That morning as I put on my shoes, the laces broke.

I froze for a couple of unnerving moments and then, accompanied by a racing heart, went on to search for a new pair of laces, found them where I usually kept a spare pair, and went on unperturbed.

Later as I prepared breakfast for my wife and myself, I was probably inattentive as I poured milk into the glasses and it spilled all over the kitchen slab.

I again froze for a couple of unnerving moments but then went about mopping up the mess like an expert, though with a shortness of breath that even I found rather odd.

Later, I munched my sandwich in silence and as we came out of the lift and turned to walk to our car, a cat jumped down from the neatly arranged letter-boxes to our right and disappeared between the vehicles parked to our left.

‘Bad omens,’ I muttered, ‘Warning signs. Should I really be going for this interview today?’

Specky, my wife, laughed and said, ‘You’re afraid of that cat? She is the one who is probably afraid of you. Remember how you chased her from the seventh floor only a week back?’

‘Not just the cat,’ I said, and then told her about the other things that had happened which I thought were sort of warning signs.

She looked at me and said, ‘The laces broke because they were worn out. You found new laces because we are a disciplined couple who keeps an inventory of things we might need in the near future. In fact, this incident is such a positive one. You were not stranded because your shoe did not have laces!’ saying this she laughed loud.

I too smiled, but was still nervous. So I asked, ‘yes, I’m sorry about making the laces incident sound so ominous… but what’s so great about the milk spilling over?’

‘Ah! Now that is indeed a warning sign,’ she said with a twinkle in her eyes, ‘Were you thinking of someone other than me when this happened?’

‘I don’t remember now what I was thinking about.’

‘Come on, you didn’t really have to answer that last question. It was a joke.’ We laughed and I drove her to her college where she taught, and went on to go and meet A Kejriwal who I was to interview that day.

I knew I was nervous that day. I had strange thoughts coming to my mind throughout my interview. Every time I asked a question, my mind blared out strange warnings like… ‘You are making yourself look like a fool asking this sort of question!’… or ‘Now he is going to refuse answering any of the other question.’… or ‘See, even the driver is staring at you and your daft questions.’ The day was quite full of eerie thoughts and there were moments when I thought I would actually fall back on my seat and faint!

That evening when I reached home I was exhausted. I felt so fragile and so nervous all through that interview that I was conducting. This was rather uncharacteristic of me… but then so was getting worked up about minor problems like the laces breaking or milk spilling over!

In the evening I shared my apprehensions with Specky. I told her that these do seem like premonitions about something more serious than what was apparent. She agreed and so we decided to go to our doctor.

The conversation we had with the doctor was both wild and reflective. He began by asking direct questions, ‘Do you experience sweating, dryness of mouth, tremor, a racing heart, or shortness of breath whenever anything tends to behave unpredictably or even during social interactions?’

I recollected the incidents from the past day and told him that this was indeed the case. I added, ‘Of late I have started getting a feeling that all eyes are focused on me. It is as if they are waiting for me to make one false move and then converge upon me like vultures.’

Surprisingly, the doctor smiled and said, ‘I love talking to people who are creative writers. They make my job so much easier.’

The doctor suddenly looked towards the window and went to it, ‘There are grey clouds outside. How would you describe them in two words?’

‘Lovely weather!’ I answered.

Specky thought for a while and cautiously said, ‘Warning signs.’

‘Bingo!’ said the doctor, and then added, ‘and this implies that a right thinking person would need to be prepared before stepping outside. He needs to carry an umbrella.’

'Clouds are also a warning sign,' said the doctor.

‘Clouds are also a warning sign,’ said the doctor.

The funny thing about doctors in this age of smartphone technology is that they want to illustrate everything. The doctor also drew out what he meant in three different drawings and showing them to us, said, ‘I always tell my patients that even something as seemingly minor as a bleeding gum can lead to even tooth loss, so it is better to seek timely solutions.’

The doctor then went on to emphasise his logic with an illustrated example of the sort of warning bleeding gums give!

The doctor then went on to emphasise his logic with an illustrated example of the sort of warning bleeding gums give!

This doctor was really an expert in giving a moral twist to all that he said!

This doctor was really an expert in giving a moral twist to all that he said!

I instinctively got up and examined my teeth in the mirror inside his clinic and said, ‘Well, I don’t have bleeding gums at least.’

The doctor smiled, ‘You have other warning signals surrounding you. Though it is good you’ve come to me before they grew bigger and unmanageable. All you need is a few medications and lots of rest.’

I nodded in agreement and told the doctor that a warning sign was probably like a thorn and quite capable of turning life into a series of prickly moments. ‘These thorns tell us when and where we need to leave our path and choose a different one. Unless we deliberately wish to transform our life into a wilderness… a wilderness where sometimes there are no signs to help us get out of it.’ Now was my turn to watch the doctor quickly jot down my expressive sentence… but then this is not really a part of my story here.

As we came out of his clinic, I told Specky that I was rather glad that the laces broke that morning and that even the milk spilled and the cat crossed our path on the same day. ‘Yes, sometimes warning signs come together and then it becomes easier for us to understand them and take the right action. This reminds me that I’ve noticed a bit of blood when I brush my teeth.’

‘Let’s visit the dentist right away,’ I said.

Warning signs_colgate_indiblogger_June 2013

Warning signs_colgate_indiblogger_June 2013

Post written for ‘The moral of the story is…’ contest on indiblogger.
The sponsors ‘Colgate Total’ have an interesting blog where some pertinent health issues are taken up.


Arvind Passey
05 June 2013