Around 6 a.m. it is dark outside. The morning is crisp and clean with the breeze full of winter’s coolness. It is customary to give compliments to the morning otherwise there is nothing crisp about it as far as I am concerned. My son was up much before me as he has a term exam or whatever they call it in the university. The moment I tried to lift my head from the pillow I gave out a cry. “Idhar aao” (come here, in Urdu). Hamza ran to me and held my head in his hands. He is now used to this exercise or protocol. When ever I have this headache, and it is always severe, he is the only one who consoles and cajoles me and tries to soothe me. Soothing helps sometimes. But the machinery inside the head continues to churn out pain in the form of an exploding play dough in every conceivable form. From large boulders of shattering stabs to subtle needles of piercing agony. And there is no noise in the room. All this noise comes from within my head which by now is making me retch and vomit. “ulti kar lo” (please throw out) says Hamza while rubbing my nape and shoulders. He knows my headache gets better if I vomit. But today morning it was different. There was an element of vertigo along with this excruciating pain and I was sick to the pit of my stomach. “Nahi ati tau kya karun” (if it doesn’t happen, what can I do), I shouted back. He kept quiet knowing too well that my temper has a sharp rise with this headache.
In the meantime Tahira comes downstairs. She is the maid who lives upstairs. Immediately she goes to the kitchen to make tea, following her morning ritual. That made me more furious. “STOP IT. STOP THIS NOISE. YOU WILL KILL ME”. I was trying to shout with authority but knew that my voice is trembling and she would be giggling behind the closed doors of kitchen. Even she is aware of my weaknesses during such pain and that is surely not a very pleasant thought for one who is suffering.
Tea came. My agony doubled. I wanted to take a few sips in the hope (and oh how I hoped this pain to get better) that it will soothe me but the clanking of utensils made it worse. Even when sugar was being mixed in the cup I almost shouted, ‘please leave it as such, I can live without this much sugar for one day’, it angered people around me (read my wife who does not need any valid situation to be angry), and it made me suffer more as I understood that none of them is trying to understand my agony. On top of that and on top of my head it seemed that many thousand animals with sharp claws are running in a stampede, literally crushing each and every nerve fiber in my brain and head. It was just like in a Disney movie, The lion king and hyenas are a perfect simile to the horde of stampeding animals making me suffer. As a doctor I learned that brain tissue is insensitive to pain. So this terrible pain (which has slowly taken the shape of added throbbing now) must be due to blood vessels and other tissues of the brain. Who wants to think of etiology (term used to describe the cause of an illness in medical profession) when your head is being crushed at a fast hammering pace?
Finally, I took a sip of tea and glared at everyone in the room. My eyes must be very red and scary as the maid pointed out, ‘Bhai jan’ (elder brother in Urdu) you must sleep a little, lack of sleep does this to you’. You know, when one is in pain, any advice is like a flesh tearing big needles and I was struck with it with full force. ‘If I chose to sleep, who will go to work’ was my very (un)friendly mumbling back which I of course wished to sound like a real threat like command. There was silence inside the room but the headache was getting worst. My head was splitting and my temples throbbed as if there is some rattling steel furnace running at full speed inside my scalp.
After two or three sips of tea I objected to the temperature and was told in a whisper that I don’t usually like lukewarm or cold tea. The poor girl who uttered those careful words never thought they will ignite me. At this point I was almost trembling with anger (more with pain but I would use anger to make me less guilty). ‘So I am not entitled to a less hot tea when I am dying with torture!’ was my calculated response. Though all things rational and calculations cease to exist in one’s mind when one of these headaches sound the trumpet, knowing too well that they will win. Humans are bound to lose this battle.
Two Aspirins and one Valium 2 mg later I was slightly drowsy and Hamza hurriedly took advantage of the situation and started to press my shoulders and back. In a dreamy state I could feel the pain leaving me through my pores and I inhaled deeply. I am sure everyone saw it and took it as a sign to switch off all the lights and tip toe out of the room. Twenty five minutes later I suddenly got up with the residual pain like a stretched elastic band around my head but I could get up and go to office.