Meandering to Machu Picchu on Morphine…


As I sped through the jungles of Amazonia, I could feel, hear and see the splash of grey green water on my face. My hair flew wildly in the breeze created by the speeding hydrofoil as blue, emerald and red parakeets flitted among the trees. The sky was almost invisible amidst the foliage. The creepers and huge palm like leaves on the banks of the river studded the bottom of the tall trees that sped past in a haze…Then I skidded down a long road with corn fields on both sides. It was a sunny day. The road was a blur of tar and white paint. The soil was brown and the corn, yellow. Could I have arrived at Peru? I had always want to go there to visit Machu Picchu, the amazing city of the Incas with wandering white Llamas…

And every time the monitors beeped me back to reality, to the fact that I was being revived after a surgery. Each time I came back to the reality of being on a bed and not a speedboat or a sleek race car. They anaesthetized me and later had me on a drip of morphine… which is why I had all these wonderful trips to places where I have never been and have always wanted to visit.

Doctors, dentists and nurses are nice to know socially… very kind, vivacious, people who can relate to all and sundry and all kinds of good things can be said of them… but at a professional level, I prefer giving them a wide berth. However, when I had this searing pain in my upper abdomen, I was rushed to the hospital. Then started the preparation for my imaginary trips to various places of interest.

First they put me on a drip. I had only had a toast with honey and chamomile tea at 6.30 in the morning. They wanted to do an ultrasound, they told me and I needed to be starved. I argued, I had ultrasounds through my pregnancies and had never been denied food. With a patient voice, the senior physician informed me that this time, it was the abdomen, the food churning machines, and therefore I had no choice. I was made to lie down.

An enterprising young man came and beat my hands till the veins started to show and then he jabbed. They put me on a saline solution so that I could starve without getting dehydrated. My stomach started craving for food. But I lay there still, on a drip.

Around noon, they let me walk with hands pierced by the drip needle to the radiologist. I was asked to lie down on a narrow shelf-like couch that seemed to grow out of the wall, only it had a soft rexine-like finish. It could barely accommodate my ample girth! Then she asked me to relax. They always do… is it not? To avoid plunging into the depths of an abysmal chasms of frozen fear, I recited Wordsworth’s Daffodils under my breath as her cold scanner smeared a colder gel on me. Then, with due apologies to the great poet, she scanned and scanned but little thought what curiosity in me it wrought, especially when she put me on hold and ran out to get a full abdomen scan order from the doctor. And then, she did her stuff and let me go. I was sent back to the drip.

Every now and then, the needle poking young male nurse ambled in to check on me and offered me pain-relieving injections, which I politely refused. What would be more painful, a needle or the pain I had?

I tried to converse with the young man but the conversation always reverted to poking needles or starving me… he seemed to be obsessed with jabs.

At last, the senior physician came and said, I needed to go for a CT scan with a dye injected in me… How comfortable does that sound on an empty, rumbling stomach?! This time they did not ask but put me on a wheel chair. Again I was made to lie down on a long, narrow, plank-like couch that would go into a circular tunnel. Then they warned, it might hurt and they put a drip of a brownish liquid. The radiologist told me I could relax then and breath in and out as the machine instructed. She made me wait ten long minutes with my needle poked hand positioned above my head savoring the brown fluid coursing through my veins. The machine started talking and asked me to hold my breath in and out as the plank on which I lay moved in and out of the tunnel. I felt like I was going through a futuristic process and wondered if the medical investigations in Star Wars or Agents of Shield would be as intimidating in reality.

At last around 6.30 pm, I was freed off machines and told that I could eat. But by then, I had lost my appetite. Remember, I had been starved for twelve hours. I found it difficult to eat. So, they continued me on the saline and would not let me go home till I had a hearty breakfast and they took me off the saline.

The doctor gave me a three-day break to ready myself for a surgery scheduled for that Saturday. He said as it was a major surgery, he wanted to be relaxed! So, it would have to be the weekend!

On Friday, I had to go to visit not just the doctor but also the phlebotomist. In case you are wondering what the latter is, they have the jobs of vampires, except the vampires draw blood for the selfish intent of consumption and the phlebotomists do it for the noble cause of medical investigations. The lady phlebotomist was nice. As she drew vial after vial of blood, we chatted about our lives’ works…

The next day was Saturday. I remember, going to the hospital, being visited by the anesthetist and the pain doctor who explained to me how to use the morphine shot that would be given to me after my surgery, saw my doctor and his team mate, another surgeon. The anesthetist was kind enough to say I had veins like a lady as he found them difficult to locate and then it all blanked out.

I lost a whole day and woke up in the evening with my family at the ledge of my bed, bringing me back to reality. I was strapped to all kinds of machines and could barely move!

I could not sleep well the whole night at the High Dependency Unit for the beep of monitors. When the anesthetist came in the morning and I complained of lack of sleep, he told me that I was not meant to sleep but to wake up. I still had the morphine drip and shot when I was wheeled into my room.

I lay in on my high-tech bed with drips dripping saline, morphine and medication. Though I was surrounded by friends and family, again I found my bed encapsulating me and whirling me into outer space. I flew among the stars in my white and blue space ship and the machine that massaged my legs to prevent thrombosis became the controls of my ship. As I glided noiselessly in a dark vacuum studded with stars, I was drawn back to reality with the look of concern and affection on a friend’s face by my bed.

Next day I was taken off the morphine and my journey towards heading home started.

Now, I sit at home recuperating and writing. I had always wondered how ST Coleridge could write a description of Xanadu without ever stepping into China… His Kubla Khan written under the influence of opium made me a fan of Kublai Khan. I not only read on him but lived in China for eight years and walked the Great Wall four times, only parts of it, not all of it.

Now I wonder if my trip through Amazonia and Peru on morphine will take me to the real Machu Picchu ever… or, perhaps, the Egyptian pyramids on camel back…or maybe, to Easter Island among those huge rocks where like a shaman or a druid of yore, I could feel the elements tear at me and wrap me with their mystery…


Book Review

Title: Me and I

(ISBN 978-93-5195-188-9)

Author: Nabendu Ghosh (written in Bengali in 2003)

Translator: Devottam Sengupta ( translated in 2017)


Me and I is a science fiction set in Calcutta, exploring the concept of Earth’s twin in the universe. It was written by Nabendu Ghosh for his two grandsons in Bengali, and then translated by one of them as part of his centenary celebrations. The translator, Devottam Ghosh, is a lawyer by profession.

I enjoyed the book. It is an ideal read from eight to eighty, a story well told. The protagonist Mukul has a twin in the planet that is Earth’s mirror image. His parallel is known as Lukum and Earth is spelt as Threa.

The explanation is given by an eccentric gentleman, Professor Noni Gopal Sinha,who is Mukul’s friend and mentor on Earth.

“They’re both, opposite yet identical. Mirror images, really. Just as there are a couple of hundred twins among a million people, similarly I’m sure you can find a twin — identical yet opposite — planets among the billions that exist out there.”

So, it is an inverse parallel universe which is dwelt on briefly as the story unfolds.

The story has multiple layers. On the surface, it is a story for children… a nineteen-year-old boy’s adventure with an alien in outer space. It has been woven very well into the fabric of Indian life. Perspectives on religion, science, society, countries and cultures are layered into the folds of the story. It explores the environment that leads to creativity and the environment that does not. An ideal needs to be somewhere in the middle… perhaps… a point for the reader to ponder…

The book has well-researched scientific facts… on different theories of the universe. Though the author, Nabendu Ghosh, says that he would like “to classify this flight of imagination as a ‘modern(or contemporary) fairy tale’”, it touches upon Einstien’s ideas on gravitational waves and theory of relativity. It dwells upon travel at the speed of light and it’s impact on humans.

A surprising novel from a writer of stories linked to social reforms…but then, one wonders at the end that has the author not made you think again of larger issues that are relevant even in the twenty first century…

Perhaps, because Nabendu Ghosh was into writing for films, this book is very visual and would make for an excellent movie. I can visualise the whole scenario as I read the book…

May we then expect a Tollywood(Bengali movie) version of Me and I in the near future?

The Creators



Jasper swerved in the darkness at the rim of outer space and stationed himself at a corner of the earth, which twinkled below him like a unique gem. All the buildings in his dimension had become pinpricks till they became altogether invisible. He could see the extra terrestrial movie station and anti-gravity disco at a distance. He knew that here he was safe as the mind police did not have the technology to chase him beyond the clouds. It was only the technological dimension that had successfully started using the space for living, placing stations and entertainment parks near the earth. They were also terraforming Mars.

Jasper hovered and waited trying to think of a way out. He replayed the events that forced him to zoom out of the planet in his mind.

That morning as the roof of the dome of Jasper’s hideout opened and the red saucer like car flew out, Jasper had planned a short trip. He was planning to try and connect with Jasmine’s thought waves, communicate with her and return home to his family. The car, as it flew out and ascended the sky, looked like a dot in the dawning sky as it flew higher and higher in an attempt to distance itself both from his family and the mind police. The surface below was covered with snow. The reflected morning sun made the whole planet look pristine.

The mind police had become even more vigilant. They had lost Jasmine twice in twenty-four hours and Jasper too had disappeared. They were monitoring the universal mind stream even more closely. Suddenly, one of them said, “I can sense the boy. He is in the sky trying to connect with Jasmine. Jasmine, I cannot sense.”

“Let us close in on him physically,” said the commander. “Let us get at least one. Then the other one will definitely try to rescue him.”

Jasper had been desperately trying to contact Jasmine as he hovered among the clouds. Suddenly, he felt a jolt. The mind police had landed at a nearby cloud and were trying to shoot him. But Jasper had had the foresight to have the protective shield cover on. So, the shot did not affect him. He made a full one eighty degree circle and saw the mind police on a cloud. They had pinged next to him. They were firing shot after shot at his vehicle.

Jasper acted quickly. He abandoned his attempt to contact Jasmine and jammed the outer space button. He swerved at a very high speed and rose higher. Almost every vehicle in the technological dimension was equipped to ascend above the atmosphere and explore space with its various attractions at the different space bars. Jasper used it now. As he rose higher and then zoomed out of vision, the mind police again lost him. They did not have the technology to go above the clouds, so again they were fobbed!

“We need one of their cars to chase him!” shouted the team lead.

Two of the guards remained on the cloud to try and trace him and the rest went off with the lead to try and get a space car.

“Could he connect through mind waves to Jasmine from here in outer space? The mind police surely could not reach him there,” he thought.

Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge woke up in the cave, after a long night’s sleep. Jacaranda had again whipped them up a breakfast of sorts.

They had their meal by the stream near the cave. They spoke in low voices for the fear of being overheard.

“What should we do next?” asked Gorge.

“It is imperative we get in touch with Jasper,” said Jasmine. “The mind police is everywhere. They want to finish us up. What should we do?”

“Fly to the moon!” said Jacaranda.

“What?! I am serious,” said Jasmine.

“I am serious too,” said Jacaranda.

“You mean you can fly to the moon?” said Gorge.

“Yes. In the magical dimension we can,” said Jacaranda.

“Wow! In our dimension we have not even thought of trying,” said Gorge.

“And how?” asked Jasmine.

“We will visit Daedalus here. He did do it for our former prince, you know the one who is the dragon now. Maybe if we tell him our problem, he can help us.”

“Why not return to the cave of the dragon prince then?” asked Gorge.

“Because we risk getting caught big time. Remember the combined forces of the mind police and Dr Doom. We cannot pinge or magic ourselves into the den from outside unless the dragon wills it?” said Jacaranda.

“Can we not get in touch with him?” asked Gorge.

“And how without having ourselves exposed to the mind police who are constantly monitoring the thought stream?” said Jasmine. “Come let us then look for Daedalus. We could again use the invisibility pulls, if necessary.”

Jacaranda, who had been feeling inside her bag for sometime, pulled out a little pouch and said, “ Ah here it is… the cold fire powder. We can go to Daedalus using the cold fire network. I do not think that is as yet monitored by Dr. Doom or the mind police. That will take us to him quicker.”

“All right,” said the other two.

“Come close two of you,” said Jacaranda.

She poured some powder from the pouch in her hand. She closed the pouch carefully and put it back in her bag. Mumbling an enchantment, she started sprinkling the powder around them. A cold sensation came over the three. They felt themselves sucked into a vortex of icy cold silver flames and then they were thrown out again, near a little hut near between the hills and stream in a pleasantly wooded spot.

As the three of them emerged out of the cold fire, they saw two old men sitting at a table. One was in a Greek tunic with sandals on his feet. The other greybeard was in long flowing robes. The one in the Greek outfit said, “Ah! Jacaranda. Good to see you. Haven’t seen you around for a few months. And who might your friends be? Students again?”

The other man got up and said, “Daedalus, we will continue our discussion another day since you have guests.”

“Oh Robi! Stay…these are young people from the mainland…”

“We will meet later. I am expecting Khayyam over soon. See you around,” said the other man decisively and walked away towards the beach.

“Oh mighty Daedalus… you need to help us. We are in great trouble. Only you can save us,” said Jacaranda softly.

Daedalus looked around and said, “ Come into my new labyrinth that I designed within the hill and tell me your story.”

Jacaranda and the other two followed him into a dark tunnel inside the hill. They followed him for almost a quarter kilometer, then they turned right and there was a strange door with a picture of a pair of wings. “The wings that ended Icarus’s life!” said Daedalus. “But I have found him here again, beyond the hills living with another legend, Garuda.”

“Daedalus, I hate to interrupt but we really need to talk to you secretly. No one knows we are here and we do not want them to know,” said Jacaranda.

“Okay! We will talk in my office,” said Daedalus pushing open the door that had the picture of wings.

Meanwhile, the mind police had pinged back to the office and turned the temperature knob to warm. As the ice began to thaw after a few hours, the snow melted and people started coming out of their homes. One of the first people to drive in to the weather bureau car park was Jasper’s assistant. He had rushed out to see what had gone wrong with the machine … why was it swinging from one to anther extreme and also to figure out where his boss had disappeared.

The mind police, who had been waiting at the car park of the office , used a mind trick on him. The lead told the assistant, “You just left your keys inside the car and someone drove off with it. Now, leave your keys.” They used a memory eraser and modified his memory as he walked away, leaving the keys inside. The mind police slipped into the car and said, “Do we know how to operate it?”

“It is largely robotized and the car has a voice manual, so it can guide us,”said the police who had been examining the car. “Looks like they can go to outer space in this. There is a button that says so.”

“Great! Let’s go for a ride,” said the commander. Four of them got in and zoomed off into the sky. They headed for the cloud where two of the mind police awaited further instructions.

“I can sense Jasper in the mind stream again,” said one of the guards sitting at the back.

“Can you locate him?” Asked the commander.

“He seems to be way off all our earth coordinates,” said the mind policeman.

“Okay let’s wait and just read his mind waves. Let him think we have not spotted him. Let us see what happens then,” said the commander.