Hello friends, very recently I paid a flying visit to Kerala. Actually flying – I took the evening flight to Cochin (Kochi). This time though – there was no fun involved. It was a rather morose trip. I had lost an aunt – she had fallen to a killer of epidemic proportions (at least in Kerala) – Dengue a.k.a. Break bone fever. While this isn’t the kind of material ever wanted to write about on my blog, the reason I’m sharing this, dear friends, is because I’d prefer that my aunt’s expiration serves as a red alert to one and all. She fell prey to Dengue! Yes, that same killer disease which struck illustrious Yash Chopra! Not everyone’s so lucky as Ranveer Singh, Rishi Kapoor or Lisa Haydon – ones who fell ill and eventually recovered from the clutches of dengue.
My aunt fell in the former category and eventually dengue took this ever-so-healthy-and-active lady. Although I was not there to see her battle – but my cousins kept me informed – thanks to WhatsApp. While I kept getting a blow-by-blow account of her condition, I was waiting eagerly for my flight time to arrive so I could fly to Kerala. Too bad, before I reached there, it was over. The hands that rocked me gently as a baby were now stiff. It was too hard to believe she’s not with us anymore – that’s the radiance the rigor-mortis stricken face still emanated. With a lump in my throat my cousin and I moved her then lifeless body from the morgue to her home. This was to facilitate the throng of kith and kin who had come to pay their homage and get a last glimpse of the dear departed. From there it was the most painful and seemingly protracted journey to the cremation grounds. Once she cradled me, a baby, in her arms – then I was carrying her, a mere cadaver, and I’m not proud of it. Once there – all the pain and misery of her separation ended in a jiffy. That’s how cruelly efficient an electric crematorium can be – here one moment, gone the other.
I don’t know if it’s just me or it’s common to everyone – I could see my entire lifetime (especially moments spent with her) whizz past in my head. The enviable persona that she carried so gracefully throughout her lifetime was now being consumed by immense heat in the electric oven. Even death could not take away the sheen from her face. Incidentally her name was Prabha (meaning light, radiance). One would feel she’d wake up any moment and ask us not to make noise since she’s still sleepy. And sleep she did – from the time she was accosted by the deadly virus. And oh, what a sleep – one from which we never thought she’d never wake up.
Born in the early ‘50s, she was the 5th of the 9 kids my grandma and her Warden husband had. She was the boldest amongst the lot; always up for any kind of dare/prank (as was deemed permissible for a girl in those days). Her partner in pranks used to be one of her younger brothers. She was a good student too. I do not know much about her academics though – let’s just say – her student life went on just fine. Then came the next phase of her life – matrimony – that’s when her marriage was arranged to an NRI who was a prize catch considering the situation those days. Every father wanted his daughter to be married to an NRI – for a Malayali, that meant a man who worked in ‘The Gulf’ countries (the Persian Gulf to be geographically precise). This included the likes of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Sultanate of Oman, Kuwait, Kingdom of Bahrain, Qatar etc. She lived the kind of life most women dream of. She had it all – was married to a well-heeled man, had a beautiful home (not just a house), all possible material comforts everyone wishes for, a good job towards the last innings of her abruptly cut short life. She was not the regular channel-browsing housewife who just carried out household chores and did practically nothing else. She had hobbies too – she loved to read and travel. She had been to many places throughout her lifetime. Adventure was her middle name –she was feisty and learnt to drive a car. She also learnt to ride a 2-wheeler. She was also ahead of her peers technologically speaking – she was active on social network too.
I vividly remember once she had ‘undertaken the risk’ of looking after an imp of a kid (that’s me!!!) despite my mother’s warnings while leaving me at her house (read manor). No sooner had my mother and gang left the place, I was up to my usual pranks. This time it was climbing a jack tree to fell a jackfruit… instead I slipped and fell – head-first. Needless to say, I was struck unconscious for almost 24 hours. Later, when I came around, although awake, I still couldn’t open my eyes. All this time, the poor soul (my aunt) muttered one prayer after another wishing I recovered ASAP so she could get me back to my mother in a ‘returned unaltered’ condition. That’s not all – I gave her another shock in the same visit. This time I was stung by a baby scorpion – that was the price I paid for not looking where I was going. She paid the interest. I was still in her care – she was still answerable to my mom – more so since she was WARNED. About what troubles I was capable of getting into. None of the above stopped her from teaming with me on my next visit to her town. That’s what I call nerves of steel. I could go on and on… and yet not run out of steam or content about my memories about her – but maybe some other time.
Finally, she was a little over 60 when she left us – with a lot of desires still in her unwritten to-do list. She is survived by her husband and a daughter. I wish they both be blessed with all the nerve needed to wade through these sad moments.
Some valuable lessons she left us as her legacy:
- You’re never too healthy to die. Let down your guard for a moment and you could be dead the next.
- Life’s never too woebegone to live it fully and royally.
- Life’s too short to harbour grudges and nurture hatred. Learn to forget and forgive.
- Your problems are your own – they demand privacy and they, in no way, have the right to impact your life or its length.
- The world looks up to you for your strength – not your weakness – so keep the latter to yourself and discreetly improve.
- Finally – do not take your ailments lightly – get them diagnosed in time and seek to live longer.
Now here’s what you can take away from my/our experience:
Dengue a.k.a. Break bone fever is a killer of epidemic proportions (at least in Kerala, for now). For the uninitiated – it’s pronounced DEN-GEE (and not den-goo). It’s defined by Wikipedia as a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus.
Few things to remember:
A mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus: Check for stagnant water in your immediate surroundings. That’s where all kinds of mosquito breed – especially Aedis aegypti – the silent culprits who are the most common carriers of the lethal dengue virus.
Symptoms typically begin 3 to 14 days after infection: Don’t take fevers lightly – especially if they last longer than 48 hours. Anyways, any body temperature on the positive side of 100 °F should alarm you.
Note: Normal body temperature is 37 °C (98.6 °F)
- High fever
- Muscle and joint pains
- Characteristic skin rash
The unfortunate few go through:
- Life-threatening dengue haemorrhagic fever
- Low levels of blood platelets
- Blood plasma leakage
- Dengue shock syndrome
- Dangerously low blood pressure
Its appetite has taken lives @ over 1 person out of 60,000 which roughly translates to a mortality rate of 21000+ people considering our population is 133 crores. Please see a doctor immediately if any of the aforementioned symptoms exist – so you don’t have to write eulogies like me.