October 24, 2006

life happened, suddenly

…and so this diwali we are in mumbai.

we hadn’t planned for it. nor had we ever imagined the turn of events that life can bring. for the first time in perhaps both our lives, praveen and i have had to take some really ‘grown-up’ decisions. so far thankfully, we’ve come out unscathed, and stronger.

it all started mid-july, when we were getting ready for a museum-visit in sunny london, praveen bent to lift a cushion and he thought something in his back snapped. it was just a year since praveen had recovered from his sciatica. he had put on some kilos since then, and also regularly escaped the four exercises that were a ‘must-do’ for the problem to heal completely.

we hoped the nhs doctors were right; for all the four times that we visited them during a painful one-and-a-half month, they insisted it was just a muscle sprain – nothing that some ibuprofens could not take care of.

for all the faith that people have on ‘firangi’ doctors, they were terribly wrong. praveen grew dependent on the painkillers, which bloated his stomach, and yet he couldn’t walk or sit without significant pain. meanwhile, our baby was growing inside me, and the number of days i had to work from home so i could care for him kept increasing. i put my foot down finally when the ambulance that we’d called one day, came after eight long hours ‘due to the heatwave’ that london was apparently experiencing. despite a night at the hospital and some strong morphine and diazepam tablets to take home, we returned empty handed. ‘just a muscle spasm,’ they insisted again.

and i insisted too. the next day – aug 2nd – we were on a bmi flight to india. we lied that i was only 5-months pregnant, and not six. anything to get home. i was sure that if kerala’s ayurveda could cure the 13-year-old backpain and fibromyalgia that i had, it would surely cure praveen. unlike the nhs, at least we wouldnt have to wait for months to find out what was wrong with him in the first place!

by aug 5th, we had the MRI report in our hands. praveen had not one or two, but *three* herniated discs in his lower spine, plus something called stenosis that narrows the spinal canal, causing him severe pain. i could just strangle those nhs doctors that day. muscle spasm indeed.

decision number 2 was easier. the only alternative to a risk-laden surgery that all the allopathy doctors suggested at the MRI clinic, was ayurvedic treatment. praveen was skeptical. he was also tired of all the pain. he had lost his cheerful manner, he had become irritable, and totally unlike the husband i had known for the last five years. ‘i know,’ i tried to make him understand, ‘i’ve been there before. pain makes you lonely.’

for the next three weeks, we stayed at the ayurvedic hospital at kottakkal. i worked from the cybercafe for a few days, and then a cousin helped me with a reliance internet connection so i could work from our room. whenever i could, i also tried finishing my MA project, but i was racing against the deadline. about the treatment itself, praveen was skeptical, the doctor was trying his best, and i still had my faith in them and the herbal medicines. (later the doctor would confide in me that this condition is usually so severe, he himself would have suggested surgery, but he had wanted to give it a shot!)

aug 31st – we flew to cochin for my seemantham (pictures coming soon). it was the best break we could both have, with relatives, well wishers and love pouring from all around. but praveen was far from recovery yet. since it didn’t make sense travelling all the way back to kottakkal, the doctors suggested staying at one of their temporary branches closer to home, at aluva.

another two weeks of treatment began. yes, ayurveda takes time to settle down in a body, but once it does, it begins to take effect surely. praveen didn’t know it then, but he was improving. he still found it painful and at times impossible to walk, stand or sit, and even more frightening was the month-long bedrest period that he would have to endure till the next month-end. i still held to my belief that this was the best treatment, and he at times argued for over an hour that he didn’t know what would work and what not.

in the meantime, we had to take decisions number 3, 4 and 5:
– vacate the house (with the help of our friends) we had just moved into at harrow, to save on the rent we were losing for every month that we were going to be in india,
– forget about the MA for now and push the project to next semester (in spite of the plausibility that my newly-delivered baby might not be in a mood to help), and,
– deliver our baby at home in mumbai.

i’ll be lying if i say i hadn’t wished for that last decision at some point during my pregnancy, but that was my first trimester, when i was craving for wada pavs and ussal-pavs, and missal and pavbhaji and kalakhatta golas. nevertheless, this is one lesson i will never forget: be really really careful of what you wish for.

today, praveen can’t wait to get up and walk about. his discs might have not made a 100-percent recovery yet, but he’s convinced they will. it’s been over a month since he had his last diclofenac-sodium, and at times i have to push him to go and take rest. while i struggle with my own pains in this ninth month, he’s learnt to cope with his. we’re hoping for a normal delivery, so the doctor will let him be with me in the delivery room. best of all, he’s his cheerful self again, and as most of his friends would acknowledge sadly, the pathetic jokes are back as well.

for a change, this time i am not complaining ;-)

happy diwali, everyone, and wish you good health and prosperity in the years to come. and whatever you do, take care of that back of yours.