She has been suffering through the night. Relentlessly coughing. The phlegm in her chest announces presence with every breath of hers. And all she can mutter is a ‘mamma’ or a ‘pappa’. In a slight slow drag of the words that showcase tiredness and monumental discomfort.
Every time she says ‘mamma’, the mamma sits up. Strokes her forehead. Emits reassuring noises and the little one curls up for five more minutes. Before the next ‘mamma’ call emerges. This has been on. Through the night. For the last couple of nights.
Earlier today we saw the pediatrician. “Normal”. He said. And added: “Viral”. Pointing in the direction of the door. Beyond which were a sea of tense fathers, worried mothers and wailing infants waiting to get into the room and show him an achy head, a rumbling tummy, a running nose, a burning body. Whatever. Or maybe he meant to be pointing my attention beyond them. Of course, outside his clinic’s door was pouring rain and howling winds.
He wrote a few medicines as the daughter wailed and the missus listened to his every word. He looks at me and said, “You will come here a few times this season. Don’t worry”. And smiled. It was a joke. I hoped it was.
His medicines stand straight on the table. Lording over the assortment of home remedies that have led to almost decimating the barely surviving tulsi plant and emptying camphor box! But our biggest worry has been in trying to get her to eat. Which she has refused with the penchant of a Satyagrahi!
“How will she have the strength to fight this fever”, the missus asks. Almost as though it was my fault. I can’t do much but look at her. And say, “She’ll be ok”.
“You said that three days back as well”.
I stay silent. Not by choice but because I simply don’t know what to. There is nothing to.
The last few days have been a roller coaster of a different kind. More downs than ups. The tacky part isn’t really the ‘downs’ but not knowing if I am ‘thinking right’. Doubts that rage in the mind asking if you are on the right road can obscure the journey and incredibly distort the view.
A similar scale of self-doubt rules supreme today. Do these home remedies work? Are these the best medicines? Did that small exposing to the rain do all this damage? Should we expose her to the elements like we have been doing and keeping it as natural as possible? Or be as protective as some of the neighbours and colleagues are?
The challenge in parenting is that there are options. A multitude of them.
Perpetual forks in the road with no direction sign boards sometimes leave parents tired. It is in these times you look for a North Star to hitch your wagon to and put the car on auto transmission mode. But the truth of the matter is, in real life you don’t know where that North Star is and auto-transmission is not an option that exists. So you have plod on with love and sincerity as the fuel in your engine and hope that the road will lead you somewhere.
As the night wears on, she coughs again. This time she says ‘papa’. And I try and get close to her. The missus wouldn’t have any of it and keeps me at bay by continuously stroking the small burning forehead of the daughter. She struggles to breathe and is now using her mouth.
It’s a sad sight. I can’t do much about it except something that comes naturally to me: wince in my mind. I wish there was a magic wand of sorts. Something to ease her pain. To get her back to bouncy naughty ways.
Soon it is morning. I call my mom. I tell her about our travails of the night. Of her chest congestion. Of the phlegm that refuses to get out. Of the difficulty she has had in eating. I keep pouring my woes. She listens patiently. Just about now and then chips with a sound of sympathy more to indicate that she is still around and the phone connection hasn’t dropped off.
After about fifteen minutes she speaks.
“This is important” she says. “Her body will begin to learn to fight this”, she says.
Of course, I know. Of course. I have read it so many times. Since LKG. Or whenever they introduced biology as a subject of study. And given my antipathy to it, I really think they started that kind of cruelty in kindergarten.
“Of course ma”, I tell her.
Silence engulfs the phone line.
“Hello”, I say again. To check if she is there. “I am here”, she says.
And then says, “You went through all of this as a child. Every child goes through this. It is nature’s way of ensuring that strong wings grow”. She continues for some more time unleashing the botanist in her. About nature and ‘nature’s way’.
In sometime we are going to hang up. She says, “By the way, this is something every parent goes through. Me and your dad went through it to see you through several virals”.
I stare into the monsoon clouds. As they coalesce to form obscure shapes and notice that rain soaking parched land will happen sooner than I was expecting.
“I wonder why the world assumes ‘growing-up’ refers to children! In more ways than one, growing-up is about the parents”.
In some time, it hits me. Ah, rain!
Kavi dabbles in writing, reading, traveling, photography, long distance running amongst other things. He and Shanti have their hands full with their adorable toddler, Kayal. In-between all of this, he gives an arm, leg and everything else to earn a living. Usually accomplished by punching keys, attending meetings and trying to sound profound. He blogs at http://kavismusings.blogspot.com & tweets @kavismusings. Just in case you are intrigued enough to know more about him please head to http://about.me/kaviarasu.