My daughter gets diagnosed with Chicken Pox. The doctor turns to me and asks, “Have you had Pox before?” I reply proudly, “Aye, no, never. Never in my life”
Doctor replies, “Then count 10 days from now on, you will come to me”
I’m like, “eh!!”
The doctor explains that 14 (to 16) days is the incubation period for the virus after exposure. Considering my daughter had been carrying it for 4 days already and considering that I had close contact with her, even touching and inspecting her blisters quite often in those four days, the grand incubation scheme leaves me with 10 days in hands.
Here’s how the following days go:
I have already lost four days without realizing it, so we now start from the 5th day of Incubation.
Breaking my own vow to never search on the Internet about any disease, I pore over pages and pages of articles about prevention and remedies. When you don’t know what disease you have and try to find it out from the Internet, usually your search results start from cancer which makes you immediately go crazy and run to a doctor – the very reason why I stopped. But, when you already know what disease you are carrying, the search results are much less scary.
I instantly liked the scientific name of chickenpox – Varicella Zoster. It is certainly the sexiest name after Gabriela Sabatini. Apart from the name, there isn’t much to my liking. After so much searching, I find out, there isn’t any magic cure available in India for chickenpox – how sad and unbelievable!
I break the bad news to my wife that if we have already contracted the virus, it is certain it will eventually (within 10 days, of course) play out the full dance on our body.
My wife goes berserk. This is the one disease she hates the most – mostly from a beauty perspective. She goes on a very long rant placing the blame entirely on me. She makes outrageous claims, “It is all because of your general unclean habits. You bring all the viruses home. I’m sure our daughter got it from you. But you won’t get it. I’m sure of that because you have buffalo skin”
I stand lost – lost for an answer.
The wife drags me to another doctor. She’s hell-bent on stopping the virus.
This doctor tells, “See, there are vaccines but at this stage, there is no guarantee that it can be stopped”. He continues, “It’s only 50-50 chance”.
He even makes an effort to pacify my agitating wife by summoning all his knowledge on women’s psychology in saving money; he tells “the cost of prevention vaccine is much more than the cost of treating the disease”. He is pleased with his suggestion but it is clear proof of him sleeping through his psychology class.
“That’s okay. I want to take the vaccine” she replies curtly.
The doctor shakes his head, “No, madam, I suggest you take it easy” and goes on to make a stupid addition, “you come and see me next Friday. By then you would have got the boils on your face. I will give you an ointment to apply”
I’m thinking, thaan ennai kolaiku kodukum…you are going to get me killed.
My wife throws a furious glance at me and storms out of the hospital.
I have to confess that by this stage I have become more afraid of my wife than the virus. I’m almost in a situation to invent a cure myself.
As soon as I wake up in the morning, I run to the nearest Kerala ayurvedic clinic.
This is how I stand in front of the doctor:
Enganae engilum rakshikanam. Please save me somehow!
It’s a lady doctor and she’s a lot more pleasing than the other two.
“Don’t worry, let me help you as much as possible to prevent the disease” and prescribes a truckload of medicines from tablets to kashayams.
Kashayams are liquid portions that taste like shit and sometimes require complex and elaborate procedures to prepare the right mix to drink. Instructions for one of the kashayams is to pour a small amount into a glass and mix it with 60 percent of lukewarm water and then add 6 times more water, shake well for 6 minutes, then allow it to settle for another 6 minutes…..it all goes sixer over my head. Pretty complicated but my wife follows the instructions diligently. I give up the next day.
If I could mix it properly, I would have invented petrol from grass.
This day I learn about the various myths surrounding the disease. It is believed that a Goddess will enter the body and stay for 7 days and leave (and preferably enter into another one from the same family). Medication is a severe offense against the Goddess. The only solution is, not to offend the Goddess and keep her happy so that she leaves peacefully.
The more research I do, the more I understand that the country is divided in its opinion about this. In North India, it is Sheetla Mata, a furious personality, who rides around the villages on a donkey (ass) inflicting people with chickenpox. In South India, it is some random Devi or Amman. In North India, Chicken Pox is seen as the fury of the Goddess but down South, we believe it to be the blessing of Devi.
Later in the day, I speak to Mr. J who recently recovered from Pox. Mr. J says, “Devi keriya, kadakshichitte poku! Once Devi enters your body, she will only leave after a wholesome blessing!”
“How did your blessing go?” I ask him
“Looking at my face what do you think?”
Mr. J has evidently received a very generous blessing. There’s isn’t a millimeter of space on his face without holes.
“Looks more like a curse than a blessing” I say thoughtfully
“Given my character, you cannot expect anything less” he laughs.
My wife gives me no peace. She constantly reminds me it’s all because of me (I don’t know how) and if she gets Pox she will kill me. Desperate, I call a friend of mine who is the grandson of a traditional healer.
He gives a long list of instructions: “Fog your room with incense. Sleep on Neem leaves. Sprinkle fresh cow urine inside your house. Also, drinking cow urine can help prevent the virus”
“Should I eat cow dung?” I ask
He pauses for a second, wondering whether it is aimed as an insult.
“No, but your wife will make you eat that soon”
We wind up our conversation on a rather good note but I find practical difficulties in following his instructions so I decide to give up and wait for Sheetla Devi instead.
As days go by and still no sign of the Devi at my doorstep, the darker clouds in my mind slowly clear and with that my attitude also changes:
I’m like this on this day:
Day 12: One of the most important daily activities these days is checking every part of the body for blisters. I find none yet.
Day 13: Tomorrow is the 14th day. I’m still waiting for Sheetla Mata to arrive on her donkey.