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Vol. XXXIV No. 1, April 16-30, 2024

Short ‘N’ Snappy

– Wo(MMM)


The Woman from Madras Musings was receiving a package when she noticed the watchman peering suspiciously at the exchange. He lost no time in shooing away the delivery personnel after the transaction and stomped up to (Wo)MMM’s house with a rather stern, determined look on his face. He remarked that the bag seemed to be full of mangoes, which (Wo)MMM readily admitted to, adding that the fruit was a favourite. After a pause, the watchman begged her not to distribute the fruits in the apartment, especially to a certain household livingupstairs. (Wo)MMM was lost. It was a so very unexpected request and stranger still, a close look revealed tears shining in the gentleman’s eye as he urged restraint.

It transpired that the household in question had already eaten a ‘sackful’ of mangoes the previous week, throwing their digestive health into disarray. The watchman had been charged with taking care of their needs whilst incapacitated and the tasks, he said emotionally, voice quivering, were enough to make a man throw in his hat. Apart from other things, he had found himself obliged to procure them pakodas and paysam to eat alongside dishes like chicken 65 and biriyani. He wouldn’t have minded doing these things under normal circumstances, he explained, except that he found their convalescent diet unbearably atrocious. If he was asked to buy one more plate of egg bajji, he declared, he would not be able to rein in his tongue. The announcement done, he prepared to move away and then paused. Could (Wo)MMM spare a mango for him, perhaps? (Wo)MMM said she could spare three. He looked rather pleased as he left, furtively hiding the fruits in his upper cloth.

(Wo)MMM was concerned about her neighbours of course and rang them up to see if she could offer any help. They were fine, they said. The TV kept them occupied and they had made ample arrangements for food delivery. (Wo)MMM offered to send them home-cooked meals until they recovered over the next couple of days, but they turned down the offer. They were grateful, but could she perhaps get them a box of mysore pak and a packet of chips? (Wo)MMM sent them some tender coconut water instead, insisting that it was healthier. She wondered if the gesture was not perhaps heavy-handed, and was relieved when word arrived that they had liked it indeed.

Doc Talk

The Woman from Madras Musings wonders if you’ve noticed the strange fondness among fathers – heads of households, she means – to establish themselves as medical savants. Cough or sniff in their presence and you will be assaulted by a barrage of questions. Is it a persistent cough? Accompanied by a headache or fever? Is the appetite normal? Does the throat ache? What about pink spots – are there pink spots anywhere on the person? The interrogation often veers into acutely uncomfortable areas, and it never seems to cross their minds that some subjects are best left unaired in public. All the while, the interrogator listens keenly with a thoroughly unnerving glint in the eye. One knows what the next step will be – a prescription of antacids and antihistamines which is usually forgotten as soon as the conversation comes to an end.

Sometimes though, this scene plays out at clinics and hospitals, which can be mildly embarrassing as you may imagine. Recently, a nurse had to pay a home visit to consult on a sprain or potential fracture; she barely managed to get a word in edgeways. The patient had hardly opened her mouth to speak when the household ‘doc’ jumped in with a particularly detailed explanation of how the accident took place, highlighting the portions where he had sprung into action to mitigate the crisis. The patient had landed on the arm, he said, and it was he who insisted that she slowly roll over onto the back to avoid putting further weight on the limb; he had then helped her up to her feet and placed her gently on the bed and brought her a glass of water. He told the nurse that it was his expert belief that it was a fracture and that though the patient claimed the forearm to pain, the problem lay somewhere above the elbow. The nurse listened to the whole thing for a full five minutes.

So, she said, you kept on talking during the incident as you are doing now? The patient affirmed he had, whereupon the nurse broke into a grin, remarking that she supposed it to be as good a distraction from the pain as any. She finished the check-up she had come to do and left, giving the ‘doc’ an extra firm handshake.

When the results came in, the reactions were mixed. The ‘doc’ was spot on. Subsequent scans had discovered a hairline crack above the elbow – it was this pain that was ‘radiating’ through the forearm. There was general relief all around that it was just a hairline fracture, though it came along with a realization that there’s no stopping the doc anymore. His expertise had been proven, so to speak; there would be no more escaping spontaneous diagnoses and prescriptions, not to mention the enthusiastic lectures that normally accompany them. Oh, well. (Wo)MMM supposes that a doctor in the family can’t hurt, amateur though he may be.

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