In sickness and in health(?)

It was the day of our wedding and SR had just tied the thaali around my neck. We gazed at each other – me adoringly, he bleary-eyed and sweaty. The first thing he said was,

“Can you ask Amma to get me some Crocin? I have a terrible headache.”

Yes, I love you too.

For the next 15 minutes, while he was repeating mantras with the vadhyar, I desperately tried to catch the eye of one of our many aunts or cousins, even while getting up and prostrating myself on the ground (in a nine-yard saree to boot!) for what seemed like a hundred times. Someone finally got him the pills and water and he managed to make it through the rest of the ceremony, by which time my neck was aching under the weight of all the garlands.

During the family get-together in the evening, while our relatives sang and danced and tried to make fun of us, we sat exhausted and brain-dead, joining in more out of politeness than anything else. To commemorate the occasion, SR’s sister and cousins decorated our bedroom. On the dresser, they left two sets of presents – a box of perfumes, and a box of medicines – along with a note:

“Perfumes or medicines? Make your choice! :)”

Needless to say, we picked the medicines and fell asleep at once. So much for the hype about “first nights” – to this day, when we watch a movie scene involving a first night, we look at each other and snort derisively.

The next morning, SR woke up with a raging fever and spots all over his body. That’s right – chicken pox.

We were both quarantined (in case I was also infected) for three weeks. Confined to a single room and bland food without salt and spices, scratching ourselves with neem leaves and alternating between sniping at each other and apologizing tearfully.

Two weeks later, when SR had recovered, I came down with it, and spent another two weeks in quarantine. SR escaped the second quarantine because his chances of getting it again were slim. And of course, there was no honeymoon.

That set the tone of our marriage. Headaches, backaches, flu, sinusitis, tummy upset, asthma… you name it, we’ve had it!

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I was at a medical store the other day,

“1 strip Pudin Hara. 15 regular Crocin. 15 Crocin Pain. 1 Volini cream. 1 Volini spray big. Vicks ke goli and 1 Dragon roll-on.”

When he gave me a “So much, madam?” look, I tried to save face,

“We are athletes – we just ran a marathon. That’s why.”

He looked doubtfully at our rotund figures, but refrained from commenting.

The biggest challenge we face is that each of us deals differently with sickness. SR likes to be coddled and made a fuss of if he is feeling down. But I like to be left alone to curl up and die. We used to drive each other crazy in the beginning.

When I try to sleep quietly in the dark, his worried face would appear at the door,

“Do you want anything?”

“No.”

“A hot water bottle? Green tea?”

“No, no.”

“How about some medicine? Will sitting up help?”

“No, just leave me alone!”

He would go away in a huff.

The opposite would happen when he fell sick. He would lie groaning in the hall, making outlandish requests every few minutes.

“Can you bring me some water? Yes, I know I said I didn’t want any, but now I do… if you must make such a fuss, don’t bother.. I don’t want anything now… alright then, give me the water…”

“Can you put some Volini on my back? Not there, a little to the right.. a tad bit to the left… Yes, yes, you got it… no, go up, yes, up… now a little down towards the spine… where the hell are you rubbing? That’s not the spot at all!”

“Turn off the light and put on the music… oh, anything you like.. no, no, not that… not that one either, can’t you put on something soothing and quiet? No, meditation music is not soothing or quiet.”

And so on and so forth.

Over the years, we’ve learned to manage this better. It is based on the principle that a sick person cannot be a ministering angel and offer sympathy. So we fall sick one at a time.

“I feel sniffly – I think I will come down with a cold today” SR would warn me as soon as he woke up.

“I ate from a shifty-looking place near the bus stand. So I may have indigestion later.” I would call from the office to give him a heads-up.

This way, we set clear expectations and give each other ample time to plan ahead. So, if SR sounds the warning, I try to keep the rest of the day free to look after him. And if I sound the warning, he makes plans to stay far away. So far, this has worked pretty well.

Thus, we continue to have and to hold each other – for better or worse, in sickness and in health(?)

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