Inspiration, Default11 mins 365 11 mins 365
I was in ICU for eleven days. I couldn't move. Couldn't talk. Couldn't eat. All sorts of input and output tubes were tied to me. They even hung a ventilator on my face. Didn't bother me. No solid food. But all I wanted was tea! On my insistence, my wife's friend smuggled in tea and poured it in the appropriate tube! I wanted a CT Scan everyday so that I could leave ICU and roam around (stretcher) in the hospital. I felt free by going outside. And the doctors thought I'm worried about my stroke and brain! I pestered the night nurse regularly to give me my sponge bath---at four in the morning. She would politely remind me that it's only four, not seven. I knew of course. So I'm an early riser, so what? Not that I ever bathed at five. At night, I would hallucinate...see vultures flying around in the ICU. I scolded the nurse for keeping the windows open. She apologized, of course. Once I scolded her for trading shares during duty hours---at two in the morning---and disturbing me. I alleged that she was using hospital money. She boldly said that she was doing no such thing. And once, I caught her sitting on the ceiling fan. Merry-go-rounding. She would have denied it of course, so I didn't confront her. One night, I was running with my daughter's XII mark sheet. It was a race of all fathers for admission into Medicine. The winner's child would get admission. I took a shortcut, and had tea on the way too. Don't know what happened next, because the nurse woke me up...must be seven, my sponge bath time. Another night, when it had rained heavily for three days and the building was submerged under water (all fourteen floors), the nurse took me to the terrace from where we walked to another safer building. That neighbouring building wasn't submerged, of course. I told the nurse that the open windows must have let the water into our building and flooded it. Logical, I was. She had to agree. Even my hallucinations were logical.
Fun it was, overall...for me, at least. Not once did any negative thought come to me. I was too busy harassing people anyway to harbour negative thoughts. Not once did I think that I'm damaged. I was too busy scolding nurses and bargaining with the doctors. (My speech had returned in five days, I think). Not once did I think that I wouldn't get ok. In fact, even the thought that I'll get "normal", I didn't really think. The thought that my condition is temporary was always there somewhere, I think. A given. All in all, I was enjoying, resting and being fussed over. I had defeated death afterall.
People who never came to meet me, came to meet me because I was on ventilator. They probably wanted to pay their last respects. I've been disappointing them for over five years now.
Most of the time, I was listening to chanting in my Guru's voice...one friend had lent me his mp3 player. I was happy. I was in some meditative bliss most of the time. Oblivious of any negative thoughts. No conscious "positive thinking" as such either. Was never big on that stuff. Always found it cosmetic. Positivity without honesty is bullshit, if you ask me. Not being negative is itself being enough positive for me. Anyway, had never rested so much in years!
Such were those eleven days. Cool and carefree! Then it was time to shift from the ICU. Two other dear friends had insisted that I be shifted to a private AC/TV room. Had given a lot of money for expenses. I've still not been able to return that money and they still haven't asked. Maybe, when my books sell! Anyway, so off I was to a private room. One of my last stretcher rides. After that day, I graduated to a wheelchair. Nice room it was. Everything had a remote. Except my right limbs which were paralysed, I was told. The physiotherapy lady was working on them furiously. The physio girls were angels. I'd even made an acronym of the first letters of the names! SUMPPAA! Later, two left, and one girl told me they're PUSPA now! The two Ps were twins---almost identical...but I always recognized who's who. Many couldn't. All were amazed. My trick was that I'd noticed their different shoes!
In the private room, I stood up for the first time in fourteen or fifteen days after my stroke. Four people were required to prop me up. I took my first step. It was exhilarating! My physiotherapy had started on the second or third day in the ICU of course---but on cot, while lying down. So this was a major "step" for me.
A stroke is like a heart-attack---of the brain. Some brain cells die and take their functions with them, I was told. And since brain cells are not reborn, other cells take over their functions. And the catch is, they don't know how. (They barely do their own work anyway!) Like telling your driver to cook food! In short, relearning has to take place. I was taught how to eat, how to speak, how to walk. I learnt how many sub-actions are involved in such simple taken-for-granted tasks. My first step after stroke entailed four or five different sub-actions. I was humble. Of course that humility didn't stop me from scolding the nurses who would forget to write my vital statistics on the chart and then ask me what my BP was! Also ask me if she's given me my medicines. Of course, soon I realised that they were testing my memory and alertness. In the early days, I complained to my neurologist and told him to order the hospital to give me more tea. He laughed and obliged me! No more smuggling now. With legal impunity I could now tell the food services guy to give more tea. Nice fellow he was. He did---a bit extra too! Life was good. Semisolid food had started too. I could turn on my sides without any help. Sit up sometimes, all by myself---by holding the cot railings that were for my safety. The railings probably thought that I'd roll off or something if they're not there. Soon, when the doctors were sure that I'm going to perform no such acrobatics, the railings retreated. Once, one physiotherapy girl asked me which side was easier for me to get off from the bed. Left, I said. So she told me to always get off from my right side!
And in the middle of all this, I got a lot of clarity. Inconsequential things suddenly vanished. In forty-five days of hospitalisation, you certainly get more than enough time to think. To be with yourself. When you face death and not die, you are born again. I was born again. "Important" things that mattered earlier, didn't matter that much anymore. I saw them for what they really are. Figments of my own imagined importance and the comfort zone of predictability. When a stranger cleans up your excreta everyday for over a month, when another stranger shaves you where you don't want another man shaving you, you realise many things, including your helpless importance.
One more thing I discovered. It's never about moral versus immoral; the real dilemma is between moral awareness and conscience---when you make what is a mistake in your own eyes, and someone comes along to make you feel better. Truth and freedom both get redefined then. Both bear the same definitions suddenly. Light and love emerge. Inner joy dawns. The apparent conflict dissolves. The cognitive dissonance disappears. This is real peace. All it requires is brutal honesty---mental cleansing, luggage removal... purification and re-newing.
The late afternoon when I had suffered a stroke, I was lying down. I had just returned from an institute after securing my daughter's admission for medical entrance exam coaching. I was reading the brochure. Suddenly I had felt dizzy...heard sparrows chirping inside my head...almost immediately, I had started vomiting continually which lasted for 2-3 hrs, even after I had lost consciousness...(intermittently, I'd regain consciousness...I remember bits and pieces... initially, nobody had seemed to realise that it's stroke)...anyway, so most of the attention was on vacuuming my mouth, so that I don't swallow vomit in the sleeping unconscious position and asphyxiate...or that it doesn't enter my lungs...luckily I came to, on and off...and cooperated in vomiting properly...till probably nothing was left to vomit! I remember most of my journey from the small hospital to big hospitals that evening and night. Finally, I was admitted to the vulture-infested hospital.
A very competent team of doctors was present to address any situation or emergency. Luckily, the neurosurgeon (on standby) didn't have to break open my head. Good, that was. So much rubbish he would've found otherwise. Anyway, after two or three days, the doctors seemed sure that I'm not kicking the bucket anytime soon. Full marks to them of course. They had conspired well to not crack my skull and still keep me alive.
By the time I'd left the ICU, I could speak reasonably well. In the private room, I had more freedom to talk too. Everyday, I would tell jokes to my doctors and physios. They'd laugh like anything. Mine must be the only room in the hospital where doctors didn't have serious faces! I would boost them and cheer them up. In fact, my physician told me that he makes it a point to begin his morning rounds with me as his first patient...laugh at the jokes, get in a good mood, and then visit other patients! Towards the end he told me to feel free to consult him on his email...his fees would be one joke per email!
Those who'd seen me then, say that I've come a long way. Almost a miracle. They ask me what inspired me to not break, overcome my troubles, recover so much. People add that I've been a very positive person. Positivity. Positive thinking. And other such words. I smile inside. Not one bit of this positive thinking stuff I've done in my life. People think all rubbish and nonsense all the time, mess up their minds, and then do "positive thinking" (in thirty days) for some time---quite the same way as some cheat in business and then pray---regularly! Or diabetics who eat sweet things and take an extra tablet above the dose! Doesn't work that way. Some things are not mechanical. If I had to say what inspired me or helped me, I'd say humour, honesty and humility. And no negative thinking, first of all. That did require faith and fearlessness. Thinking negatively and then taking positive-thinking tablet overdoses don't help. Nothing good can come out of dishonesty. Certainly not inner strength.
My physiotherapy continues even today. My right limbs have recovered about 70 percent. Everything else is back. The two or three things that I can't do currently, I don't brood over or lament about. That would be accepting their permanent disability. And while I'm not one of the unpractical and forced "positive thinkers", I figure there's no need to harbour negative thoughts either. Just don't think either way. I just say that currently it's like this---that's all. And ignore the inevitable shortcomings with a prudent acceptance.
Faith is required when fear stops one from doing what one wants to; fearlessness is required when faith falters momentarily. There is no other real inspiration. Cosmetic thinking can provide symptomatic relief at best. Real inspiration is not a quick-fix. Honesty is not a quick-fix. Real inspiration is not a delusion. Such non-delusional reality can be a personal policy. Universal too. Near-death did that to me. Catharsis, it was.
We come across people (some more than others) who say something but don't do it. I'd read somewhere that we promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears (Rochefoucauld)...how true...today, my inspiration comes from the fact that what was true yesterday, may not be true today; that was yesterday's truth, this is today's truth. Simple. "Turnover of truths", I call it. Inspiration comes from that too, on a practical level...and it also helps to think about something or evaluate something, first from the other's perspective. Then from one's own---the way one usually does---without cosmetic positive thinking or affected altruism. During my hospital stay in my condition then, not much room got left for meaningless platitudes or dry sweetness. So personally I feel that if cosmetic positivity, affected altruism, unexamined beliefs, unexplored morals, embraced guilt and notional sacrificing are not indulged into, no inspiration is really required. Because creativity and inspiration are our natural states, our defaults. The soot of the negatives obscures the shining flame of what is already positive. If the soot is not removed and the lantern glass not cleaned, pouring more kerosene is not going to work. In my own case, stroke and its effects helped me realize many such things. What I've gained is much more than what I've "lost".
Within six months after the stroke, I had restarted my private classes. Luckily, I hadn't forgotten maths, grammar, vocabulary or logic. The mind was okay. At least I'd like to think so. Many won't agree of course! But many didn't agree even before the stroke, so can't blame the stroke now, can we?!