Ramendra Kumar writes a tongue-in-cheek account of his tryst with Haemangioma and playing dumb charades to communicate. An inspirational account of battling a serious health problem with a positive attitude.
Earlier this month I was diagnosed with a rare disease called Haemangioma – a clot inside a blood vessel in the throat. I was feeling quite proud. Throughout my life I had steadily taken mediocrity to a sublime art form – now at last I had become special.
Amitabh had his Myasthenia Gravis, RK (on celluloid) had Lymphocircoma.
I, who had suffered from a variety of more common ailments like flirtitis and luvaria, had finally hit the jackpot. The disease per se was not such a humdinger – it was the location (only a few cases on planet earth so far) that made me leagues ahead of the Late Superstar and the Perennial One.
Haemangioma usually occurs under the skin. Since I have always been getting under my eternal beloved Madhavi’s skin, I felt she he had confabulated with either God or Satan and got it shifted to the throat. She reasoned quite rightly that the best way to silence me without actually silencing me is to unleash Haemangioma on me. This disease also occurs only in infants – Madhavi was feeling hugely vindicated – she has always maintained I am puerile.
H-a-e-m-a-n-g-i-o-m-a – as my silenced tongue caressed these alphabets I felt a strange sense of déjà vu. The name of this curious ailment ‘sounded’ uncannily like the expletive my ma-in-law had hurled at me when I had accidentally dropped the dish containing the paayasam made by her only daughter the very first time.
Well, the ailment started innocently enough – with a hoarse voice. When my voice box didn’t improve for close to two months – I went to the doc. A few harmless pills, gargling and steam inhalation was the advice. Two weeks later I went back to him croaking. One week of complete voice rest (I could see the look of unadulterated glee on Madhavi’s face) along with a round of some more pills – same size, different colour, more in number followed.
When friends, neighboours and countrymen heard it there was a deluge of suggestions ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous but my voice continued to put Rana Tigrina to shame.
Finally it was decided that I should go in for a laryngioscopy. Something which tasted like Madhavi’s first tryst with custard making was sprayed in my gullet and a slender pipe was inserted through my nose. As I lay in that condition there was a mini-conference on the colour, size, location and nature of the blob which was resting prettily somewhere on the top of my vocal chords. As I lay in that ridiculous position I was invited to view the blob by the doctor – like a proud parent presenting his child’s maiden masterpiece. The ordeal continued with the committee now going in for photo and video recording on their respective mobiles debating on the quality of the pics vis-a-vis the brand of the mobile.
The wise men deliberated for quite some time and could not come to any conclusion either to the cause, the effect, the ailment or the remedy. Finally, the surreal image of my vocal chords was sent via whatsapp to different specialists across the state and within a few hours the verdict was out. I was now the proud sufferer of the esoteric condition called Haemangioma. My wife Madhavi started looking at me with respect – finally I was different in something – a struggling writer of two decades, a professional of mediocre abilities, a husband of unspeakable qualities had finally come into his own. She could now declare proudly that her ordinary hubby had added the x factor and had become extraordinary.
Now the next step was how to dehaemangiomise me. The local doctors threw in the towel and their hands. I was referred to the best hospital in my home town – Hyderabad. Now I had said goodbye to my janmabhumi more than 25 years ago and though I had done a return of the native a couple of times these returns were just a few scattered dots on my life’s timeline.
I had also lost touch with my classmates from school and college till a year ago. But thanks to the much abused and denigrated WhatsApp I was a member of quite a few groups.
I rang up one of my classmates who is now the head of a premier medical institute in the country.
“Ramen, no issues maan! The CEO of your referred hospital is our junior in school. I’ll talk to him and fix an appointment for you.”
Well, the old boys’ network swung into action and barely two days later I was sitting in front of the CEO and trying my best to remember whether I had ever seen him in my life. Well, three and half decades is a long time and both us had obviously changed (though I like to think I look as young as I did 35 winters ago).
Anyways, he made a few phone calls and everything fell into place. I met the super specialist, took admission and the surgery was fixed for the next day.
The deluge of visitors started as soon as I moved into my room. It was like a school reunion – the only difference instead of a club or a bar, it was the hospital room.
I was on complete voice rest – but for my knowledge of dumb charades I would have probably burst a vein. It still was a torture – any amount of miming can never equal the real thing. Imagine meeting your chaddi–buddies after a gap of 35 years and only being able to imitate a dyspeptic orangutan. However, the candour, camaraderie and the chutzpah of my pals soon made me forget my angst. As we relived the pranks, the capers, the mirth and the madness of our ‘wet behind the ears’ years, I sure was glad the doctors in Rourkela had decided to export the patient and his problem to Hyderabad.
The surgery went off like a breeze – but what followed was a Tsunami.
I have been asked to speak only in short sentences, not to raise my voice or talk in whispers. And this commandment I have to follow for the rest of my life.
For a person whose profession is communication and whose passion is public speaking, mentoring and storytelling it is a brutal blow in the unmentionable.
Madhavi was ecstatic when she heard the ‘raising the voice part.’ I am sure the visions of raucous ramen morphing into a cooing dove was flashing in her mind’s eye.
My dumb charades continued for a week. We went shopping and whenever I would try to explain to the shop keeper using sign language he too would reply the same way. Until once I almost yelled in exasperation: “Dammit, I can’t speak but you can. Why the hell don’t you open your trap and answer me.” The guy almost jumped of his skin (without the help of any Haemangioma I am sure) as if he had witnessed a mummy come alive and start singing an Egyptian lullaby.
In the office the situation was the same. Everyone would walk in, sit down and start practicing his or her version of dumb charades. After a few futile attempts at explaining I simply gave up. Now the entire office and beyond is having a field day. I suspect whenever anyone feels bored he (or she) walks into my room and starts gesticulating – a tiny ode to the silent movie era and a giant help for Ramenkind!
The one most mystified by my maun avatar is my lab – Aryan. His papa smells the same, looks the same – but has been acting very funny. His daddy who had made shouting, shrieking and screaming his favourite avocation has suddenly gone all maun. He had always known papa was dumb (brain wise), or else why would he allow mommy to bully him so much. But he had never thought the malady would move from between his ears to his tongue.
On a more solemn note I was deluged with a number of messages of encouragement and support.
The most inspiring one was from the editor of this website:
I am a firm believer in the power of prayers – to whomsoever and whatsoever you may have faith in. The Almighty or the power within your own self. Prayers work wonders. You will emerge out of this and would get your natural speaking self back. I have seen wonders happen and they happen more so to good people who are sincere and committed.
It will take some time but you will recover. Public speaking is your lifeblood, it will continue to be part of your life very much. That is what I believe.
The last word (or line) goes naturally to Madhavi. I heard her telling a friend, “I feel like I am watching the movie ‘Silence of the (baa) Lamb!”
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