For the last two days I've been lying in bed knocked out not only by high fever but also by the most agonising headaches (though this should not be interpreted as an accusation, readers; it has nothing to do with the quality of comments you've been sending in, or with what small numbers visit the Middle Stage these days).
I went to see a GP on the first day, and he said it was a mild viral infection ("Mild? No, you've got it wrong right there, sir!"), and gave me a large set of pills to take, in different colours and with some broken into half. But all those pills went down to no effect, and the next day was just as bad as the first. Nor could I eat anything - I vomited everything straight back out, as if I'd suddenly turned into a human equivalent of a paper shredder.
Lying in bed in unbearable pain, I began to feel I was going to die. I thought of how, from being a person, I would suddenly change into a memory. I thought of all the things I would never manage to do, such as carry out a grand romance, skewer some enemies for good, or write a novel about Eros - heck, any kind of novel. I thought of all my books, growing lonely in their cupboards, and decided that I would generously leave behind my economics and philosophy books to Amit Varma, my books of reportage to Sonia Faleiro, my film books to Rahul Bhatia, my old science fiction books to Jai Arjun Singh, and some of my novels to my Hungarian friend Magda Sdebi. (General people want their ashes sprinkled over the face of the earth, but writers want their books.) I thought of England, where I studied for three years and which I was scheduled to visit next week, and of how I would never again see that beautiful little isle with its handkerchief fields, persistent low-hanging clouds and solemn beer-guzzling people.
As you can see, lying in bed in great pain does tend to encourage the most morbid thoughts, though the good thing is that one can twist them by ten degrees later and make them sound very funny.
Finally I was taken to hospital last evening, where, struggling to even sit up, I was ministered to by a bevy of doctors. In between our appointments my mother kept asking if I'd been working too hard lately (as anyone who knows me well will attest, this is a laughable contention). After many prods, taps and readings one doctor said he suspected I'd caught a mightily serious infection, and suggested I get admitted right away so that they could monitor me closely. I might be in hospital for three days to two weeks.
I have a great horror of hospitals - just entering them makes me feel ill. If I was ever given one wish, instead of asking for a million dollars I'd ask never to have to go to a hospital ever in my life. And strangely enough, within five minutes of him saying this, a young man's blood being what it is, I suddenly began to feel much better. I said I'd take whatever tests he recommended, but after that could I go home please? The doctors agreed, and I was told I could go home after taking a brain scan.
A brain scan involves lying on a long rack, having something strapped onto your forehead, and then being rolled into a large machine. My thoughts were still a bit morbid, and as I began to enter the little cavern it seemed to me as if this was the closest I'd ever get to understanding what it felt like to being inside a grave (not that it usually "feels like" anything to those sent into that underground world).
Ah well, I said to myself, trying to cheer myself up, at least it's totally painless. At this very moment an attendant and a nurse approached me from the left-hand side. They asked me to extend my arm with my fist closed, and before I could protests swiftly inserted a needle into my vein with the force one would expect of an attempt to puncture a bullock hide. What was worse was that, as I lay there with my eyes closed in agony, I could hear the attendant lustily shouting for cotton wool to be brought quickly to him, as if I was bleeding to death before his eyes.
Shortly after, still clutching my arm gloomily, I escaped the hospital.
I feel much better this morning (as you can see), but I'm off now to the hospital for more tests. But I can sit up, walk and think without pain, so if my body's telling the truth, then I think I'm going to be well again soon.
And to celebrate it all I'm going to be back tomorrow or the day after - or perhaps a bit later if I'm asked not to work in front of a screen - and hopefully this day next weekend I'll be bowling off a very long run-up (this is not the same as bowling very fast, but it is the closest approximation of that experience, and if nothing else it is indicative of a great zest of life, to be willing to put in so much effort for such little result) on a lovely green cricket field beneath a blue summery sky in England.