Monday, May 17, 2010

Memory Box 5: Bukhaar

The bout of illness that our child has just faced has left us anxious and utterly exhausted. It's first time parent syndrome. I am reliably informed that this is a pattern that will be repeated manifold in his childhood and that the best way to deal with it is to remain calm and reassuring as children sense fear and negativity quite quickly. I am nothing if not calm; unless forced to answer the question 'is he well in himself' by the NHS Direct one more time. We have turned a corner and now its about the road to getting him to eat well, gain some weight and stay healthy. It has however triggered another memory from my childhood.

The Nik and I were Principal Players of the Unexplained High Fever Club. We got them a few times a year, always in the range of 105 degrees, unusually unexplained or accompanied by tonsillitis (my speciality). My ever calm mother dealt with us efficiently and calmly, cold compress from small hand towels, soothing words and regular doses of crocin. Once severe the fever usually abated with a course of antibiotics dispensed by our family paediatrician.

One year, days before Diwali, we both went down with the fever simultaneously. The Nik was about 5 years old and at the height of his popularity in our street of many children. His friends would keep coming and ringing the bell each afternoon to ask 'Aunty, when can Nik come and play?'. Assured by my mum that he was unwell but would be out to play in a few days the posse would disperse to indulge in whatever shenanigans 5 year olds get up to. The fever would come and go and the Nik and I would amuse ourselves but sticking forehead thermometer strips on our own foreheads and checking what the other had, comparing temperature notes as it were. (There is a picture of this - but that merits its own Memory Box story).

Then just two days before Diwali both our temperature started to soar. Enough to worry our normally unflappable mother. She began to borrow thermometers from everyone along our lane, disbelieving of how high our Hicks thermometer was going. At near 106 on EVERY THERMOMETER I was delirious and finally on choti Diwali had to be admitted to hospital. I was better by the next morning, having been pumped with antibiotics and observed and sent home on the morning of Diwali.

Of course it was then Niks turn to add the grey to my mothers head and he was nearing 107 and admitted to hospital on Diwali evening. It was a time (and this makes it sound like centuries ago rather than just a few decades) when we knew all our neighbours really well, played in front of our houses without fear, and enjoyed a childhood of outdoor games watched from kitchen windows by parents. Mothers stood at bus stops to pick up their children when buses dropped them off in the summer heat or winter cold, we said hello to all the aunties/ uncles and there seemed to be hordes of children of every age, willing to play and share their toys and form silly clubs and cycle around with. For Diwali each year everyone did their prayers (or versions of it) and then brought their fireworks out and shared them. This Diwali our street was quiet. Diwali was officially postponed in light of illness. Our illness. It was unbelievably kind of the parents and understanding of our friends, mere children, who had looked forward to this day for weeks and weeks and weeks and counted their firecrackers and planned on what sequence to use them in. It was a quiet, quiet street.

A few days after we had both recovered sufficiently our street came out to celebrate Diwali. So there in the MIDDLE of the week, a SCHOOL NIGHT to boot, was a street full of kids laying out diyas outside their houses and then letting off strings of firecrackers and flowerpot thingies and sparklers and spinning wheels and rockets from empty soda bottles, giggling hysterically and chattering away the night. It was a bright and lovely celebration and that evening cemented the path for so many of our friendships into adulthood.

We had an amazing childhood, of this I have no doubt. The camaraderie between neighbours a stark difference from the mere nod of acknowledgement that passes between people in our hallway now.


  1. Truly heart warming!

  2. Anonymous1:06 AM

    My eyes actually teared up reading this and remembering how terrified I actually was ( despite the calm and collected outward appearance).
    My children are the most precious people in the world and the very thought that they were so sick was sooooo scary!

  3. That's one of the pleasures of growing up in India. Here, even though we live in apartments, the kids don't know each other and don't play together which is such a waste.

  4. What a cool story! I grew up in a friendly neighborhood too but they would not have postponed Diwali for me!! You guys must have been really popular. :)

    Going through a bout of illness at my end too, with one of the twins. Totally exhausted.

  5. Hope your son is ok now, and gets his appetite back. Its really scary when kids fall ill, and my daughter also tends to get high fever at the drop of a hat.
    Lovely description of Diwali , Holi and Diwali celebrations are the best as kids especially when you get together with all your friends.