When he came back from the States after the exchange program got over, due to the unhealthy lifestyle he had indulged in the past six weeks (or so he told me), this acquaintance of mine fell grievously sick. Days of horrendous pain, and medical tests later, he was informed that he had a problem in his gall bladder (he did tell me what the exact problem was, but my memory has been failing me) and that he would have to do without the organ. He was also told that the operation would take place the very next day. When we made our first acquaintance one year and three months later, I inevitably ended up talking about my favourite books during our very first conversation. Nothing like books to fill up the awkward pauses, nothing like 'em to judge the other person. I still remember the thread of our conversation. When I began talking about the last book I had read (Doris Lessing's The Grass is Singing), he began, "Well, I'm not much of a reader of fiction. But the last book I read was Camus's The Outsider.
-- Oh, I read Camus on the 18th of September, 2008. The book kept me up all night.
-- Hey, you read the book on my 21st birthday!
-- Hey, I read the book on the eve of MY 20th birthday!
-- Some coincidence, sharing birthdays, considering we bumped into each other in the class only a couple of weeks ago, and this is our first proper conversation... Anyway, I read the book on the eve of my operation.
-- What operation?
-- Gall bladder. Had to get it removed. Thanks to a diet solely composed of burgers and beer.
-- You do not have your gall bladder? Doesn't it affect you?
-- Well, I'm supposed to lead a comparatively austere life than the one I'm leading now... Anyway, you deviate. So, I go to the OT, having read Camus's Outsider, and not having slept a wink. And then, halfway through the operation, I wake up and feel the pain!
-- Yes, apparently, the anaesthetics didn't work. ** I woke up during my numbness and I felt the pain of an operation. To be specific, I felt what it feels when someone penetrates four metal rods into your otherwise benign and barren stomach. It was like the beeps of some meters. I could hear the voices of the doctors. I could feel the pain. It was more like the infinite roots of a sinusoidal curve with the x-axis and the pain points are the roots. I felt I was dead where all that I could think of was Nothing Else Matters. I really aint no Shelley and hence this was the best way I could describe my experience in brevity. I tried to console myself with the saying that “the pain of the mind is much more intense than the pain of the body” and since I experienced the former the latter was just a passé in that very mind of mine. But all in all I am repentant for not remembering the integral part of the eternal sunshine of my otherwise spotless mind, Let it Be…
[** Here, I admit, I have forgotten the exact words A told me. So I have lifted from his blog, from the entry when he had blogged about the experience (for obvious privacy reasons I'm not pasting the link to his blog here). Hence, the authenticity remains.]
For the past three weeks (gosh, it's been three weeks already?) since I’ve been sick, this conversation has been coming back to my mind, though it has been nearly two years since it first commenced. I try to imagine how A must have felt when he woke up to that sensation, Camus's Outsider brandishing in his mind. What I would like to think about A, would be that he finally took stock of his situation, relating the episodic significance of waking up at the middle of an operation to the trials and misses of his life. Although, once released into the bright flippant world outside, he did not take long to go back into his former flippant lifestyle, I wouldn't grudge him this much glory of finally acknowledging responsibility for his own life.
I couldn't read much during my indisposition. So, I propped my laptop on my bed, switched on the player, and listened to Maggie Gyllenhall reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. Having fed myself on all the available videos of Sylvia Plath reading her poems (check out Youtube pronto, if you haven't heard these yet!) as well as her interviews, I found it difficult to relate to Maggie's voice as Esther (she says, 'Ester!' ). Nevertheless, I rose and fell, cried and smiled as the words rolled on, became chapters, and reached the end.
With great sorrow I discovered that I didn't have any P.G. Wodehouse audiobooks (having always disappoved of the idea, believing that books ought only to be read, just as music ought to be listened and films to be watched). The Vicar of Dibley proved an indelible companion during the recuperation, and through my dazed mornings, A's preoccupations with Meursault occupied my mind as much as Geraldine Granger ("I am not a lunatic. I have the psychiatric report to prove it. A slender majority of the panel decided in my favour").