Friday, June 24, 2005

The bonesetter

The bonesetter is a part of my childhood memory. My father would wake up, in the middle of the night, screaming. An old cricket injury, that troubled him when he was tired, had had a hard day, or just when he was turning in his sleep. His left arm would slip out of its shoulder socket bone.

My mother, my little sister and me would sit in our beds, rubbing our eyes, trembling, while he cursed us in his pain. He’d pull on his trousers, drag on a shirt on one arm, pull the other sleeve over his shoulder, slip his feet into his slippers, muttering that he would die alone, while we woke up, from our beauty sleep. We children would whimper as our mother dragged us, and followed him.

Luckily, we did not know about death then, or we would have been terrified that he was dying.

Down the rickety wooden stairs, on the road, looking up and down in the dark night for a cab, afraid that the mongrel dogs sniffing at us, would suddenly decide to bite.

While we looked for a cab, my father would already be running ahead, along the grimy streets, luckily not as crowded as they were during the day.

The bonesetter’s shop was a street away, but it seemed a long, long way.

We’d bang on the wooden door, with the iron chain. After an eternity, while we pondered his absence, the door would open, and a man would come out. Then my mother and we girls, started breathing again. The bonesetter was at home.

We were not frightened then. He’d do something to our father, twist his arm, and heave it, and magically, the bone would be back in its socket. My father would groan. Sometimes, the bonesetter asked us to hold our father, while he pushed and pulled. Sometimes, we would faint while doing that. My father and the bonesetter would laugh.

Then he’d put a warm ointment over my father’s shoulder and back. It smelled lovely. Then he’d bandage the arm and shoulder most beautifully. My father would sport that bandage for a week, not having a bath, washing himself around it.

After the bandage came off, we would all forget the bonesetter, until my father woke up screaming again, one night.

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