It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. The stars are shining wherever you look. We’ve also managed to to get our Goan winter down pat too. I can feel it in the nip that swoops in at dusk, lacing everything with a crisp sprinkling of wintery coolness. And I can feel it in the wheezy rattle of congestion that’s made itself very, very comfortable deep inside my chest.
I prided myself in getting through a large part of this year illness-free. But I’ve had two terrible bouts of the cold-throat infection-flu triad. And the second time around, two weeks ago I decided I was going to fight it sans anti-biotics. I emerged battered at the end of the week of plying myself with anti-histamines and warm liquids, but victorious because I was phlegm-free! Or so I thought. Until fifteen whole days later, the rattle in my chest made a dramatic comeback. And this time around I swear I heard a wheeze every time I breathed in deeply. This was worrisome and I knew I needed to have myself checked.
I’ve also prided myself in not needing a local GP for the 5 years that I’ve been in Goa, but its not a very good place to be in, when you finally realise you do need a doctor, but have no idea where to begin. Some checking around and I found myself in a poky little clinic of what looked like an old-timer kind of doctor. The kind where you take your slippers off before go in. The frayed pages of a yellowed calendar flapped around in the breeze, just below a picture of a chubby pink baby advertising some pediatric medicine or the other. From inside the doctor’s room walked an elderly couple, heaving what I can only imagine were germ-filled breaths of relief. I quickly stopped breathing, walked into the doctors room and realised the place smelled like becosules capsules.
There, behind an imposing teak desk sat a healthy (kind of short and rotund) looking doctor with a shiny bald pate. Bespectacled, round people are mostly cute and induce warm, fuzzy feelings. Add a dash of concern like only old-timer doctors can pull off, and I am usually reduced to mush. He was polite, gentle and so filled with concern, I was shocked. He was so gentle and sweet I could have kissed his soft hands. I was probably not paying attention, but when he gestured to ask me to lie down on his tall examination table, I didn’t know what he wanted of me. It should also give you a clue about just how long it’s been since I went to a doctor, that I didn’t realise I needed to lie down in order to be examined. And imagine my surprise when I realised I’d forgotten what the cold disc of a stethoscope against my back felt like.
A battery of questions followed, amongst which he even politely asked if I minded him asking why I don’t have any children despite being married close to seven years. I don’t mind, when a doctor puts it like that. He also gave me a flattering label of “big time writer” when I told him where some of my work is published, admitting he only reads the local news because he doesn’t have a smartphone or a laptop.
He was silently winning so many brownie points in my mind. But the clincher was the parting shot, “You can take all this medication, but nothing will give you relief like steam inhalation and warm water gargles will. Don’t stop doing that,” he said, as I walked out, grinning, because I had visions of my mother dispensing her ever-effective wisdom of steam inhalation being the cure for every ill forming in my mind.
Later, at home, I called Amma to update her about what the doctor has said. I told her he too belonged to her school of thought, where steam inhalation cures all, warm water gargles soothe a hurting throat, and he probably stopped just short of telling me to make a nightcap of haldi-wala doodh.
“I like him already,” she said.
I knew I did too.