he can again charge consultation fees. I will feel better for a few days and then bang! I will be back to square one. It is not worth the effort.” I tried to reason with Dev.
“Ok look at this way. Nikki wanted to go out. Just think that we are taking her out. She will be happy, you will be happy and I will be happy. I think that doctor too will be happy. Win win for all!”
“Oh Dev! Now what do I say to that logic of yours!”
We both laughed in unison. It was Dev’s optimism and belief in me that kept me strong and happy even when in physical pain.
“Nikki. Come here. We are going out.” I called out to my daughter.
Nikki came running and hugged me. “You are the best mom in the world, no universe! Where are we going?”
“First we have to see one doctor uncle. He will check mummy. That will be over like this.” I snapped my fingers for effect. “Then shopping, movie and dinner. Ok Baby!”
I was happy to see the million dollar smile on Nikki’s face. I braced myself for the usual expected responses from the doctor. I had no inkling that this visit would forever change my life.