By Sharmini Jayawardena
You wouldn’t believe it but there were times when a fever was treated like the flu 😷 🤒 🤧 and you were treated like special people. By special I don’t mean what it is referred to as lately – mentally incapacitated. Well, that too, we may have been 😀😃😄 Judging from what we’ve turned in to. 😂
Anyway, digressions and all – I decided I needed to share with others the regimen followed by my parents the moment I had a cold or a fever. They went by the premise, “Feed a cold and starve a fever”, and…
I was isolated from the rest of the household, in that, I was locked up in my parent’s room and was forced to lie in there in a well made bed.
The bed was laid, (like), better than in a present day hotel, with flat bed sheet and pillow cases, a blanket under which was a covering sheet that overlapped at the top and all well tucked under with the proper folds and creases.
By my bedside would be a bed side cupboard which was a lovely tiny little cupboard with two doors to it and a nice little table top with a border running on three sides. There, was placed a reading lamp and some books, and in the pocket above the cupboard were placed, the latest issues of the TIME and a dictionary, as I recall.
(Btw, this bedside cupboard also made its way as a prop on to the stage of the Lionel Wendt, the most prominent theatre 🎭 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the time. My father being a member of the Ceylon Amateur Dramatic Club, or the CADC, as it was called, was taking part as Inspector Goole, in the play, An Inspector Calls, What a fabulous play it was. Being a well-made play, it appealed to every nuance of perfection in me that I was actually lead to believe it was real! In other words, I was transported back to the very time and place the play was truly placed in! Unbelievable!)
On top of a longish table closer to the entrance was placed a round tray with all the paraphernalia of a sick room. A bottle of water with a tumbler. Another tumbler holding Condy’s crystals or scientifically, potassium permanganate mixed with water, in which pink water was a thermometer🌡 🤒. A white cloth napkin neatly folded. A sheet of paper 📝 with a pen 🖊 to record the proceedings. It would then be filed in my Personal File!
This chart was utterly interesting 🧐 as it was divided into columns denoting the date, the time at which the fever was taken, beverages given to the patient and how much medicine was given at what time, if I had been to the doctor’s dispensary and medicine was prescribed. Medicine invariably being the Carminative Mixture, which came in a lovely vintage apothecary’s glass bottle topped with a real cork top! 😂
Days would pass and isolation would continue unabated, with absolutely no contact with the rest of the household except for my mother’s arrival into the room at spaced out intervals, which I awaited with much glee. And, of course having my father or thaattha, sleep 😴 💤 🛏 in the bed next to me. If I needed anything I could ring the bell that was connected to an electrically operated network of bells that linked all the rooms in the house with the pantry, which one of the servants would answer.
I loved my mother’s scent. I couldn’t call it smell. Very cosy and comforting. Mother or amma, would tell me some tale of what had transpired during the day and may be read me a page or two from one of those very delightful illustrated books she got us from her college library on the climb to Everest of Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. I also remember Anatole France, which we got from the British Council Library. I loved that story. (We were all members of every library there ever was in Colombo at the time and had our own library cards in our own names. 😄).
Thereafter father would switch on his Echo radio 📻/turntable, and I will have my ears peeled to the music 🎶 🎼 🎵 being Lunch Time Music, played by Radio Ceylon! Absolutely fascinating.
There was a time I thought 💭 the singer or bands were actually performing inside the radio in their miniature form 😀😃😄. That’s me in my complete naïveté 😁.
Only a liquid diet of yummy Sri Lankan orange 🍊 juice or paeni dhodang, the sweet water of the king coconut or rung thambili, aerated waters, marmite and of course milk with Ovaltine, would ensue.
As soon as the fever started to abate, my mother would start me on a diet of toast dunked in a soup of Marmite. I would yearn for some butter 🧈 to be applied on the toast and my mother as kind as she was would relent 😌.
Thereafter, as the fever kept reducing, my diet would keep improving 😊, to heights only I can speak of 😄.
First up a thick slice of boiled mackerel/seer/thora maalu/tingiri fish, in a most delicious white sauce or Béchamel with two pieces of toast all placed in our lovely stainless steel toast rack! Butter in the butter dish. A dessert 🍨 of fruit jelly. Cutlery and napkin to boot.
This would be followed by my favourite: an awesome dinner of crispy and delicious hot hoppers and an egg hopper with a lunumiris and butter and some cheese 🧀, possibly. Whoa 😮 A dessert of caramel custard would follow. Yummm 😋. A real treat!
The next morning’s breakfast would be a soft boiled egg 🥚 with marmalade and toast. Delightful! Talk about breakfast in bed! It would all appear laden with table mat, napkin, cutlery and all on that lovely golden tray we had!
Thereafter I will proceed to have a regular meal of rice and curry as they call rice with other accompaniments. Then, I would be gradually taken back in to normal life once again.
Thinking back, I’m amazed how importantly we treated a fever back then, and how casually it is treated now, with people taking Panadol and continuing to go to school or to work, unimpeded!
I think it is also the many years of not having taken a fever seriously by far too many people, that somehow also leads to an all too common, viral outbreak 😷, these days!
Not forgetting, that the COVID 19 outbreak calls for sanitation and social distancing to be observed in the onset of containing the Virus 🦠🧫.
Maybe, the adults 🧑 of years gone by were not so paranoid after all. I think they were only too right. For, in case a fever lead to a far more virulent chicken pox, measles, mumps, small pox or any other virus, they would’ve been all too ready to combat it. They would rather have nipped it at the bud and stopped it, than risk spreading it to others in the household and at school.
This is why all of us need to take the life habits followed by people of those days, seriously, rethink and re-examine why and how they did what they did. It would behove all of us to do so. Especially, while in the throes of this current Pandemic, it is simply observing social responsibility.
I must state here that we were a healthy household for the most part, with us having the measles just the once and my father having the mumps just once.
My father would also get all of us to wash 🧼 🧽 our hands with soap and water 💦 💧 🚿 from elbow downwards, when ever we returned from having been out and about.
While on our trips outside, us children will not be allowed to touch the hand rests, cubicles, walls or balustrades in public places!
We used to be constantly checked and stopped from putting our fingers in our mouths 👄 and so on.
We were fortunate enough to have had parents who took us to many interesting and wonderful places, sadly unavailable to my friends and cousins, at the time.
Needless to say, my parents were thankfully, such interesting 🧐 🤔 and caring people 💞🤗🤗 who would welcome my wanting to take a friend along on some of our trips, especially to the cinema. They would willing pick them up and drop them back home as well.