“Why is it”, Mira asked during dinner with Miral, Palmi and Aanya, who had just arrived from Chicago, “that all Indian politicians have moustaches and large grins?”
"Well, only the men politicians have moustaches” Tarini said, “not the women.” “Although one of them came close”, she added as an afterthought.
Am on board from Calcutta to Delhi on on a three day Bombay - Calcutta - Delhi - Chennai - Bombay trip. Calcutta has a great feel about it. Surprisingly organized and clean.
Survived my 4th full physical checkup in the past few months. "All well?", concerned colleagues ask. “Yes”, I reply, “it's for insurance”.
Two of the tests take place at Indu Clinic, close to our home, located in a large building subdivided into uncountable little rooms. At 08.30 in the morning you find yourself guided up and down stairs and into and out of rooms for blood donation, urine donation (couldn't help thinking of Morarji Desai), height and weight check, detailed questionnaire (do you drink? How long have you been drinking wine? Well, actually wine is quite healthy - thanks you for pointing that out), and my favourite, the stress test.
The first time I go for this test it's a Saturday morning and I’m dressed in casual clothes and running shoes. I am led into a small room with a lady doctor and her assistant. As they stick white pads all over my chest onto which the ECG wires will be pressed they joke with each other in Gujarati. I don't need being made fun of at 08.40 on a Saturday morning.
I am asked to stand for the test and make my way to the treadmill, which is around the corner from a supporting pillar in the middle room. The wires though are still attached to a PC on the other side of the pillar, leading to much maneuvering for ECG candidate and assistant alike.
(15A just slammed his seat back and gets a blast of Dutch curses in return).
As I get on to the treadmill the assistant says helpfully "please watch the upstairs", referring to the ceiling that is two inches away from my head. The treadmill is the Nasan Mark II, taking its inspiration from the best that the Soviet industrial design sector had to offer in the mid '70s. The machine speeds up slowly, and I'm actually keen for the pace to pick up and finally break into a jog when the pace allows.
"Sir, be careful!" the horrified assistant exclaims. I've quite obviously done something unusual.
"It's ok, the male doctor says, "let him run if he wants to". The doctor has taken the place of his female colleague, who probably had had more hilarity than she could handle for a day.
The test ends without any visible stress to my system and we are soon done for the day.
So when my next test in two months came up at the same facility on a working day I remember the low impact experience from my last visit, dress for work, drop Tarini off at school, and head for the test.
Blood, urine, thoughts about Morarji, do I drink wine? Yes, haven't given up yet, remember we concluded it was healthy? and into the small room for the final stretch, the stress test.
No assistant in sight. After 10 minutes in walks the assistant, a different assistant from the last time. No jokes in store today, no banter in Gujarati, this is the no nonsense assistant, with a bad weekend behind her.
I climb atop the Nasan Mark II treadmill again, ready for my stroll in the park. The pace and the incline continue to increase in speed and angle, but no worries, I’ve done this while rushing for flights and pulling luggage. The pace increases further and the no nonsense assistant throws me a sideways glance. No helpful “please mind the upstairs” either.
“What exactly are you testing for?” I ask, increasingly uncomfortable with speed, angle and fast approaching ‘upstairs’, millimeters away from my head. So as to avoid collision I am now hunched over, walking faster and hanging on to the Nasan’s handle bar. “Bless that Soviet industrial design” I think, this thing could survive another Russian Revolution. I may not, but the Nasan’s support bar will.
“ARE YOU TRYING TO ACHIEVE SOMETHING IN PARTICULAR??” I now yell at the assistant.
She shakes her head and points at the screen. “You haven’t yet achieved 80% of the maximum stress, so we keep testing”. My doctor friend, alarmed by my yelling, comes scurrying in. “Tiwariji”, something wrong? “Listen, I’m not dressed for this, my head is banging into the ceiling, and you’re not going to hit the 80% mark because I’m in decent shape”, I pant, bluffing only slightly.
My doctor friend switches off the machine. “See, we have switched off the machine, it’s off, no need for further testing, you’ve passed, in fact you had passed ages ago, we were just testing”, he says, as if to a child who’s been told that a scary movie has been turned off. “See?”. “Teenage vampire movie has been turned off'.
The kids are o.k., sort of.
Mira is in the middle of her first full fledged exams in India and has been revising for more than a week, with her usual systematic approach. Misses her friends in Chicago but is able to Skype and mail often. Aanya’s visit this week was a big highlight, with gifts from her classmates.
Tarini deals with anxiety but was buoyed by the pediatrician’s comments that “she is an adaptor”. He was very impressed by her mature language and humour.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.