On a recent day during the school winter break, when children took a sabbatical from the grind of home work, lessons and routine; and parents happily joined them in bending a few rules, my friend’s five-year-old son developed discomfort in his neck that soon aggravated into a sharp pain with intermittent headaches. My friend turned to Dr Google for some insight. Dr Google not only floods you with a sea of information, but can shake awake the hypochondriac in you for on the other side of her self-diagnostic search, the anxious mother was convinced that her son’s symptoms were concurrent with a range of diseases associated with the central nervous system. As she threw herself on a frantic search for a Neurologist, her husband, after reading about ‘text neck syndrome’ in this newspaper (Do you have text neck syndrome?), took the slouching child off the radiant glow of his sleek tablet and sent him out to play. The sleek gizmo that had become his best companion over the holidays had become a pain in the neck, literally.

Today, Father relies on Dr Google as much as I do. But in the pre-Google days, we relied on our community doctor. He was a retired Army doctor, who rendered a few hours of his service to the residents of the bank that Father worked for. He must have had his quota of adventure in his Army tenure for he was content treating seasonal coughs and colds day after day. Rare cases of cuts, fractures and mild burns were handled by his assistant who doubled as his pharmacist.

We had first encountered the blackened skin on Mother’s nose one evening on the day that Mother had relented to my little brother who wished to play with the boys in the play area downstairs. Mother had spent her evening anxiously craning her neck through the mesh over the kitchen window keeping an eye on him while she cooked dinner. It was when she was asking Father to replace the mesh that Father first noticed the darkened skin of the tip of her nose. It was gone the next day but reappeared by the day’s end having spread to her forehead.

Smelly ointment

After a week of trying home remedies with little results, we took the case up with the community doctor. If this bizarre malady shook him, he did not show. He just stared, shook his head and prescribed an anti-fungal ointment that was to be applied at bedtime. The smelly ointment did not do the trick that his usual prescription of Benadryl did to bouts of cough.

A fortnight later, as Father set to change the mesh from the kitchen window, he tried to talk Mother into visiting a Dermatologist. By the time the new mesh was in place, Mother had relented to seek an expert’s opinion. As light flooded in through the window filtering through the brand-new mesh, Father noticed his blackened hands, the same as Mother’s blackened nose. The blackened mesh had been the villain that had thrown a blanket of worry on our evenings.

Both, my friend and our family had been anxiously looking for solutions to our problems elsewhere while it was before us, staring up at our faces.

Often the answers that we seek during the darkened days of our life or the cause of a lingering pain, that deepens as we stay trapped in the web of worries that are mostly a result of our own manifestations, are right under our noses waiting to be amended or deep within us waiting to be discerned. We just need the will to clear the clouds of misperception until clarity begins to dawn.

As for everything else, we have Google!

Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha.