The sirens from the SUVs of the police patrolling in the neighbouring locality and that of ambulances shuttling on the highway that’s 3 kms away are the only sounds I hear around midnight these days. Occasionally, dogs do howl. There’s no sign of human activity otherwise. The lockdowns in its various forms and the fear of catching The Virus keeps people inside their four walls, no cabs dropping employees back home, no tipsy bulls on their roaring bikes.

It’s half past midnight. I’ve been struggling to sleep, a sort of good sign for me, it indicates I’m inching slowly towards my normal self. Being up that late into night or well into the early hours of the next morning is normalcy in my life. But true normalcy is far far away, I’m not able to imagine even.

A piece of polymer mesh, 7 inches wide, stitched to my abdomen on the inside, keeps reminding me that it’s a part of my body now. I keep wondering if I’m still a complete human or if the polymer makes me a humanoid. Far away from being a Terminator, though. The hernia surgery that happened three and a half weeks ago was unexpected. It was my first admission to a hospital, my first surgery, something I always wanted to stay away from. Which sane person wishes to be cut open like a sheep anyway!! Luckily, in my case, there were three minor incisions. A laproscopic surgery is much faster, takes lesser time to recover (apparently), leaves smaller scars on your body.

I’ve always wanted to be as close to nature as possible and that includes medical treatments. Nature, though, doesn’t have a solution to man’s ways of abusing himself and then seeking a cure from her.

As I lay on the bed, next to my mom – she who takes care of me at night, I’m reminded of the recklessness of my 20s – the incessant smoking, the abusive drinking, all those beer towers and ‘neat’ whiskey shots, the 12 inch pizzas. I was a guzzler. I was a ever hungry demon seeking to be satiated with food all the time. One full meal wouldn’t suffice often, I’d buy two. Just to feel full.

I’m reminded of the long road to losing weight, the struggle behind it, the salads, the cycling, badminton, the exercises and stretches and the walks on my terrace post midnight. Yet, I wonder, what made me so weak on the inside?

A first time “full body check up” revealed that my bad cholesterol levels are high, so are the thyroid levels. And, of course, that I have a hernia. The past three years of my struggle to be in the pink of health and to beat a weakened immunity flash by like a movie. I had listened to the warnings, a little late. I listened to my body when it complaines it cannot climb the stairs anymore, a little late. I had reduced 18 kilos in a year’s time, patiently, but a little late.

I can no longer eat even half of what I used to eat a month ago. The abdomen cannot stretch, it cannot accommodate too much food, it’s no longer elastic. It complains when I try to feed my hunger.

It was in 2019, when I had told someone who was very special in my life then, that my deteriorating health is bogging me down mentally. The repeated cycles of viral infections, the diarrhea induced by the antibiotics and the subsequent constipations had left me frustrated. Imagine struggling to digest food for 3 weeks straight, 4 times a year!!

My priority, over the last year, has been to stay healthy. The pandemic made it even more obvious that this is the right time and opportunity to fix my health. The absence of commuting and that of an air-conditioned environment were supposed to bring me back to my healthier self. I just couldn’t afford to fall sick during these times. And I didn’t, till the hernia was confirmed.

When you sign up for a procedure, the surgeon almost never mentions how much time it actually takes to recover, they always tell you you’ll resume your normal life in a short period of time. In my case, it was 24 hours.

What the surgeon ignored was that I had a weak digestive system. 4 days post the surgery, I ended up with a food poisoning. On home food!!! Beat that!!!! 4 days of diarrhea and then a week of constipation and an injured bum.

Tears did roll down an hour ago, it was a weak moment. During times of distress, you often wonder why it happened to only you. In my case, the list of problems is really long – multiple viral attacks, almost losing my Dad, an unanticipated break-up in the midst of a pandemic, high stress levels at work, so many known faces lost to the pandemic and now this.

But then, the rational self took over. My brain virtually slapped me on my cheek and told me only I was responsible, at least health-wise. The recklessness of the 20s has brought a painful start to the early 30s. It has also been a blessing in disguise. I know now as to what’s important in life, what to value more. The plight of my ageing parents over the last three weeks has been awful. The fear of needing to get admitted again in the middle of a bed-crisis, when people are dying due to shortage of bed and oxygen, kept me going. I had to be mentally strong in thr first place and not drown in self-pity if I had to help my parents. One cannot watch a father helplessly seated with head hanging low because he no longer has the strength to take care of his own son. Or watch a mother cry helplessly because she doesn’t know what to do in order to pull her son out of the misery.

It’s kind of reassuring to know now that my fear of deteriorating health and the, early on, to recuperate have not been on irrational and unfounded thoughts. That I was still right when I prioritized my health and that of my parents over socializing with the world or even the love of my life. That decision of enforcing strict distancing rules indirectly cost me the relationship itself. I even had to hear “I don’t care if you’re healthy or obese!!” As if I was trying to be slim and thin so that I can look good!

But then, I’m still alive, and will soon walk on my own.. That independence is what’s more important. The ability to lead your life without having to depend on someone else, to be able to pee and poop without help, to be able to breathe without help is what’s important.

It’s 2AM, and I’m finally feeling drowsy, I’m surely getting back to my normal self and that’s one new thing to be happy about in life now.

Stay safe, stay healthy.