lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Monday, April 30, 2007

Perils of late night poetry

The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum.

Poetry is a fraught thing, this I always knew. But it was only last week I realised how fraught. The week had started with aggravation piled upon aggravation, and Tuesday was no better. Well, it was marginally better and by late evening I was feeling calm enough to consider the poem again.

There are several things to consider when you are translating — the mood of the poem, the words, meter if any and more. Even if it is your own poem written years ago, you still have to be true to the poem as it is, not give in to temptation to tweak the original.

Duties for the day all discharged, I turned to the poem with a clear conscience. I was moving back and forth between the Telugu version and the translation I was attempting. It had been a long day and maybe I was too tired to recapture the mood of the poem. It was going in spurts; write, delete, write, delete… I leaned back in my chair and considered. Perhaps I should leave it be for the day. It was rather late, after all. Maybe run the whole poem through in my head once again? Recite it aloud?

Next thing I knew, I'd lost some twenty minutes. Had I blacked out? Strange, but I was working, right? I remembered that I was going to read the poem through, and reached for the volume. My arm remained where it was. I tried again; thinking it must have gone numb. This time it moved, but the wrist hung limp. I tried to grasp the book and my hand flopped like a dying fish.

My mind raced. I must have had a stroke. Nemesis had come calling, I drink, I smoke, I don't exercise religiously, and now I pay. I considered my options.

There was no point waking the lord and master; he'd only panic, fret and worry and I could manage all that myself pretty well, after all. Or I would, just as soon as it sank in. I couldn't call our doctor, it was too late in the night; and if I rang, I'd be told the doctor is sleeping the sleep of the blessed and the blameless.

But I could call B2. Family friend and orthopaedic surgeon, who would have made a perfect general practitioner too as he's a great diagnostician, B2 wouldn't mind getting a call so late.

Muttering invocations to Kdapt, FSM and Finagle I managed to dial the number with my right hand. I had to hold the phone to my left ear, though. That's the only way I can talk on phone. The phone rang only twice before B2 answered.

"B2, I am sorry to call this late, I think I've had a stroke." I hissed in a whisper. "Tell me what happened." He sounded concerned but calm as always. I supposed even orthopaedic specialists were used to getting emergency calls that wake them up.

"I was working late, you see, and all of a sudden I seem to have lost some twenty minutes, and my left hand is dead." He asked a few more questions before he said it didn't sound like a stroke.

"I don't think it's a stroke, Lali. You are not thinking clearly." Now there was a smile in his voice. "Well, being unable to think clearly, that's a symptom of stroke, isn't it?" I said in a querulous whisper. "No, it's a symptom of panic." He laughed outright.

"You got up, found the phone, and called me. A person who's just suffered a CVA can't do that. Think it through, Lali."

"But what about the blackout? My hand is hanging like a lump of dead something or the other, I tell you. I can't move it," I insisted, unwilling to let go of my stroke theory.

"You must have dozed off. Probably in an awkward position. My guess is that you have radial neuropathy, a pinched nerve. We'll see how severe it is tomorrow. Go to bed, Lali."

A new thought struck me. "I'm left-handed, B2," I wailed. "Shh. You don't want to wake the house."

"But how will I brush my teeth? Or cook?"

"You will have to teach your stupid right hand to be clever. You will manage, like you managed to call me," he said. "We'll get some tests done tomorrow, now go to bed, Lali."

"What happened to your bedside manner," I grumbled. He chuckled. "I am in my bed, not on my rounds, and you ought to be in bed too. Good night."

As it turned out, tests bore out his diagnosis, radial neuropathy, or what is commonly known as Saturday Night Palsy or Honeymooners' Palsy, where the radial nerve gets trapped and goes numb. Drunks and addicts and people who fall asleep in odd positions are the usual victims. I was so relieved to have my stroke theory demolished that being considered a drunk seemed no more than a flea bite of annoyance, I assure you.

I went to his chamber to get his seal of approval on the cock-up (yes, that's what it is called) splint that I was to wear to support the wrist. B2 said it was a good splint, taught me exercises to maintain muscle tone and strengthen the hand while I waited for the nerve signals to resume.

"How are you getting on with the poem, by the way?" He asked as I was taking my leave. I turned and glared. "If it is a choice between my hand hanging dead and my poem hanging dead," I began with quiet venom. "You'd choose the hand, of course. That's my girl." He completed my sentence and grinned at me. Bedside manner, bah!

Endeavour at poetry ought to come with a warning that it is dangerous to health, I tell you.



Anonymous dipali said...

Poor Lali! It must have been really scary. How are you coping with all that you do with a dysfunctional working hand? Hope it's better now.

7:45 am  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

So the unflappable Missus Em panicked. Poor Lali. Hope your hand gets better soon.

5:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, how are you now, is it not strange that i come to know of this through the blog! look after yourself. one thing i can ssure you, when and if we, women fall sick- there will be no one around to look after us. may be it is high time you stopped smoking and drinking! - kavi

7:03 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

I am rather surprised I must say. I expected a stream of messages from your brigade of toy-boys and toy-girls, but not a peep out of them.

You could have made this dark comedy, or status report, but this post reads neither here nor there. As if you wrote with attention on other things.

I hope you hand recovers soon, Lali. Post a poem next, please?

9:50 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Dipali- It's mending and thank you for asking. Left-handed people in India learn a bit of ambidexterity thanks to social conditioning, so I am managing.

Rajesh- The thing is, Child, that when faced with an enormity of disaster, the mind tends to cling to known examples rather than consider other possibilities. Yeah, I panicked, wouldn't you have?

Kavi- Yeah, perhaps I ought to quit. And keel over like the ramp models who live on salads and prayer. Moderation is the mantra Kavi, and I am moderate, I tell you.

Ash- I did not want to post about this at all, okay? And yes, my mind was on other things, like getting my hand back to functional. Bah.

9:50 pm  

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