Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I love Papayas

At the outset, let me clear any misconceptions that might arise from the title of this article. Its not a metaphor for anything else, I genuinely love papayas with a fervor that is quite unmatched. It seems to me like a perfect example of how some of our best relationships are forged in times of great distress and suffering. I will not push you all any further and move on with the saga behind “Papayomania”.

Circa 2000,
Board exams drawing perilously close and I still seem to be in a state of madness and detachment, which was characteristic of me all through school life. Dad even came to school and had a “word” with my teachers and they all calmed him saying that I was a good student but I was just not paying enough attention to my studies (the ultimate paradox of my life!!). That evening dad and me had one of our famous chats (what normally happens is that he talks and I listen!!) Anyway, having sailed through all that with my conscience unscathed (I had a skin of raw hide and nothing really made a difference) it was time to hit the books because it was dawning on me that maybe I was just pushing things too far. Mom, dad and sister left for a marriage in January to Bombay and I stayed back because of the IIT-JEE screening. Don’t have much to talk about the screening except for the fact that I got screened and so we will just move on. If you are wondering where the papaya is in all this- just hang on we are almost there.

They came back in a week and my sister had contracted chicken pox. It was a mild form of chicken pox. But all of a sudden, during that period, my empathy towards my sister grew manifold and I spent most of my time in the room in which she was quarantined. Lo and behold a few days later I noticed a growth on the back of my neck. Thinking of it as just a boil I decided to forget it. But for the first time my nonchalance proved disastrous. I had a raging fever the next morning and my face was pockmarked. I was devastated. I was a month away from my boards and had my practical exams coming up. I felt my face and could feel the genesis of a number of lesions that were going to lord over my being for the next 2 weeks. I cursed myself for having been so foolish and vowed that next time I will listen to mum (don’t ask me what happened to the vow…) Grandma was in town and she immediately took over the entire operation coded- “OPERATION SARAANSH, THE CHICKEN” (or something to that effect!!) I had neem all around my bed because it was supposed to be therapeutic.

Then came the decision about my menu and after countless sessions of brainstorming and committee hearings it was decided that I should be fed something that cools my body down so that the lesions would dry up quickly. So they decided I would be fed lots of papayas. It was never a fruit I enjoyed eating before that. But then all my fundamental rights to protest had been annulled because of the declaration of emergency by grandmum. So night and day, papaya became my companion in this ordeal. It was with me while doing those integration problems and it was also there when I was trying my hardest to make salicylic acid on paper (chemistry for the uninitiated!!), it accompanied me when I was trying to figure out which way the current flowed and it was also with me when I was stuck with all my “inheritances”.

I had stopped shaving and was beginning to resemble some of our ancestors of the simian variety (crudely put- I was beginning to look ape-like). I was also made to stop bathing and I will not go into any description pertaining to the aromaticity of my surroundings lest you feel nauseated and throw up on your monitors. And so it was papayas in the morning, afternoon, evening and night. I lost track of time. It was like I was perennially eating papayas. My lesions grew and flourished and one day I scratched one of them and it burst, oozing out thick yellowish pus and aggravated the lesion even more. Now I was at a stage where to find a part of my body without lesions was becoming difficult (and don’t let your imagination run away with that statement!!)

Through all this, the papayas stuck by me. Those luscious, deep red fruits were my sustainer. I slowly but steadily started recovering and then one day after 2 weeks, I took a shave and a shower and realized that I was actually human. However my scalp was badly affected and I almost shaved my head off at the barber’s. What a sight I was!!! But through all that I realized that those who stick by you during your worst are the ones you really should cherish and treasure. So here’s to the papaya- the bunker buster of operation- “SARAANSH, THE CHICKEN”.


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