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Monday 14 October 2019

Those Cold Days

I am dabbing ineffectually at my unstoppable nose with an overburdened handkerchief and wondering dispassionately, what happened to the good old course a common cold was supposed to follow? It's been a good two weeks and this dratted cold along with aches and pains galore, doesn't want to leave me!
The mutant common colds today are like unwanted, pesky guests with no due date of arrival or departure. You have no clue what to expect from them. Are you supposed to ignore, worry or pamper them? Are your symptoms just those of a common cold or is it dengue or chikungunya? 
Trying times, I tell you. Why can't germs follow prescribed or known norms?

Common Cold Mami saga

Once upon a time, when you were afflicted by the common cold, you expected a set pattern of events. The cold of yore started with a ticklish, irritating sensation in the throat. The head began to pound at loud noises. Eyes watered in bright light. The body ached at all places and your appetite went down from 5 helpings of everything to meager 2 helpings. Amma would be the first to discern that you were coming down with something. Your over-bright watery eyes, warm forehead and lowered enthusiasm for her special potato roast curry alerted her right away.

The first patient of the common cold season, always instigated the latent medical genius and patient, caring nurse in amma. Later patients weren't as fortunate.

No time to lose! You are hustled off to sleep under her watchful eye while appa could decide to sleep...wherever! The cure-all Vicks Vaporub came out from the medicine box which amma liberally rubbed over your forehead, nose, throat and chest. The fan was switched off, the thick rug brought out and a glass of the mandatory manjalpodi paal (turmeric latte, ahem!) thrust in front of you. Your annoying sibling was promptly told off to be less annoying, find shelter in another room and avoid the contagion. Ah, the sweet perks of sickness! 

Next morning you woke up with a frog in your throat, a blocked nose, feeling hot and cold simultaneously and an anxious amma peering at you. By laying her thermometric cheek to your forehead, she instantly declared you were officially unfit enough to qualify for a school leave and she hurried along, mentally planning the alterations to her usual schedule. 

The aroma of tulsi, carom seeds and ginger being boiled into a kashayam wafted in the air, proclaiming the home to be sick bay. Before you had any thoughts of brushing your teeth, a tall steaming glass of salt water awaited you - Have cold, Will gargle, period. If your face creased in distaste, you are reminded that had pati been around, you'd be harboring a piece of kadukkai in your mouth along with burnt turmeric paste on the forehead. 

The tried and tested formula for any known ailment in my family for generations has been the "milagu-jeera rasam" that makes an appearance irrespective of whether it is a cold, indigestion or general lassitude. This particular rasam is genetically embedded in our DNA (along with thayir sadam) and thus qualifies as soul food. A hand-mashed bowlful of steaming hot rasam sadam warms your insides while the pepper-induced streaming nose, clears all blockages. 

If you still waddled around with a stuffy nose, out came the dreaded tall vessel. Hot water was boiled in this vessel and generous scoop of, what else...Vicks Vaporub was added and you were forced to bend over it, a towel thrown over your head and made to inhale the healing vapours. While the nose promptly got blocked again by the time the water in the vessel cooled, the "Vicks vapour" inhalation sure gave your face a sheen like nothing else.

After a cozy nap, by late afternoon, you were done with sufficiently warming your bed and now your stomach growled for some attention, what with the milagu-jeera rasam having accomplished its job of improving your digestive capacity so well. When amma offered you a couple of slices of dry bread toast, you told her to add a few couple more topped with a generous flourish of Amul butter. Amma's ante immediately perked up. She quietly watched you polish off the pile of toast engrossed in the dog-eared volumes of Indrajal comics and ask for a refill. Uh-Uh! The saintly mother nurturing the sick child quickly vanished. "Aha, so now that you are well enough, you better call up your classmates and ask them what you missed at school. Better still, go over to their house and bring back lessons to copy and homework to complete."

Darn, I didn't want my "coldiday" to end so soon! Meanwhile, the door bell rang and since I was trying to pretend to be weak and wan still, I refused to answer it. Cursing about how she was the only one in the house doing everything, amma went to answer it. It was appa, he was home early. He told me to move over from the cushy diwan. He needed to lie down, he sniffed loudly and asked amma to get him some piping hot kaapi for his splitting talavali
"Make the kaapi extra strong and extra hot...cough, cough, achooo!"Appa quavered. He asked me to fetch him some extra pillows, the newspaper, his reading glasses, his bottle of Amrutanjan, the thermometer, his muffler, his large handkerchief...

Good God, appa had caught the cold! Time to flee! I scooted to gather my school bag stuffing a couple of comics into it and headed to my friend's place. Uff!! What a big fuss over a common cold!


kadukkai - a dried fruit from the tree Terminali chebula used as cough remedy
pati - grandmother
milagu-jeera  - pepper-cumin
Thayir sadam - curd rice
milagu-jeera rasam - Watch this one!
Kaapi - filter coffee
talavali - headache

Enjoyed this post? Read more southern-spiced pieces from,

The Mami Saga: Click on tag/label #MamiSaga

1) Common-place Curd Rice

2) Kaapi-ready

3) Of Dangling Drumsticks, Wily Vadus and more

4) Idli Seria Vanduda?

5) Mamievolution

6) Buzz Fuss

7) Yours Generously

8) Those Cold Days

9) Musings of a sleep-deprived mind

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