Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Surgery

Saturday, 27 September 2008 1:12am

It has been four days since I have been away, tucked on a hospital bed, recuperating with the pains of surgeries done on my body. The invoice read the procedures with abbreviationslike "banding", "anaes", "stretch", "excision of lesion", and "excision of fissure". I can live for a long time in a small space, equipped with a small television set with inaudible sounds emanating from a damaged speaker and some hospital food. Because the sounds were just hisses and hints of words being said, I tended to read the Malay subtitles instead and thus lose seeing the movies. I could just live and breathe and move a little and sleep and wake up to eat and then breathe and move a little and then sleep. It can go on and on. There is a passive acceptance to the fact that I have just had a surgery, except for the unconsciousness. How it went on the surgery table, I would not want to venture to guess, perhaps darkly but the reality has happened. I managed the dissemination of information really well, taking care of informing only those who needed to know under conditional confidentiality and so, few came to visit. My brothers Sam and Kamal came with their wives and children. Nizam came on the last day and we went on and on conversing about religion and the perception of religion and of Shites and Sunnis. And then some office mates came but I did not mention the reason for the surgery.

The metaphysical question that now bears in my conscience is that, is God angry with me? Perhaps, He has tired of my lamentations, my invocations at the same earthy material things. Now I cannot now stand on the prayer mat to pray. This must then separate myself away from Him. So for the rest of the Ramadhan days, I will be distanced, unheard, quiet. The Universe will be quiet of the ranting of a man who can never be satisfied with his lot. Perhaps, then, God can push me away. Of course, this can be pure conjecture. It could be the opposite. Or it could be a matter of fate. Or a matter of an incident that has to happen to just about anybody. The question does cross my mind though. It could be His unhappiness.

In all those days, I passed in between dreams, awaking from sleep and dropping off to sleep, as a child would from going into one pond and into the next, in glee. The mind closed, drifting off, without caring to wander about what has happened, but accepting, like accepting that the hand has been chopped off and that is that. There were no rationalisations. It was only when I have returned home that the mind returned, to rationalise the possibilities.

There was only the window, through which I could see the construction below. That the hospital is constructing a new four-storey car park. And there were the construction noises, the piling works, working until late at night, disregarding the irritating sounds that have seeped through the walls and windows to disturb patients, a patient like me, who slept and woke at unconventional times. I settled the temperature in the room just about right, for me to feel cold enough to hibernate but not warm enough to sweat. There was simply many hours of sleep, as the round clock on the wall opposite the bed was big enough to show me the numbers that have gone by. There was a lot of peace, interspersed by the busyness of the nurses, who were to change the bed sheets, the blanket and the pillow cases, the housekeeping who came to mop the floor, the housekeeping who brought the meals on plastic trays and the nurses who came to measure the body temperature from the armpit or from the mouth, the blood pressure and the pulse rate. And there was a patient next door, who would buzz the nurse repeatedly, as if the button was a bell. A single buzz would do, as the warning light would come on and the nurse would come.
There were minimal comedic or theatrical shows to visiting friends, because there were not any, except for Nizam and the office mates. I cannot tolerate the possible repetition of explanations to the malady. Sometimes, people can ask too much of the patient. Questions remain the same, answers are repetitive, advice freely given, advice to be taken as if gifts from high heaven with nodding of head as if I have not come across the solutions in the books before, smiles through the pains, playing host to visitors. Indeed, recuperation does not need inquisitive visitors. I am better off alone.

With much fervent hope, this malady will go away and never return. The kite has to be unleashed from its tether and fly away, taken by the wind, to some unknown place. Through the pains, there was relief, that this episode has finally ended. The episode commenced seven years ago, when I had the first experience and that was a nerve wrecking experience, at which time, I asked God to grant me death because I could no longer tolerate the incessant searing pain that pulsated like a heart of its own. This revisit, I hope, will be its last.

Of dreams, I did not dream of unearthly dreams of meeting God or Angels or such. There were just dreams of meeting people, colourless dreams, in grey and black and some tainted yellow. I could not remember any. I just drifted in and out, spurred by the calmness that came from the liquid painkiller administered with a needle into the buttock every day. My request for a jab was never argued with, but I was always yearning for the calmness and happiness it brought each time.

I can recall the time, when I was wheeled on a bed to the waiting room, just before the operating theatre. First the nurse gave me a Roche pill which I gulped down with a cup of water, thus ending my fast. Two other patients were also there and then they were wheeled away. Then after some minutes, when the wife could no longer be seen as the door closed in front of her, the anaesthetist , small eyes under metal-rimmed glasses, gave me a jab. The whole place seemed to roll up and down and the doctor asked questions, in order to determine my state of vulnerability to the dosage, perhaps. I answered first coherently but then, staggered and waned at the last answers. I sat up, hand drawn to the head, feverishly trying to put the words together. Questions being asked, and answers that needed to be given. Now, I cannot remember his questions, nor my answers. I cannot remember what happened after that either. I must have dropped into unconsciousness the moment I lowered my head to the pillow again. This is the third time that I have been to the operating theatre. The first time was in 2002, to operate on the left knee. The second time was a life-saving surgery to remove the appendicitis in 2004 and now, four years later, to do this surgery. Every thing seems to be below the waist. There is no equation here. The pain can obliterate the thinking, the rational mind. Its sickness, can render a man prostrated, uncivilised with uncontrolled irritability and anger and bitterness without any rational nudge or motivation. With its sickness, everything around becomes small, the Earth, the entire Universe becomes small and constricted and puny and valueless. Nothing could stop its decision. Thus the surgery.