I was flying back to Delhi earlier this week when I seriously began to consider the possibility of there being something wrong with me. Oh yes, the topic has been breached earlier in several gatherings, but I hadn’t paid much heed to it before. I had assumed that these righteous gatherings were merely being silly.
The issue anyway was that I was seated at 7C, a nice aisle seat which I had asked for. Oh, I always ask for aisle seats – simply because you get ‘hand-room’ for at least one of your two hands. These days, legroom refers to a spacious triangle drawn between your leg, the vertical from your knee dropped to the ground and the horizontal from your toe to where that vertical fell a moment ago, with the angle between the leg and the horizontal not less than 70 degrees. On a related note, you can take the boy out of the Maths, but never the Maths out of the boy.
Anyway, considering the aforementioned conditions, a one-hand-room is something to die for. But I wasn’t looking well enough at the girl in the counter to notice the nefarious grin she had as she assigned me to 7C. One should always be ready with a second look when faced with nefarious grins.
A couple of minutes after I settled down in the ill-fated 7C, a bespectacled fellow dressed like a politician (Khadi shirt and pants of the same off-white colour – match-match, just like those Monday-wear uniforms in my school) rolled in and occupied the seat on my left, 7B. I took one look at him and switched back to my book, since he did not have a nefarious grin. It was an Air India flight and apart from a consistent squeak coming from the right wing (probably required some oiling) and a small but suspicious scream from the general direction of the cockpit (probably forgot to buckle in that extra passenger in the cockpit), the takeoff was uneventful.
About ten minutes afterwards though, I encountered a slight pressure on my left arm. A quick peek showed the poltu-type sneaking in his arm over the armrest, slightly encroaching into my half of the said armrest.
At this point, it must be mentioned that I’m an Armrest Communist (not to be confused with an Armchair Communist. That is Jawaharlal Nehru, I believe) – Armrests, whether in movie halls, planes or buses must be equally divided between the occupants of the accompanying seats. Governments in my utopian world would take control of all the armrests of the world and distribute them evenly among the occupants. This encroachment into my space, and that too by a shady Khadi-wearer was something I would not normally have endured in silence. You would be right in imagining me immediately going on an indefinite hunger strike to demand a separate armrest of my own. But strangely, I did not.
My suspicions about my well-being increased when I found that I preferred shaking my head in a mechanical fashion with the cranium buried in my book, as a pretty air hostess chirped about some coffee or tea. This is certainly unwarranted behaviour in Indian planes. When pretty air hostesses chirp about coffee, tea or even about the general need of putting your seat in an upright position (Why? Would that 20 degree extra slant in a few seats result in a botched landing?…. erm, it probably does), you are supposed to blurt out a “Yeah, sure!” and do the deed. No sane man ignores a pretty stewardess and I believe she ran to the lavatory and broke down in tears after my unintentional snub.
We landed in Delhi without any further incidents, and it was a matter of time before the fever started. It was the worst I’ve had for quite some time and I bundled myself inside 3-4 sweaters and curled into a foetal position in the bed, only surfacing to take the occasional breath.
Later, as I dragged myself to the dining room for some dinner, my flatmate shared the morale-boosting news of over 200 new reported cases of Swine Flu in Delhi. Apparently, the virus had mutated and was majorly badass now.
Morale-boosted and appetite lost, I crawled back into the bed and pondered my next move.
As a true netaholic (Addicted to the internet I mean, not to politicians), I researched the symptoms and other related Swine Flu facts. Upon discovering that I had almost all the symptoms, I proceeded to give up and contemplated writing a self-epitaph. This line of thought was rather productive and occupied me for a while, but soon the chills and the shivering had me bed-ridden again.
Come next morning, I was reasonably certain of being in the esteemed company of Micah Richards, Cherie Blair and lately, Appam Sreesanth and knew that it was time to drag oneself to a hospital. The thing is that I’m truly uncomfortable with hospitals. It’s not that I’m scared, no. But I find myself confused and flabbergasted when I wander into a hospital. I stand there at the foyer and have an extremely trying conversation with my brain somewhat like this –
So where do I start?!
At the reception.
Which one is that? That thing straight ahead where the nurses are congregated?
No, that’s the Nurses Station.
Oh, nice name. Nurses are parked there, eh?
Shut up. The reception usually has some people attending telephone calls. Go there.
OK, found it. But everyone is attending telephone calls.
OK, there’s no change. Now what?
Check around and see if there’s someone you can approach.
Right, there’s a big board saying “OP helpdesk”. What in the world is an OP?
Probably where you sign out as you leave the hospital. Maybe you should just barge into one of the doctors.
Maybe, but which doctor? It says Paediatrician there, but I’m not a kid. It says ENT there, but those organs of mine are fine. Yonder lies Neurology, but my nerves aren’t damaged. Where do I go for a simple fever!?
Hang around the casualty maybe? Seems to be the place for casual diseases.
Er, that’s for the emergencies. And I was asking you for advice!
See why I should not be allowed in hospitals? Anyway, with several dire premonitions in mind, I entered the premises of a nearby hospital soon afterwards. Wait, I seem to have procured the wrong address. This was obviously a hotel. No, said the guard outside and ushered me back in. Well, well! Spick and span with dim lighting, big boards screaming “Reception“, “Cafeteria“, “Bone Injuries“, “Operation Theatre“, “Neurology“, “Random Fever which could be Swine Flu” and what not. This was almost out of ‘A Dummy’s Handbook of Hospital Navigation’.
The hospital had me head over heels in love at first glance, and I made my way forward, eyes blurry at the opulence. That was when I saw the full awesomeness of the cafeteria – it was as well-stocked as an up-market cake shop and there were some smiling youngsters dressed in aprons behind the counter, ready to take my order. Stammering incoherently, I packed some stuff and was almost on my way back home when I remembered my purpose in visiting this establishment. Oh yes, hospital, swine flu.
Some smart form-filling and wallet-emptying by the receptionist followed, and soon I was on my way to consult with Dr. Something Shah. This good man started by poking my chest just over a dozen times with the poky apparatus that doctors have and subsequently took my temperature with a futuristic contraption. Oh, I had to keep breathing in and out throughout this process. Examinations done, Dr.Shah gave a grunt to himself which was a mixture of a satisfied grunt and a scientifically curious grunt.
Tricky time this, for my hyperactive fever-addled imagination. If that grunt predominantly signified scientific curiosity, I was probably toast. Dr.Shah might have just discovered an as yet unknown variant of the famed virus residing in me or worse, he might have discovered a completely new virus and I was the first carrier! Yes, this fellow certainly had a nefarious smile on.
Couple of frowns and a cleared throat later though, he pronounced me quite unimportant in the medical scheme of things and apparently carrying a simple throat infection. After prescribing some antibiotics, he let me off the room with what he thought was a comforting grin. Oh well, I seem to have not hit the major league of diseases then – let me tell you, it did feel a bit disappointing.