A few days ago, my mom told me that one of her friends' kids was down with chicken pox, a disease both she and I are all too familiar with. I know that she's had it at some point in her life and I think she may have mentioned the discomfort she faced when she had a boil in her throat which made even swallowing saliva a painful feat. But apart from that, there's very little I know about her experience with the disease except that it rendered her immune when I got it at the age of three, which in turn made taking care of me easier for her. Conveniently, my dad who I believe is still not immune to the disease, had to travel for work for almost the entire duration of my little tryst with chicken pox.
I still vividly remember the day I came down with the pox. In fact, it's scary how much detail I remember. We were in Mumbai (then Bombay) and I woke up very early that morning - at around 6 a.m if I'm not wrong. I could have been woken awake by either the light in the living room and the sound of my parents' banter, or by the discomfort I was already feeling. That could be the reason why I spent some time pointedly staring at a boil on my right arm. It looked like a little bubble filled with water. It wasn't painful in the least and I kept touching it with my left forefinger. I'm looking at the scar it left behind right now as I'm typing this out.
Soon enough, I decided that the little bubble on my arm was boring and got out of bed. My parents were in the living room, drinking their morning cup of coffee. Dad was dressed to leave because, like I said, he was going to be travelling for work. Which is probably why they were up so early in the morning. I spent close to half an hour sitting on my dad's lap before he had to leave for a whole week. That was pretty risky considering how he could have easily been infected. I hear that adults have it way worse, and having to take care of both him and me at the same time would have been a little too much for mom.
It was only after he left that I went up to my mom and showed her this new thing on my arm. It was like the time our puppy Bruce dug out a patch of grass we'd just planted in our garden and brought it to us to play fetch. Behold, Hooman! I bring grass to fetch!
My attitude that morning was mostly like look mom, I have one and you have none. I win.
She was immediately on the phone - at the time I thought she was talking to my dad but I could be wrong - and she was examining my entire body for more boils and telling the person on the other side all my symptoms. It's when she spoke into the phone that I came to know about another boil that had popped up on my back. And another one on my thigh.
She quickly explained to me that I was going to be sick and uncomfortable for a little over a week and that we had to go to the doctor right away. This doctor was a fellow Malayali and I still remember both his name and what he looked like. Because Dr. Vishwanathan was the one who constantly tricked me into looking at the shiny things on his wall as he jabbed injections into my tiny little bum. That man always made me cry.
So as we were hailing a taxi to get to his clinic, I remember asking my mom if he was going to jab an injection into one of my "chicken poxes" because I was pretty sure that bursting that water bubble wouldn't be pleasant.
What followed were days after days of Caladryl applications, medication, baths with neem leaves, hours watching cartoon network, and a few sessions with a woman who was literally worshipping me. Oh yeah, that happened.
This is the part where my memory took a back seat and my mother's account left me flabbergasted. I'm guessing my brain completely blocked out that memory. My mom told me the day I heard about her friend's daughter's chicken pox that our maid at the time when I got chicken pox was also a South Indian woman but from another state. So she spoke another language and basically belonged to a completely different culture. And in her culture, they strongly believed that the onset of chicken pox especially in children was a clear indication of the child being possessed by the Goddess Amman.
I don't know much about this myth and why it's considered a good thing when a child falls sick for so many days, but I hear that at the time, it was not uncommon for parents to take their perfectly healthy kids to visit a chicken pox infested child in the hopes of getting their own children infected. Furthermore, these children were often worshiped because isn't that what you do when your favourite God/Goddess decides to hang out in your child's body?
I'm pretty sure my mom strictly disagreed to having another healthy child being brought to our home in order to catch my germs but at the same time, she may have turned a blind eye to a full grown woman standing next to my bed with folded hands, feeling #blessed.
I guess it's cute to tell little sick children that they are actually special and even holy. Who knows, there might even be a placebo effect to it. But this was more than twenty years ago so I'm pretty sure we Indians aren't as superstitious anymore.
Like I'm pretty sure that the 10-year-old girl I became friends with at a summer camp no longer wants to be the mother of the reincarnation of a famous God-man in India. One who claimed to be a reincarnation of another God-man and predicted his own rebirth on some specific date in the near future.
You're never going to guess which one I'm talking about because we have way too many. Also, I don't know how they do it. Because here I am with a brain that is capable of remembering all kinds of things from my childhood, and still blocking out memories of my days spent as a God-child. And the best part? The "devotees" of one God-man always like to crap on those of the others. After all, there can only be one true God-man and those who worship the others are clearly stupid for believing that a fellow human being can pose as God. Pfft!
But it's been around 15 years since my encounter with that little girl too. So I'm pretty sure that now, we're not as superstitious. Pretty sure.