Sickness strikes

I recalled the aphorism, 'He jests at scars that never felt a wound.'

I was recently assailed by an illness so virulent that I doubted I would survive it. Every joint in my body was racked with pain and I was reduced to virtual immobility.

Rising each day was a challenge and, once I had dragged myself to a chair, I chose to stay there. Getting to my feet entailed such enormous effort that I assiduously avoided the  exertion. In short, I was only comfortable if I lay in bed, as motionless as a mummy. By this time any self-respecting Bangalorean would have guessed my problem. Indeed, well-wishers were quick to diagnose it. My heart sank to my swollen ankles! While ‘chikungunya’ had an impressive ring to it, I feared it spelt weeks of agony and the prospect of long-lasting twinges. Those who called to commiserate assured me that I was not alone; a great many in the city were similarly afflicted. Statistics did little to cheer me.

A death row inmate is scarcely consoled by the knowledge that thousands have gone to the gallows! Wallowing in self-pity, I sought and got advice. ‘Pomegranate juice,’ suggested one; I gulped it. ‘Soup in plenty,’ urged another; I slurped it. ‘Walking works wonders!’ declared the next, whereupon I recalled the Shakespearean aphorism, ‘He jests at scars that never felt a wound.’ Only somebody who had not experienced my sort of suffering would enthusiastically endorse exercise. Desperate to get better, however, I hobbled about the house, as far (near, to be precise) as my crippled condition would permit.

I was not quite sure what exactly that condition was! While I played along with the chikungunya theory, which my symptoms seemed to support, there was no blood test to confirm it. I had shunned the disagreeable procedure, known with alarming aptness as venipuncture, because I was averse to pinpricks of a real rather than metaphorical nature. Talking of figurative language, there is an idiom I particularly dislike. ‘A shot in the arm’ conjures up unpleasant images from my past. Year after year in our childhood, my brother and I were subjected to preemptive pokes against assorted ailments. While the smallpox vaccinations were tolerable, we dreaded the cholera and typhoid inoculations.

For a few hours after the jabs, we would move around miserably, left arms glued to our sides. Later, immersed in books or games, we would move around miserably, left arms glued to our sides. Later, immersed in books or games, we would forget to feel sorry for ourselves and freely swing our still sore limbs.

As I slowly recover from chikungunya (or viral arthritis?) I find, as I did five decades ago, that it helps not to dwell on discomfort. I draw inspiration from a great poet but even more from a courageous friend. Believing the worst will pass, Shelley proclaims: ‘If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’ Battling a dire disease, a friend exclaims: ‘When sickness strikes, dismiss it from your mind!’

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