Doing nothing is hard work

Samarjit Kambam *

Every year, during the transition phase from summer to winter season via autumn, I suffer from fever and half migraine. It’s the time of the year when my immune system gets a beating and it has been going on since my childhood days. It has become sort of an endless love affair between the changing season’s microbes and my body especially during September to October of each year and so I have got acquainted with it as it has become a part and parcel of my life.

During my childhood days or more appropriately kid-hood days when I was in early high school I used to feign suffering from fever or other illnesses such as diarrhoea, dysentery, pneumonia or the flu regardless of the season just as an excuse to skip school. Whenever the clock struck 9 am, the time when school starts, I would forget to feign illness and jump out of bed like a bird fleeing from its cage. In our local language we used to nomenclate such a kind of virtual illness as “Thoibi Leina”.

Me and a group of my friends used to suffer from Thoibi Leina very often. The symptoms usually range from normal blood pressure to normal body temperature to getting hungry very often, enhanced stamina, glossy lips and healthy looking pinkish skin alongwith an urge to run wild and play hide and seek or other games.

So far, there is no medicine or cure for this kind of illness. Any doctor would prescribe a one-metre or longer stout cane as the only medicine and ten to twenty thrashes per day at the buttock or legs as the preferred dose before or after food to be administered only by our parents or an elder.

The irony was that whenever I climbed down from bed my mother would order me to jump on the bed again and stay warm by wrapping a thick blanket in the peak of summer’s daytime. Then she would prepare some kinda syrup made of herbal ingredients which tasted like hell but I had no option rather than to gulp it down with a contorted, twisted looking face in consortium with a flinching and fidgeting body.

I was given loafs of bread with milk-less tea and boiled water containing a pinch of salt. Like toothpaste is synonymous with Colgate, detergents with Surf, Roscillin was synonymous with anti-biotic whatever the kind may be and Polybion was synonymous with vitamin regardless of its content be it B-complex, C, D E….. Z, whatever, during those times.

Before going to bed my mum would administer me the antibiotic. I pretended to throw it inside my mouth which in reality was swirled right under the bed but I drank the vitamin. That only made me more hungry and my stomach grumbled for food throughout the night. I would tip-toe all my way towards the kitchen and search for leftovers and to my dismay I would find only empty cooking vessels.

If I were lucky enough I might come across a half empty or half-full tin-can of Milkmaid liquid which I guzzled up till it became a trash. Having had enough I tried to go to school the next morning but my mother was really concerned and told me that I had to finish the course of medicine at least for three days. That means two more days to go.

Going for bread and red tea for another two days? Simply thinking about it was sort of daymare to me. Another ironic thing was that, even though it was pure co-incidence, whenever I suffered from Thoibi Leina, one of our relatives or uncle would bring a local live cock-a-doodle-do or a live plum duck.

I would watch it getting dressed till it became naked, being cut into nice pieces and the needful being done on a thick cooking pane. I would go crazy at the mouth watering aroma, but my mum insisted me not to consume oil containing foods and meat. Me and my self-made luck. “What a misery, pity me” I thought.

As I reached the peak of my youth-hood, feigning illness became history and I went to college everyday. I was a science student. But the actual picture was that I hardly knew which was my classroom as me and some of my ‘Holier than Thou’ college dudes attended classes by sitting on the grassy lawn of the college campus like cattle grazing in a green field.

Our favourite subject was time-pass, talking about the latest hits that climbed the chart, fashion trend, attire and grooming, collectively dreaming about owning a Harley-Davidson bike for each one of us, going to the movie, singing songs together, idol worshipping – Kurt Cobain was our favourite idol who inculcated in us a ‘Nevermind’ attitude making us always feel like teen spirit.

Over and above being self-styled debonair breed we dudes enjoyed excoriating and pick holding other students of the college. Finding other’s faults and involving ourselves into unnecessary tussles and altercations to get other’s attention was our area of expertise and of course going inside the wet canteen at least four times a day and stealthily following every pretty girls whoever crossed in front of us till we reach the gates of their very homes without saying anything, unnoticed, unacknowledged – a kind of approach which was like searching for hot ice-cream on a chilly winter day, in fact, a pyrrhic victory.

Whatever, college life was never boring. We always looked forward to more adventures or more appropriately mis-adventures and exciting moments. We even wanted to go to college on Sundays. We cronies known by others as “The Unholy Alliance” had the filthy mindset that we ruled the college, that the college was our home turf, that we were impeccable and others were incorrigible. Our ego-centric group was avoided like some allergic simians by serious bookworms wearing thick cylindrical glasses as much as we avoided them like bubonic plague.

We set records in receiving lotta warnings from the college authority for skirmishes and inter-group clashes, disturbing others and creating big unpleasant scenes, unwanted issues out of nothing thereby spoiling the peaceful ambience of the college. There was not enough space for our roll numbers whenever term-exam results were declared and pasted on the notice board. Nevertheless we didn’t care a damn and led a carefree life.

The result? “You reap as you sow”. Many of those bookworms whom we considered as nonentities have become IAS, MCS and MPS officers whereas we have become non-entities. Only two from amongst us dudes cleared their way – one to become an MCS officer and the other a software engineer working at Intel Corps, presently residing in San Fransisco, California. During those college days, we did not know what hard-work was for we never studied nor did we do any manual work at home in the name of studying.

During those yonder days whenever I suffer from that punctual yearly routine of fever, my friends would come to keep me company bringing alongwith them easily digestible eatables, health supplements, fruit and energy drinks. To pacify my suffering they would make jokes and the time zoomed by easing me of my sufferings. One would play the guitar, one of them would be the vocal and one as a drummer with the table by my bedside as multi-pronged set of drums and sang songs I liked. People would have taken it as some kind of weird noise instead of songs. Even though it was cacophony of the infidels, we enjoyed every moment of it. The fun, frolic and laughter dissipated my illness.

With the passage of time, each one of us went our separate ways, have families and get caught at the crossroads of responsibility which is the law of nature. This year, in the beginning of October, as usual I was struck by alarm bell of my body’s immune mechanism bio-clock reminding me the time for impending fever. Like every preceding year, there was no escaping. I suffered from fever and spent three days like a hibernating crocodile. I had no other option than to take three days’ leave from work. I had to lie on bed the whole day as I was completely drained of my energy.

I took my medications consisting of antibiotic, analgesic, vitamins, appetizers and digestive enzymes. I consumed malted energy supplements and drank lots of ORS. But I still found myself in a dilemma with no strength, no appetite and no sleep. I felt like a plank of wood. Whatever I ate tasted bland and insipid. I felt like lumps inside my belly were trying to kick out the food making me to throw up. My back ached for lying on the bed for hours.

To kill the time I tried to carry out other vocations such as reading some journals or novels but all the words looked blurred. I tried listening to music but even the most beautiful songs sounded like explosives. I watched TV but the pictures looked hazy, I tried playing virtual games but I hadn’t got an iota of interest or enthusiasm to, I tried writing but nothing came out of my head as if my head was filled with vacuum, I tried walking slowly but the world swirled around me. There was no other choice than to remain lying on my bed.

Oh! How miserable I felt, like a vegetable, not being able to do anything. The second day also I remained bed-ridden, doing nothing which to me was really torturous. Only on the third day did I get better and regained some of my lost strength. I thought I’d rather run a hundred miles, climb a hundred mountains, clean the toilet or wipe the floor of the rooms till they sparkle or carry a hundred pails of water than to remain static and lying on the bed like that. To me, doing nothing is hard work.

* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 10, 2016.

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