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Satire: Why 2021 has been ‘The Year of Obsessing about Health and Sickness’

It’s finally that time of the year when we perform the annual ritual of looking back and taking stock. It’s time to add up the pros, subtract the cons, and provide customer feedback on the year you’ve just consumed. Maybe even assign a rating. But I’m not going to do any of that because it’s boring. I have a better idea: how about I give you a comprehensive update on my health performance in 2021?

I know it’s a popular pastime in India. No matter where you go, people are most interested in your health. The first thing they ask after you’ve said hello is not ‘How ashamed are you of a country that can’t take jokes from a Muslim stand-up comedian?’ Rather, the first thing they ask is, ‘How are you?’

2021 has been ‘The Year of Obsessing about Health and Sickness’. We got so weird about it we wouldn’t even step out. We worked from home, attended official meetings from home, and even slept at home — a radical lifestyle change for many used to sleeping in the office.

You do realise the importance of sleep, I hope? I did only in 2021, the Year of Circadian Disruptions. If you don’t get five hours of REM sleep every night, your neurons die four times faster, making your future self seven times stupider than your current self. While India’s historical sleep data is inaccessible, all visible symptoms indicate Indians haven’t been getting enough REM sleep, especially from 2014. So please do track your REM sleep levels — there are tons of wearable apps that’ll do that for you.

Another thing I’ve realised is the importance of testing. I’ve never generated as much data about my health as I did this year. I’ve learned, for instance, that the real function of the nose is not delivering oxygen to the lungs (which is anyway impossible in Delhi) or smells to your brain but to entertain swabs. Fun fact: I’ve given more mucus samples in one year than the PM has given press conferences in seven years.

Oil or blood?

I also learned that every single thing about your body that you’ve always taken for granted — like blood, for instance — is actually a data source. If data is oil, then blood is like Indian petrol — data mined from it supports multi-billion dollar industries, and I’m not talking about pathology labs alone.

Also, it’s not only blood. Imagine what would happen if Mark Zuckerbrg gets his hands on people’s stool samples which, contrary to popular belief, is not the same thing that gets posted on Facebook. Everyone’s newsfeed and friend requests would keep changing depending on what they’ve been eating.

Therefore, it fills me with pride to know that all the diagnostic data extracted this year from my blood, urine, stool and sputum is right now floating around in the cloud, triggering start-up ideas, inspiring co-founders to co-build unicorns, generating millions of new exploitative jobs, and promoting growth and investment in Digital India.

New innings

So, defeating the coronavirus is one of my top achievements in what has been a fabulous year for my health. I say ‘one of my top achievements’ because not long after recovering from COVID-19, I ran into dengue. It’s astonishing that the DENV-2 virus doesn’t get the same VIP treatment that SARS-COV-2 does. It may not have handsome-looking spike proteins or fans in first-world countries but it can teach a thing or two about torture even to Indian policemen. With me, it inflicted unbearable pain on bones and joints I don’t even have. I finally got a sense of what Wolverine must have gone through when they extracted Adamantium from his bones. In my case, the dengue virus was trying to extract beetroot from my bone marrow. But, fortunately, I had enough wickets — or, shall we say, platelets — in hand to notch up another creditable win over a dangerous adversary.

While my performance in physical health, as you can see, has been outstanding, it’s a mixed bag on the mental health front. The good news is I’m not yet psychotic despite months of lockdown and social isolation. But I won’t say I’m unscathed. Round-the-clock exposure to WhatsApp has resulted in moderate brain damage, causing hormonal imbalances. For instance, though my endocrine system is not really fascist, I get my dopamine hit mostly from reading and sharing hateful posts about people I don’t know personally and who don’t know I exist. Sometimes, when my serotonin levels plummet, I even accidentally go on social media and post something a random bot with 10 million followers might find offensive.

So yes, I’m not in top form mentally and not sleeping too well, but what the heck, I still have enough soundness of mind to be able to tell the difference between a decent human being and a narcissistic sociopath, and the wisdom to entrust my future to the latter.

sampath.g@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 7:00:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/satire-why-2021-has-been-the-year-of-obsessing-about-health-and-sickness/article37819919.ece

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