Friday, May 14, 2010

The Season of My Fever

Bong cuisine has this wonderful concoction called “Labra”. It’s the quintessential mixture. You cannot really make out what has gone into it. Because apparently almost every available vegetable in the house on that day may find its way into it. I guess it permeated my consciousness in all its gooey dollops as a part of half-remembered, little understood bits of my childhood. Summer afternoons in Delhi bring back memories of the Labra in all its torpor and viscous laziness. But would I rather be lapping up hot sambhar from my office canteen like I did last year? That was summertime in Bangalore. And I’m bobbing on the waves of my Bangalore memories a year later because I recently met a Piscean who conjured a cocoon which you could only appreciate when you had fever.

The kind of fever that’s homemade. Mother’s recipe.

For me, Fever is a womb. On a quiet Mothers’ Day with my mother on a Sunday afternoon; she falls asleep, and I leave her side and creep into the time machine. Back to my childhood.

99 degrees. The tasteless thermometer that never left my mouth. Cold glass on flesh. The temptation to bite into the luscious silvery tip always falling short of the fear of mercury stealthily trickling into my blood. The pale yellow sunlight that melted on my tepid warm skin and made me fidget with the starched cotton sheets. The ceiling fan that swayed and churned hypnotically. And then the beads of perspiration on my forehead. Ma would come in with the familiar chart and record every rise and fall.

And then followed the three musketeers – Ferrum Phos, Mag Phos and Kali Mur. Amber bottles with blue caps. Pills that came with luke warm water and cries of “Don’t bite!” – in vain, of course.

I was the patient. Sometimes, my grandmother and I would both fall sick at the same time. She had asthma. That meant four pillows against which to prop up and more medicines in glass phials, inserted into an old wooden medicine box with round holes. She sure got a lot of attention because of the asthma. Wheezing. Coughing. I envied her. The power she had. The demands that got fulfilled. I thought she was lucky.

And then one day I got asthma too. Asthma meant. Not speaking. Not much, at least. In one breath.

My fevers had a humming household conversation as the soundtrack, making up for my silences. The food for my fevers was boiled apple pulp. And a Dangerous Michael Jackson urging me to Remember The Time and Keep The Faith. Achievement was defined as rewinding the audio cassettes to the exact point at which I intended them to stop. My fevers were spent reading Anne of Green Gables and Little Women and The Famous Five. Always the tomboy. And yet, not allowed to play outside.

My fevers were about that inner world of emotions and smiles and sensations that tempted me like that bucket of warm water and that perfect pillow that my head sank into. I didn’t have to worry about the location of Delhi or Uttar Pradesh on the map. I didn’t have to worry about the chief exports and imports of Switzerland and not get confused between the Tundra and the Taiga. And in the middle of all that when my house got whitewashed that would mean an excuse for not doing my homework. Linda Goodman might attribute this departure from being a good Capricorn to my flamboyant moon sign, Aries.

I was a teacher, a bus conductor, a pop singer, an astronaut, a queen, a vigilante. I was the expert. I was sought out for interviews. But in reality no one really questioned me. About anything. Because that would mean my talking. And I had a castle. And a password. And walls. Because I wanted to know who cared enough to break them down.

To my mind, it was just escaping the physical boundaries. Taking flight. With Pankaj Udhas as he sings “Chitthi Aayi Hai”. With Nazia Hassan as she croons “Disco Deewaane”. Nursing a humongous crush on Aamir Khan after watching his star-crossed love story, QSQT. Feeling like a rocket after a silly General Knowledge class test where I scored 20 out of 20 and therefore celebrated in my own little way “in Paris”.

You can knock. If I don’t answer, look for a scribble on that wall by the bed. If it looks like an autograph, you’ll know I’ll be away for a while.

1 comment:

  1. It was nice reading about all those childhood memories and fantasies.