HOW A TINY KITTEN MIGHT HAVE HELPED RID ME OF BACKACHE BLUES

A less than six weeks old kitten came into my life early in August and by the time I found a permanent home for him he had inadvertently paid me back many, many times over for spending a few sleepless nights worrying over his welfare.

I was forced to bend and pick him up so often every few hours from late afternoon on August 3 and until the evening of the 7th that a backache which had sapped my physical and mental energies for nearly two months had – lo and behold! – begun easing rather than aggravating as I’d feared it might while fussing over the precious little being.P1030967.JPG

That backache started in early June, perhaps after I lifted one bucket too many filled with wet clothes to feed the washing machine and collecting the drained water to carry to the parched plants in the garden.

Although a painkiller ointment seemed to take care of immediate symptoms, the full force of the punishment came on a Sunday afternoon. So excruciating was the pain that I found myself unable to stand. It was panic-inducing.

The American humourist and filmmaker Woody Allen is credited with quipping:  “Not only is God dead, but you can’t get a dentist at the weekend.”[1]

Nor orthopaedists, he might have added.

A neighbourhood private hospital in the part of Bangalore I live in was open. The duty doctor ordered a painkiller injection and prescribed a couple of pills. We’ll see five days later if an X-ray is needed, he said. A fat lot of good the injection and pills did.

After a couple of days, well-intentioned relatives began suggesting myriad remedies, therapies and doctors (as well-intentioned relatives do) and my mother commandeered my brother and his car to drive me to the clinic of a reputed orthopaedist near our home.

His quick-fire diagnosis was followed by a prescription for super-strong pain-killers. I tried asking the reputed ortho about possible side-effects but he had no more time for me.

“We’ll see about the side-effects,” was all he said. Duh! Thanks, Doc.

However, given how much faith people around me had in his wisdom, I did take half of what he had prescribed for about half the duration. That rid me of the unbearable pain and I could get up from a reclining or sitting position. An underlying feeling that something had gone wrong remained. Fear of bending and lifting things or exerting myself in other ways gripped me. A cousin lent me his Lumbo Sacral Belt. I began walking slowly, avoided sitting before my laptop for long stretches and tried lying flat on my back listening to music and spoken word programmes via the Internet.

What next? ‘Alternative medicine’ was suggested. Ayurveda, obviously! An Ayurvedic doc prescribed pills, potions and an oil to be applied to the back, plus hot fomentation. We’ll see whether an X-ray is needed, he too said.

He told me to avoid climbing stairs. Er… there’s no way I can avoid using the stairs to my room at least 15-20 times a day. Thanks, but no thanks, Doc.

Next visit, he did prescribe two X-rays at a newly opened outfit which charged a bomb: The radiologist’s observation: “Early lumbar spondylosis”.

The Ayurvedic doc prescribed more pills, but this time he threw in – following my own query – massages costing a few thousand rupees for a week.

Now, there seems to be a link between backache and depression. My own situation was not helped by my staying away from meetings – private and public – with many brilliant and hard-working human rights lawyers and other activists. And the media rife with the exploits of the likes of Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and their followers is not exactly mood uplifting. I began to wonder whether I’d ever feel better and get back to my routine.

Fast forward to early August: I’d been avoiding climbing the steep stairs to the 2nd floor roof of our house for a few weeks but was forced to as some masonry work was going on.

A dry coconut branch had fallen on the roof. I tried to ease it down but it landed partially on a neighbour’s roof. I resolved to retrieve it the next day. But the neighbour had thrown it into our back alley. (We use dry coconut branches, shells and husks to heat our bath water.) On August 3 evening, I opened the locked doors to the alley to retrieve the branch.

It was then that I saw and heard the kitten.

The alley was bereft of any other activity. No feline or human guardian of the kitten seemed to be about.

I bent down and picked up the tiny creature and took him – yes, a male as a vet later pronounced him to be – to my mother. We both fell head over heels in love with the precious being.P1030954.JPG

Pulling out a saucer that had previously been used to offer milk and cat food to an exalted Daily Visitor[2] who had been gracing our compound for several years until January 2015 was but the work of a moment.

The tiny one lapped up a few tongues-full. I posted a notice on the wall of a nearby veterinarian clinic inviting adopters and bought a bag of kitten food from a pet shop.

From that evening on, I was at the kitten’s beck and call almost 24/7. I felt duty-bound to get up at unearthly hours to check on his welfare, offer food and drink, play with him, lead him back to his saucer…This routine could have gone and on and on.

But my mother and I knew we could not keep him as we share a house with others who exercise a veto.

Discreet messages were sent to a few friends alerting them that I shall go public requesting human would-be serviteurs to this feline being to raise their hands.

One of my respected friends, Cynthia Stephen, independent researcher and journalist, got cracking and supplied me with a number to call before I was even half prepared. But after showing great enthusiasm in the beginning, the gentleman went off the hook. Cynthia then posted my request on the facebook page of Pet Adoption in Bangalore.[3]

An almost immediate response led to a couple from a locality in the vicinity of Bangalore’s International Airport coming all the way to my area, just south of the Indian Institute of Science, and picking up the teeny-weeny.P1030959.JPG

Although I had taken the kitten to the neighbourhood veteran veterinarian on August 5 and he had declared that the kitten was sound of health, I was worried about some excretions from his beady eyes. His assistant, who was on duty the following Monday, gave the eyes a wash, prescribed some eye-drops and the kitten was on his way to his furever home.

While going to pick up the eye-drops from a chemist’s a few steps away, I was telling the couple about the incidents that led up to our – three humans and an uncomplaining little creature – finding ourselves where we were.

“He was meant to be for us”, they said, and I paraphrase from my rather delirious memory of that exchange as I was over the moon at having found good caretakers for a tiny being who had nearly eclipsed my thought processes such that he and his welfare were mostly all that I was ruminating about for several dozen hours.IMG-20170810-WA0008.jpg

[The last photo shows the kitten in his new home. Photo courtesy Sudhir Kumar.]

All that I’d say is that a series of coincidences led up to the denouement.

After I was already on the mend – and again thanks to relatives’ advice – I consulted one of the most reputed of orthopaedists practising in my area.

He let me off saying there was nothing to worry 1.Without prescribing any pills and potions. 2. Suggesting just two exercises to strengthen my ancient back.

What he did not suggest was what I credit with having done the trick: Kitten Therapy!

Meow!

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/453DvFvVsBGn9xRfkKT1D4n/defining-death

[2] https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=521064894614085&set=a.102775279776384.4449.100001317365949&type=3&theater

[3] https://www.facebook.com/groups/1398121880480335/

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About walkerjay

The author, N. Jayaram, a journalist now based in Bangalore after more than 23 years in East Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Beijing) and 11 years in New Delhi, was with the Press Trust of India news agency for 15 years and Agence France-Presse for 11 years and is currently engaged in editing and translating for NGOs and academic institutions.
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