Friday, October 08, 2010

Thou Shall Not Bend

‘You must not bend”, said my doc. I had gone to him ‘cos of back pain – something a person like me fighting a deadly disease should not ignore.
‘Not even to pick up something from the floor?’, I asked.
‘No’, he said quietly. ‘It’d be nice if you use a walker at home. When you go out, use a walking stick’.

The doc is a soft spoken man of few words and he seemed appalled that the instruction he had given three years back - not to bend - was not taken seriously.

'So it shall be', i told myself. ‘I shall not bend. Nothing to get panicky about’, i said to myself. ‘After all he said i could walk, travel, climb stairs.

But soon i realised that life without bending is not easy. Just imagine you can't bend to scratch your little toe when it itches!

After i got back from the hospital, I was taking the newspaper to my room when i dropped it. I started to bend when a shout stopped me. “Don’t bend, molly” yelled Sunny, my husband who was watching me from the top of the stairs. He came running down and picked up the paper for me and put the walking stick in my hand. ‘Use this’, he said, ‘it’ll remind you that you are not supposed to bend.’

Later in the day, wishing to make myself useful, i decided to help to set the table. The dish in which we served fancy dishes was in the cupboard below the kitchen platform, and leaning on the stick i started to bend down, “Miss, Miss Miss, don’t’, screamed Shiny who looked after me during my treatment. ‘I’ll take it. Don’t bend. Please go and sit at the dining table. I’ll manage on my own’.

Well, so much for my effort to be of help.

The next day I began to feel a little depressed. The implication of not bending at all hit me like a ton of bricks when i dropped my medicine strip and my eighty four year old mother-in-law rushed to pick it up with ‘Molly don’t bend, DONT bend. I’ll pick it up for you’.

Believe me life isn’t easy at all if you have to depend on people to pick up what you drop, to take something out of the lower racks of the fridge, wardrobe and book shelf.

I’ve got to find a way out, i decided. My son said he’d look if robotic hand is available in the US. But then I’ll have to wait till he comes. Till then i didn’t want to keep calling people to help me every time i need something which requires bending.

I looked down at my stick. IDEA! I snatched a chiffon dupatta from the hanger and dropped it on the floor. I then carefully slipped the stick under it and lifted it slowly. Half way through it slipped down. I tried again. It fell when it came almost within reach of my free hand. ‘Damn’, i muttered to myself (I’m not the cursing type – at least not the easily cursing type). i tried again – without success. I didn’t give up but tried again and again and again. I looked around to see if there were any spiders that could inspire me. I should have tried with cotton duppatta first, my common sense admonished me, and i cursed myself for being over ambitious. But by then it became a matter of prestige for me to pick up that colourful chiffon duppatta with my walking stick. i kept trying and trying and trying. And then it happened. It remained on the stick till i raised it high enough for my hand to take it!

Now i can pick up a lot of large and flexible objects with the help of the stick. But things like pencils, pens, spoons still pose a problem. Am sure eventually I’ll be able discover the technique of picking them up from the floor with the walking stick.

I have also found an easy to way to take things out from low shelves. Initially i tried sitting on a low stool but it became a pain going to where the stool was, pushing it with my stick to the site of operation.

Again i sat down and thought. IDEA! Yes, an idea can really change your world. As a kid and a teenager, I had learnt Bharatanatyam. So i was pretty flexible though not exactly anorexic. That day, when it was time for the evening news, I decided to switch on the TV myself instead of calling for help.

The plug point was just a feet above the ground. I could have switched it with my walking stick but i had misplaced it and everyone had been looking for it since morning with no success. So i decided to try out the Bharatanatyam technique. I went close to the switch, bent my knees keeping my body erect like the way Chandrika teacher taught me decades age and yippee! I switched on the TV without anyone’s help, and without the help of even the walking stick ! I felt grateful to my mother who is no more, for bulldozing me into each dance class all those years back.

The time came for me to go home to Trivandrum where Sunny was staying alone during my treatment in kochin. I felt pretty excited as much about going back to the familiar place as about having my husband around to do the bending tasks for me.

Then disaster struck, though of a temporary nature. Sunny sprained his back and was absolutely bedridden. Sitting helplessly in kochin, i looked up at the Almighty and asked, ‘Hey mister, what have you against me?’ ‘Nothing dear lady’, he seemed to say. ‘Just leave it to me. I’m here to take care of things’
‘Ok, sir”, i said shrugging my shoulder resignedly. But it made me feel better.

When we reached my apartment in Trivandrum, Sunny was waiting supported by a walking stick! I looked at him and burst out laughing.
“Am much better now’, he said. ‘Can move about, but cannot bend. Bending causes excruciating pain”.
‘So ‘m better off than you. I have no pain’
That doesn’t mean you should bend”, he said rather sternly.

Later in the day, we wanted to watch TV. The switch point was again a feet above the ground. I had started walking towards it with my walking stick poised to press the switch with it when i saw sunny bending his knee in that classic Bharathanatyam pose till he could comfortably switch on the TV!

Now i think i know how the basic pose of Bharatanatyam originated! An ancient Indian method of dealing with sprained back must have caught the aesthetic eye of some innovative artist who saw the beauty and the possibilities of the human body as it lowered itself at the knee keeping the torso erect.


  1. Smiling through pain is an oft enacted facial contortion for me. I smile at your words, though they give me pain...

  2. Smiling through pain is an oft enacted facial contortion for me. I smile at your words, though they give me pain...

  3. Through all that pain, you seem to have found a way to put the smile on everyone's face. Application of Bharatnatyam to switch on the TV, huh?! Hope both of you are feeling better now.

  4. This might be cruel considering the back pain you endured, but I just cant stop laughing!
    I am new to your blog and find it very entertaining, thanks for sharing.

  5. That is how most of inventions came..out of necessity.
    It is only when we are sick,that we realize the value of being healthy.
    And as I often say,it is in pain that we find the meaning of life!

  6. And here I thought that the araimandi/muzhumandi were meant to highlight the fan-out of the pleats of the costume! I never thought of it as a way to deal with back pain, will keep that in mind should I ever need the technique;)

  7. mam ,i loved the way u wrote ..meanwhile i was feeling bad throughout.anyways small suggestion:in USA ,i see people holding a stick with clasps at its end used for gripping some balls from ground when playing along with thier pets(dogs mostly)so that helps them from bending often .why dont u try tht?

  8. bharatnatyam couldn't have originated any other way ammai!:P lol!!!... you rock!!


Dear visitors, dont run away without leaving behind something for me :-)
By the way, if your comment does not get posted at the first click, just click once more.