Almost seven years ago, I was asked to do an MRI of the shoulder and neck region.
Never mind what happened to my shoulder later, but the exercise resulted in a blog post "MRI Rock", detailing my first fun experience with the MRI procedure. The highlight of that entire procedure was the immense variety of noises that emanated around me as I lay, deadly still , in one of those slide in-slide out , cylinder type things , which presumably had magnets inside , trying to twist and turn and position themselves.
I was back for another MRI. Thanks to a long standing strange complaint of severely burning toes , which was killing my sleep. I was curious to know this time , what had changed in the last 7 years. With me, as well as the MRI machine....
The target of the MRI, which was this time, the Lower back, or as they say, LS Spine. (Just reminded me of a TV program from ages ago, where Archana Puransingh used to do a comedy program and classify people/places as HS(High Society/posh) and LS (Low Society/Unposh). I was ecstatic to know that my spine was LS.... But I digress.)
The whole idea of an MRI, is to position magnetic fields in clever ways so as to polarize the hydrogen atoms in your body region under survey, and then point radio waves at them, and catch the reflection of these waves on film, to give doctors an idea of the mess inside your bodies.
Like before , all metallic items were removed , and handed to a relative for safekeeping, and a hospital gown took its place.
Like before , I lay down on one of those sliding planks. The only difference was that now they also moved vertically, so that I could climb on , in a sort of casual way , as opposed to , on a stool, that shook under the weight.
And like before, I was cold, the AC was killing me, and I was told not to move once the procedure began. And as before , I asked the technician for the emergency bell , which I must hold in my hand, in case anything became intolerable and needed me to move.
Some things have clearly changed. The earlier MRI, had, in addition to a slide-in cylindrical section, a kind of large diameter spherical section which felt like a planetarium when one slid in. This machine was a cylindrical contraption, much narrower , and possibly the effect of the current craze for size zero . Fairly puzzling because so many normal-size non-page 3 folks came to get MRI's done . The whole effect was like one was sleeping at stiff attention, and itching for someone to shout and say , "Vishram!".
And then there were the sounds.
Clearly, the hydrogen atoms inside me had mellowed down. The sort of music that was offered to get the magnetic fields working now was different.
The main sound continuously playing in the background was some kind of sound of a dog barking rhythmically, somewhere far down the road, in a sort on non stop way. There were some very loud rhythmic beat sounds, which I thought, would be better suited for some loud nightclub or discotheque, and I could imagine people desperately flinging themselves around in weird clothes trying to dance to that music. Wonder if any DJs have had MRI's done ?
All of a sudden, it changed to a lower pitch yet still very loud sound , a kind of thick buzzing. Then a kind of sound of a mixer running in your kitchen. This was followed by what I call hammering house repair sounds. The sort you hear when there is a building coming up next to your house.
At some point, in a throwback to my past experience, the dreaded sounds of a drill digging up a concrete road made their debut.
The new sounds this time , were different. One was much like an electronic saw making precision cuts, loudly and clearly; not a terribly reassuring sound to hear when you are sleeping under a cylinder sliding in and out under someone else's control.
The other new sound was what I call the horns.
I am not sure whether these "horn sounds" kind of announced that a new area in the body was being looked at. But they sounded exactly like the Mumbai suburban local train sounds, when the train stops at a red signal, and the driver tries to signal to whoever, that he needs a response, so the train can move.
It occurred to me that these were typical sounds one would hear in a place like Mumbai, where new construction was rampant, there were no restrictions and rules on noise, and you would be cursed with cement drilling, concrete mixing, glass cutting, chain saw noises , interspersed with local trains honking for a signal in the distance. Even the barking dogs sound.
Science and Anatomy reflecting the society around us.
It isn't easy remaining still and unmoving inside the cylindrical MRI contraption. And they would constantly have these little back and forth shifts of the plank. You would think everything was done, and they would slide you in again, possibly to take another tantalizing view of your scintillating back.
This MRI procedure was more claustrophobic than before.
Seven years ago, I had kept my cool and wits about me, by thinking of various songs that one could sing to the beat of these sounds, as the magnets did their stuff. Occasionally , I would then remember some childhood prayers we recited when we were afraid . And recite them to the beat of the magnets.
Seven years on, it was not the same.
There was a bit of loss of bravado. Almost similar music, and some similar sounds, with some innovative ones added in, but all that I could recite to that beat, were prayers where one took God's name. Seven years down the line, I had moved on, and popular songs simply did not come to mind. Possibly it was age, or even inattention to what was being constantly played on loudspeakers all time . I would often realize that I was holding my breath, and then try and release it slowly so as to not unknowingly make any movement in the area under investigation, by exhaling hugely.
I am not an overly religious person, and not someone who can rattle off chapters and verses of holy books. Shri Ram, Ganpati, and Shri Krishna are the Gods that always come to my mind. Seven years ago, I could recite the Maha Mrutyunjay Mantra in my mind, in perfect tune to the MRI sounds, and even counted the iterations.
Now I tried to recite names in my mind, quietly, as the rattling, and booming and digging noises continued. Somehow, the prayers to Ganpati , Krishna, and the Maha Mrutyunjaya Mantra, did not fit into the rhythm of the MRI sounds.
But Shri Rama did. And so the hydrogen atoms in this earthly body, straightened out to the tune of Shri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram, and sent their pictures back to the computer/photofilm etc , for what sounded like a musical thirty minutes, interspersed with local train horns, introducing each piece of music.
I know I always say our bodies reflect what is happening in society and vice-versa.
But no this has nothing to do with the political party in power in my state. It has nothing to do with secular or communal.
A different MRI beat could have fitted in with invocations to Ganpati and/or Krishna as well. Seven years ago, the MRI beats fitted perfectly to A R Rehman's Jai Ho!
What was important here was to figure out the handling of the burning issue of the day.