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Sydney, Australia
My musings and meanderings on childhood - mine juxtaposed with that of my kids'. Everyday incidents and images from our life in Sydney turn my thoughts towards my own wonder years growing up in Bandra, Bombay, India.

23 August 2008

What's Up, Doc?

The ABC family (Alison, Breslyn, Caitlyn) was down with the ‘flu all of last month. Finally had to take Caitlyn to our local GP and, while we were there, I couldn’t help but think of what it was like when we fell ill as kids…

The first course of action to beat the any ailment was Home Remedies: cold compresses of chilled water mixed with your nana’s eau de cologne (for some reason, it was pronounced “yew” de cologne by Bombayites) to bring down a temperature, a paste of turmeric for all cuts and bruises, honey and brandy or salt water gargles for sore throats, and who can forget the peculiar smell of neem leaves in your bath water for chicken pox?

But when the natural cure-alls proved ineffective, a trip to doctor was the only recourse.

Enter the Waiting Room and a heaving, sneezing, sighing mass of germ-riddled patients awaited their turn – little girls with gaping wounds, shivering babes in arms, teenage boys with arms in slings or legs in white plaster casts (and sometimes both!), pregnant women, and even a sprinkle of hypochondriacs… So your dad would take a number and bring you back in an hour or two (in proportion to how long the queue was). It was not unusual for the poor doc to be toiling till 10pm if an outbreak of the ‘flu was doing the rounds.

Finally, the receptionist called your number; you held onto mummy’s hand and squeaked after her, “Good evening, Doctor.” Lifted up onto his examining table, you’d feel the cold stethoscope over your chest and back as doc listened to your heart and lungs while he intoned, “Breathe in… breathe out… Cough…” Next, he made you say ‘ahhhhh’ as the tongue depressor went down your throat and your tonsils were checked. Ears were examined, mum was asked a few pertinent questions and a diagnosis was made.

The prescription, scribbled on a chitti, was passed onto the Compounder who was tucked away in his cubicle. Now said Compounder had probably never been to college, let alone held a degree in Pharmacy, but he got top marks for deciphering the doc’s scrawl. If you were too little to swallow those big, nasty pills, he’d crush and mix various tablets in his ceramic mortar and pestle and put each dose into tiny squares of paper. Since medicines in liquid form were far easier to swallow, (a spoon full of sugar really did make the medicine go down!) he filled your mixture into amber-coloured bottles with the white strip down the side dictating the dosage.

After your parents paid the bill, back home you went to rest and recover. Just visiting the doctor was a panacea in itself.

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