I Hate When That Happens

August 30, 2012

Two weeks or so ago, Tara had a mild fever and headache. Because I’d just recovered from Typhoid, we panicked and rushed her to the doctor, who, of course, said, “Oh, it’s just a viral. All the kids have it,” and charged us 300 bucks for the service. We gave her a dose of Crocin and forgot all about it.

Tara didn’t. Periodically, she would start whimpering and whining and complain of a headache. Or sometimes a stomach ache. But she was always ready to go to school and she didn’t have a fever or any other symptoms of ailment so we largely ignored it. Still, the aches didn’t go away. On Wednesday, she threw up a little bit. But apart from that, she was ok. Of course, she wasn’t eating much of anything – and in an effort to both get her to eat and to cure her headache, (at least by the placebo effect), I told her that her headache was probably because she wasn’t getting enough food and that she should eat a proper lunch. Poor lil thing – she tried her best to eat a “proper” lunch, but several evenings this week she complained of a headache. I was slowly getting worried – a viral should have resolved itself by now anyway – and started to think in terms of going to the hospital tomorrow. Headaches in a child – could be something to worry about. Worst case scenarios started to evolve in my head.

This evening Tara was cranky and irritable (in addition to being irritating). I was also irritable – I’d just been given a shock by somebody and was feeling pretty upset about it; which is to say, I was yelling at everything and everybody that came in front of me. Let’s just say, it was a long and itchy evening. At last it came around to the kids’ bedtime. Tara was almost in tears with her headache and I was at my wits’ end on how to cope with her. She lay down and started crying piteously. Then she sniffed loudly.

And that’s when the penny finally dropped. Her nose was completely stuffed – all the way up. You know how it sounds, when the breath you’re trying to draw doesn’t even make it halfway up your nostrils.

Yeah, that was dumb, dumb, dumb of me. I should have seen that ten days ago – she may not have had a viral at all, just congestion in the head, which this rainy weather isn’t doing anything to improve. That would also account for general crankiness, loss of appetite, and the whole “I’m not exactly sick but I’m not really well either” kind of thing. What a relief – at least I know what to do now and I can start doing it and stop worry. But on the other hand – why didn’t I see it earlier? Just think – a few days of medicine and steam and she would have been all sweet smiles and goodness by now.

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh. Dumb.


August 27, 2012

It all started with the invitation cards. You’d think that’s the logical place for a birthday party to start anyway, but then, that depends. In this case, it started with Amit suggesting, some weeks prior to the actual birthday, that cards could be drawn by hand. By the kids, of course. But then, Amit not being the chart paper buying kind, he failed to follow up on this until three days before the birthday. Wednesday evening to be precise – for a party on Saturday. You’d think it was sufficient time – we only had to get a handful of cards ready for the school friends.


This time, the guest list was drawn up entirely by the kids themselves. So, if you were not on the guest list, don’t come blaming me. Tara, who is benevolence personified, would have invited her entire class and most of the kids in the other sections as well, but for this strange notion that she had got into her head: to invite someone to your party, it is essential for you to know where they live. Amit and I spent days trying to tell her such was not the case, that the invitees were expected to come to our house and that I was not going to be running a birthday party pick-up service for all their friends, so there was absolutely no need for us to know the locations of their homes. I don’t think she entirely understood, but something got through. She spent the next few days telling us she couldn’t invite certain of her most beloved friends because they didn’t know where she lived. Again, we explained, as patiently and persistently as possible, that there were telephones and things and directions could be relayed, maps drawn, or even GPSs enabled. To no avail – Tara restricted her guest list to people who knew where she lived, or in a couple of cases, to people who she knew where they lived. So if you were not on the guest list… you know why. Just invite Tara home once, and next year she’ll invite you. Maybe.


So yeah – only half a dozen cards for school friends. Wednesday’s chart paper was crumpled up by Tara (inadvertently, I hope; I wasn’t there when it happened) and thus rendered useless for card-making purposes, so the next attempt was assayed on Thursday. Remember – Friday was to be their last opportunity to hand out the invitation cards. I had the phone numbers of some of the invitees’ moms, but not for all, so another task for them was to get me the other moms’ phone numbers. Two numbers were obtained, written carefully on scraps of paper. One scrap mysteriously went missing from the kitchen counter (where all important things are kept) before I could call or at least commit the number to memory; the other, when I tried the number scribbled on it, turned out to contain a wrong number.


Thursday evening was spent diligently making cards. Since Amit can’t really cut chart paper either (and I wasn’t there at the time) cutting was left up to the kids. They cut all right – all kinds of shapes and sizes. Then they sat down to draw. Mrini drew three cards fairly decently. Tara wrote in three cards very neatly. They were, of course, a different set of three cards. Tara didn’t draw much and Mrini didn’t write much. So at the end of the evening, we had six unusable cards for two school friends (they having duplicated cards for one particularly favourite friend), and Tara had also proceeded to make a dozen other “cards” several of which were for the same friend. Hmmmm…. Must be a very special friend.


“Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!” I fumed. “Now we can’t invite anybody from your school.”


“Don’t worry, mamma, tomorrow is Friday, I will get the phone numbers of my friends, you call their mothers. My birthday party is on Saturday,” said Tara soothingly.


And on that happy note, to the lovely sound of thunder and heavy rain, we all went to sleep.

On Friday, however, only one phone number was actually obtained. 

The next day, Tara said dispiritedly, “Now my friends can’t come to my party.”


I asked the obvious question: Why?


“Because it’s Saturday today and the party is today and we haven’t delivered the cards yet!”


It took me right back to my childhood days in the neighbourhood – first you make cards, mom writes in them, you rush over to all the neighbourhood kids’ homes – some of them also being school friends – to deliver the cards. Each visit entails lots of giggles, fun and often food as well. Then on the party day, everyone comes over and you repeat the giggles, fun, and food.


Nowadays, it’s all cellphones, SMSs, emails, and even Google maps. Technology has robbed us of the joys of some things.


Tara was, however, quickly informed of the benefits of technology, which had already been amply demonstrated. They had neglected to get the phone number of the mother of one of their good friends from school. Late on Friday night, it occurred to me to ask the mother of another school friend. At 11.15 I sent a message enquiring, and lo and behold, I had the number by 11.17. It being a somewhat late hour (by my standards at least) I deferred making the call until Saturday morning, at 8.15, which I thought was a decent hour for mothers of young kids. Apparently not – there was no response. So I blithely SMSed the invitation to the mother and thought no more about it. Sure enough, there they were, ringing our bell that evening, despite the pouring rain.


The party day went the way all party days go – in  a blur of chaos, confusion, and achievement ground together with a sprinkling of fun. I baked two chocolate cakes (since I’d been reminding the kids continuously the entire year that they hadn’t eaten so much as a single bite of the spiderman confectionary they’d selected from a bakery last year; this year they agreed to plain homemade chocolate cakes) and then one plain cake and one eggless banana-walnut cake for Amit. We had invited 14 kids and an equal number of parents (some parents coming with two kids and some kids coming with only one parent) so four cakes looked about right. Then we went out to buy the other stuff – samosas and veg cutlets from KC Das, juice (5 litres, which was barely sufficient, in two variants, sweetened and unsweetened) and ice cream (5 litres in three different flavours, which was much too much). We grabbed lunch on the way – though it was 2 p.m. by the time we reached a restaurant and almost 3 by the time we were served and by then the kids were driving us crazy with their constant demands for sustenance so “grabbed” might not be the best word for it. I’d promised the kids Treasure Hunt if they gave me some peace by sleeping in the afternoon, but our extremely late lunch put paid to that idea and without their help I could not have got 12 chairs into the living room while also organizing everything else and cooking up something that was meant to be chocolate sauce but ended up being just chocolate.


One of our friends had been invited for 4 p.m. and showed up punctually at 4.15, which was great, because the daughter entertained the kids while dad was put to work blowing up some more balloons. Precisely at 4.50, after the kids were finally dressed, I went to get dressed and then we waited about 15 minutes for the next round of invitees to show up. Soon the house was full and the kids were running around playing an entirely thrilling round of hide-n-seek.

From there, things went more-or-less as per expectation – we had musical chairs and pass the parcel without any gifts for the winners; electricity went and we ran the big fat music system on the battery back-up, which meant we had to turn off all the fans and many of the lights; there was a short and sharp downpour just as the last of the guests were arriving so a few people got a little wet; I restrained myself from suggesting a rain party; Tara managed to spill juice all over the table which, at that moment, was home to my cell phone and our digital SLR camera; and of course various other installments of food and drink were also spilt and hurriedly mopped up. The moms were all fantastic and helped amazingly. Somebody spread newspaper all over the living room floor for kids to sit and eat on, which is something I would never have thought of myself. Everyone ferried cake, snacks, and juice from the dining table to the living room and helped to serve. Electricity came back at some point, so we could turn fans and lights on again. The rain stopped. All 15 kids gobbled up their food and vanished into Mrini and Tara’s room where they proceeded to make a complete mess of everything, which Mrini and Tara had to clear up later. The smallest kid, not even 2 yet, managed to watch all the fun without getting trampled. So all went as it should and the last of the guests departed in a flurry of waves and smiles around 8.30. All in all, it was a fun and extremely satisfying kiddies party. (I think the grown-ups kind of enjoyed it too.)


Every year I sigh at the prospect of the birthday party and tentatively eye McDonald’s – and every year we have it at home and we have a blast. By 9.30 the kids were fast asleep and we had cleared most of the debris, procured a bottle of rum and one of coke (Thumbs Up if you really want to know the brand) and served up two good size helpings of ice cream in two big bowls. Ahhh… how can McDonald’s (or any other place) possibly compare to this?

Hazy or Smoky, In Greek

August 2, 2012

This morning, I woke up feeling rested and clear-headed. That’s a good feeling when the past week or so, you’ve been down with Typhoid. Typhoid, apparently, derives its name from “typhus” which, in Greek, means smoky or hazy – the state of mind associated with that illness. I totally get where they came up with a name like that from. Smoky, hazy, fuzzy, disconnected, spaced out and generally zonked vaguely describes how I’ve been feeling the past several days.


Last Thursday after lunch at work, I suddenly realized I couldn’t stay at work any longer and within half an hour or so, I was home. Nothing precisely was wrong then, apart from the beginning of a headache – it was more a premonition that something was going to be wrong. Much to my surprise, when I got home I went straight to bed and covered myself with a blanket to boot. I didn’t even wait to change out of my office clothes.


Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday passed in a haze of fever, body ache, and tiredness. It’s the flu, I thought. I had it this time last year as well.


By Monday morning, the fever was gone and I sat down to work from home. That afternoon, the fever shot up to 103.6 – which looks more like an FM radio station than a reading on a digital thermometer. I sighed and scratched tennis off my calendar for Tuesday.


On Monday night, Amit handed me a Crocin which I swallowed. I spent three and a half hours sweating profusely as the Crocin worked to send my temperature down. Then two hours shivering uncontrollably as my body worked that much harder to send the temperature right back up again. Amit said it was like sleeping next to a freight train.


On Tuesday morning, we went to the doctor, who suggested a blood test.  I hate those things.Over the last couple of years, all these nurses have become absolutely hopeless at getting blood out of me. You’d think I was a stone. They tapped the crook of my elbow doubtfully. They told me to tighten my fist. Then they rolled up the sleeve on my right arm, tapped some more. More doubtful looks were exchanged. One of the hapless girls got up the nerve to stick the needle in and they poked and prodded around under the skin as though hunting for lost treasure under the sea. When I started yelping, they actually had the audacity to eye the veins on the back of my hands and suggest that it wouldn’t hurt a bit. At last they got some dark red fluid in the syringe. One nurse was gustily mutilating my arm in a stranglehold, but the blood was limping out one drop at a time. They had to start all over again just to get the requisite 2 ml – less than half a teaspoon. I came away with four puncture marks on my arms. Couldn’t they just have sliced my finger tip?


After shrugging down a couple of mouthfuls of lunch, I headed to the room for a well deserved nap, and stuck the thermometer in my mouth out of habit. When it beeped, I thought I must be seeing things, so I called Amit. Strangely enough, he saw the same things – 104.7! That didn’t even look right for a radio station. And it got Amit into a real state. He yanked me out of bed and poured mugs of cold water on my head. It was sheer torture and I screamed blue murder – but it brought the temperature down to something over 103 and a double whammy of Crocin was left to do the rest.


A couple of hours later the lab confirmed Typhoid and that evening I started on antibiotics. The fever and body ache passed, but the tiredness and the foul taste in the mouth stayed. My appetite and my brain remained on vacation.


This morning, I woke up feeling rested and clear-headed. But the feeling didn’t last too long. Now the day is back to hazy and smoky again. That’s typhoid, I guess.

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