Can You Walk Like This?

These are days of the honge (Pongamia Pinnata). The white n’violet flowers, which are bud-like even in full bloom, are falling nonstop, and when they hit the ground they sound like tiny ping-pong balls. By evening the heat toasts them and the traffic crushes them to thinner-than-vermicelli fibre, and they turn springy like dried moss.

Sharing the street-space are copious splashes of bird droppings. There are also, of course, recurrent spittle spat on the entire length of my morning walk by my compatriots. I mention these merely to boast that I’m nimble, and that I reach home with clean soles.

But yesterday:

“Walk like this!” the doctor told me, and showed me how.

Short steps. The back of the front foot touching the toes of the rear foot. Repeated so, from wall to window in his smallish room at the Columbia Asia Hospital.


“Now do this,” he said, and did the same with eyes closed.


“If you’d asked me but three days ago, I’d have done this backwards, and faster than you,” I told him in my mind.

“Worry is, this’s happened suddenly,” he said, reading my eyes. “We've to rule out a stroke.”

In minutes I lay on an MRI apparatus, wearing earmuffs, head cased in an inner and an outer cover. The inner had a cutout for the face, and the outer had a white translucent window. With a soft moan the machine sucked me into its claustrophobic parlour for a twenty-minute talking-to.

Two kinds of sound assailed my head—in seven cycles. A treble and a bass, they worked to no pattern, screeching and squeaking and tapping and knocking. One cycle among them was different, almost pleasant: in it the treble and the bass sounded like they’d both just been tuned-up, and were on a dry run. I tried not to shake my head to the tune, having been warned thrice not to. My mouth, of course, was shut all the while the machine performed its monologue.

“About time,” I thought when I finally felt the technician’s hand on my arm. He first removed a berry-sized ball he’d kept in my hand to abort, if I wished to, this excessive man-machine intimacy.

For the Doppler Test next, the technician smeared goo on the broad blunt probe and pushed and dragged it across my throat at many angles. When she had my head toward her I could watch the monitor. Cloud-like formations moved on it. Red flashes appeared like in a storm, and when she moved the cursor small green specks came up among the red splashes. “Blood vessels,” she told me. The visual was accompanied by soft, continual explosions, sort of frothy, like gunfire in sci-fi movies. Only, the sounds were even more muffled here. “Documentation,” she said. A lengthy graph took shape along the bottom of the monitor.

Back in the doctor’s office, he had my brain in black and white at all angles before him. He flashed a younger-brother smile at me. “No stroke,” he said, surprising me with what looked like genuine relief. “But we need to send more blood to your brain. Plus, you’re short on B12.”

“This is a little painful injection, sir,” the nurse told me in her little cabin. She spoke in such a strong Malayalee accent, I relaxed in an instant. None do I trust more with the needle than the Malayalee nurse.

In a week I should be able to do the catwalk.