Posted by: rajagainstthemachine | September 11, 2010


Wake up, your operation is over“.
It felt like arising from a deep slumber.  Slowly, I became aware of my situation – lying in a hospital bed, staring down my nose, as my breath misted up the inside of the oxygen mask.
I was a tangled mess of tubes, catheters and intravenous drips – like a badly wired electrical appliance.
The tube inserted into the middle of my back was twisted in spirals, an artificial umbilical chord, draining blood from the back of my chest.  My veins were open, lapping up a cocktail of antibiotics, pain killers and nutrients. The pulse of the IV machine kept a monotonous pace as my surroundings grew familiar. 
But even amidst all of this – a feeling of happiness came over me. I was still myself: every inner inch, to a measure. Every flaw, habit and idiosynchracy. Every bit recognizable. Every piece of me – undefeated.
I would experience this feeling again.
I let out a laugh. Wry smiles passed over my face as I recalled memories of jokes past told to friends, and all of the funny things I would say the next time I met them. (I always telegraph my jokes, the smoke signals show in my eyes, in the shape of my mouth, and in the way I lean back from the table, arms folded, poised to remark. This marks me out, more than anything else, as my Father’s son, an embodiment of his sense of humour, and his distinctive methods of delivery; fatherhood expressing itself most acutely not in our physical features, but in the form of our habits, gestures and antics). 
So when my Family came to visit me that evening, the first thing to do, and indeed the only thing, was to tell the best jokes that came mind. The healing (and calming) power of wit and plays on words, carefully and cleverly planned. No: it was not the pain killers talking. That was me.
Sarcoma is a cancer of the connective tissue – bond, cartiledge, fat – the stuff that holds us together. And in my case, inspite of being thin my entire life, my problem was, ironically, with fat cells – liposarcoma. Something happened to me in my late twenties – as my thymus gland atrophied, the adipose – or fat – tissue around it changed character.  Sporting its lipoblasts, it revealed its malignant character – ballooning silently out into the abyss of my mediastinum.
Maybe I was doing this to myself – maybe I was letting my fears eat me up from inside.
No-one  really knows what causes liposarcoma, let alone how to stop it.  What we do know is that about 2.5 of every million people  develop liposarcoma. And I was one of them (yes, that means I am not quite one in a million).
But for me, Sarcoma is not about genetics or biochemistry.
Sarcoma is the piercing thought that stops me in my tracks. It reminds me to be myself, when I lose my mind in the mundane minutae of my work, in the petty anxieties that  consume my thoughts.  
Sarcoma marks time. In the in-between, I slide back into my habits – good and bad. In the in-between, I get caught up. I fight through the frustrations; I walk a tightrope between my ego and my insecurities.
The funny thing is, I dreamt of this. Visions of myself, lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by those closest to me. Fleeting visions, but frequent enough to make a mark on my memory. In all of the visions, however, I am peace.
I have another recurring vision, too. I am walking up a hillside. It is lush, verdant, with rice terraces stretching out on the slopes beneath me. A thousand shades of green. The temparature is neutral. The grass grows taller as I reach the heights of the hill, tall enough to lose myself within. Coming towards the apex, I stop, and scan the valleys around me. Munnar. Years ago, my Father was here; this was his birth place. Knowing this, I lie down. I made it home, and I don’t have to fight anymore.
Now it’s Sunday afternoon in New York. The skyscape is grey. Little droplets of rain gather on the window pane. The window, wedged open, lets a gentle breeze in.  A subtle scent of mint drifts up from my cup.
Stillness.  There are no barges on the Hudson. There’s a gentle hum of traffic drifting up from the Highway. Three yellow cabs meander their way down Eleventh Avenue; pausing periodically at traffic lights.

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