Rediff Logo Life/Style Banner Ads Find/Feedback/Site Index
February 20, 1997


Farzana Versey

Dominic Xavier's illustration

When your head is heavy and the lips cannot speak, it has little to do with strawberries and cherries...

Come into my parlour!' Now that sounds like a great big come-on. Except that when your head is heavy and the lips, they cannot speak, it has little to do with strawberries and cherries. A few days of bed rest and I am ready to thrust my ailments down unsuspecting throats. You've been warned, though. I am, of course, aware that the Internet is a medium for the young, who dig Madonna more than malaria, and John Denver may be passé but he's anyday better than jaundice..

Anyhow, habits die hard. So, with a vertigo that made my head swirl, I thought of all those little nicks that make us sick. First, there was the word - and the word was Flu. No sane person who wishes his name to appear in the Who's Who can claim not to have suffered from this multi-faceted malady. The body aches, the forehead is hot, eyes go red and you feel you are down but not out. It's the nearest you will come to giving the illusion of having had a good time without really having one.

The common cold, after much research and analysis I have realised, is the harbinger of good tidings. It is also the most democratic of all ailments - one person has it and the rest follow. And I can assure you a lot of romantic liaisons can be formed this way - via tissues being exchanged or accusations that say, 'You gave it to me.' However, there is no guarantee about fidelity, since another cold is just two sneezes away.

Conjunctivitis, or sore eyes, or one of the ugliest sights on earth, is a dampener to all romance. No deep soulful looks, no downcast eyes to show how you feel, or a direct gaze to indicate that you are ready to take on anything. Of course, the advantage you have is of pretending to play blind man's bluff and getting away with it. The other is of showing off your various sun glasses and adding to the mystery appeal.

The illness I find most exciting is jaundice. Everyone who is anyone in the hypochondriac hierarchy has a new remedy for it. Unlikely herbs and condiments got from wayside bhaiyyas from UP are brought in betel-leaf pouches.

You are on a liquid diet - which is quite fun really if you can live on milk-shakes, coconut water, and what we in Bombay call kadak cha. It is strong tea that is brewed and brewed till it forgets its main purpose in life (to get down your gullet) and finds its niche in a blackened formula guaranteed to let you last another day. Jaundice has other things to its credit - you change colour, you lose weight and begin to resemble the sunflower next door.

If you have arthritis, you look like a cactus on its way to a flower show - you know, primmed up sort of thing, caught in its own shape. But worry you must not, for the veins that stand out on your calves are only a silent testimony to the state of things. They shall be soothed by and by, but not before the irony has struck you sufficiently to be able to declare that you can remain in the saddle as long as the veins are in your hands!

A tummy ache I always associate with advertising. There is this great consumer bazaar sense, together with the garbage dump fallout. This is one time when you make it a point to lie on your stomach and get a rear view of the world. It is also prudent in this position to contemplate the cosmos - it will be restricted to your snug and comfy pillow.

There is a slim chance of your getting breathless. It is not an urgent problem, unless it is asthma. This is the best fob-off for undesirable elements. Make it a point to spend the night with someone you hate. Rest assured that this person will not see you for the rest of his/her life, what with your wheezes signifying anything but a state of bliss. This is also the best escape route you have from any task at hand. No one, but no one, will press a point with someone so pressed for breath. It is a matter of life. Almost.

Which brings me back to where I was, that dark day when everything moved around in circles. For those who haven't followed the subtle movement of a vertigo attack, here it is. You get up from the bed, and you fall back. You walk, and you trip. You sit, and your head tilts. You begin to feel that all moving objects are rushing towards you. It makes you feel so very wanted. In fact, this was the time I reached the peak of my confidence and the depths of my competence!

Illustration: Dominic Xavier