The human body is a funny thing.
Day before yesterday, I went out for a run & felt that runner's high everyone keeps talking about. Yesterday, I danced in Kathak class until I was drenched in sweat and my chakkars were flawless. Today, I lie in bed, writing this to you on my phone, recovering from 102 degree fever, unable to walk the length of my home. Mind ultimately humbled by the body's whims.
I had second thoughts about writing this letter. For one, no one likes to hear a fever-ridden person talk. I don't know why but every person I've cared for in sickness always talks nonsense. Like a body's temperature loosens up the tongue. Secondly, I have been forbidden to sit in front of a laptop. And my Nokia phone may be adept at many things, but a long letter is not it's cup of tea. But taking inspiration from a 22-year-old intern at my work who transcribes interviews on his phone ("it's faster!") and that one author who wrote a Booker-nominated book on her phone, I am writing this. All typos to be excused for today, please.
Funnily enough, even before this unexpected fever, I was thinking of the human body the entire week anyway. Thanks to the moon landing. In this documentary called "In the Shadow of the Moon," an astronaut who went to the Moon talks of how when he was walking around the lunar surface, a surreal revelation hit him. The dust on the moon, the cells in his body, the machinery of the lunar mission were all made from the same thing. Even as he bent down to collect lunar samples, he felt a sense of interconnectedness. To the Universe and to himself. It's a profound thought, which I imagine can only occur in an extraordinary situation of actually walking on the Moon. But it reminded me of just how ancient and incredible the human body is. It takes you to your nearby grocery store, but also, it's a reminder that you belong to something bigger. Dust to dust, as Shakespeare wrote. The second reason I have been thinking about the human body is because of Shanta Gokhale's marvellous memoir "One Foot on the Ground." The memoir is a look at Gokhale's life through her body. So entire chapters focus on teeth, the moment Gokhale fell in love with dance & how her nose led to a brilliant opportunity. Through the corporeal existence of the body, she talks of how she married two unsuitable men, her battles with cancer and of course, how theatre and dance still sustain her. But it's not a serious meditation on the body, but one which sensibly & wittily admits that body is a funny thing; not to be mollycoddled but also not to be ignored. The thing that struck me the most about the memoir was Gokhale's view on cancer. Her breasts, as she writes, had anyway put her in the "stragglers" category when she was young, and now, exactly at the time when she was free from her unhappy marriage to read, write and think as she wished, her breasts had turned against her. By giving her cancer. This when she had lived a healthy life ever since since she could remember; good diet, exercise, no smoking. But as she writes, she never asked "Why me?" To think so, she says, would be to presume that our bodies are better than others. But they're not. "Why not me?" is a better question to ask, Gokhale writes. Turns out, however much we delude ourselves with #fitspo videos, keto diets and even plastic surgery, nothing really can shield our body from falling prey to illness. We can battle what comes with good humour, courage and a fighting spirit, of course. We can hobble to work with a fever like I did today. We can even conquer the frailty of the body and go to the moon. But ultimately, when it comes to our body & what it reveals to us -- at an opportune time or not -- we have to pause and listen. We're all too human. And to my feverish mind, that's really a comforting thought. No links this week, but I promise to send three bonus ones next week. As always, write to me, if you so wish. It would be infinitely more enjoyable than staring at the ceiling and/or reading about the Karnataka constitutional crisis on Twitter, which is all I can do for now.
I'll write again soon.