Oct 13, 2011

The Cold and the Cow

I woke up this morning to a drizzle and a dull sky. 8:00 am looked like 6.00 pm. Even for Bangalore standards, this was pretty unusual. At least, unusual from what I’ve seen in the past 6 months.

Although this weather is romantic and beautiful, I would never disagree with that, it makes me feel like I’m slowly dying. I love staring at the rain through my window, but unfortunately, my body feels otherwise. More specifically, my lungs and the entire area around my nose start to have their own responses to the weather. As I slowly breathe in and savor the smells of the rain, my nostrils insist on filling up completely, blocking themselves out from the rest of the world, until all I can do is breathe through my mouth.

Yes, this has been the story of my life. Constant sneezes, one nostril blocked (rather, paralyzed with fear of God knows what), the other running away (to God knows where), and terrible colds, have been my constant companions, since before I even learned the meaning of the word companion.

So this morning, as you can now imagine, I woke up with a terrible nose condition that perfectly matched the weather conditions outside. My nose was raining snot and I also couldn’t breathe. (Ah, I paint quite the picture, don’t I?) This has been a regular feature since I’ve come to this blessed city. Only today, I couldn’t take it anymore.

I’ve seen worse days. Sometimes I muddle through, sometimes I rest and let M take care of me. Today was a muddling-through day. I did my chores the best I could, had my hot bath and sat down in a corner. I still couldn’t breathe. The traffic jam of sorts just wouldn’t let up. And my spirits were totally let down.

I’ve always been a rather hopeful sort of person. I’m hopeful that someday things will get better. That all the things I’ve tried and will try will find me a way out of this. And they have, actually. I’m a lot better than I used to be. It’s just the rains that make everything worse. And in this city, it rains all the time. Even in the summer.

It’s funny how it’s always true with the saying about the green grass and the other side. In Hyderabad, where I lived for around 10 years, a day such as this would be considered beautiful. A cloudy, cool day with the sun away on his sick-leave is a wonderful event; it inspires some great ideas such as bunking (college/office) and going out on a drive. In Bangalore, however, I find myself parched for a bit of sun. I lounge about my balcony waiting for that little strip of sunlight to find its way onto the tiles. When it shows up, I cram my feet on to it and look up eagerly at the sun, like a little girl waiting for her candy. Around here, a warm sunny day is a good day. At least, for me it is.

So coming back to today, in my little corner, I found my hope slipping away. What I was feeling instead, was defeat. Total and utter defeat. Against the constant war I wage against my body, forcing it to function day in and day out. Today I felt like letting go.

I tried meditation. The feelings stayed away and I was empty for a while. Just like the sea shore when the waves begin to wane. I held the tide of my feelings back too long I suppose, for when I opened my eyes, they came gushing in, stronger than before. Heck, even meditation wasn’t working.

Today, for the first time, I contemplated what it would be like if I never got better. If this silly, horrible ailment stayed with me for the rest of my life. If it prevented me from doing all the things I was hoping to do, when it went away. Like trek without gasping. Learning to swim without my ears hurting. Cooking without the smell of smoking oil making me sneeze a couple of dozen times.  I did not like these thoughts.

I wondered if it was worth living this way anymore. I wondered, if life was ever going to be more interesting than sitting in a corner, trying to breathe. I looked at M. I wondered who he was. I looked at myself, like from above. I wondered who I was, this piece of life, struggling, hanging on, struggling some more. It all seemed so pointless, so hopeless.

The tears came eventually. There had to be some sort of release. M did not say a word. He came and held me close.

Later today, the sun made its appearance and I went out for a short stroll. I stopped at a kirana store. I picked out something, but they didn’t have change and neither did I. As I turned to walk away, I saw that a cow had made its way to the rice grains. The shop owner promptly shooed at her. She began to walk, quite gracefully. The cow and I were now walking alongside each other. It was all I could do not to look at her.

She was huge and brown, with white spots. Her tail swished the flies away as she meandered along. After a while, I suspect the cow noticed me. She momentarily stopped, her head turned slightly and I almost felt her gentle eyes upon me. I tensed a little, stopped in my tracks, unsure of what to do. We were at a turning.

What happened next was one of the sweetest things I have ever witnessed. A homeless man who lives in that corner of the street, jumped up excitedly. He extended his arm towards the cow, a small banana in his hand. The cow accepted it quite naturally. As she ate, the man prostrated before her, stroked her nose and prayed to her for quite some time.

To me, the sight was both amusing and deeply touching. To think that just a couple of days ago, when I extended a 10 rupee note to the same thin, starving old man, he jumped up excitedly to receive it. That he showed the same joy in giving as in receiving was beautiful to witness. My downtrodden spirits lifted instantly.

He sat in a corner too. Perhaps he couldn’t breathe on cold nights, just like me. I could learn a thing or two from this man. Perhaps, there are things far more interesting and joyful to do in life, than a trek or a swim.


  1. gud one sumi!!!!!!

    Still remember the fun that we used to have in Dell when u used to sneeze and we all used to bet when would the next one be :)

  2. Very well written..
    I battled asthma for 12 years of my life. I know exactly how it feels to have a constantly blocked nose and breathlessness.
    My prayers with you, that you get well soon.

  3. @Nik: Thanks. Haha, yeah I remember. It was even funnier when I lost my voice once and I was literally croaking on the calls.
    @Spiff: Thank you! And thanks for the prayers too, I do hope this yucky problem will go away forever someday.

  4. I know the feeling really well of having cough and cold..This is my take on it:
    jst stumbled upon ur blog and luv'd it so much that am following it nw..Hope someday u too will return the favour and as well comment on my posts..

  5. Life around us is always interesting (if we have the time to stop and appreciate it)

  6. Nice narration Sumitra :) I was a patient of chronic bronchitis until I went to college. I understand your state. However, when throws a thousand reasons at us to cry over, we have to throw a thousand reasons at life that we can laugh about. Hai na? :) Good realisation! keep up the good spirit!

  7. @Prateek: Thank you for stopping by! Glad to have you reading my posts. Will read your blog soon. :)

    @Haddock: Yep, rightly said!

    @Keirthana: Thanks a lot! People keep telling me they were suffering from such conditions in the past but they don't anymore. I wonder how you guys got rid of them!

  8. Hey Sumitra, What I had was a problem of immunity to cold-natured food intake. Like my parents never let me have food like curd, Grapes. So, any time I eat such food, I suffer like anything. So, I dared to eat such food, even when I had wheezing for a few months and my immunity got better and hence I got over it.

    Since, I do not know what kind your health issue is, I suggest Yoga(breathing exercises). My relatives have found relief and cure by doing breathing exercises regularly.

    Hope it helps! :)

  9. My nose has been a problem all my life sumitra :( I hope you battle it well and come out as a winner. That nauseous feeling just plans to rob you off all your breath. I've been there.