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   I fail ill on an average once in three years... (February 13, 1996)

I fail ill on an average once in three years, but when I do, I am totally knocked out. For a couple of weeks I feel I am at the departure lounge of the airport, about to take the plane that conveys the living to the dead. At these times, my main peroccupation is to note who have come to see me off and the expressions on their faces. And this is not a delirium, this is actual.

I do not know what went wrong this time, and, for the matter, I do not think my doctor also knows. Not that it matters. He is not doctor by choice because of any medical profundity, but because of his outstanding bedside manners. While other doctors ply you with injections, he bubbles with enthusiasm and gets you on your feetÖ even if it sometimes takes a couple of weeks.

His main recommedation was that I should eat to recover my strenght. Unfortunately, as it happens at the most imconvenient of time, I had lost my appetite.

But friends joined in. My neighbour, who runs, perhaps, the best vegetarian kitchen in town, sent me sour dals with peanuts soaked in them and warm ginger puddings. A friend sent a baked fish pie. The fish was covered with melted cheese, and, underneath the cheese crust, with the fish, bones carefully removed, were boiled and baked vegetables.

Another lady sent me a basket with steamed fish, the basket duly decorated with ribbons and things. There was also a packet in a thick silver foil, and inside were crisp thin slice of garlic bread, done at home on a tava. It is the only way to do a garlic bread, in melted butter with the garlic flakes. Both the fish, steamed a delicate white, the meat crumbling to the touch, and the bread had a touch of Provencal herbs. The basket came with a smiling liveried chauffeur. Even the watchmen downstairs, who are rather sticky, did not dare stip such a distinguished visitor.

My wife's family also took over the task of supplying nourising food to the patient. They are all hearty eaters, essentially of meats, and they made thick mutton, chicken and quail soups for me, clovess and tej patta soaked in them.

I was still not eating, I had lost the taste for food. So, one evening, the wife got for me fish and prawn curries and rice from Trishna. If you cannot eat this, she said, there is something seriously wrong with you.

And, yesterday, my friend from Madarin, sent me a bowl of pork wonton soup and a plate of sui mai, plus a little bit of Chinese magic by way of a barbecue sauce.

I am feeling better now. The appetite is returning, I can do with some good food. The trouble is, now that I am well, all my well-wishers have stopped sending food.

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