RAKESH POPLI narrates his seven-day saga in hospital and the lessons he learned and relearned there

Being a morning person, I usually get up quite early between 3.30 AM to 4.00 AM. But on October 18, this year, I was more than my usual self, feeling bright and breezy. After freshening up, when I stepped out for my morning walk, I could feel the spring in my steps. In that flow state, I decided to go for a longer walk than usual, taking a different route. 

On the way, I stopped in front of a temple where many devotees had gathered for the morning rituals. I closed my eyes to take in the sound of rhythmic clapping, ringing of bells and chanting of mantras. Coming out of my reverie, I resumed my morning walk. As I strolled, everything looked magical to me ― the sky, the path, the trees and the plants, the serenity and tranquillity of the early morning.

On the way back, I talked to two security guards who were looking bored and withdrawn, making them cheerful with my pep talk. Then, I lovingly petted a street dog who was following me. 

It was a perfect start to my day; I was feeling very uplifted, inspired and in awe of everything.

Rakesh Popli

The twist in the tale came in the late forenoon, when I felt mild pain in the left side of my abdomen. Somehow, I got an intuitive feeling that it was not a simple pain. Soon it became intense. All my family members were out of the city for some work; so I called my close friend, Vijay Mehta, requesting him to take me to hospital.

He arrived soon enough and took me to a private hospital located near my home. After the usual tests like ultrasound and MRI, they found a stone in my kidney. My urinary passage was blocked and I had severe infection in the left kidney. I was admitted in the emergency ward.

This was the first day of Woh Saat Din: my saga of seven days ― four days in the ICU, two days in a private ward of the hospital involving an operation for inserting of a stent,  and one day of complete rest. The saga was of feeling high and low, observing the self and others, the days spent in learning/relearning few lessons of life, lying on the hospital bed.

The lessons I learnt are half in full earnest and half in jest. First, the lessons in full earnest.

1. There is an opportunity in every difficulty.

Rakesh Popli with his wife Anita Popli

Initially, I was taken aback by the sudden turn of events; the excruciating pain and getting admitted to hospital. But soon enough, I got my composure back and rather enjoyed all the goings on, seeing it as an opportunity to watch people…co-patients, attending staff and all the hustle and bustle in a hospital.

2. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

I often say this, but now it was time to experience it first hand, particularly the optional part.

Remembering this, sitting on a bench and waiting for my turn for the tests, while experiencing acute pain, I immediately felt a sense of detachment from the pain, feeling only a localised pain in one part of the body and I was all fine otherwise. I suffered the pain, but not the suffering from it.

3. The uncertainty of life.
Circumstances change, things happen beyond your control and you never know what the next day will bring. But uncertainties also bring with it a hidden treasure ― a treasure of so many learnings as I am putting it all here.

4. Friendship saves the day for you.
Even though my family was away, I didn’t feel alone even for a moment as a few close friends are just a phone call away. And in Vijay Mehta, I have a friend who is a close friend from my early youth. He was with me through all thick and thin life situations. Really, friendship saves the day. He was with me the whole day till late night in hospital.

5. You take your spouse and family for granted.
When I got hospitalised few years back with a heart problem, I got irritated and angry on the slightest pretext with my wife and family members. But this time around, I just realised that it was always better to be balanced. And sure enough, I was cared for with full sincerity and love.

6. Assert yourself, the right way.
In hospital on the ICU bed, a patient on the nearby bed confided to me that he was being callously treated; he was an asthma patient and was not given warm water promptly and his bed was uncomfortable. I told him to be assertive and complain to the senior staff about it. And when he did so, all things were right within no time.

And now the second half of the learning, in jest ― the fringe benefits of hospitalisation.

1. You get cured of other ailments.

I was suffering from severe throat infection when hospitalised, but by reminding the staff of this problem, time and again, I also got treated for this.

2. You lose weight.

I was pleasantly surprised to come back leaner to my home. I lost 2.5 kg of weight without trying and sweating for it.

3. You get addicted to a saatvik diet.
In the ICU, I was being fed a saatvik diet of dal, daliya, khichdi, toned milk and tea.  I got addicted to all these and strictly told my family not to bring any home food during my stay in hospital.

4. You get a fitness certificate.
You are roadworthy at the end of it, feeling cured, done and dusted. You are ready to take on the world again.

Guess what is the greatest blessing of my seven-day hospital saga? I have now become a guru of sorts!

Rakesh Popli, a retired banker and blogger, writes about his observations of life. He lives in Sonipat.