“Why don’t you take antibiotics for this hacking cough? How long are you going to suffer like this?” My cousin sounded accusatory on the phone. When my cough showed no signs of abating, my friends and relatives couldn’t understand why I was dragging my feet about going to the doctor. “Why don’t you try alternative medicine?” My friends rattled off names of homeopaths and ayurvedic practitioners in the neighborhood. However, I was determined to wait it out hoping that the salt water gargling and steam inhalation would work. It only got worse and my body felt battered from the sheer exhaustion of staying up nights coughing. Finally, I could take it no more and made an appointment with our family doctor. My friend who strongly believed in Ayurveda was disappointed. “This is the time for a holistic approach” he insisted. “But my doctor is one of the city’s finest. He’s even got a testimonial from my husband’s aunt who’s not easy to please!” I was equally adamant.
A few years ago when my husband’s aunt was visiting, she suddenly came down with a high fever. Despite her loud protests, we dragged her to our family physician. Stoutly denying that there was anything even wrong with her, she gave our doctor a baleful look during the entire examination and kept muttering under her breath in her native tongue, Tamil. In her eyes, my husband and I were worrywarts and the doctor was up to no good as he was poking and prodding her with his gadgets. Nevertheless, when she was given a clean chit and some basic medication for the flu, there was a miraculous change in her attitude. “Nalla doctor”, she declared loudly and gave him a beaming smile of maternal approval. When we translated for the doctor’s benefit, he was delighted and asked, “Can I have this in writing please?” Aunt was back to normal in a day and became the biggest booster for our family doctor’s expertise.
As I was going out the door that evening to get to the clinic, the phone rang. It was my uncle. “Why don’t I accompany you to the doctor? Then I could casually ask him about my diabetes”. The word “casually” in my uncle’s view meant a monologue of his entire medical history; the path traversed with different doctors in different cities and continents, and placing of neatly documented files in front of the unsuspecting medic for careful perusal. Knowing the futility of trying to dissuade him, I responded with a paroxysm of coughing. Out of sheer pity, I suspect, my uncle let me off the hook as I raced to keep my appointment with the nalla doctor!