I’m comatose today. Every fibre of my being, from my foggy brain right down to feeble toes, aches. I don’t want to move a muscle – I can’t.
And I’m thinking of what it was like when we fell sick as kids…
The first course of action to beat any ailment were Home Remedies: a cold compress of icy water with a drop of my Nana’s eau de cologne (for some reason, it was pronounced “yew” de cologne by Bombayites!) to bring down a feverish temperature, a paste of haldi (turmeric) for all cuts and bruises, honey and ginger or salt water gargles for sore throats, and who can forget the peculiar smell of neem leaves in your bath water when you caught chicken pox?
I even remember my cousins and I sneaking into my Nana’s room and self-medicating on Nana’s tiny white homeopathic pills!
But when these cures proved ineffective, a trip to doctor was in order.
Imagine, if you will, the doctor’s dispensary: a heaving mass of germ-riddled patients awaiting their turn, desultory leafing through ancient Readers’ Digests. Little girls with gaping wounds covered in red mercurochrome, shivering babes in arms, teenage boys with arms in slings or legs in white plaster casts (and sometimes both!), pregnant women with swollen ankles and swollen bellies, old men with hacking smokers’ coughs, and even a sprinkling of hypochondriacs…
So your dad would take a number and bring you back in an hour or two. It was not unusual for the poor doc to be toiling till 10pm if an outbreak of the ‘flu was doing the rounds.
Finally, the receptionist called your number. You held onto mummy’s hand and squeaked after her, “Good evening, Doctor.” Lifted up onto his examining table, you’d feel the cold stethoscope over your chest and back as the doctor listened to your heart and lungs while he intoned, “Breathe in… Breathe out… Cough…” Next, he made you say “Ahhhh” as the tongue depressor allowed him to check your tonsils. Ears were examined, mum was asked a few pertinent questions and a diagnosis was made.
The prescription, scribbled on a chitti, was passed onto the Compounder who was tucked away in his tiny cubicle. Now said Compounder probably didn’t hold a degree in Pharmacy, but he got top marks for deciphering the doc’s scrawl! And what he lacked in formal education he made up for in hands-on experience.
If you were too little to swallow those big, nasty pills, he’d crush and mix various tablets in his ceramic mortar and pestle and put each dose into tiny squares of paper. Potions were far easier to swallow, so he filled your liquid medicine into amber-coloured bottles with a white strip down the side dictating the dosage. As Mary Poppins’ sang, just a spoon full of sugar really did make the medicine go down!
After your parents paid the bill, back home you went to rest and recover. Sometimes, just visiting the doctor was a panacea in itself.
So tell me, have you visited the doctor recently? Are today’s doctors’ “bedside manner” any different from when you were small?