The Internet Personified: Thoughts mostly composed on a hospital bed*

(*But I'm now no longer on a hospital bed, I am back home and in my own bed. Actually, as I write this, I am even back at my own desk, sitting upright for hours on end and everything. The marvels of modern medicine. Writing this newsletter because it is the lowest stake thing I have to write, so it's a good way to ease back into the Zone, as it were, get cracking on my novel again. You understand.)

(By the way--shameless soliciting--but if you're an editor and you'd like to buy a version of this post (or any of the other posts), it can be done! I have a lot more to say on my hospital visit, especially on female pain and how we pretend like it's nothing.)

***



I didn't realise it had begun when it begun. The general anaesthesia I mean. I'd been told so much about general, how it made you feel loopy, like the "best kind" of drunk, with no hangover! Lucid dreams, said another friend, expect lucid, happy dreams. For me, they wheeled me into a room and kept me there for some time. "Is this the OT?" I asked the nurse, who looked vaguely shocked. "Oh no," she said, "This is only an outpatient room." Behind me, they wheeled in another woman, who lifted her head to look at me and then promptly fell asleep, breathing so deeply, it was almost snoring. I lay there, looking out of the window. Perhaps I slept. They took me into the real operating theatre. Funny how it's called a theatre. Like there's going to be a play, but are you--the dead body--the prop or the audience? Someone laid my hands out on either side of me on narrow little wheelie trays that seemed to be just for holding arms out, like Christ on the cross. Someone clapped an oxygen mask over my nose. I moved back a bit because it was hitting right above this bone on my nose that grows funny, outwards. A deviated septum, which is why I get colds and coughs and sometimes breathe with my mouth open. "Relax," said the man, but there were two men, one holding the mask and the other behind me. I couldn't see either of them. "I'm just going to move it a little bit," I told the air above my head, and the hands holding the mask shifted it, going, "Better?" It wasn't better, but was it going to get better? They'll probably fix it before the anaesthesia begins I thought, and waited for someone to say something, count me down, but then, my eyes started to grow heavier, they woke me up at six am with an enema which is awful, and my last conscious thought was, "Oh, it's begun already and no one told me." I feel like this is my general attitude to life. People tell me what to expect, and I wait, but no one tells you when it starts.

***

There were no lucid dreams, no drunkenness. Instead I wake up to--I'm distinctly sure--someone slapping my face gently. "Meenakshi, Meenakshi," this person is saying, and I am cross because I have just gotten to sleep and having woken up I realise I really have to poop, which is weird, considering all those enemas and that laxative I dosed myself on last night. I must make a noise, because he says, "How do you feel?" I scan my body quickly. Is it over? It's over! I don't feel much pain, only a little heavy. It feels like there are things sticking into my body, but the most urgent need of the hour seems to be the poop. So I tell him, making my words medical so that it doesn't sound so obvious, like this guy has probably just seen me naked, but I still don't want to say the words "I have to poop" so I say, grandly, "I need to make a bowel movement." "That's fine," he says, and leaves me with my swollen belly, and later I remember that they pump you full of carbon dioxide for this surgery, so that's what feels like I need to poop, all the gas in my belly, not actual poop. Gas is much more uncomfortable than you think, by the way, and my mouth is dry because I have not had anything by mouth since midnight the night before, and it also feels like someone stuck a tube down my throat at some point, but no one is giving me anything to drink yet, I'm so wide awake, and so thirsty, I try to lick my lips, but I have no saliva left in my mouth. They wheel me outside, and I'm waiting and I look at the clock and I realise it's about 4 pm, and I went in at 8.30 am, so wow, my mother and my husband must think I'm dead, so I tell the nurses to tell my family and I am wheeled away again.

***

Recovering. All the nurses are Malayali. I don't tell them I am half, though. It would require more conversation than I have. The only nurse I tell is the sweet one with braces who works in the hospital's version of the urgent care room. It is a maternity hospital--I have been there twice before already to look in at friends with new babies. They wheel the cradle out of my room. The braces nurse has a gentle touch, a nice smile. I like her instantly. I don't realise that the nurses downstairs will be worse, hard fingered and always seeming slightly incompetent, even if they're perfectly capable. They're not used to patients like me, they like to boss around the young mothers, and really, what else is there to do, but wheel in and out the babies, take blood pressure and pulse? I begin to resent one nurse above all others, she reminds me too much of the horrid Malayali nurse we had in boarding school, at the hospital which we called "Horse." The boarding school nurse was unsympathetic, a woman who took lessons from Ratched, who once shoved a laxative down my throat and dismissed me with rudeness. You're far away from home, and at the mercy of these nurses. The hospital nurse was trying to be friendly, but she was the kind of friendly that accuses you into it, "What's my name what's my name" she'd shout into the room, and you'd either have to admit you forgot, which earned a heavy eye roll and a shaking of the IV fluid or you'd mumble her name, and she'd grin, rewarding you like a school girl. Maybe that was the problem, she brought back too many memories of being helpless, a schoolgirl, vulnerable to all the adults who didn't have to love you to make up for it.



Okay, enough now, because I'm tired, and also I want to talk more about this somewhere that will pay me for it, the freelance hustle, you know how it is so let's move on.

One small change to the newsletter this fortnight. My friend Mansha mentioned that she had a hard time reading ALL the articles in the links so she often didn't read any, and when others agreed, I've decided to cut back to three essential links per newsletter. If you want MORE, write me back, maybe I can have a bonus links section or something.

ONWARD!

This fortnight in what I wrote (pre-surgery because I am organised sometimes.)

My books column this fortnight is all about the binge read.

And still, at some points, I hit reading slumps when I just want to re-read old favourites (A Suitable Boy, for instance, every two years) or it feels like I’m looking at books as though I am outside the book, not sunk into it. This month, I rediscovered the joys of books that pull you in and spin you around, books that are intense and immersive, and, yes, books you can totally “binge-read”



This fortnight in three links that you absolutely positively HAVE to read


Terrible story on what Instagram and wildlife tourism are doing to animals. It's a hard read but necessary, I think, so before you take your next elephant ride, swim with the dolphins etc, think about the real cost behind these gimmicks.

Meena is four years and two months old, still a toddler as elephants go. Khammon Kongkhaw, her mahout, or caretaker, told me earlier that Meena wears the spiked chain because she tends to kick. Kongkhaw has been responsible for Meena here at Maetaman Elephant Adventure, near Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, since she was 11 months old. He said he keeps her on the spiked shackle only during the day and takes it off at night. But it’s night now.


Living like it's 1994. I don't think I could do it, especially when it comes to meeting people. Not telling someone you're going to be late? How rude! Were we all just always on time in the 90s?

The first thing I noticed at midnight when the clock struck 1994 was the sudden silence in the room. The second thing was the deafening volume of my inner monologue. I was getting ready for bed, performing the half-dozen mostly mindless tasks that, because they occupy my hands, normally provide a treasured window for listening to an audiobook or podcast. As I smeared surprisingly solid and burning Noxzema cream across my cheeks, however, all I could hear were my own thoughts. Tedious thoughts. Thoughts about what I was doing at that very moment, what I would do in the seconds that followed and how loud my inner monologue was. I can’t live with this woman for a week, I thought, and it reverberated through my head like a shout.


And finally (GOD, IT'S HARD PICKING ONLY THREE! THE THINGS I DO FOR LOVE.) Prayaag's excellent walk down memory lane remembering summer in Delhi, also in the 90s. It's been a nostalgic sort of two and a half weeks.

That heat. That heat. The memory of which I could summon years later, on another continent, walking to class between giant snowdrifts. It made the top of your head and the soles of your feet feel precisely the same, no longer serving individual purpose, simply appendages in desperate need of dousing. If you were in the middle of a noon game of tennis and suddenly it felt as if your shoes were on fire, there’s a good chance they were. Sometimes you could smell the rubber of your soles smoulder.

*sugarcoatedpill logged out*

(my real ICQ/MSN name)

Where am I? The Internet Personified! A mostly weekly collection of things I did/thought/read/saw that week.

Who are you? Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of seven books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.

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