“…For all the happiness mankind can gain Is not in pleasure, but in rest from pain” — Dryden

“My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains…”
 So chanted John Keats in his ’Ode to the Nightingale”
 With apologies to Keats, I now tweet in agony
 ”My back aches and a piercing pang pains…”
 Then there was a time long long ago, it was all fun, joy and laughter
 I used to carry dozens of books, big and small
 Climb up and down up and down the corridors of the Library with gay abandon
 Now my back aches even with a book slender.
 Again I used to carry tens of kilos of things needed and not needed
 Run to catch the train or plane
 Which even an Olympic runner may envy
 With all the speed, nearly I missed the plane once
 Thanks to the courteous pretty Airhostess who shared half the load
 (A 15 kilo German Grundig Tape Recorder to boot)
 I made it in time to board the plane
 Enjoying the delightful food, Joyous I was, there was no back ache.
 I used to lift my sweetheart up in the air with a single hand
 (Mind you, she was not very thin)
 Like the Russian Ballet Dancer supply does.
 But now lifting the infant grandson brings back the piercing pain
 I used to type for hours pages after pages in a rickety typewriter at high speed
 Now I sit with the Lap Top for a minute and the Back ache comes faster than WhatsApp goes
 Not that I have always had the pain.
 Things remain calm for a while and happiness has come to stay
 Wonder where the Back ache had gone may be on a vacation!
 I was running and jumping singing and dancing merrily

Until … Until…
 My caring cousin queried with concern, “uncle! How is your Back ache?”
 The very mention of it presently brought back the Back ache
 Worse than the pain is the dread of pain that may come anytime
 Like a cunning Tiger, the Back ache is ready to pounce on you while:
 Bending down to pick up a book,
 Standing tip toe to bring down the Old Tin Box from the attic
 Again when a pretty person passes by, turning around to have a second look.
 And many many more simple actions that unfailingly brings back the Back ache
 To forget the pain, I summoned up pleasures of the past:
 I remember the good old days, Used to ride in Bullock carts in the village
 With the childhood flame smugly seated nearby,

Giggling and laughing and saying sweet nothings.
 Then there were no Town Buses
 Horse drawn carts were there aplenty
 Travelled many a time, again seated with the sweetheart.
 “Kodai sayudhu sami… Munnadi Vaanga…”
 Leaving the beloved behind, seated near the horseman
 I used to whip the horse and drive it gently though
 As the horse gallops with all its might, the cart goes up and down up and down
 Oh! What a joy! What fun! What laughter!

Now I can’t even laugh. Loud Laughter brings back the pain
 “But why, why this tormenting unbearable pain?” I cried aloud in agony.
 In answer came pious piercing voices from all corners
 “It is the curse of the Bullocks and the Horses”
 “It is the curse of the Bullocks and the Horses”

— V.S.Venkatavaradan

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