Imagine. You are visiting a series of small towns in interiors of districts in a state you are not familiar with. You are far away from home, away from your comfort zone, away from all that is familiar to you. You are staying in perhaps the best place in town, which happens to be a lodge. And then you fall ill. Not cold or cough or fever. Malaria. Panic?
With 3 days left in my rather longish and wearisome trip, I woke up in my room at the lodge (the town’s best – but that does not mean much) with a mild temperature which by evening had turned to full quakes, chills and aches. When Clad in salwar, kameez, jumper, socks, one bedsheet, 2 blankets, I asked V (my young colleague) for another blanket, she panicked and rushed to the lobby for a doctor. Within minutes a doctor arrived who took one look at me and pronounced malaria. He prescribed the medication and then departed, refusing any fees. He was, he said, a friend of the lodge owner. The medicines arrived within a few more minutes.
Over the next one and a half days, till my departure, there was a steady stream of visitors. The lodge owner, the waiters, the house keeping staff, the sweepers, the security guard and even the driver of the lodge's own jeep. None for a gawk. All genuninely concerned.
And Vikas's Chhindwara narangi's were languishing in front me. V asked some one if they could squeeze out the juice for the patient. Sorry, juicer is not working. However a staff did turn up saying, shall I buy one of those manual ones? Only 20/-.Yes, please do, I croaked from beneath the blankets.He returned with a glass full of sparkling orange juice, a sight for my parched lips and throat. And plastic juicer, now washed.
Right upto the time when my car arrived for my trip back to Nagpur (for my flight to Kolkata), everyone kept fussing and clucking over me. And Ingleji, owner of the car rental came up to meet me. Usually, he sends the car over with the driver. "Suna tha ki aap ki tabiyat thik nahin hai. Taab toh aap ko dekhna hi tha"! [heard you were unwell. (so) I had to meet you]
And another 24 hours, I was back in dear old Kolkata and Chez parents, safe and sound and none the worse for my ordeal. Any panicking that was, was entirely by friends and family.
Small towns, I am glad to say, have very big hearts! Thankyou Chhindwara.
And did I mention, V (also a small town girl) kept calling me up at the right times to tell me when to take my next medication.