"Achoooo ..." his sneeze shook the apartment... and it’s sounded like a thunder.
Kannan smiled after the sneeze and told himself...
"God bless you"...
Being down with a cold or fever was not a common thing for Kannan since the time he left his stressful media career a few years back. Starting to enjoy life to its fullest, Kannan was not deterred by the fever and was enjoying the hot cup of coffee with ginger powder. For night it should be kanji (Rice porridge)... steaming hot, with payar (lentils) and pappad, he planned.
"Have this cup of coffee... its special and your fever will be gone in no time" Amma used to tell him in childhood days handing him the cup of coffee and dried ginger powder sweetened with palm sugar. The taste of the ginger, soothened his throat, the sweetness made it palatable, the coffee gave him the freedom from dullness, but what made it special was the mother's love which was in it. While the little Kannan in bed, had his coffee, Amma used to rub his forehead and ruffle his hair, while checking from time to time whether the fever was down. The touch was more powerful than any medicine in this world. For Kannan household medicines worked much faster than any English medicine available in the market then. Even now Kannan tries all the household tips and tricks to get better or to just remember those glorious childhood days. Though Akka is a doctor, she too loves to try out the so called "Grandma's tips and tricks" the quick fixes for life.
But this time, when fever struck Kannan, he was alone at his apartment and the age old techniques were gone, and replaced with instant ginger coffee powder, which lacked both, the taste and the love. Kannan sipped it and looked outside through his window. The evening sun had just started smiling the farewell for the day, giving the sky a new hue of red. There was a small bird at the window outside the glass looking at him, or he felt so. The other days, he never had the time to pause and look outside to the nature or the colorful skies.
"Is being sick a privilege??" Kannan thought for a while.... and started recollecting the past.
The time when he was on vacation to Thatha's place, the change of climate and food had given him a very bad stomach ache. Thatha had just finished his dinner and heard Kannan cry.
"Awwww... my stomach... its aching"
Thatha looked at the clock... it was well past 11. He was concerned as all the nearby medical shops would have closed for the day. He went into the kitchen, took a steel tumbler, the typical coffee cup for any Brahmin house for the morning filter coffee. Put some kayam (Asafoetida), hing as they call it in the north, in it and mixed it well with water. He ran back
where Kannan was crying.
"Lakshmi" Give this to Kannan, Thatha gave it to Amma "It will cure the pain soon" And as he gave the tumbler to Amma, he would close his eyes and pray. Was it the love or the prayers, but the pain vanished and gifted the small Kannan a good night’s sleep.
There were times Kannan remembered the touch which lessened the pain. When he had an accident and was at the hospital. The tears which dripped from Venki Mama's hands which wet his hands while he remained silent by the bedside. The warm hands of Appa on the forehead, when he would come and check if the fever is down and smile. How comforting a touch can be, only those who enjoyed it will know.
There was a moment in life when Kannan could give that touch of love and care to Appa.... for once. Appa was to be hospitalized for a surgery, a couple of years back. Kannan reached the previous night and Appa was a bit tense with the surgery the next day. He was a person who would never think of taking rest or be concerned about not being well. He would have a wash and set out on his work even he was down with fever. All he wore is a smile, which still remains radiant in Kannan's mind.
The hospital was busy in the morning when they arrived. There were patients going out of the hospital with all the belongings after their discharge. There were people waiting to see the doctor, waiting impatiently. The people waiting for the lift, the nurses in their white sarees, the attendants pushing the stretchers on wheels, doctors running busy with their coat and stethoscopes as garland on the shoulders of the life savers. All that rush was not seen on Kannan's eyes. He just was holding Appa and looking at him as they walked to the room. The room was comfortable, where the admission procedures finished and Doctor came for the check up before the surgery.
"So Gopal... how are we this morning... it will be over in an hour or so... nothing to worry" said Dr. Akbar, the senior surgeon who was doing the procedure. He was about 5 foot 10 and with grey ruffled hair, curly and grey. His specs were on the edge of his nose, which would be praying to God that it does not fall of the ridge of his nose. Carelessly he adjusted the glasses from time to time. He smelt of smoke more than medicines, but everyone entrusted their lives as he was one of the best in town.
Appa silently smiled and said nothing. He was scared deep inside, but would never show it out, or rather should say that he never knew to express his fears or worries. The nurse walked in and gave the scrubs to wear for the surgery. Appa changed to the scrubs and laughed at the funny look as he was being taken to the theatre. He was asked to lie down on the stretcher. As the stretcher started moving, Appa held Kannan's hands tightly, as Kannan used to hold Appa's hands in childhood. There were emotions of assurance and hope being given in those looks and grip of the hands being held. Kannan smiled and told Appa.
"I am here, don't worry ... everything will be alright".
The surgery was over in a couple of anxious hours and he was moved to the post operative room. The Nurse came up to Kannan and said
"You can see him now"
Kannan walked into the sterile post operative room. The room smelt of disinfectants and medicines. He saw the corner bed, where Appa was under the influence of the sedatives, and slowly recovering from the sedation. Kannan walked up to the bed and smiled at him, as he saw the eyes drowsily open a bit. Appa smiled back
"There is a little pain, but I am alright" said Appa in slurred voice.
Kannan held his hand tight "You will be alright soon, just need a few days of rest"
Kannan gently touched Appa's forehead and caressed it with love. He was being a mother to Appa for a moment, who lost his mother when he was just 27 days old. The mother's touch can do wonders, they say. But do they mean only mothers have that touch. May be. But for Kannan, that moment was realizing motherhood. The touch and care he got from Appa and Amma all these years found a vent to give back the same to Appa. The touch can make you feel better for sure. The father and son, got time to exchange the love they had in their hearts for years, but never got a chance to express. The days taught them the magic of touch more than the medicines. For sure...touch is the best medicine, a touch of love, the happy medicine Kannan could give Appa on that day after surgery.
The medicine worked for Kannan in the form of mother's touch, the parting shake hand when Akka was leaving for US, the hugs from the friends after a silly fight which made things alright, the pat on the cheek with love from Thatha, the fond caresses from Ammamma, the touch of his beloved that seemed to melt away everything that worried him, the touch on the head by his teachers and elders as a blessing, the touch of a child with a smile that gives hope, the hi fi's, the touch of a friend on the shoulder telling him, we are with you.. till the last cold touch, which no one has ever felt themselves. The touch... touch of love... touch of care ... remains the best medicine for all ills. But a few medicines are no longer available as Thatha is no more to give the pinch of holy ash clasped between his fingers during his prayers, Amma is far away from Kannan to come and keep her warm hands on the forehead, Akka is in the US, far to come and take care of him.
All through Kannan's childhood, he saw Amma's eyes fill up with tears when he fell ill. He saw the concern in Appa's eyes which turned red when he was tense. He saw the care Akka had when he was in bed. Thatha, Ammamma, uncles, all had a heart which cared for him. Now he was not feeling well and the warmth of the thoughts seemed to give him the coziness he badly needed when the big man curled up under the blanket like a little child in the bed. He would be hale and healthy cured with the thoughts of love for sure.... to see the sun smile again in the skies.