Last night, sleep was slow in tendering its benefactions. Perhaps my mind, by the end of the day, had turned again to worry at human interactions with my aunt and others like her. I find that the more I try to help people out, funding their lives with mindless money, the more they look down on me. They become the ones doing me the favor, they allow me, from their inherent goodwill, to bankroll their lives and indulgences. Accepting the moolah, they put themselves on a pedestal. Hurt, I bark and growl, tuck my tail between my legs and remove my scrappy presence.
In time, anger appears. “Why should they get away with it? I’ll keep them on their toes,” I vow to myself. And so, in some part, I do, but in the doing, I tear my mind apart. I fall ill, perpetual colds rack my body, the inhaler becomes my succor. I recover from one attack of the cold virus to succumb to another. Every morning I turn on the steam machine, bury my head under a blanket, and inhale hot air. Quarter of an hour later, I reach for ayurvedic nasal drops and squirt medicated oil into my nostrils [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayurveda]. Pain hits my teeth and sinuses, I groan in discomfort and my throat burns with the taste. Last in the process, I sip hot lime and honey, the sour-sweet infusion counteracts the pungent oil.
The morning runs by with these rituals. Colds have long been my body’s familiars. In childhood, my dad’s big white cotton hankies were indispensable: held against my dripping nose, their absorbent comfort got me through my days. Come the long awaited monsoon, my nose watered in company with the skies. Dosing me with Erythromycin [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erythromycin], my dad was often fellow sufferer. But, for him as well as I, after each course of the antibiotic, another cold bided its time to attack anew.
My college years in Anantapur and a decade of graduate study in the States granted me some respite. Over the last decade, however, with Mum dying, and the peri/ post-menopausal years, I have reverted to my childhood self, clutching now not a white hanky but a tissue to my nose. Wastepaper bins overflow, and crumpled papers decorate random corners during my worst drips. Though guilty at the waste of paper, I am now addicted to their convenience. When my nose streams, and I can barely stand upright, the tissues are my tenuous hold on sanity.
During times of stress, I’ve noticed that the colds follow one upon another. This month, for instance, I’ve hosted three major attacks. Is it any coincidence that this is the month, I’ve driven down thrice to neighboring Bangalore, in order to check on my aunt who happened to be hospitalized? [cf. blog that relates stress and recurrent colds: http://healthblog.yinteing.com/2010/04/14/why-do-i-keep-getting-colds-sinus-and-flu/] Aunt Devaki, my Mum’s only surviving sister was rushed to CCU in the throes of intense abdominal pain, initially suspected to be the heart, and later diagnosed as gall stones. After a week’s stay, my aunt recovered to celebrate her ninetieth birthday at the Old Age Home I’d placed her in. I was summoned to take her out for lunch: transport and treat which included her recent favorite, her cousin’s daughter-in-law. The cousin’s son doesn’t bother to visit her.
His wife, on the other hand, is a regular attendee on Aunt Devaki, in favor because she’s of the Coorg race, fair as the Coorgs are. [check out the Coorgs here: http://coorg.tripod.com/coorgs.html] Earlier, my aunt has been known to insist on receiving blood transfusions only from a Coorg! For mongrel, mixed blood me, Aunt Devaki is a relic and memory of Mum’s do-gooding. Mum was the standby of her older sister, when life didn’t go Devaki’s way. Dearest Mumso often grumbled at her sister’s airs and graces, but she stood up for her, even when Devaki pissed off my Dad, “I have a right to come here. It’s my sister’s house.” Feminist in rhetoric, but parasite in substance, Devaki feels that looking after her is our duty–first Mum, now me.
Every time I visit her, I come down with a Cold once I return home. Suggestive? Aunt Devaki is the mistress of manipulators. With a face whose beauty even at ninety startles people, her looks and regal presence have gotten her through life. Although nearly penniless, she has numerous servitors who appear magically when prompted, among whose midst I number myself. Having taken her on financially, a responsibility as memorial to Mum, I am yet periodically beset with childhood belief in her gracious self. That belief, besieged by her physical reality, doesn’t last long for adult Grie.
I have to take to my heels and run home–to my ashram apartment, the Rain tree, the increasingly unkempt garden, timid Tippy the bitch, and of course, my watering, suffering nose.