Thursday, January 8, 2015

Suresh and I - II

The clonus and stiffness that I have as a result of my stroke is often mistaken for anger especially by people who are not familiar with my reactions. For eg., if Jaya and the nurse are busy talking to some people, I have to make some noise in order to attract their attention in case of some emergency like urine.For this, I have to make some effort which will set off the clonus - my hands and legs will become stiff. To a casual observer, it will look as if I am having a fit. When the nurse notices me and I indicate that I want to pass urine, she will ask, 'Why are you getting angry for that?'

In The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins talks about the problem of communicating over long distances. For example, it will take about 4 min. for radio waves to travel between earth and Mars. In such a case, conversation in alternating sentences between people on the two planets  would be difficult and often a message would not be timely. A similar difficulty arises when I try to converse with eye blinks. And if Jaya is not present, then the problem is increased because of misinterpretations.

I now generally keep quiet and just listen to what everyone else is talking about. And if the conversation doesn't interest me,  I drift away. For eg., I was recently re-reading A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper (which I had written about a couple of years back).  I had just read a problem in the book when I had a visitor. After the  introductions, I listened to to him for a while and then drifted away since the conversation didn't interest me  and started thinking about the problem which was as follows:
In the correctly solved additions below, each of the five letters represents a different digit, EA being a two-digit number. What is the value of B +D if 
 A    C
+B   +D
__   ___
C    EA 
Suddenly I heard the visitor say, 'He is listening so intently to what I am saying!' I had no idea what he had been talking  about!

Perhaps it is because there are always books near me (which apparently is not a common sight) that people seem to think I know everything.  (At what point in human history were there too many (English) books to be able to read them all in one lifetime?) This becomes embarrassing because I am generally dazed and confused about how to make sense of the mess in the world, like Raj Kapoor in this song. The problem is increased because of  my mode of communication which forces me to give a yes/no answer and most questions cannot be answered in this way. And I am reluctant to say 'I know' about anything because I will know only some aspects of it.

For eg., I was once asked, 'Do you know about Tiruvalluvar?' I don't want to sound Clintonesque but it depends on what is meant by 'know'. If it meant whether I had a general idea of who Tiruvalluvar was, the answer would be 'yes' but if it meant whether I knew his Tirukkurals, about his contribution to Tamil literature etc. the answer would be 'no'. I will wait for some clarification but if after some silence, I am forced to blink (I can't stare unblinkingly forever) after some time, the person may conclude that I know quite a bit about Tiruvalluvar. How many such instances of my non-existent knowledge there are is anybody's guess.

This illusion of knowledge that I seem to have acquired made one physiotherapist say, 'I am trying to be like you!' If he meant the mythical Suresh that I keep hearing about, I will second his opinion. He sounds a cool guy, the Superman to my Clark Kent. As Borges said:  “The original is not faithful to the translation.”

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