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Can journalists have phantom spine?

Having struggled with back pain for three months, I finally, on the recommendation of my friend OTG, visited an orthopaedic who offers a special discount for journalists.

When he saw my X-ray, he nearly fell off his chair. “Get out of my chamber right now!” he shrieked.

“Excuse me,” I said. “What do you mean ‘chamber’? Are you Chief Justice or orthopaedic? If I don’t get out, you’ll hold me in contempt or what?”

“I already hold you in contempt!” he said. “You are not even a journalist. You’re claiming to be one just to avail my discount!”

“You’re mistaken,” I said, and showed him my press card.

“Obviously Photoshopped.”

I Googled myself and showed him the bylines that came up, with my name and picture. He still wouldn’t believe me.

I finally got a letter from a cabinet minister, stating that I am indeed a top journalist of not just India, not just SAARC, but also the entire BIMSTEC. If you don’t know what BIMSTEC stands for, please jump into the nearest cup of filter coffee.

Having a Union minister vouch for me seemed to have a calming effect. The ortho held my X-ray against the light. “Look,” he said, pointing at what looked like the Milky Way but with several teeth. “What’s this?”


“Exactly!” he said. “It is well known that mammals such as the Great Indian Journalist shed their spines within six months of their first job. No way someone of your vintage still has a spine. You are no journalist.” He threw me out.

More investigation

When OTG heard this, he was shocked. “The X-ray revealed a spine?! Are you sure it’s not a spine-shaped tumour?”

“No,” I said. He advised me to go see Peet Baba, a Unani-Siddha spine specialist, with a fresh X-ray and MRI. Peet Baba gathered all my test reports and dumped them in the dust bin. “All this X-ray and MRI are useless.” He wrote down the address of a lab that had an Aura Chakra Machine (ACM).

The ACM images of my back were a colourful mishmash, like faded bathroom tiles. When Peet Baba saw them, he smiled. “The good news is that you don’t really have a spine. See,” he said, placing the ACM film over UV light. Sure enough, I could see a rib cage and pelvis but no spine.

“Baba-ji, if I don’t have a spine, how come I have a backache?”

Peet Baba sighed. “Have you heard of what we call a phantom limb?”

“Of course. It’s where an amputee feels sensation in a limb that’s been amputated.”

“Not just sensation. Amputees can also feel pain in their phantom limbs.”


“You have a case of phantom spine,” he said. “That’s where the pain is coming from.”

“So how does one treat an organ that doesn’t even exist?”

“Hahaha,” Peet Baba guffawed. “That’s the limitation of modern Western medicine. Ancient India’s rishi-munis have long known the answer to your problem. You see, they also spent long hours sitting, day after day. But unlike you journalists, they were meditating, not spending their days proactively retweeting influencers that you wish to suck up to.”

“My spine may be a phantom,” I said. “But my pain is real. How do I get rid of it?”

“Knowledge is power,” Peet Baba said. “Now you know your spine is not real. Use that knowledge. Act like you don’t have any kind of spine. Avoid sitting or standing.”

“That’s what my ortho also said. But how is that practical?”

“Who said it’s not practical? Aren’t you a journalist? You should have no problem spending all your time crawling. You will even get collateral benefits.” He explained how, for instance, I could easily circumvent the latest media restrictions and gain access to the Finance Ministry and other government offices by crawling into them.

Secret mantra

He whispered in my ear a secret disyllabic mantra. “Chant it during your morning crawl for 30 days. Watch your professional colleagues on prime time and learn how it’s done. I guarantee that your pain will vanish.”

I’ve been following Peet Baba’s advice for a week now, and I can tell you, 30 minutes of morning crawl is the best exercise to exorcise a phantom spine and related problems. The more time you spend crawling, the more genuinely spineless you become. Where there is no spine (phantom or otherwise) there is no question of back pain.

As more and more people from every crawl of life — not just journalists but also bureaucrats, judges, cops, tycoons, celebs — adopt the crawl as their default nationalist posture, India could soon become the world’s largest democracy of authentically spineless and healthy individuals.

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