The Shah Rukh Khan column: Of balance, belief and hashtags
The superstar writes his first column in dna After Hrs on science and superstition. Tells us how he feels pressured by the 140-character Twitter limit and new words like twerking. Read on.
Just a few days back my friends at the dna paper called upon me to write a monthly column for their newspaper. A Common perception about actors is that they are incompetent at everything other than acting (and some are supposedly incompetent at that too). We aren’t exactly meant to have other interests (well, except of the controversial kind) but as it happens, I do. I like to write.
Of late I have spent time on twitter like we all do and on the internet in general. The combined pressure of 140 alphabet limit and reading new words like ‘Twerking’ (described aptly by someone on the net as ‘masquerading an ass seizure as dancing’), has made me believe that I could contribute to the all round well being of the society with my writings also.
What actually convinced me was, that if Hashtags # (a sign we earlier used for cuss words), can convey emotions, then my words on paper can also seem like pearls of wisdom and its about time my smart, genius side became public. So I decided to grab the axe and hack my foot myself by entering into 12 such potentially earth shattering observations of the world around me.
I have thus come up with the “brilliant” and “original” idea of writing about the 12 Sun Signs. But wait...This isn’t your usual weekly or daily astro prediction column. That is best left to Mr. Bejan Daruwala, Marjorie Orr or Linda Goodman. I just think it’s a good place to start. 12 Columns, 12 Sun Signs, 12 traits I can write about. So I will pick the traits of these 12 Sun Signs and choose one that stands out the most then I’ll write around it. I’ll write my personal experience, my point of view or just something I see happening around me. Confused. Ok, read on.
This month we begin with Libra.
Librans are known for balance and harmony. The word balance tends to convey stillness, but oddly I look at balance as something that we need in life to keep things moving. It’s something that we all have to do...everyone from a tightrope walker to an accountant requires balance. An accountant has to balance debit with credit, while a star has to balance a public life with a private life. Most people have to balance lies and truth, or right and wrong. In my years of experience, one of the most intriguing balances I have had to find is that between Science and Superstition.
In India we are intrinsically tied to Superstition. It’s a natural nuance of our lives. I am a science student (over 90 percent in Electronics if I may add). This does not mean that I can open up a piece of electronic equipment and put it back together again. On that front I am like everybody else in the world: left holding one little ‘gizmoic’ part of the equipment, scratching my head, wondering, “where was this supposed to fit?” but more about this in another column.
Being of a scientific bent of mind, I always take the scientific course of action. If a part of my body is disintegrating or broke, I am more than willing to change it at the hands of an expert, namely a Surgeon. I have had eight such removals and implants done over the course of 20 years.
Thankfully, so far, no surgeon has come to me post operation and quizzed, “Eh, SRK I have this little piece of green spleen left-over from last night’s procedure, can you tell me if it belongs to you or then it could be bed number 42’s.”
So I am a believer of science and its many benefits. Having said that, I would still not go for a bungee jump or do a skydive on Friday the 13th. Hashtag # Just Saying.
Some years ago I was faced with the balancing act of weighing my scientific bent against superstition. One evening I got to know my spine had a prolapsed disc and I had to go under the knife. It’s a big surgery. It’s considered equivalent to a brain surgery (from which I might just have benefitted more!) because it involves the spinal cord.
As it happens, it also proved to be one of the grandest acts of equanimity I ended up engaging in.
Everybody began to foretell doom. They listed all that could go wrong. They said I could be paralysed or rendered voiceless. Thoughts raced in my own head as well. The doctors advised surgery as soon as possible.
I was as scared as anyone might be at the thought of their spine being tampered with so I gave a year to those who said they could cure my prolapse through the prolapse of medical science.
Let me make it clear that I am not trying to undermine people’s beliefs or superstitions. Different things work for different people. If you believe in something then it works for you. A recent study has proved that people who believe in superstition get the job done better than those who don’t, so who are we to question the world of the unknown and its unkown-ness.
To me it was just intriguing that there was such a wonderful variety of cures and treatments on offer for a serious injury like mine.
My family and friends all suggested different treatments ranging from acupuncture to oil made from the sting of a scorpion. I am proud to tell you that because of the deep desire to keep the ‘BALANCE’ (in caps because that’s the topic) of things unperturbed I tried most of them.
What follows is an account of some of my escapades and misadventures up to the final day of surgery. These are excerpts from my yet unpublished book and as you will read, you will realise there is no stretching or exaggeration of factual happenings. The names of the protagonists have been changed to maintain their privacy and mainly to prevent them from suing or physically assaulting me in the near future.
……The doctor that I went to for, what I will call ‘pin therapy’ is a wonderful doctor. He’s among the leading doctors for this therapy in the world. He also spoke three words of Hindi taught to him by other Indian clients (obviously he didn’t know the meaning of those words, otherwise he would never use them, unless abusing your mom and sister was a part of his therapy).
The thought of him sticking needles in my neck was scary. But I need not have worried. He didn’t want to put needles in my neck, instead he wanted to stick them in my private parts to fix my neck!
As you can imagine it was an extremely hurtful prospect. I was shaken to the core of my being (not to mention, below it).
He was from the Far East and we didn’t understand each other well. He kept repeating, “Take off your clothes, take off your clothes”. So, I took off my shirt, but it didn’t seem to suffice. He continued his chant regardless: ‘take off your clothes.”
Soon I was lying naked on his table and he had these big, big pins in his hands. The rest is too graphic to describe. It was the most humiliating and painful experience of my life.
Ordeal over, I came back marred by blue welts. The only thing that had changed was that now the pain was between my legs and not in my neck. I can tell you it distracted me enough to make me forget my original complaint. Though once I recovered from the onslaught of the pin-pricks, my neck pain resurfaced with a vengeance.
Now and then I think of the good doctor and my upbringing tugs at my conscience. I never thanked him. Maybe I should have sent him a note…in Hindi…just the three words that he had been taught!
……The ‘Energy Experts’ meanwhile, had decided that the reason for my cervical disc prolapse was the direction in which I slept.
So the position of my bed had to be changed. Change is good. Novelty is invigorating; it’s the spice of life. I like change. There were a few problems that came up though. My plasma TV was affixed to the wall keeping in mind the original position of my bed. Taking out those brackets from the wall would have meant re-building it. So the TV stayed where it was and the only way to can watch it was to somehow stand on my head. My bedside lamp shed its light on my bathroom slippers instead of the book that I read in bed. The bathroom door ended up where the TV should have been. Though I must admit, the six episodes of the slightly swaying bathroom door, seemed more interesting than some of the stuff we are subjected to on the idiot box.
The headrest hung inexplicably in mid air without a bed to support it. If I could levitate 10 inches off the ground I might have been able to rest my head on it.
My AC remote did nothing remotely anymore. It needed to be directed towards the fridge to get the AC on. I guess the rays would bounce off the shiny surface and find their way to the infra red sensor on the AC. Strangely the rays did not follow the same reverse path and to switch the damn thing off, I’d need to swing to the bottom of the bed and point in random directions till I’d hear the AC stop breathing.
…I made a frantic call to my surgeon in England. I told him I was coming over to his hospital in the next few days. He was very concerned. He asked, “ Are you in pain’’. ‘No’, I replied, “ I am in my bath tub trying to sleep, apparently this area has the best energies.” Hashtag # Help!
...My friends requested me one last time to see their Panditji before I left for England. They felt his prayers would help me. I agreed because I believe in good wishes and good Karma. The Punditji looked educated and very modern. He asked me about the procedure of the Cervical surgery. I explained it to him in detail. He closed his eyes and said some mantra. Then he looked at me with warm and peaceful eyes, and said, “Are you sure they have to use a Titanium disc?” I said, “ Yeah, it’s the latest invention and really cool.” He sighed, “ Look it is your Karma that you have to undergo this surgery. You cannot escape it. But there is only one thing, Titanium is not your element, can you ask the doctor to use Moonstone instead.”
...The surgery was less painful. It took about an hour and a half. I was informed everything was excellent. As they say in our films… “The operation is successful.”
What was humiliating was the hospital dress code.
I believe a patient in a gown means that he or she is very ill and quite helpless. They need a lot of care and medical attention. It is a sort of uniform that tells you the person wearing it, is deserving of your sympathy and concern. No one expects a Stella McCartney, but at least...at least it should not make you dissolve into a merciless giggle.
Picture a hobbling and helpless patient crossing you, walking slowly away from you. You’re following him with your eyes, visibly moved, at this point your gaze misses his helpless expression entirely and lands unceremoniously on his butt. What purpose does this revealing and utterly humiliating outfit serve? I ask ye all fine people of the medical profession.
Even when I had gone for my knee and ankle surgery in Austria I was forced to wear this silly outfit. I could very well have been in shorts or Bermudas and got my knee operated on. It’s not as if my butt needs to be flashed for easy access to my knee. I think this aspect of clothing needs to be relooked at by the Medical Faculty around the world.
It requires immediate, scientific attention.
As I said, the complete collapse of everyone else’s attempts to cure me through their well meant suggestions, eventually lead me to my spinal surgery. This of course did not deter them from claiming credit for its success when I got home. The horseshoe nailed outside my room in my absence had apparently cast its magic spell on the surgeon.
The ‘Energy Expert’ was convinced that his switching my furniture around had filled the gap in my spine and my friends swore by their Panditji’s imaginary Moonstone too. Maybe it was the Energy Balancing, maybe it was the Surgery, or it could have been the shoeless horse; who knows?
Perhaps faith and science are deeply interconnected. Maybe we just don’t see the balance between them yet. Everything science proves today, it disproves tomorrow and faith in an idea often brings it to its empirical fruition. Superstition is the belief in a supernatural causality, we cannot completely abandon it unless we fully understand the complexity and vastness of nature.
I think it is safe to say that there are uncountable things in this world that will always remain beyond our understanding. Each of us chooses our own beliefs and lives by them and all of us are limited by our own condition. The trick is to respect each and every form of well meaning course of action, belief, superstition and still look up to man’s quest for knowledge (the yearning for scientific discovery), to back it up. That’s what I did.
I chose Titanium over the eeeww Moonstone and it worked for me….TOUCHWOOD!!!