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Dear Reader, 

The painting you are seeing on the cover, I made that as a gift for my chief operating surgeon and his team after my surgery—an emergency spinal decompression at three levels because I had gradually lost function of pretty much my entire lower body by the time I reached the operating table. The kindness I have received from them, it is ... really tough to accept, I am not used to it. So, painted this to express my gratitude; small gestures I suppose. This was only the second ever canvas board I had painted on; it was January 2021, I was 20 years old, it was a year after the surgery and I was brimming with hope. I was able to walk AGAIN on my own two legs— with the help of mobility aids yes!—but I hadn’t been sure if I could EVER live independently again for so many, many months. Every second. Every minute. That concept of taking it one day at a time? I was taking it one minute at a time.

Currently, this feels like it happened in a different life. It’s just been four years since that injury. I assumed that something as devastating as having your body cut open, having parts of your spine cut out, having the covering of the bundle of your completely crushed nerves stitched up, the nerves that control your bladder, bowel, provide sensations and motor control of your lower limbs; that having gone through that… you would assume once was enough,  right? We see in the films, characters dedicating years of their life to get back on their feet again. It’s all true, that is, if you recover at all; it takes everything and more. (I hope it sounds tedious enough, I’m trying my best not to go too much into it ha-ha.) I underwent a second spine surgery in March of 2023, three years after the first one. This time they drilled in screws and put up rods to stabilise my spine and  fuse two levels. I used to have recurring nightmares about this a year and half prior. 

I am a final year medical undergraduate. I hope that explains some of the ... above eh? I came here to this institute in 2017, an infinitely long time ago. None of my books (or the postgrad ones for that matter) have anything helpful to say, nor do my doctors—they say I’m too young to be having these issues. After that first surgery, I asked one of my operating surgeons if their team had ever operated on someone in their twenties for a similar cause? He refused. No one in their thirties either, he added. 

I have a degenerating spine; so does everyone for that matter, a poor choice of words but sufficient for now, I think. One usually deals with lower back pain in their forties? Fifties? Maybe even later? I was 19 when I got operated first and had been enduring back pain since I was ten. Eleven maybe? It’s tough recollecting memories these days.

It feels terribly chaotic being here now. Knowing all this. Too much and too little at the same time. Reading about chronic stress and trauma and its effect on the body does help provide some calmness though I must admit. Dr. Gabor Mate’s work among so many others’ help. The body does indeed keep the score. 

Every single person from the DBA community, your art, I thank you; you keep me going. Personally, I just want to make paintings that have the style of Frida Kahlo (obviously) mixed with Jack Coulter, a dash of Klimt’s gold and the essence of Marina Abramović  and Maud Lewis; and myself. I hope you see a little bit of me too. 

Thank you for your time. Thank you gulmohur

Currently putting up new art on Instagram @a.paralytic.uncertainty 

Take care of yourself. 

All my love, 

Aradhana Rani

The Beauty and the Bloodshed, 2023

[24” x 36”; acrylic paint, dried flowers on canvas board; gifted to my doctors post-op 2, currently at Atharv Ability Rehabilitation Centre, Mumbai]

Painkillers, 2023 

[12” x 10”; acrylic paint on canvas board; started this one in the hospital, made it from a photograph I asked my brother to take]

Back Pain, 2023 

[16” x 12”; acrylic paint, oil, on canvas board; completed in the hospital on the day of surgery 2]

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