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The strange appearance of Norman Cousins.

Two years ago, I wrote a story for The Saturday Evening Post about a surprise party I gave for my husband to celebrate a year's survival from his heart attack. Some of the cardiologists had though Norman would not survive for a year without a bypass operation, but Norman felt he could make a complete recovery by means of exercise, good nutrition and avoiding unreasonable stress. Norman was pretty sure his body could make its own bypass. And he was right. I thought it might be fun to mark the day when the year and passed by surprising Norman with a celebration. However, the day before the party, Norman got wind of it and turned the surprise around on us.

I wrote in the earlier article that one of Norman's friends had arranged for him to get a professional make-up job at Universal Studios. That was how a "Dr. Morton from London" appeared at the party. He was an elderly English gentleman, stooped and deaf, with a full head of gray hair, a beard, a mustache and bushy eyebrows. It turned out to be Norman.

It is now three years since Norman's heart attack, and he is stronger than ever. At his last check-up, his cardiologist was amazed to see the extent of his recovery.

When the third anniversary of his survival approached, we though we ought to have another party. This time it was not a surprise. The same guests were invited. At seven o'clock everyone but Norman had arrived. Finally, at about seven-thirty, our daughter Candis, certain that Norman Would turn up in some disguise, thought of a plan to turn the tables on him. She passed the word around to everyone that, when Norman came in, no matter what he was wearing or what he did, we were to ignore him. She said, "Just pretend you don't know him."

At eight o'clock, the doorbell rang. On the doorstep stood a beautifully dressed Sikh. A black, bushy beard, a mustache and eyebrows covered everything but his eyes. He had shoulder-length black hair. He wore a tall, silver turban, a handsome Indian jacket and puttees around his legs. He bowed, his palms pressed together in front of his face, in the Indian manner. In a small voice, he introduced himself as Dr. Singh From Lahore, Pakistan. I welcomed him and introduced him to the other guests. True to their instructions, they said nothing and turned their backs. The Sikh looked a little startled at the brush-off and stood alone, looking rather forlorn. I was beginning to feel sorry for him. Then the bell rang again. We opened the door to find another Sikh, an obvious twin of the first. He, too, bowed with his palms pressed together in front of his face. At that point, everyone screamed with laughter, because we couldn't tell which Sikh was Norman. Finally, the second Sikh introduced himself in an authentic, lilting Indian accent.

"I am Dr. Singh," he said. "My brother is also Dr. Singh. We have a clinic in Lahore--Singh-singh Clinic. We are Sikhs. We treat sick Sikhs. In one week alone, we have treated 66 sick Sikhs. We have come to Beverly hills to do research. We were told that Beverly hills is the best place for us to get material for our study, which is on 'The Perils of Monogamy.'

"In Paris when I told people I come from Lahore, they said, 'Please wash your hands!'

"Many people in France and here in Beverly Hills have asked me, 'Did you know Mahatma Gandhi?' I say to them, 'Yes, I knew Mahatma Gandhi. He was my idol. I used to sit at his feet for hours at a time. But after a while, I had to say, "Bapu, please move your feet," and he would say to me, "Koomeraswa, you're no rose yourself."

"'Mahatma shared with me a few nuggets of his wisdom. He would say to me. "I have learned just three important things in my life. First, dead frogs don't dance." At first, I didn't know what he meant. But I thought about it, and it is true. Dead frogs don't dance.

"'Mahatma also said: "Don't think of the good old days. Think of the good old nights."

"'His third gem: "Don't go to bed mad. Stay up and fight."

"'But that is not all. One time I asked, "Bapu, how does one avoid catching a cold?" and he replied, "Don't breathe in public."'"

We all had a good laugh. The brothers Singh removed their beards and we sat down to dinner. The first Dr. Singh was revealed to be a friend of ours who is norman's size and has the same brown eyes.

Norman had been talking to himself quite a bit in the days before the party. Now I realize he had been practicing. He knows we expect him to do something unusual. I can hardly wait to find out what he will do next year.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Cousins, Eleanor
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1984
Words:829
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