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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Friday, August 17, 2007


India has turned 60. We are celebrating it, as we rightly should with the rest of the Indian community in Singapore at the Shangri-La at an event hosted by the Indian High Commissioner. There are friends to be met, news to be heard, conversations to be completed. As we are heading out, I bump into someone I've been wanting to meet for days. She tells me about the arrival of an Indian medical delegation led by Dr Trehan. This is interesting stuff, never a dull day when it comes to the Indian community making its presence felt in virtually every field. My mind is working quick time on the possibility of a studio interview, can we, can't we?

There's no time for answers right now. Bala who is always game for a chat has slinked away. I look around and he seems to have disappeared. I say a hasty goodbye, promise to catch up on the medical stuff and run on to find Bala. His face looks a little flushed. I ask him what happened and he says he's feeling this pain in his heart. What? This is not right, its past 9pm, our family doctor would have brought his shutters down, we have to get to a hospital. It's a dash for Raffles Hospital, where the doctor sees us quick time. He goes through a flurry of questions, administers the blood test, an ECG. Everything seems fine, he tells us, but its best we see the Heart Specialist the next day. With that begins an uneasy night. I can't get myself to sleep. These are stories one only reads of. This thing about silent killers that sneak in and shatter your life and it seemed to have been so close to ours.

The next morning we are knocking on the specialist's door at the Heart Centre. It's a sea of grey. "We shouldn't be here," we let out in unison.

"Is it your first time here?" the receptionist asks.
"Yes, and hopefully our last too," I respond.

This is not where one should be when 40 is still some time away, when the kids are just 4 and 8, when life truly seems to have begun, when the world is full of possibilities.

We are talking about all of that, till the doctor calls. He puts at ease immediately by starting with questions about the diet. Expectedly, there are lots of great stories about tons of good food. The good doctor reminds Bala that he is half his size, he gets real exercise yet there is some food he would never touch. Unfortunately, half of it is on Bala's list.

Then there are questions about exercise. There's a bit of it, courtesy Wii. Then the blood pressure check, "which surprisingly is very good," the doc declares with another smile. It's followed by the heart check. Everything is fine so far, "let's give you the tread mill test."

I sit outside flipping a magazine, knowing this isn't going to be tough. A couple of minutes later, the nurse is out, telling the doctor, "have to stop subject can't complete it, think he's about to faint."

Now, if you are into figuring out the state of your heart, bear in mind 12 minutes on the treadmill could tell a lot. If you can survive 12 minutes of brisk walking and running, chances are the state of your heart is alright. A glimmer of hope there, it's time to head to the gym and ease all these unsettling health anxieties.

With that we are back in the doc's room. Where did it hurt, he asks again. It was the heart. As we isolate the part, the doctor breaks into a smile. "Now, that's good news."

"Always remember, the heart doesn't hurt, its the muscles around it."

Phew, I could have died of joy that instant. It could have possibly been just a bad case of gastroenteritis tightening everything.

For now, the fear has passed, the worst is seemingly over, but the doc has some advice:

"We call this the middle age spread. None of this would be happening, if you were a couple of kilos lighter, you must exercise."

I, who have been, stressing that very point for years couldn't agree more.