When the rains first came to Bangalore, I rejoiced. No, it wasn’t anything to do with the receding ground water level in the city or the resultant water scarcity which caused this elation, not at all. It was because I was going to get a cold again. After all, it had been almost 4 months since I had my last attack of cold. I was getting scared that I had almost gotten healthy, but when the rains came, the cold can’t be too far behind. In fact, I had my first big sneeze before the mungaaru mazhe finished and I immediately rang my wife up in her office to give her the good news.
Since the time I can remember, I’ve suffered from cold. To cold’s credit, it has never been a dominating presence in my life; it was more like Sankarady in Malayalam movies – a meaty side role who would mostly have about 15-20 mins of total screen. I remember having to down various cough syrups – some tasty, mostly yucky – along with the occasional tablet to improve my situation. The tablets had to be crushed and mixed with honey since I didn’t know how to swallow a tablet till I was about 10 years of age. No amount of honey could keep away the terrible taste of a tablet. They didn’t do much good for relieving my cold, but I developed a lifelong hatred towards honey. When I successfully swallowed my first tablet, I felt so ecstatic that I didn’t get a cold for another 6 months straight! Needless to say, I’d forgotten the right technique and had a couple of tablets losing their way at the back of my throat before finding the right way down my esophagus.
As I grew up, I decided to change tactics. Since the attack from inside against cold wasn’t working, I decided to attack it from the outside. This led to switching of weapons from cough syrups and tablets to balms. Amrutanjan was my first choice because I liked its color but realized it burned my skin. Vicks was the preferred balm in my house, so I then turned to it. It was at this time that a cousin of mine took to Zandu Balm. He was enamored by it that one could see him taking the bottle out and applying it throughout the day. His love of it prompted me to switch allegiance yet again and try Zandu, but even it wasn’t successful in keeping cold at bay. As for my cousin, he had taken to applying the balm inside his eyes to get some relief before he visited a doctor who first threw the bottle of Zandu Balm out and then threw him out. My cousin got the message and never ever applied a balm.
During my pre-graduation days, I developed a fad for chewing pepper to ease out the itchy throat during cold. Pepper is supposed to have medicinal values, but I came to know that curing cold wasn’t one of them. Before I learnt it, though, I did spread around the powers of pepper to my classmates, and I won’t be surprised if we still see some people in their mid-thirties going around with pepper in their pockets which they pop into mouth every now and then.
Crossing over to the legal age limit for drinking helped me discover yet another medicine for cold – pepper rasam and brandy. Having hot pepper rasam with brandy only helped in my nose running a bit more freely but I sure enjoyed this medicine the most. In fact, there were times when I waited for cold to come so that I could take the medicine. Later on, I started taking the medicine even when the cold wasn’t there, but that’s another story.
After being wary of cold for a long while, I finally began to accept these periodic visits from cold. Just as I was beginning to accept it, cold started bringing a companion along – asthma. Very soon, my cold attacks would worsen to such an extent that I would have terrible wheezing attacks. All the harmless fun thus far started getting quite serious. I continued to dilly-dally on what needs to be done, but finally decided to visit a doctor. He diagnosed that I had allergy to dust (which you can’t avoid in Bangalore) and that was the primary cause of the wheezing. He prescribed 3 inhalers – 2 nasal and 1 oral – which I religiously took for about an year before I was reasonably well cured from these attacks. Cold too realized that I didn’t particularly like its companion, so it once again started making the visits all alone.
Nowadays, I and cold have reconciled to the fact that we can’t live away from each other for too long. There is something about constant sneezing, runny nose, teary eyes, difficulty breathing due to blocked nasal passages which is quite intimate that neither of us can stay away from each other for too long. I’ve thrown away all tablets, cough syrups, balms, pepper, and inhalers (though I have retained the brandy and branched out to various other alcoholic drinks as well) and have decided to start a new chapter of love and understanding with cold. We’ve lived peacefully for the last 3-4 years, and it looks like we have finally managed to accept each other as we are and move forward in life.