Re has been unwell since yesterday. It’s nothing major, just a stubborn cold and a cough. But this morning, I heard him wheeze, and my heart froze. I had a sudden flashback of my asthmatic childhood, how my mother used to try everything to make me sleep — put on a hot water bag, hold a roasted ajwain pack on my chest, massage my back, give me warm water and honey to drink — and how nothing would help. It was as though staying horizontal was the toughest thing on earth.
It’s not so with Re. He is a trooper; he has already gone for his morning walk, eaten his breakfast, taken stock of his pots and pans, refused to wear a sweater, put on his music and is currently conducting his ritual orchestra with his tambourine and his maracas. He doesn’t know he is unwell, and except for me opening his mouth from time to time to shove a dose of medicine, things are pretty much the same. The only question my doctor asks me is, “How is his mood?”. And if that is okay, all is well.
My grandmother used to say that whenever you are in duress, think of those who are worse off than you and count your blessings. I thought of Priyanka.
Priyanka is a little girl, all of a year and some, the daughter of the caretaker at the farmhouse Re and I just spent a few days in a village near Lonavala. Priyanka was hospitalised a few months ago for a knotted intestine. Yes. I didn’t know such things happen. But they do. Apparently, she stopped passing stools one day and stopped eating, and her parents figured something was wrong. The local village doctor treated her for colic for a week, and when things didn’t improve, they took her to the government hospital, where (thankfully) it was diagnosed that her small intestine had knotted itself up beyond belief. The only way to unknot it was to cut her open and physically unknot it.
So Priyanka, at one year and some, was opened up, an hour spent on sorting out the convolutions of her intestine, and stitched up. The scar runs the entire length of her belly. But that’s not it. Post operation, she spent ten days in the hospital, when her belly just swelled up like a balloon, and no one knew why. The resident doctor pronounced that she if it didn’t subside by the next day, she wouldn’t make it. The one who did her surgery was nowhere in sight.
Her father ran from pillar to post, trying to find someone, anyone, who could help her out of her misery. Finally, at the end of ten days, her tummy subsided and she was discharged. It’s been a few months since, but she still cries at night and her mommy feels she is still hurting. But Priyanka doesn’t give a damn. She is happy to be happy by day, gambolling in the fields, talking to the birds and the bees as she is fed her lunch by her daddy, and parading around in her new shoes, chasing the local dog away. She even shared her grapes with Re, and they bonded.
Re is still wheezing, but I count my blessings and feel strong again.