. She waits at the foothills for her husband to come back. She’s dying….a painful death. Nothing could be done. The tickets… they were already booked….the coupe…a tiny room, just for themselves. The journey it has been heavenly….but now, she was in hell. Not the one burning with flames but the one chilling her bones and clogging her chest. She pukes but the relief lasts a few minutes. Then it’s back, with a vengeance.
There’s this local who has taken him up the mountain to look for a hotel. He asks her to join. She refuses…let my husband come days she. He swears and goes away. Her husband comes. He’s found a room..,it’s all the way up the hill. He doesn’t understand. Breathless..she slowly struggles up the hill.
On the bed, she’s coughing away..He is kind. He gives her a bucket to puke on.
They come with their beautiful shawls and sweaters. He wants to buy them for her. She cannot speak. Where do I find a doctor he says.
There must be a hospital but he doesn’t know where. They get a taxi. She is take for a ride. Up another mountain.The old doctor doesn’t talk. He gives her a jab. Her asthma’s gone
Since he was about our fathers’ age and his hairline was just starting to recede, we called him ‘uncle’.
Indians will find it perfectly normal that one guy can be an uncle to a hundred odd kids.
There are advantages and disadvantages of doing this depending on which end of the of the bargain you are at.
The uncle gets respect and a right to shout at the kids or be nice to him as he deems fit.
In Indian culture… especially in the good old days, children were supposed to listen to the elders. Even expressing a contrary opinion was considered rude.
So if the uncle gave a tirade about being careful while playing, because the cricket ball went through his grills, you just had to hang your heads down and swallow the whole thing till the uncle got exhausted and chucked the ball out…. no matter it was his son that sent it in in the first place.
No one squealed….no matter what.
But there is the other side of the coin. Once deemed uncle the guy gets family status. So we can go like Uncle….. can you switch your lights on….we can’t see the ball…
One rung above the uncles were the aunties.
Aunties generally had their own kids in our gang (obviously uncles did too but they wouldn’t bother much) and would occasionally indulge us with homemade sweets.
And the most important thing..,, water.
We would target the houses on the ground floor… they could just pass the stuff through the balcony….refilling a glass we would pass around to the fifteen or twenty of us. We weren’t allowed to sip.. we had to pour the stuff down our throats.
No time wasted on climbing up the stairs. There were exceptions of course.
We couldn’t attack the same aunty over and over again… they had their limits..and we didn’t want to be permanently banned by anyone.
And no one wanted to bother with water bottles… you go home to refill them and chances are that would be the end of your play time…,people think kids are innocent but we were master strategists.
In summer, the houses that got most attention were the ones with a refrigerator. We would go ‘Aunty…. thanda pani’….
The rule was stick to the good aunties but bother them in turns.
Too much trouble and the doors would shut. Don’t blame them, in those days there were no purifiers and boiling so much water was a pain.
Then again there were some banned houses.
Our mothers were well informed about which residents didn’t boil their water. How in the world they figured out but these houses were blacklisted.
As for the fridge walls houses the parents had no clue. Even if they did they couldn’t stop us. We were no saints although we pretended to be.
There was a once a week trip reserved for a particular house. It was a pain climbing up to the third floor but it was well worth the effort…chocolates guaranteed!
We had to be extra sweet to the first floorers because that’s where our cricket and lagoori balls or shuttlecocks would land.
A ball lost means a fortnight’s game lost as none of our parents would easily sponsor another.
And is some uncle or aunty got hit by a missile…well we had an unbeatable tactic….everyone on mute mode till the aggression subsides… then everyone goes sorry aunty or sorry uncle till the injured person feels we are being too apologetic.
There were the bad days when window panes cracked and our parents had to cough up the money.
Play was inevitably banned for about a week… till things cooled down.
There were the villains as well…. but very few.
One place we loved to play in was the badminton court…. there a quite a few around…but this one was our favourite…it was wider and had a ledge from which we could jump down.
There was no restraining us and we would shout and whoop in abandon.
On hindsight I understand this must have been daily torture for the ground-floorers……but it didn’t matter to us then.
So there was this uncle who would literally chase us with a stick.
We were much faster than him of course. But we weren’t too fond of him and so our way of getting back was to call him Hitler.
But since Hitler was the most irritating we got back at him by ringing his bell when coming down after our third floor sweets. Then we would wait for him to turn up in his lungi and stick.
Then there was another ground floorer uncle who would glare at us ….no matter his son was part of our team….so he was designated owl. Owl must have been on night shifts and the poor guy was probably being deprived of his daytime napping.
Well to get going on the Alpha and the Omega… there were this couple who didn’t have kids.
No, these are not their nicknames.. they were just uncle and aunty.
What I remember most about them is that they were very loving and their love literally poured out of their window.
Since they didn’t had to spend half their salary on raising their brats, they must have been relatively rich.
Also since they didn’t have kids making noise all the time, they must have been bored…. because they bought a monochrome cube we used to call the idiot box.
And the jackpot for us was that they lived on the ground floor.
From that day on, we played only on that particular court so we could peep straight into the TV once it was switched on.
There were hurdles though. The TV was well inside the living room which was separated by a grill and windows from the balcony.
If the windows were shut, that was the end of show time.
Anyways once Doordarshan relayed its Chaya Geet, we would all jostle for space to see couples dancing around trees singing melodious classics.
Except for the tallest boys, I don’t think anyone could see much and the songs were drowned by our cacophony.
None of that really mattered. We were having the best time of our lives.
Then there was Tabassum aunty interviewing the Bollywood demigods….we were all smitten by the local film industry story.
For this one, the jostling was at its peak!
Then the grand finale of the week…. the Sunday movie.
Uncle and aunty’s house was transformed into a very cramped cinema hall with entire families camping in….what one would call worse than a railway station.
Most people had a couple of kids on their lap…some bawling away to glory.
We preferred the freedom of standing and gossiping outside…the melodrama on the box didn’t appeal to us at all.
With our boisterousness, it was a matter of time before the windows were shut. Then we went ‘uncle please’, ‘aunty please’ at the top of our voices till the people inside realised that the disturbance was less with the windows open.
Then there was this sharing…no I’m not referring to the gossip that would go on inside the room….the aunties came armed with steel boxes which we impatiently waited for to be opened. Out would come delectable stuff like laddoos and pedas.
The think with Indian idiosyncrasy is you take one sweet and the donor will vigorously offer you the next…and the next…and the next.
It is bad manners to take two but worse if you don’t oblige when you are asked ten times.
So we would wait for the aunties to plead enough of times, praise their creation to the hilt and gobble down the stuff.
There were some outstanding health freak aunties who would come up with some bitter stuff.
Politeness demanded that we accept them and after the necessary ‘verrry tasty aunty’, they were fed to the cats and dogs. Of course even the dogs wouldn’t eat them, but we hadn’t committed a crime by wasting food.
One day all of this came to an abrupt end. It was 1982.
You’re wrong…neither China nor Pakistan attacked us although they entered our territory and fought against us.
It was the Asian games in Delhi’s f the government of India decided it’s citizens needed to watch them…,in colour.
So all the bonuses were used to buy Colour TVs.
We were enthralled with the new idiot box spewing out eye candies like swimming and gymnastics.
The old black and white was killed in a day. No one hung outside uncle and auntie’s house any more.
As for uncle and aunty, they stopped watching TV. They would sit in their balcony and watch us play.
And serve us water whenever we asked for it. We stopped going anywhere else for water including to the chocolate aunty in the third floor.
Somehow, even as kids, we sensed their loss and did the best we could.
The Monochrome May have died, but not our bond with aunty and uncle.
Now they are old, and we have outgrown that badminton court, but kids continue to play….and still ask them for water.
One group of professionals you don’t want to point fingers at in COVID times is the medical fraternity…..and rightly so.
This is my lighthearted, highly exaggerated and meant-to-be—perfectly-harmless attempt to take a dig at myself over my paranoia over prescriptions.
No offence meant!
The medical professionals in our country undergo extremely rigorous training.
They come out of the system highly competent, and can diagnose and treat everything from gasteroenteritis to follicilitis (boil, in English) to acute viral rhinopharyngitis(common cold).
I’m sure everybody would agree with me that one vital bit of teaching is left out….the skill of forming alphabets and numbers to give clarity to the reader.
This Achilles’ heel (by the way they even treat that one) has caused unwanted mishaps and untold misery.
Don’t blame them. They must have spent five years scribbling notes all day and night to achieve the degradation of their writing skills.
In the good old days, our GP would ask us to come back with the medicines and check them throughly, before going into a detailed soliloquy of the pink tablets to be taken pre lunch and the green capsules swallowed after dinner…..especially making sure the senior citizens wouldn’t bungle on their meds.
But with India’s burgeoning population and the limited churning out of doctors,(mainly caused by the lack of medical schools) the poor medics no longer have the liberty of time.
So one gets what looks like ants with ink on their feet crawling all on a sheet of white paper…and you’re not sure if that’s 1/2 or 1/4….. and BB or AD ….the doctor does tell me but I tend to forget).
To be honest I haven’t ever got anything as bad as that.
Anyway, people say it’s best to go to the nearest chemist as he is well practiced expert at deciphering that particular doctor‘s handwriting,…..and hope for the best.
One has to pray that the chemist is an experienced one and more importantly, a qualified one, that his spectacles are good enough…and he is in the right mood.
You ask about the medicines twice, and the over-worked fellow gives you a I-know-what-I-am-doing tirade.
The Indian chemists too are well educated in their art but they too are often short on time, and have to translate the doctor’s scribbling into medicine names.
I had a personal experience in my mother’s case.
Her doctor’s handwriting was good enough,but the chemist must have had a bad day..
He delivered an asthma medicine instead of the one prescribed for depression.
The result was that her depression got worse but her asthma got better.
Then there is this lady who asked the chemist for anaemia medicine and he heard enema. So he gave her some suppositories which went into the wrong orifice. Luckily glycerin doesn’t kill.
Having burned my fingers, I have developed a safety net.
I Google the medicine names on the prescription to see that they match the disease.
I then type in the names on WhatsApp in large print, instead of just forwarding the prescription to the chemist.
I also have a magnifying glass.
If the chemist supplies a generic, the name is tallied with the original. Only then is the medicine deemed suitable for consumption.
Our health, after all is too important to be left to handwriting interpretations.
There is a new development however, that’s warmed my heart.
One of my doctors had started issuing typed out sheets from his PC.
I suspect he is also storing my medical and prescription history which should be great.
I imagine he has a check in his system which matches the drug prescribed with the ailments and beeps if there is an error…..here my imagination is getting too far stretched.
After all, Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
I have enough confidence in my doctor to trust him with my life….
But I still do my Google check….what if he make typos?
We Indians have unique traits which contribute to our unity in diversity.
Being Indian, they are ingrained in me too.
We are good people and if something bad happens somewhere, we do not look the other way. We stop whatever urgent work we are rushing to and pause to stand and stare.
Stand and stare it is.
And make conversation.
Picture this guy who has lost an arm in a bike accident and is bleeding profusely, crying out for help.
We will stare at that rare spectacle to etch it in our memory..,.the horror of it to be narrated in great detail….with a lot of empathy and sympathy, to all and sundry.
We will grumble why someone hasn’t called the police or the ambulance, and that the car driver who hit this bleeding chap should be hanged.
We are good people. We don’t get into trouble. A lift to the hospital would mean getting your name taken down as a witness.
That would be wrong as the car driver who hit him should have taken him to hospital and been a witness. After all, he’s the one responsible.
The conversation generally goes like this (This is mostly imagination a I’ve never actually hung around to listen to what people have to say)….
Very bad… this is really bad..
The biker was driving in the middle of of the road and bikers should always stay to the side.
He must have been drunk also and speeding also. Now his recklessness is going to cost his family dear…..no helmet also! People don’t obey rules nowadays …
Thank God he was alone…and the tyres didn’t go over his neck. He’s really lucky, yaar.
These car wallas are stuck to their mobiles. That idiot must have been talking and driving….now look what happened.
I keep telling my son not to talk on the phone while driving his scooter but he doesn’t listen only.
He looks young…definitely not married. These immature kids are reckless and have no sense of responsibility.
It looks like it’s his right hand, and he won’t be be able to work looks like.
How he will he look after his old parents now….
it’s better to walk or use a car or bus…..bikes are too dangerous. Even if you drive properly someone will come and bang you from behind
See he is bleeding so much and the ambulance and police have not come till now. The poor man may die till they arrive.
Somebody should give him some water atleast. It is so hot! ( He is carrying his sumptuous tiffin box and boiled water flask in his bag, but it doesn’t occur to him that he does).
You are from Premier tower no? I remember seeing you in the lift. Myself Mr Save.
I work on the 20th floor and I saw you get off on the 15th. You work for Putanjal Pharma na? I know because their office on the 15th floor. They own the full floor na….very big company.
Your medicines are really good but verry expensive.
Anyway your share prices are doing good. Only pharma is doing well in the pandemic. People are buying Ayurvedic kadhas and churnas. Yesterday only I bought 200 shares.
We are a small company…not like yours. We were selling cosmetics but no one is buying them now so we are selling sanitizers.
People are not going out na so they are not buying lipstick. Only some madams working from home are buying.
Let me know if you want sanitizer, I’ll give you half price. Minimum order is ten pieces but for you I will give one also. Same building no. We should help each other.
Chalo, I’ll be late for work.
And this rain is also not ending only. It has been raining continuously and we have water cuts because it’s raining in the wrong place.
Thank God it is not raining now. The poor chap would have got drenched and died of high fever.
Things are getting from bad to worse. I’m telling you, the world is going to end soon. Look at that poor guy….all are looking and nobody is helping…. chalo I have to go….
Today is the month-end and the boss will fire me if I don’t finish my reports. The figures are hopeless… that’s because of the pandemic, but the boss doesn’t understand.
All red lines adding to my worry lines.
He sits in his house and enjoys chai with his family and we have to travel to work and risk getting hit by reckless drivers.
Come let’s start walking…
————————————————See the traffic jam….this side the accident has blocked the road and on that side….the fools are slowing down their cars and bikes to have a look. What is the use of looking….nobody will do anything.
They only want something juicy to tell on their phones or when they reach their office ….or to feel sorry for the unfortunate fellow’s bad luck… or to offer a prayer.
What is the use of prayer after the fellow is dead…..but people are like that only. When you are alive they won’t bother and when you die they will come from all parts of the world for your last rites.
I can’t risk my family’s wrath by getting involved with the police. We are decent people.What would the neighbours think if the police arrived at our house….
Look, somebody has stopped his car. Oh it’s a girl…. there… in the white top and blue jeans….Arre I know her. She is that Shetye’s daughter….looks like her only.
Yes, she’s the one who feeds the stray dogs in our colony and causes such a nuisance.
They say she has thirty cats in her house. Her neighbour is my sister-in-law’s auntie’s cousin’s uncle’s son.
He doesn’t want to live there only. He is searching for a new house because horrible smell is coming from her house. But no one is ready to buy his house. Poor fellow!
The society warned her so many times. She is not listening only.
I’m telling you she is not eighteen also. She must have fought with Sheyte. She is living with her boyfriend and the thirty cats. What a shame….at this age! And her boyfriend is no good. That day I saw him bringing a crate of beer.
Now also he is not driving. Must be drunk only! Good he is not driving otherwise they also would have been another accident.
And living alone at this age…. does she even have a license … the police will catch her.
Parents nowadays don’t bother to see what the kids are doing. They are totally spoiled.
The way they are hauling that fellow he is going to die anyway.
Now if there is a police case what will happen…
On top of that she has that boyfriend in the car. If people come to know Shetye’s name will be spoiled. I am not going to tell anybody, but people will come to know.
That guy is unconscious…he must be dead also…
What is the use of doing all this ….and how will they clean the blood in the car….and her white top ….she will have to throw it away only.
Forget that their family name will be painted black.
Now they are honking so loudly…. this honking should be banned…this noise can affect your heart….
See people are so good….they are making way for them to go. I tell you people in our city are verry helpful..
Lets go….the drama is over…
(This kind of traffic jam happens every other day in Mumbai….so when the traffic slows to a stop, we presume it’s an accident.
The Indian system is specially designed to deter people from helping because you get dragged into court cases for years as the witness….. till as they say your chappals get torn.
As for me, I wouldn’t stop to stand and stare but I also wouldn’t do nothing beyond that.
What would my family think of me if I got involved with police….
For more than four months, all that I’ve seen, is out of my windows…..and that’s not much.
One looks out for things that makes one happy.
There’s the TV ( not too fond of watching COVID-19 news, so mainly mass, BTS, cartoons and the occasional vampire movies) .
Then there’s my trusty phone ( I don’t like watching videos since you have to go through so many of them to find something worthwhile).
I do read random stuff that turns up in my Whatsapp groups ( some splendid stuff and some humour that makes my day).
My very entertaining family is majorly busy with online work, online classes, school work, house work, and the like.
My favourite pastime had been googling COVID US and COVID India about 20 times a day.
Although the dreaded numbers were marching northwards, it gave me some satisfaction to see that my developing India was doing better than the developed US.
US was floundering and India’s trajectory was going steadily upward….(was l happy to see that!).
My daughter is studying economics and she enlightened me that an upward curve is not necessarily a good sign.
I google Trump every other hour….he can be really funny with his goof -ups……even bettering my son’s wisecracks.
I lost interest in curves other than the unsightly ones shaping my abdomen.
My son thinks his baby brother is inside and I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s pure fat.
My son knows Trump very well. He told my tonsillitis-affected daughter she should gargle with detergent instead of Betadine.
One great source of lockdown entertainment is the Indians trying to ban China made products.
Although the mandate is to be Aathmanirbhar ( self dependent), the fact is most of the stuff we consume are either Made in China, or Manufactured in Taiwan or Thailand or some other nondescript place using China made stuff , or Made in India with parts sourced from China.
Some of those Made in India tags or made in wherever tags have a lot of spare parts supplied from China….(as does the IPhone) but are getting away with it.
Athmanirbhar is a to some extent a masquerade to hurt China economically for hurting our soldiers. Nobody gets to hurt our army men.
So China made apps were out.
I paid through my nose to get US,European , Japanese or South Korean brands.. …only to find Made in China written inconspicuously in tiny letters at the backside.
In those few pieces that didn’t have Made in China on their backside, I wondered what percentage of parts of those ultra expensive western products were of Made in China origin.
I’m saying China made and not Chinese as I’m not racist.
It’s the autocratic government of that country (which is probably ill -treating its own people) that is the root of the problem……see now they’re trying their half-baked vaccine on their military.
We have sometraders in our group whose businesses have either been struck by COVID or struck with COVID .
Now that the supply-chains have started moving, they peddle some attractive and innovative products at tempting prices.
I genuinely try to help my fellow residents in the complex and refer them to my very limited group of friends.
But then comes the invariable question, “Is this Chinese?”
The invariable answer is “Yes”.
The only genuinely Indian products I could come across were mangoes, barfi , nighties, and the like….and even there I’m like the almonds in the barfi….or the fertiliser for those mangoes….or the cotton for that nightie….may be China made.
And I go “Nooooo, I am not going to buy those cheap, good looking China made magical gloves that can dust, wipe and wash dishes ( provided I put my hands in them to do the work, of course).
The only solution to this problem the way I see it is….
Trump should stop bullying China to hide his own failings
so that China can stop provoking India to make a show of strength
so that we have have peace and go back to Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai
so that the pressure on the already COVID battered world economy eases off
and global supply chains work to bring prices to optimal levels…….
Hah! That’s a load off my head!
and most importantly I can buy my China made stuff in peace.
My home is guarded like a fortress…..no living specimen (besides bacteria, viruses and other minuscule mean little nothings) can enter…except of course when we let them through the front door.
But unfortunately, with the lockdown, the pest control guys were not allowed up, and when they were, we would rather let in pests than humans.
The net effect was that we spotted a tiny cockroach by a spider….and more spiders.
These may have made their way in surreptitiously through our front door….. on one of the rare occasion when it was as opened…. and we quickly took care of the ones been found.
Then the 🦟 started venturing in and robbing my children’s sleep. But we couldn’t figure out how they made our house their home.
The only thing I’m mortally scared of is a reptile, that on rare occasions, makes it’s entry from the main door….the reptile…..It-who-must-not-be named.
But one day, when the family had gathered on the living room in full strength , watching whatever out daughters were watching (always BTS), my younger daughter let off a 1000 decibel shriek and climbed on top of the other one, wailing away.
I know that scream…it generally means a fly or something other insignificant creature has made it into the room. ( I don’t blame her ….she had stepped on an anthill as a kid and had survived an attack by an army of red ants).
So I calmly looked around trying to spot the culprit, position my chappal for a good swat..
But there wasn’t any.
It was then, in the middle of the sobbing, I heard a faint buzz. It couldn’t bee…. but there it was…in flesh and blood!
Someone deserved a firing for leaving a net open.
But a bee on the sixth floor….
It definitely was a 🐝 …..my son was very confident it was a queen bee…but I think it’s below her majesty’s dignity to venture into humble human abodes, and she must be too busy making babies anyway.
While the others argued over whether it was an army bee or worker bee…. my single minded focus was that it shouldn’t be allowed to be…anyways, the fan blades took care of that….and slowly but surely, calm prevailed, and all was forgotten.
The next day, as we were gathered together for some fun time as usual, there was another buzz and the earlier day’s evening played over again.
Someone smartly switched on the fan and it was the end of another bee
. I am non-violent ( except when it comes to tackling my impossible son), so I wasn’t really happy killing bees. I’d rather keep them out along with all other six and eight legged creatures.
So, we inspected the window glasses and nets to check if anything was fixed in the wrong order…..but no, everything was perfect.
It was then that we spotted them…
One blazing gaze from my husband and my son started bawling, “I didn’t do it”.
He had managed to scrape a line with his car or be-blade or whatever else it was he was using, but he had grown out of that now.
The problem turned out to be something else.
The fierce summer heat had broken the pigeon nets tacks and a cute little squirrel had been making an appearance every day…waiting for his daily serving of 🐿.
The guy’s sharp claws were responsible for the bees’ entry.
But there was a bee in my bonnet. Where did the bees come from?
I mean I know they came in from the window, but we’re on the sixth floor and there are no hives around.
At least I thought they weren’t.
Then I remembered my fifth or seventh floor neighbour ( I don’t remember which…it was four years ago..) calling me to ask whether there were bees outside my window.
There must have been….except that I mustn’t have spotted them…..a couple of them must have found the squirrel created holes…..after four years of buzzing around🐝🐝
Yes it isn’t misspelled. My heart is fine…it’s my house that’s broken…atleast for now.
It started with my healthy son (that’s what they call overweight kids in India). climbing on the antique sofa to fix his dartboard.
My son has no idea of his strength….the antique piece’s beautifully curved legs gave in and the thing collapsed onto the floor.
Hearing the loud crash, my husband left his in-house office and came bounding out….horrified.
One would think he would be happy to see his son was still in one piece, but no, his heart was blown to smithereens.
Nothing is closest to his heart than his collection of antique furniture and to see such a beauty destroyed was more than he could handle.
I rushed to get a Sorbitrate to ward off an impending heart attack, (although I know reports show his heart is perfectly fine) but then he recovered and his face went from bright red to normal again.
Knowing what was coming, my son used his most potent defence and began to bawl. My husband thinks boys shouldn’t cry, (I I think otherwise)..so he got majorly told off.
My son is clever…clever than me atleast… he said, “Dada, it’s not my fault. That sofa is very old… it must have weakened with age…that’s why it broke… Why don’t you get new furniture…”
That got us all laughing and the not so little guy escaped.
Our sofa was shoved into a corner, waiting for the COVID vaccine to revive it. And as for our living room, we rearranged it. We had to make sure everyone gets a comfy seat to watch TV, and it is now resembling a furniture godown.
I like to keep my house clutter free. So normally, anything that’s brought out has to be put back in the respective drawers once it’s work is done.
Anything that is lazing around since nobody needs it is promptly despatched to the maid or the housekeeping staff depending on usability.
But now priorities have changed. So in came the Xbox followed by a huge trampoline.
My daughter wand a series of them so she can jump and flip from one to the other, but I told her to visit a trampoline park…,post COVID of course.
The next thing to give way was the microwave. Mine bakes and grills besides warming food. It’s a twenty plus year old relic but one I simply cannot do without…. primarily for the humble task of warming food.
I couldn’t order a new one because I had a spare in the old house. But I couldn’t get that one either as we weren’t allowed to go there….and most importantly we couldn’t risk entering the tenant’s home and contracting the virus. The possibility that they wouldn’t let us enter their house was another matter.
So I reconciled myself to painstakingly warming up food on the gas stove every time my hungry family was hungry and prayed for my microwave to receive God’s healing touch.
Them there was the time our kitchen shelves and trolleys started misbehaving one by one. They were used to the gentle touch our our maid and protested against our super rough treatment by collapsing and disintegrating.
Calling out trusty carpenter was out of the question …he was probably snoozing in his native place anyways.
We would have called our trusty mechanic for the microwave in normal times, but we were in no mind to call him as we were in the no-risking-the-virus-catching-us-at-any-cost-phase.
Then the curtain rod came crashing down. This time I was the guilty party, so I kept it quiet.
Our curtain rod is vital. It does more than hang curtains. It’s the monsoon season, where clothes don’t dry for four or five days. I’m very finicky about letting the moisture dry out, as I don’t want fungus in the wardrobe. Fungus happen to be our number one enemy.
We don’t have neighbours peeping into our bedroom and we rarely close our curtains. But loss of clothes drying place was a major catastrophe.
We had to make do since we didn’t want to invite the supposedly COVID carrier carpenter into our kitchen.
The problem was solved however. Our bedsheets would hang from the living room rods….no one was visiting anyways. It reduced the light and made our hall look like a dungeon but we had to make do with that.
Then the bathroom partition gave way. We had no idea who caused it but I was starting to wonder whether we had a poltergeist in the house Everything breaks down at some point….but unknown forces seemed to line up against us.
This time my screwdriver-averse husband and my screw-loving son put it together.
My husband decided to be useful and he also repaired the leaking mixer bowl. This was getting better!
I was back to my contented-despite-the tons-of-work phase. Of course, the dusting, sweeping swabbing and drying clothes were assigned to the kids. My husband did the dishes. My mother was in charge of the kitchen. My duty was to chop stuff and teach my son. Teaching my son is no easy task you see, and I was actually doing the bulk of the work.
But the relentless COVID attack continued. This time my darling son had broken a flimsy piece of plastic the opens the flow of the water purifier. Not his fault, as he needs to dangle to access the water.
Anyways, I had to boil gallons of water and I finally relented. This time, we would call the first outsider home…..the Aquaguard guy.
The guard called up to say he was on his way and I morphed into Hitler. I ordered my kids and my parents to their respective rooms. My husband and I frantically cleared our kitchen of anything outside the trolleys and by the time the chap arrived, we donned our masks and welcomed him to our empty kitchen.
The job was done, we sanitized each square millimetre of the kitchen again and spent a considerable time putting things back.
We had done it! We had got an outsider into our room and gotten away with it!
I thought our ordeal was over but there was more to come. There were random things malfunctioning like the gas lighter, the ceiling fan,the laptop… but Amazon came to our rescue.
The latest is the Airfryer…. the source of sumptuous and healthy no-oil chicken fry for my kids….
We have figured out that if the Aquaguard mechanic could enter the kitchen, the Airfryer guy can too.
Our house is now wining the battle with COVID. We have our SOPs in place to deal with virus threats from outsiders……and keeping the insiders safe…
It started with someone posting a query in our WhatsApp group on whether the latest retail giant, (purportedly set out make Amazon look like a shopping mall) was delivering to our place.
Even our garbage liners are shopped online, and since lockdown we had gone 99.9% online….everything delivered to our lobby ….except for the gaonti (local Indian breed) chicken and eggs.
Anyways, I’m always on the lookout for discounts and have no particular affinity to any online shopping site.
I went about very carefully. I avoided perishable items like lettuce and spinach as they might deteriorate on the way, given the supply chain issues.
After detailed scrutiny, I ordered two shampoos. The average consumption of shampoo in our house is about three large bottles a month for my three kids (including my hair loving son) and a tiny bottle for me….. my husband is thankfully not into shampoos, most likely due to the near absence of hair….but anyways to get on with the story…,
My order was promptly accepted. I paid online, not so much because of trust, but habit and more so that I wouldn’t have to change out of my comfy nightie and go down to the gate to pay.
The site did say something about things being delayed due to lockdown or something to that effect…so I didn’t bother much and forgot about the whole thing for the longest time.
Then one day my daughter, (she is very particular about which particular version of which brand she favours at a particular particular in time) came ranting about her shampoo being exhausted. I offered mine, but she flatly refused, saying mine is not worthy of her hair or something to that effect.
I had a vague memory of having ordered fresh supplies, so I went through my considerably long Amazon order list and a considerably longer BigBasket list but came up with nothing.
My memory is quite pathetic but my daughters’ cosmetics are something I dare not forget.
Then it struck me. I went to the giant’s website…..(they hadn’t even come up with an app yet) and there it was.
Well, nothing is delivered to my house in COVID times.
The delivery guy calls up and I direct him to leave the stuff at gate 2. I get an email or SMS or both saying the goods have been delivered.
Then the guard at the gate guard calls up and then the lobby guard calls up and package is collected from lobby from my good husband. There is no way a package can be delivered and not be registered.
So I berated myself for trying out the new guys, who apparently hadn’t got their act together and proceeded with the long process of recovering my 620.
It wasn’t a big sum and I could have just let it go.
But this was wrong, especially when the major stakeholder was one of the world’s richest men.
Their helpline left me helpless. So I resorted to my favourite means of communication….email.
I prefer emailing to phone calls as there’s a recorded trail.
So I found a CS Head I could write to, and wrote as threatening a letter I could,but he turned out to be a machine and gave me an automated response blaming the whole thing on covid.
Nowadays everything is blamed on covid supply chain issues, and I understand they are genuine….but you can’t pass off undelivered goods as delivered and fend off your consumer.
If there’s anything that puts me off online sites, it’s these recorded responses.
I sent a few more mails and got a complaint number. I had hit the jackpot!
But it came to nothing as I got another mail saying the issue had been resolved and the complaint had been closed.
This is priceless (no pun intended).
I was being told that my issue had been resolved, and the complaint was closed….a wonderful way of dismissing issues. Works for them, but what about me?
A computer answering again…..now I was determined to have some fun!
As far as checking the status in refunds, the status still showed that my goods had been delivered. How enlightening!
Now this sounded human and I was optimistic for a change.
Something clicked. I got a call from a guy speaking broken English or Hindi or both….I couldn’t figure out which, but he said I would get a refund.
I was busy rolling out rotis for my hungry son who has a bottomless pit of a stomach..,and unfortunately I simultaneously revived an IVR call stating “Aapka samay hamare liye mahatvapoorn hai…samay paanch minute”.
(Your time is precious to us…wait time 5 minutes)
I held on for five minutes…after waiting for three and a half months to hear about my 620…I was prepared to listen to their IVR for ten hours if not more.
What followed was a disappointment. That’s an understatement. I don’t know what it is about me but I always get into trouble with corporations whether it is Airtel or Suburban or Jiomart.
It was Airtel call center was informing for the fiftieth time that they were cutting my outgoing services for non payment of dues.
Our payments are automated, and they had been claiming that the dues were outstanding for fifteen days or something of that kind….don’t keep unimportant stuff in my memory.
I totally lost it, mostly because it wasn’t JioMart, and threatened to cut the line myself and move to Jio Fiber ( although I was really unhappy with the Jio guys at that point) …. if I got one more phone call from them. That did it. After three months of harassment, Airtel didn’t call again.
Anyways I got a real call by a JioMart call center guy.. by a chap with broken English who told me my money will be refunded.
I had cracked it!
I kept checking their site for any intimation of refund, but there was nothing.
Then I wrote ….again….bombarding them with stink bombs.
There was a helpline which said press three for refunds. I got an SMS link and it went straight to my order details which showed my my refund had not been received.
They have taken frustrating customers to an entirely new level and I hope things settle down soon.
On 7th August a miracle happened. I got a call from an employee who escalated the issue to the manager who gave me his WhatsApp number and ended my quest for the 620.
I will keep my end of the bargain and email him this story.
COVID has been swinging moods like nothing else can.
That’s normal for me… my moods swing once every two years or so. But I realised that compared to mine, the rest of the world seemed to be see-sawing like one of those gigantic monsters in the entertainment park.
When I heard about an innocuous virus in a place called Wuhan I’d never heard of . Somehow the name seemed to rhyme with yawn . Must be a really boring place, I thought.
Viruses are very good at bungee jumping from animals to humans….from SARS, MERS, swine flu and bird flu once in a while to keep the world on its toes….. but they all die a natural death.
I made a mental note note to cut down on non veg stuff and not help bungee jumping viruses.
Then came the exponential growth in infections and fatalities. I’m not good at maths so I checked on exponential.
I realised it meant multiplying at an increasing rate, like the population of India. That was too bad. These viruses would soon be choking our cities and living spaces.
The only thing one could do, I thought, was stop consuming animals. But that’s easier said than done …..
Then came the news that those bugs has taken flights and crossed the oceans.
This was getting dangerous. The virus had marauded Italy and the rest of Europe. (Italy had itself to blame because they went about physically hugging their Chinese friends in a gesture of solidarity ). Although well intentioned, this bravado would cost them dear.
Suddenly, the whole world seemed to be bowing down to that tiny little despicable thing and it seemed humans no longer ruled the world.
We probably never did, but we will never admit it.
The world was going into a shell, shielding itself from the virus … the one without a cure or a vaccine.
Recession hit, livelihoods were lost, hunger and pain, all from that invisible bug we couldn’t master.
World war looked like a picnic in comparison.
Our normally lax government acted lightening fast and promptly put on the brakes.
We were now in the dreaded lockdown.
We celebrated by banging pots and pans in a coordinated effort at cheering up our medical and government staff…who would dare to go where no laymen would.
Of course this was a ripoff from Italy where they had synchronised singing, but it would not do for Indians to sing in tune, and pots and pans gave higher decibel levels.
My son is very clever. He knows when opt for the fight or flight mode…… as do most children I suppose.
My son had a gala time bashing my steel plate with my metal rolling pin with such force that at the end of fifteen minutes,( it was supposed to be ten, but there was no stopping him) he returned the thing with a neat hole in the middle and ran off before I could get a hold of the rolling pin.
We were feeling very upbeat as if we had destroyed the virus by our noise pollution.
The funny part is celebration runs in Indian blood. So people went about in morchas( large gatherings) armed with drums and banjos and conveniently forgetting about social distancing. This defeated the purpose of this exercise but we are like that only.
Then the news on Dharavi started pouring in and we Mumbaikars surrendered to our fate. It would have been impossible for a human to make it through Dharavi by-lanes without the virus making itself at home in their sweaty bodies.
To the full credit to our BMC, Dharavi cases petered out and raised our hopes.
There was this N95-only-for medical-phase and we were responsible people not wearing masks.
Then some genius came up with face coverings
The tables turned and one could be ostracised for NOT covering your face.
I wish this had happened earlier as thousands of American Trump followers would have been saved.
The poor masses couldn’t afford the valve equipped masks of the rich.
They resorted to wearing their masks at half mast….below their noses…..protecting others to an extent but exposing themselves.
Assuming that distancing was all that was required, the rich restarted their leisure and sports activities, feeling invincible.
And when the mighty Trump was getting along without masks, the rich took off those stifling N95s and socialised with abandon.
In Mumbai, as the virus spread, slums were turned into containment zones and sealed off. But the poor desperate for livelihood escaped the porous boundaries and reported to work.
The high rise societies clamped down on all kinds of help even as the BMC said they had no power to.
The lovely manicured hands that had never come in contact with detergent, had to give up on nail paint.
Not to mention child labour, of which I plead guilty.
But beside the maids, there were the ultra rich carriers that escaped scrutiny.
People paid through through their noses to cover them with the best protective masks. But there was a clink in the armour. They had valves which vented out the wearer’s breath with the force of a vented dryer.
Their colleagues, blissfully unaware of the danger let both their masks and guard down.
Ditto with the walkers and joggers. The Indian government hasn’t yet woken up to this danger.
Now the maids were paranoid about working in high rises… and the people in the buildings fought tooth and nail to keep away the maids.
Unwilling to use those valve-wala masks, Google took me to muslin masks. Not the best protection but atleast you wouldn’t choke to death.
The mask was absolutely necessary because people like me were looking down at the irresponsible masquerading unmasked from our windows…it wouldn’t do for us to go unmasked.
I received a photograph of my husband busy on his phone…unmasked.
That he was six meters away from another living person did not cut ice…and I got him to try the muslin masks . The only issue was they were made of baby material with giraffes, monkeys and watermelon prints. Fortunately my kids thought them cool n my husband got some zig zag lines and polka dots. So the matter was resolved amicably.
Then came the day we got the first covid case in our complex. I don’t quite recall which lockdown phase it was, since there were so many….
Everyone went into panic mode again.
My kids were not allowed to go down…and the walkers and joggers vanished.
The first case was almost asymptomatic and it was business as usual again….till the next…and the next…and the next.
I of course decided not to venture outdoors at all given my low immunity and more so because of my aversion to dressing up…..and unwillingness to give up the joy of bra-less freedom.
We were managing happily in three sets of clothes each and I was wondering why our cupboards were so unnecessarily stocked.
Then our little world came crashing down.
My daughter and I achieved the nearly impossible feat of getting fever at the same time……from two different causes.
This was an unfortunate coincidence to say the least. Her’s turned out to be tonsillitis and mine some low grade fever that vanished with a paracetamol.
That was a traumatic time to say the least. We were covid negative but we could potentially turn positive attending to our daughter in the hospital.
Anyways my daughter was back any the walkers got back to their walks again.
My maid too agreed to come back as we didn’t have the coronavirus and things got back to the new normal.
We repaired our son’s bicycle and he stepped down for the first time in four months.
There was nothing to it… wear your face covering, don’t chat with your friends, and your fine. My very obedient son did just that.
My chest swelled with pride to see my son follow orders when other kids had the popular mask -below -the nose- position or were running with gay abandon with no face coverings.
I don’t blame the kids… some of them had totally unbreathable cute looking Mickey Mouse and Superhero stuff. Choosing a mask is like choosing the colour of your car. Once inside…. you can’t even see it. Mine was sporting his muslin monkey comfortable one which I was proud to have discovered.
His joy unfortunately was very short lived.
The next day came the news that my son’s friend’s parents were COVID positive. I don’t think the word positive goes well with COVID….but that’s another story.
My son’s world turned topsy turvy again, although he claimed he hadn’t even met the boy.
My kids were back to lockdown although the rest of the country is being unlocked.
We got an ominous post saying there are three cases right now and another will mean our building being sealed…So now I’m looking out of my window at unmasked people and cursing them for the potential disappearance of our maid.
My husband swears by his gaonti chicken. I’m not too fond of eating the poor creature which has been butchered before my eyes but I have no qualms about gobbling up stuff that has met the same fate behind my back.
So for the juicy pieces, it was the humble broiler and for the curry, the expensive bony gaonti.
Anyways, lockdown closed down the local chicken shop. On searching online, I came across antibiotic free free-range chicken. That’s right two frees. To my horror I discovered we may have been consuming antibiotics for free from poorly fed low-in-vitamins-and-minerals chicken.
So now it was only the antibiotic -free free range ones for us even though it was triple the price.
The fact that you don’t how many chickens are free ranging per square foot is another matter altogether.
I was feeling really healthy, being enlightened that the free range chicken ate worms and insects in addition to lowly corn, which made it healthier.
Of course, I didn’t enlighten the rest of the family that they were indirectly gobbling worms and insects.
Thinking of chickens got me thinking of eggs. That’s natural progression you see.
Our eggs used to come from the chicken shop, liberally smeared with chicken poop. They were premium high quality gaonti eggs.
Now that that avenue was shut, I looked online again. I discovered that chicken poop can contain salmonella or swine flu and worse.
So our eggs were liberally scrubbed with detergent. But I was still concerned about the detergent contaminating the eggs. I searched further and found salmonella free eggs, infertile eggs (no fetus and so not alive….that made me feel guilty about the potential baby chicks I had been consuming), brown eggs, free range eggs, and brown free range eggs….each more expensive than the other.
Of course, my wise husband told me not to fall in for these marketing gimmicks, so we continue to buy the poop coated ones and give them a good wash.
Lockdown has given me very little free time, but once my son is hooked on to his online classes, my brain and his stomach, both get a break.
Having done with the chicken and the egg, I turned my attention to fish.
Lockdown shut down the fish market. Luckily my enterprising brother came up with an exporter who would supply fresh giant sized slices of the biggest fish in the sea. I stocked up my freezer and forced the door shut. We were going to sail through the rains!
I had heard about the planet Mercury and that silver poisonous stuff in thermometers that we would play with when it spilled out.
I had through my extensive reading, come upon mercury in fish. But I dismissed it assuming it was confined to the little fish you get near the shore and polluted nallas. Clever me, I was sourcing fish from the uncontaminated deep waters from Sassoon dock.
I couldn’t be more misguided!
Now my son was back to daydreaming in his online classes and mercury was hanging at the back of my mind. I nearly died when I discovered that it was the big fish at the top of the food chain that were stocking up on mercury.
Surmai fry, which is a regular favourite on our table had actually been banned in some countries. (It’s going to be banned from our table soon, once we finish off the hundred odd slices we have stocked for the rains.)
I looked at my heavily laden big fish freezer and wondered whether I should chuck the contents out.
Better sense prevailed. It wouldn’t do to throw away foodstuff when people were dying of hunger. So we decided on mercury control and having only one day of fish eating instead of four a week.
Our carnivore heavy menu involved chicken or red meat Sundays , egg curry once a week, fish on the remaining four and for good measure, chole or pao bhaji for our vegetarian day.
So now the question remained about how the mercury landed in the sea. The story goes the coal fired plants ( and there are plenty of them in India…we are laden with coal, which is a good thing, but…) generate electricity and their chimneys release mercury. The breeze carries this stuff and deposits it in the sea for the fish to eat.
So now the less the fish on the table, the better I thought. The pre lockdown supplies are still going strong in my freezer.
Good time to start going vegan…..
I had read that Gandhiji used to have only fruits and nuts (and goat’s milk, but I’ll get to that some other time).
So I loaded by dining table with huge baskets of fruits to entice my carnivorous kids.
Well, they ate a few mangoes.
Now. we have decided not to leave our complex even if our life depended on it, so I ordered from one of the overpriced organic fruits and vegetable suppliers. The stuff came with fancy packing, but tasted much the same as the ones from the bhaiya outside the gate.I don’t know if these things happen only to me, but I got a strange specimen of a papaya which was raw green on one half and ripe orange on the other. I wish I had taken a picture to post, as this picture I got on the net doesn’t come anywhere close.
Well anyways, I was chatting with a friend, who suggested I make the most of my two in one papaya…. cook the green part and eat the ripe orange. The papaya was finally consumed by my dustbin as it was unpalatable.
But once something enters my head it doesn’t leave till it is straightened out to my satisfaction.
My friend sent a cryptic message saying “differential exposure to carbide gases”.
I thought calcium carbide was used only on mangoes and bananas but a quick round of googling showed that papayas were mistreated as well.
Anyways this put me off from the fresh from the farm organic stuff for good..and left my husband very happy due to the significantly lower bills.
My maid is very resourceful and has a solution to every problem. She stepped in saying she will pick up my daily veggies fresh from the bhaiya outside the gate. Sheer genius!
Organic or not, pesticide or insecticide laced or not…. they are fresh…and cheap.
Then there was a time when I tried keeping a tab on locust movements because reports said heavy insecticides were being sprayed to exterminate the critters.
But try as I might I couldn’t correlate my veggies origins with locust pathways and stopped dreaming of locusts chomping my head off.
I also tried to figure out which cereals and veggies originate from mercury coated fields near coal plants but with no success.
As for dals I buy unpolished ones blindly because in Tatas I trust. Now if they came from the Ambani’s. that would come in for detailed scrutiny.
Our family used to guzzle a fair amount of milk which was deemed to be super healthy.
Given the amount of contamination stories that hit the newspapers ever day….with milk pouches opened and replaced with detergent to mimic the original stuff and resealed… I stuck to wholesome tetra-pack cow’s milk.
I am not even feeling guilty about adding to the earth’s garbage using tetra-packs, because my priority is to protect my family.
Unfortunately someone came up with the theory that guzzling milk is counterproductive after five years of age and all the cows in India are injected with hormones which are passed on to us. I already have a tough time dealing with my menopausal hormone changes, not to mention those of my teenage daughters. And man-boobs🤦🏻♀️
So now milk is only for tea or coffee or the occasional treat of cornflakes.
Now the items on the menu were depleting rapidly but we had resolved to eat healthy.
I know this is dragging on too long, so I’ll try and end on a sweet note.
We have been having a peculiar problem recently.
Although our house is well guarded against the birds and the bees ( I’m referring to mosquito nets and pigeon nets) a bee has been making it ( not out) inside every evening, making my entomophobiac ( insect fearing in English) daughter go completely paranoid. (I just hope the neighbours haven’t called the police but in any case the police are too busy battling COVID to bother about mundane things like murder attempts.)
We finally found out that the culprit was a regular visitor…a squirrel that had gotten through the pigeon nets and poked holes into the mosquito nets to let the bee in. What collaboration!
I promise I’ll stop digressing and come straight to the point…the bees.
My honey loving family is currently having wild honey from wild bees fed on jamun fruit from a tree in our compound. It’s ultra sweet and crystallises in winter. Since my store bought stuff continued being liquidy through the year. I decided to Google.
My suspicions about my honey walla were proved false and all store brands we’re declared to have various percentages of various antibiotics.
Now that my stock of honey is rapidly going down I’m desperately trying to trace my non branded Honeywalla.
The only thing I haven’t had a problem with is nuts and that’s not because I have many in the house😜
So it all boils down to ……a boiled egg a day is very good for health and so is everything else, within limits…😎
He was being fair. I’ve taught him that what applies to him must also apply to me.
His hair has been growing at an exponential rate. So had mine.
Every time I pointed out that he needed a haircut, he would point to my wild hair growing in random directions.
But I didn’t have anyone to chop my curls, I pointed out.
His logic was that if girls are allowed to grow their hair, why not boys. That was a sound argument. He was appealing to my sense of fairness and I had to hand it to him.
My problem, however was different. His sisters had got him addicted to South Korean band going by the name of BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan in Korean, Bulletproof Boy Scouts in English) so that they could watch without him complaining.
My daughters are very clever.
Now these are young Korean boys with beautifully painted faces and adorable girly smiles. Their voices also sound incredibly girly most of the time.
So I can’t blame by son for being a big fan.
These guys also have great looking hair. My nephews also have shoulder length hair. On top of that my maid also showed off her grandson’s picture with lustrous long curls.
Shawn’s hair is also curly. So he doesn’t dry it off after bath. He gives it a comb over and comes out strutting like a rooster who has just dined on some delectable worms.
As I said earlier, I am not gender biased. I am proud of his attitude.
The problem lies elsewhere.
With the wet hair, he has a tendency to catch a cold and that’s bad news in covid times.
So we arrived at a compromise.He would let me chop off his baby curls in return for binge watching BTS the whole day. I gave in.
I told him to sit on some newspapers as I gently snipped off his locks. The newspaper trick was taught to me by my mother.
My sharpest pair of scissors was absconding so I had to make do with a blunt pair. Shawn was lost watching his favourite boy gang shaking their lustrous multicolour hair and crooning unisex numbers.
I thought I has done a fairly good job given the circumstances and my limited skills. But now my husband arrived and purveyed the scene.
He decided a more professional job was needed and brought his professional machine. One look at that instrument and Shawn forgot his BTS and bolted. Now the whole house was full of hair.
Anyways, to cut a long story short, Shawn ended up with hair shorter than a sheep fleeced for wool.
After a quick bath and a peep into the mirror, Shawn came out, gave me a murderous look and went back to his BTS.
Once COVID is over, I will fight for him with the school.
They let the girls play football so I’m sure they’ll let the boys keep their long hair.
I didn’t want the whole complex going hyper in PPE kits.
No worries, they said..we have a solution. The guy landed before time and I frantically got my entire family to sport masks.
In the meantime, I noticed the chap hadn’t come in. When I went back to the passage, I thought I had been transported to Mars or another galaxy with aliens in it.
I have never seen a real human in a PPE kit before.
My son, who had been warned to stay in his room, scooted out to see this strange masked creature wearing a plastic jumper and even stranger spectacles.
I avoid lying as much as I can but in these circumstances, I had no choice. After assuring him that I’ll buy him the same goggles, I finally managed to get him back to his room.
By then the alien had plonked himself on my sofa, and my daughter reluctantly sat on the other one.
She was probably expecting a needle, but he pulled out an innocuous looking piece of transparent plastic.
I was unfazed, but my daughter was hitting the panic button. “He will just put that on my tongue and take your saliva swab ” I assured her.
My daughter is medically challenged and I’m the wise one.
So the poor thing poked her tongue out and opened her mouth as wide as she could.
The alien plunged that harmless looking plastic right down her mouth and her face turned a funny shade of purple. She was choking and I thought it prudent to keep a safe distance. I moved as far from her as possible on the other sofa.
I was having visions of the entire contents of her stomach being spewed on myself, but thankfully she held on.
I got a very dirty look saying I had betrayed her, but she had no more time to react. The alien’s had dived into his bag again and was out with an identical plastic.
Now my poor girl’s one eye was livid with anger and the other eye was wide with fear. I know it takes two eyes to be wide with fear, but this is really what I saw.
Anyways the plastic went right up her nostril. She kept quiet with the first jab, so I thought this must not be as painful as it looked.
But when the object tried approached the other one, she stood up and screamed, “Noooo”.
I was confident she was going to bolt so I was all ready to restrain her physically, but to my admiration, she settled down,
I knew what was coming and I sat with a stoic expression for my turn. I wasn’t going to chicken out in front of my daughter.
So although the alien was killing me, I pretended that there was nothing to it.
Finally the alien packed up and took down my phone number and email ID and our name and age.
“What about the report” I asked.
Considering my daughter and I had self quarantined in two different rooms after developing a fever, and my husband was left to fend for my two other kids in what was left of the house, I would give my life to figure out what would come of the report.
Don’t you worry, he said, the report would be sent to you by email as soon as it’s ready. It may take 22-48 hours.
That seemed like eternity and there was nothing to do but get back in our respective rooms.
Fortunately for us, my daughter’s fever flared up. The good doctor, who had seen the insides of her throat in the picture I sent him, insisted on hospitalisation.
Well, in COVID times, no one wants to go within a mile of a hospital. So, I connived with the doctor saying I’ll get my husband to bring her to the clinic. But once the horse comes to the water, it’s your job to make it drink.
Anyways the doctor diagnosed that my daughter has acute asymptomatic (not COVID) tonsillitis. And I thought only COVID was asymptomatic.
I’m sure no parent will be happy on hearing their daughter needs hospitalisation, but I was literally jumping with joy.
I bounded out of our room and started packing. After all our kid was going to the hospital! Seeing my enthusiasm , my other daughter scooted off to my room and appeared with a big bag.
I wondered what she was upto till realisation dawned.
“We’re going to the hospital!” she bobbed up and down. ( other part of this story may be made up, but this is one hundred per cent accurate).
I don’t blame her. After spending four months housebound, the opportunity to spend five days away from my prying eyes must have sounded more attractive than her student exchange trip to France that was torpedoed by Covid.
“There are two beds” , she insisted, and unnie can’t stay alone!”.
Now my daughters speak more Korean and it’s rubbing on my son too. Although I empathised with her, I put on my sternest face and explained to her in the choicest language I could muster that a hospital is not a resort.
That she still managed to go there after faking a throat infection and getting me paranoid again is another matter.
Anyways unnie was ceremonially despatched to the hospital, with asymptomatic (no, not COVID ) and I was left to face reality. My maid had been packed off the moment we were covid suspects, my husband was busy making trips up and down, and I was left with packing tiffins full of bland stuff for my daughter and feeding the rest of the ravenous family.
My son has a problem with his stomach. Everything that goes in disappears in a couple of hours. In fact I’m grateful if he goes a couple of hours without, “Mamma I’m hungry!”.
I was busy making provisions to keep that stomach well looked after in my quarantine phase as I know it would be a nightmare for my husband. He didn’t value my efforts and confidently said he would manage everything.
He can not clue what being a maid less mom entails, let alone a maid less and wife less dad, and now his overconfidence was costing me dear.
No junk on the house when you are short on time can be harrowing.
But this actually turned out to be a good thing because I had no time to think, and forgot COVID.
Now no one in their right mind will forget about a COVID report, but that was the state I was in…..no time to think….except for how to fill my son’s tummy.
You must have wondered why this story is named “The I factor”, but for those who have reached this sentence, I’d like to say, “Thank you for your patience, sorry for keeping you on hold”.
Now what reminded me of the tests was a phone call. My parents and the rest of my family were stressed out an my maid wanted to know if she could come back, and my sister in law wanted to know if she could call the tutor she shared with us.
But it was my maid’s call that hit me like a rock. That report stood between life and despair.
That negative report would bring my maid back and I could put my feet on the teapoy once again. They badly needed that.
So now for the l.
I called up the call center. The guy at the other end sounded extra nice. He confirmed the email ID, and assure me he will send it immediately.
I kept watching my gmail, and I got weird mails from headlines with ‘COVID reports’ to “Corona kills 149999” and was wondering if I would me the next.
Anyways I was super-confident that the reports would be negative…because I had super-confidence in my super-confident doctor. So there was no need to worry but the report was critical…I needed my maid back.
After staring in vain for what seemed like an hour,I made another call and another call and another.
On the fifth call I was told there was something wrong on my side. They had sent the e-mail four times, and it wasn’t their fault if they weren’t reaching me. I reasoned with them saying I definitely hadn’t deleted any mails, let alone a COVID mail.
All other unwanted garbage was reaching me, but the COVID was killing my mails. After they as good as declared me a moron, I pleaded with them to add my husband’s ID, they declined saying it was against their SOP.
I asked for an escalation but they used their best defence and quoted, “We are working from home during lockdown”.You just can’t get around that one.
I am not the one to give up.
I remembered the guy who had arranged the pickup and called me up. He offered to give me the call center number which I had been calling for the last three hours.
He gave me a lot of advice about how to deal with call centres and that my polite way of handling things wouldn’t cut ice.
Anyways I had a brainwave and whatsapped my good doctor. I had his email ID in a second and called up the seventh time. They could always email it to the doctor….not done, they said.
Now my husband started with the next time you give my email thing…and that really got my goat.
I’m quite a docile character, but once I get in the mood, I can roast those guys. That is an understatement, but I’ll do anything for my maid.
So I didn’t wait for the guy to start his “Thank you for calling us….” stuff again and reverify my E-mail ID for the eighth time, and blasted the hell out of him. I was maid-less, daughter-less (in hospital )and husband less. (on hospital duty) and I wasn’t going to let these incompetent nincompooms ( courtesy Tin-Tin) come between me and my maid. Something must have worked because the guy said “Ma’am there is an extra l”.
I was feeling guilty about scaring the hell out of this guy….. he was taking talking alphabets.
Realisation dawned. He said he’ll correct it and send the report pronto.
I had to get the bland pasta with lots of cheese and salami packed for my daughter. The doctors orders were homemade bland stuff only and she thinks I’m running a restaurant….(she called me terrified later that the doctor had caught her red handed hobbling the stuff)
I carried my phone to the kitchen with one eye on the gas and the other on the phone.
No email. My husband took over. “Next time… give my ID. Our bank severs are faster” I wanted to tell him that nothing comes and goes without going through Uncle Google’s hands but I let it go.
Plonking the report to him I said”Now you try getting it”, and barged into the kitchen.
He came with a smug smile on its face and declared, “They’re negative !”. He had managed to do what I couldn’t. They replaced my email ID with his and promptly emailed the report.
I called my maid. She said “ Atta yevu Kai?” meaning “Should I come now?”..,, they bought tears to my ears (yes, it’s supposed to be eyes, but this rhymes).
Im positive it wasn’t the onions. I’m going to learn a few expletives #^}\~>##%}%^+%~\#
1. You have to believe you are on the right side otherwise don’t even think of it.
2. Call the call center
Get a complaint number. If not satisfied ask for an email ID to write in to.
3. Check the website for numbers or email-IDs
4. Emails or WhatsApp work best as they are written proof.
5. If things don’t proceed try and reach the senior management, preferably by email.
6. Sometimes you have to be a little ingenuous .
For example most Organizations follow a pattern for their official email IDs…. for example firstname.lastname@example.org
Eg: Global Paints email@example.com
Their MD is Akshay Kumar. So. firstname.lastname@example.org
7. Be polite. There is no need to be rude just because you are right and they are wrong.
8. If the response is not positive or there is no action, ask for an escalation.
9. If things don’t get better you have every right to be blunt and provocative but refrain from expletives.
10. Other online options that might work for organisations concerned about their image:
It’s a public forum and can be effective.
You have to have time and energy yes….. but if things are important to you, you have to persevere. Tenacity, transparency and sincerity of purpose count.
I will try and honestly recount some of my successes in dealing with deficiency of service by large organisations
Quickest response so far:
Among other things they do blood allergy testing.
I had saved two numbers. The first one I called was a doctor who charged me Rs..11000 for a test. Suspicious, I called the other number and they said they charge 6500 for exactly the same test from the same lab.
Just one phone call and I was put on to-the senior management of Endocrine Lab who refunded my 11000.
So far so good.
I guess it saved the insurance company that group insures my husband’s medical expenses a bit of money….
But the larger systemic issue remains. Subsidiary labs and even major names charge different rates.
For medicines.. you can check online for generic prices.
Nothing much is available online to compare pathological/ Radiology charges by different Labs
Read ingredient labels thoroughly, and at least twice, even if it is an item you wouldn’t think would contain your food allergen. If a food does not have an ingredient label, it is safest to avoid that food.
Check packaging thoroughly – sometimes an ingredient listing is placed on one side of a product and an advisory label (i.e., “may contain”) is placed on another side.
Avoid products with advisory labels for your specific allergen. The use of such labelling communicates some level of risk.
Read ingredient statements for non-food products, such as lotions, soaps, hair care products, and medications, to ensure these items do not contain an ingredient to which you are allergic.
Speak to a restaurant’s manager and chef about the accommodations you need before dining out.
Order food that is simply prepared, and avoid desserts, as they often contain or have come into contact with food allergens.
Before traveling, plan for how food allergies will be managed. For example: Will you pack your own food for the trip? Will you have food shipped to your destination? Will you need additional medication? Make sure you keep emergency medication in your carry-on luggage if you are flying. (Do not put these in checked luggage).
If your child has food allergies, teach them which foods they must avoid and what these foods look like. Role-play with your child so that he or she understands how to respond if a well-meaning person offers food or drink.
LIFESTYLE MEASURES Vacuum regularly with a HEPA vaccum
Cover mattresses and pillows with special dust-mite-proof encasings
Wash bed linens, sheets, and covers every week in hot water (at least 130o F).
Get rid of carpets, extra pillows, and upholstered furniture, especially in your bedroom.
Limit stuffed animals in children’s rooms; use only those that can be washed weekly in hot water (at least 130o F).
Keep humidity levels in your home below 50%
Keep humidity at less than 50%
Repair water leaks wherever they occur
If mold is visible on a surface, clean it with fungicide
Don’t have furry pets in your home.
If you do have a pet, keep it out of your bedroom and off upholstered furniture.
Consider using HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters
Keep pets off carpets as much as possible.
Wash pets weekly and brush them outdoors.
Cockroaches leave droppings behind that contain potent allergens. Cockroach allergies are a particular concern for people living in big cities.
If you live in a building with cockroaches:
Keep your house clean and food in tight containers.
Repair water leaks.
Use traps and poison baits to control cockroaches.
Never allow anyone to smoke in your home, in your car, or around people with asthma
Strong Smells Weather Infections
Keep the doors and windows to your house shut
Avoid outdoor activities during high pollen or ozone hours.
If allergic to pollen, use allergy medicines to reduce reactions.
Shower to wash away pollen when you come inside after spending time outdoors.
Stay away from your home when chemicals, paints, or sprays are in use and until the smell clears away.
Don’t use scented products on your body or in your home.
Avoid outdoor activity when the weather is very hot, very cold, or very humid
Wear a scarf around your mouth and nose to warm the air you breathe and protect your airways when you must be out in cold, dry weather.
Get a flu shot every year and ask your health-care provider about whether you should have a pneumonia vaccine.
Be sure you and everyone in your household wash hands frequently.
See your health-care provider for immediate treatment if you suspect an infection.
Don’t ignore a drippy nose.
Don’t share toothbrushes or toothpaste when you have a cold.
Food and Medicine Allergies
Talk with your health-care provider or pharmacist about all prescription or over-the- counter medications you take, as well as vitamins and herbal supplements to find out if any of them could affect your asthma.
Stay away from any food or medicine that makes your asthma worse.
Be careful to avoid eating foods that contain sulfites.
Read food labels.
Use substitute medicines when appropriate, such as acetaminophen instead of aspirin.
Do warm-up and cool-down exercises 5 to 10 minutes before and after strenuous exercise.
Talk to your health-care provider about medicine you can take 15 to 30 minutes before exercising to prevent asthma symptoms.
Talk to your health-care provider about your symptoms if they persist when you exercise
Stress and Emotions
How can you reduce stress
Think about the different events or situations in your life that cause you to feel stressed and take steps to reduce them wherever possible.
Use stress management techniques, such as meditation and yoga.
Develop a regular exercise program and healthy eating habits.
Spend time with friends and family.
Reflux and heartburn
Some lifestyle changes can help, such as avoiding certain foods, alcohol or tobacco, or sleeping with your head slightly elevated.
Talk with your physician about medications that control acid in your stomach.
ALLERGEN IMMUNOTHERAPY PATIENT INFORMATION
The concept behind allergy immunotherapy, whether it is received in the form of shots(subcutaneous) or tablets(below the tongue), is that the immune system can be desensitized to specific allergens that trigger allergy symptoms.
An allergist, has specialized training and experience to determine which allergens are causing your symptoms and discuss if allergy immunotherapy—and which form—is right for you.
How Do Allergy Shots Work?
Allergy shots work much like a vaccine. Your body responds to injected amounts of a particular allergen given in increasing doses, eventually developing a resistance and tolerance to it. Allergy shots can lead to decreased, minimal or no allergy symptom.
There generally are two phases: build-up and maintenance.
Build-up often ranges from three to six months and involves receiving injections with increasing amounts of the allergens. The shots are typically given once or twice a week.
The maintenance phase begins when the most effective dose is reached. Once the maintenance dose is reached, there are longer periods between injections, typically two to four weeks.
Who Can Be Treated with Allergy Shots?
Allergy shots may be a good treatment approach for people with allergic rhinitis (hay fever), allergic asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergy) or stinging insect allergy. All
Build-up often ranges from three to six months and involves receiving injections with increasing amounts of the allergens. The shots are typically given once or twice a week.
The maintenance phase begins when the most effective dose is reached. Once the maintenance dose is reached, there are longer periods between injections, typically two to four weeks.
Who Can Be Treated with Allergy Shots?
Allergy shots may be a good treatment approach for people with allergic rhinitis (hay fever), allergic asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergy) or stinging insect allergy. Allergy shots are not recommended for food allergies.
Before deciding to begin allergy shots, you should consider:
• The length of allergy season and the severity of your symptoms
• Whether medications and/or changes to your environment can control your symptoms • Your desire to avoid long-term medication use
• Time: allergy immunotherapy requires a major time commitment
Allergy shots for children age five and older are effective and often well tolerated. They might prevent the onset of new allergen sensitivities or the progressi
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”