Lessons From a Temporary Illness : Looking Through a Glass

by | Mar 5, 2018

The last quarter of 2017 has been quite weird. I’ve been privy to something remarkably out of my comfort zone, and in turn, have put many people out of theirs. But, that’s a debate for the more refined minds. India Fellow is like that freaky mirror in Lewis Carrol’s narrative leading to the magnificent albeit a tad bit crazy world of Indian heartland. I wrote this as 2017 was coming to an end, a good time to recount an eventful set of days and squeeze in a few observations which are harder to make sense of, otherwise. I like to call it ‘The Antibiotic Debacle‘.

Earlier in September, I had landed myself in a bit of a problem. My face had turned highly asymmetrical owing to a bad bout of infection, constantly attracting pitiful glances from the WOTR (Watershed Organization Trust) staff at the Rajur (Jalna) office in Maharashtra. I was playing it cool to uphold my image of a resilient field staff who is least bothered by puny infections. The pain got so bad that all I could eat was ‘Poha’ (Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great breakfast but lunch and dinner is a bit pushy). A couple of botched diagnoses later, I had a competent medical practitioner prescribe me a certain antibiotic which needed to be taken three times a day for five days straight. Oh, did I say Rajur has just one drugstore which is stocked up with antibiotics? They sourced it from the nearest big town of Jalna, almost 40 km away.

On day 1, they had only one-third of my prescribed dose of pills but I wanted all 15. They assured me a full roster by the next day. In a bid to quickly get back to my mandibular capabilities, I bought the 5 pills on offer to start the healing procedure.

Three pills down and day 2 begins with me checking in on the progress of the promised procurement. The shopkeeper smiles at me. I look at him questioningly, brimming with high hopes. He quashes them saying that the order is still lying on the table when it should have reached Jalna by now. I am pissed!

Out of desperation, I try to act like an expert explaining him how I cannot miss even a single dose, showing my facial asymmetry and telling about how ‘Poha’ is ruining my life. In hindsight, I think I had annoyed him enough. He took down my phone number, assuring speedier processing and timely delivery by the evening.

The 4th tablet goes down the esophagus. My anxiety is increasing and my faith, going down. I feel like I’m going to contribute towards antibiotic misuse, leading to the spread of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) for crying out loud.

Fifth one swallowed and I start pacing inside the tiny office space. A colleague gets me a glass of water thinking I’m losing it. Again, I walk down to the store and ask the store-owner, almost yelling, if I should go to Jalna and get it myself as I still had time. He reassures me, albeit somewhat exasperated, that the order should be coming soon.

Its 8 pm. I need that drug!
I’m still waiting at the store. The owner shifts uneasily. He sends his assistant out to check other stores in Rajur. Of course, the assistant comes back empty handed. Everyone is tense. By then, I had slumped in a chair resigned to my asymmetrical fate. The stores closed down one by one. As the streets cleared away slowly, it was just me and him, waiting. One could literally feel the tension in the air. It was probably the most poignant moment of the year. Then, out of the engulfing darkness, we were hit by this blinding light emanating from the silhouette of what I could make out to be a jeep.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the shopkeeper literally jumped over the counter, ran across to the vehicle and dragged out a box full of medicines. He was like a machine, digging through that box like there was no tomorrow. Receipts were flying everywhere. Medicines, cotton gauges and needles thrown aside mercilessly. For the whole of thirty seconds which by the way felt like an eternity, that it took for him to find the ten highly coveted pills, I was rooted to the chair, my heart in my mouth. It’s difficult to say who was happier at that moment. We hardly exchanged a word but the triumphant smiles on our faces echoed the ordeal that we had been through the whole day. Relief spread through my veins like morphine (I’m not an addict, just a fan of House M.D). After all this, one would expect I’d remember his name forever. Strangely, I never asked.

Looking back, the whole incidence doesn’t feel like a big deal. So what if I had missed a dose. Trump would still have been the president. Shashi Tharoor would still be a spot of pride for us. The Mahavishnu Orchestra would still have had staged its last performance. It wouldn’t have mattered in the larger scheme of things. But it reinforces my belief of trusting the process. As much as I hate not being able to control what leaves an impact on me, it was, at the end of the day, the collective action of individuals doing their job, that got me the medicines on time. Of course, this was not the sentiment that I shared when it was happening, but now I’m able to connect the dots easily. Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that trust doesn’t seem like an alien concept on the other side of the looking glass. Here’s hoping that once out of the fellowship program, I don’t have to say,

“The world’s still the same. There’s just less in it.”
(Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End)

Featured Image Credit: Camil Tulcan (Flickr)

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  1. Swati Saxena

    It was a treat to read this. The suspense only increased and you kept me hooked until the end 🙂

  2. Anupama Pain

    If this was to be made into a movie, the actor who will play you (in case you do not want to act that is) is Sean Connery.


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