Spiked biryani - Chris Cork - Monday, April 04, 2011

Having got to the point where birthdays are more a matter of regret than celebration I was determined to allow my most recent notch on the stick to pass unremarked. Not so those around me who seem to celebrate it with as much enthusiasm as they did in their teens.

Thus it was that there were cards and little posies and some carefully chosen gifts all of which, somewhat against my curmudgeonly nature, left me with something of a rosy glow. It was all capped off with a cake modestly dressed with a single candle and a chicken biryani of industrial proportions.

My partiality for biryani is long noted in the family, and I can barely get through the door of any relative without being offered 20kg of the stuff. The house staff had laboured long in the kitchen to produce this paragon of Punjab cuisine which tasted as good as it smelt and was appreciated by all who sat at my table.

Can you hear the ‘but’ hovering in the background? Correctly perceived if you did Dear Reader for my birthday biryani was home to an unwelcome visitor whose identity was only truly revealed the following Saturday afternoon.

Buried deep within the rice and spices was what doctors call a ‘foreign body’. As soon as I had swallowed an otherwise innocuous mouthful I knew there was a problem. Choking and spluttering, something lodged deep in my throat. Try as I might nothing would dislodge it.

The next morning it felt a little better and I kidded myself that it was probably en-route through the digestive system. I went off to Islamabad as planned on the Thursday night, thing in throat seeming to trouble me less and less. Friday night it got uncomfortable again and by Saturday morning I was unable to swallow fluids, never mind solids and I declared myself Officially Unwell.

For years some relatives have put me up whilst in Isloo, and I was firmly taken in hand by the older daughter of the family who put me in the car and off we went to a medical centre.

Duly x-rayed (nothing showed up) and examined by a very thorough doctor there was a swift decision to refer me to the larger of the teaching hospitals in Islamabad. Feeling worse by the minute it was a dive into the arms of some of the best – certainly quickest – health care I have ever had.

On the operating table in under an hour four doctors had a jolly good ferret around inside my throat, aided by various bits of scaffolding, what felt like a torch the size of a tennis ball and a knife you could have slaughtered a cow with should the fancy have taken you. (I am sure I am wrong in all these perceptions but when you are lying on your side thinking these might be your last moments I think a brief excursion into hyperbole may be excused.)

“My goodness...will you look at that!” I heard as I spat blood and tried to concentrate on what was going on. The ‘that’ which was being referred to was the 4cm long piece of wood, needle-spiked at both ends and hooked, which they had cut out of the wall of my gullet.

The ‘foreign body’ that turned into an unwelcome birthday gift and for all I know could have cost me my life. All in all it cost me 13,000 rupees and a lot of lost meetings. A week later there is just a touch of discomfort – and a domestic staff who will be very careful the next time they cook me a biryani.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=39813&Cat=9

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