Famous French existentialist philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre (not to be confused with Baban Rao Sartre, the famous beedi seller from Sholapur), led a tough life. This was because Sartre (Jean-Paul, not Baban Rao) was what the French refer to as ‘le intellectual’, and every little statement he made was analysed in the quest for deeper meaning. I imagine that if he pointed to the loo and said “I need to go”, admirers would type out a flurry of papers, remarking upon “the eternal quest of Man to rid himself of the burden that society, and last night’s stale cheese, have thrust upon his free Self.”
However, one of the genuinely clever statements Sartre made was: Hell is other people.
By “other people”, I’m sure he was talking about a lot of people I know. To be more precise, the people who open their mouths to say “Hi!” and end up bombarding you with their entire medical history.
For example, once in college, a classmate turned up after quite a few days of absence. He remarked, to everyone within earshot, that he’d been struck down by piles. He then went on in great detail about the symptoms, the experience and basically how his toilet was so red, it’d put a Communist to shame.
People like these are unaware of the searing effect they have on society. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that I’m one of them.
Ok before you stop reading this column and knock me off your Orkut lists, I’d like to clarify that I’m not as bad as the piles guy. In fact, I swear to you right now that if the Red Sea ever invades my bathroom, I’ll take that secret to my grave (which will be kind of tough since I’m Hindu and we don’t really have graves, but I’ll manage).
That being said, I admit that in my buffet of Social Conversation, a few dishes are named ‘Medical History’. There are two things you might deduce from this:
1. I wrote this when I was hungry, which impaired my ability to think of good metaphors.
2. I don’t have many friends, and the ones that I do have are dimwits who can’t think of an excuse quick enough to get away when I start talking.
Seriously though, my friends are quite supportive. Whenever I’m faced with a life-altering medical condition, I can be sure that they will turn up to crack dirty jokes about it. It helps that of late, I’ve been suffering from the weirdest afflictions ever.
For example, I recently accomplished a feat which put me in the same league as Sachin Tendulkar – I developed Tennis Elbow. This is a condition wherein you get excessive news coverage, earn crores from endorsements but can’t really use your hand. It prompted my friends to express concern by asking “Haha! Now how will you pursue the favourite late-night activity that is generally pursued after everyone has gone off to sleep?”.
A few weeks before the Tennis Elbow, I was struck by a disease that mainly affects Mumbaikars. It is called Jumping Off A Moving Local Train And Crashing Onto The Platform (now you know why this column is called Maximus Stupidus). As a result, whenever I tried to bend my right leg, my knee would send a signature petition to my brain, asking it to stop. The doctor used words like “incision” and “surgery”, to which I said “Oh crap” and “Bye-bye”.
It’s not like I’m scared of inviting foreign objects into my body. In fact, the process is fun if you’re one of those whip-brandishing, black-leather-wearing kooks. But I’m more of a brown-leather-wearing kook.
Also, I’m not sure about the capabilities of medical personnel employed in state-of-the-art hospitals. Once I’d gone to such a place after two days of headaches and fever. This is what happened:
Nurse: (checking temperature) Sir, you have a 106 degree fever.
Me: Surely you’re mistaken O kindly, overworked, underpaid woman who looks younger than me. That’s 4 degrees away from death. Please check again.
Nurse: No Sir, it’s 106. I’m telling you na…
Me: (making Angry Eyes) Check again.
Nurse:(after re-checking) Oh..it’s 100. Sorry. *Giggle*
Me: (thinking to myself) I should just smash her head with that empty beer bottle lying in the corner…waitaminute..why is there an empty beer bottle in the hospital?
True story, that.
You know what they say: Prevention is better than cure, and cheaper too. So I request you to go online and sign the petition to cover all railway platforms with soft, fluffy mattresses.
This article was published in JAM Magazine, dated 30 July – 14 August 2007.