Pandemic Tales: The Diary of a Hypochondriac

 By Mayuresh V. Belsare

Everyone we know has been fighting in their own ways in these uncertain times. My own conflicts have spanned from being highly emotional to confused and anxious. A lot of it would have remained buried in the pages of my diary had it not been for this urge to share my personal experiences from the COVID timelines. Here’s a peek into my personal journey from such times that I hope will entertain you no less, provided you believe in divine intervention.

In the past few weeks and months, we have understood the importance of focusing only on the meaningful aspects of our day to day life. I have always believed that in mitigating hurdles of existence, the universe comes to your rescue in the form of divine intervention. My everyday travel companion and faculty colleague, Apurva Bhilare, cackled unapologetically with unbridled joy upon hearing this. She agreed with me when I explained that I have coined this phrase to describe how much relaxed one feels to be unexpectedly relieved of some mundane, tedious and boring tasks, which if not done wouldn’t have made significant impact on many lives. At this, she too wished such divine interventions would come to her rescue as she planned to take leave and get married by the year end.

This divine intervention has helped us all to take a pause and take a relook at our lives. In my case the first six months proved to be peaceful. However, in the month of September, I got my first jolt. My wife had contracted an infection from the Corona virus. She resides in Mumbai and it was difficult for me to be by her side as I am based out of Pune.  Some did try to urge me to her side saying work should not be a hindrance in fulfilling my duties towards my family. Staying true to my nature and relying upon my wisdom, I did eventually ignore their conventional advice. But it got me thinking — am I slave to work or love? Or is my work my love? Turns out I am as ruthless as this system that compels an individual to beat machines at giving uninterrupted output.

A self-confessed hypochondriac, I was getting restless by this time. And I didn’t have to wait for long before I experienced the symptoms myself. The stage was set for an action packed sequence. The frequency of ayurvedic concoctions also known as kadhas* was increased to thrice a day. Other immunity boosting tablets cropped up on my workstation. Breathing exercises became my constant companion. Consulting a physician was the last resort on the action plan. Frantic calls were made to my scientist brother in the US and his advice sought. And yes, spirituality suddenly invaded my otherwise predictable life with all of its aura and myriad charm.

By this time my wife had conquered the initial fear and she had become stable. She said one need not panic and should try to stay calm. Surprisingly, she asked me to get tested if I continued to feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, my brother had asked me to wait and watch since he was well aware of my hypochondriac self. Genetically blessed with acute acidity that acts up in mysterious ways, I had experienced many of its scary manifestations in the past few months — from racy heartbeats to bouts of uneasiness.

Yes, I realised that in the past few months of the pandemic-imposed social isolation, I had valiantly braved innumerable onslaughts of this multi-headed demon, which included enduring unmanageable headaches to unexplained erratic heartbeats and what not. Add to this the unending and irrational work pressures day in and out. As a result, I had started contemplating an untimely termination of the drive to go ahead at all. Looking back, I can fearlessly confess to a severe depression without any inhibition. Once again I realised the need for family support. I have always believed that seeking any outside help is not only unscientific but also a sheer waste of hard earned money.

So, here I was popping homeopathy and ayurvedic tablets in the hope of driving away that familiar yet detestable throat infection that typically began as a sore throat and grew scarier with every passing hour. The unnerving news of my dear friend and another senior office colleague having fallen prey to the pandemic and being in hospital added to my anxiety.

However, it was not going to be easy for me to take any tests since it would mean pulling my septuagenarian parents into the melee. To make matters worse, a severe bout of cough had seized my mother. So, for a while I forgot my discomfort and, instead, took over her role. I made the poor creature swallow and ingest everything I could lay my hands on from her vast repertory of ayurvedic and homeopathy medicines. A diabetic patient, taking her out for any more tests would have jeopardised her health. The same went for my father. Though non-diabetic and healthy, his chronic cough coupled with exposed risk would have made matters worse.So, here I was, concealing my anxiety and putting on a brave face.

Then I could take it no longer. I called up my family physician. In the first call itself, he advised me to observe home isolation and immediately do a couple of tests including a chest x-ray. At the same time, he prescribed the medicines which are administered to COVID patients. From that moment, the pulse oximeter, thermometer and the blood-pressure measuring kit became my constant companion. For the next few days, the meticulousness with which I tabulated my hour-by-hour progress would have found a mention in any medical journal though it now remains reduced to pretty memorabilia.  Also, I wish I could explain to my physician how irrational his idea of self-isolation at this stage was as my parents and I had already shared our collective biota many times over within this period. Also, logic said that we would have to consume the same medicines irrespective of the infection.

Needless to say, when the physician called up the next day, as they had to keep records of patients with symptoms, he was furious as I had not done any tests. In desperation he asked me to report immediately should I experience further discomfort. By this time, my mother was back to her enthusiastic self and immersed in the preparation for hosting the annual ritual of the Navratri Puja* at home.

In retrospect, all of this looks a bit weird. But that’s how life is — it’s never all that simple, or is it for you? Fortunately, with divine intervention all was well and continues to be well. Apurva, I now hear has embarked on her journey of marital bliss too.

But hey, wait! What’s that with the second wave–I am feeling some soreness in my throat again.

*khadas: A homemade preparation using easily available spices and condiments

* Navaratri Puja: A ten-day long worshiping ritual of the goddess Durga

Mayuresh Belsare is a faculty at the Department of Journalism & Mass Communication, Vishwakarma University, Pune. His love for writing includes copywriting and writing for the audio-visual medium.



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