March 9, 2007


James Baer - New Delhi, India

Anyone can feel justified in leaving behind them a blank page in their diary if they were sick on the day in question. So at one level I shouldn't feel bad that I can report little or nothing about March 9. The day passed in a subdued and uncomfortable haze. I was suffering from nothing more than a cold, but it was a doozy. At the beginning of the week, the weather in Delhi, where I live, suddenly warmed up, and God knows how many microbes must have swarmed to life with the rise in temperature. Local people say the weather changes infallibly with the principal fall and spring festivals of Diwali (in October) and Holi (March 3 this year), and in fact that is exactly what happened, whether by divine design or coincidence I don't know. At any rate, upon waking up on Tuesday I felt the slight scratch in my throat that always signals to me that a cold is beginning, but it was Thursday before it really developed.  

It was not good timing: Though I only had to cancel a couple of things I had planned - one social and one business meeting with friends - I had my eye on my departure to the UK the following Monday to visit my parents. Even if I wasn't contagious by then, I'd still have the misery of flying when you are totally bunged up. On top of that, I didn't relish arriving at my parents' and being greeted with a reproachful (if not accusatory) "Do you have a cold?" My mother has never quite disentangled her concept of epidemiology from concerns about moral laxity, at least as far as the common cold is concerned. When my siblings and I were young, it was strongly implied that colds were caused variously by going to bed too late, not eating our greens, or not sitting up straight at the dinner table.

While I don't look on colds as a symptom of waywardness, I do attach some moral opprobrium to cold sufferers who continue to go to work and socialize as if they were not in fact infectious carriers of a non-lethal but fairly debilitating illness. Go ahead, spread the joy around a bit. I'm no hypochondriac, but what is it about us and our culture that makes people whose job affords them sick days (not everyone's does, I know) feel they should struggle on when they feel like crap, with an almost 100% probability that at least one other person will fall sick because of them? Is that responsible? And will you please tell me that I'm not the only person who gets this crabby and judgmental when I'm sick (or thinking back on being sick)?

In any event, I was feeling a lot better by Monday, when I got onto the direct flight from Delhi to Heathrow and settled in to choose from among the 15 Hollywood and 50 (no kidding!) Indian movies on offer on my personal screen. What should it be, the recent James Bond, or something by Satyajit Ray?   But by then it was already March 12 - which is another story.


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