When life gives you hospital beds, find your inner balconies

Today, I saw a Black Kite skirting past the opaque moon against a teal-blue evening sky. It was a refreshing change of scenery. Considering I had been bed-ridden since February. About two weeks ago, my spinal chord was operated upon. The disc bulge in my lower vertebrae had become worse. There was a growing risk of suffering permanent nerve damage on my left leg.

So, I had decided to opt for surgery. Now, I have a giant scar to show for it. If things don’t go according to plan, I may have a T-Shirt idea. Buy one for yourself and get two for your friends. But, strictly no refunds. I have a mouth, below my nostrils, to feed.

I need two more weeks of rest before I can walk comfortably, drive the car, sleep without medication, take a shower without a shiver, quite literally, creeping up my spine, and so on.

These days, I am mostly confined to bedrooms. I am unable to read because I have to keep changing my posture. So, I watch television. I double-check my inability to wriggle my ears. And I cross a daily of 5 levels in Angry Birds 2. But I feel a lot better these days; as opposed to the ghoulish experience that was the post-surgery stint at the hospital.

Especially since I can sit on the balcony and watch resident birds go about their businesses. Sometimes, I get to see sunlit clouds pass through one another. It is very relaxing. I think about how the weather effortlessly turns into a giant paintbrush when the canvas has an audience of one. And how I don’t have to pee into a container anymore.

I live in the heart of the city, but there are clumps of greenery around. I can spot Black Kites, Asian Koels, Rufous Treepies, White-Throated Kingfishers, Rose-Ringed Parakeets, Indian Mynahs, Rock Pigeons and House Crows. Plus, I have Coppersmith Barbets for neighbors. They show up twice a day – with their fiery red plumes and yellowing summer-sauced cheeks.

I have started photographing birds every morning. It is comforting to hold a camera after two months. The sun has also become my object of affection. I look at it through the lens, like a doting father would someone else’s child. We play peekaboo with each other.

Sometimes, airplanes join us. But we don’t particularly care for their noisy participation.

I have begun to notice that it is easy to be self-obsessed during a time like this. I hope that I don’t turn into a jerk who prattles about overcoming obstacles on a fancy hospital bed – with medical insurance.

But still, I wouldn’t want to forget any of it. I want to remember how I fought through the physical pain. The way I secretly longed for sympathy. Everyone who stood by me. All those who didn’t. The body weight I lost. Every new strand of white hair salting my sideburns. The worried expressions on my parents’ faces. The exciting news that my niece has started to learn to play the guitar. The anticipation of seeing Spotted Owlets again.

Being out there in the wild by the end of the year; back to a lifestyle that I was in love with. Being stuck inside four walls – listening to Jim Groce’s Time In A Bottle several times – until then.

Because scar tissues will leave you with lessons that last longer than those inspired by lectures. They teach you that things can go wrong all the time. But it does not mean that you should lead your lives in fear and anxiety. Find your own inner balconies.

And sit out there, patiently.

Because it can be exhausting to try and control your own life’s narrative. It probably requires a lot of effort and patience. But, rolling with the punches before moving on isn’t easy either. In fact, that road can often be rockier.

You may lose friends along the way. Feel bitter. Become more cynical. And grow impatient about failures. But there is a strange kind of comfort in it. One that isn’t necessarily visible to the naked eye. Or that soothes an aching heart It’s just a warm and fuzzy sensation. A lightning bolt of confidence. While it may be impossible to ascertain just how important that is, once you feel it – you will realize that you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to go through a major surgery just to pick up a few life’s lessons that can be probably found in a Deepak Chopra tweet. But, if you stumble at some point, do believe in your own strength to wipe the dust off your bruised knees and pick yourself up.

And to my Owlets, Flycatchers, Warblers, Munias, Shrikes, Bulbuls, Orioles, Kestrels and dear readers, I will see you again soon.

When life gives you
hospital beds,
turn those
sunlit windows

into your
inner balconies

(Photographs: Chetpet, Chennai)

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