In my childhood, just when I would be preparing to slide into the blanket to go to sleep, my mother would force a homemade concoction down my gullet. The unsavoury liquid was meant to ward off the cold and cough which would grip me as well as my siblings at the time of change of season.
Influenza, flu to be precise, used to visit us once in October-November, and again in February-March. This was also the time when measles, malaria, chickenpox used to afflict large sections of the population in several parts of the country.
I detested the lukewarm ‘kaadha’ (concoction) so much that the moment I saw my mother, I would pull up the blanket over my face but there was no escape. Despite the chilli effect caused to the throat by the ingredients, I had to gulp it down quickly.
Those were the days when homemade remedies, better known as ‘Granny’s prescriptions’ held the sway. My uncle and a cousin in our joint family were medical practitioners but we seldom took allopathic medicines.
My grandmother would tie a tablet of camphor wrapped in a piece of cloth on my arm. A couple of tablets were put in our drinking water container. That took care of waterborne bacteria.
The concoction made of ginger, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, basil leaves, a pinch of turmeric powder and salt, and jaggery/sugar kept the cold and Coryza at bay. On a cold night or rainy day, this liquid medication was mandatory.
Later, I developed a taste for it and it became an essential component of my morning tea. The practice continues today. Happily, the ‘ginger-tea’ became a craze, particularly with those having throat problems.
Now I was propagating its benefits to our guests, virtually forcing it down their throat. Happily, I discovered that the ginger-tea, also known as Masala Chai had become a household staple. Nevertheless, the die-hards preferred plain tea without masala.
I was reminded of this concoction by the worldwide virulence of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was not known earlier and has broken out for the first time ever. To date, no vaccine or drug has emerged and it is universally acknowledged that it has no treatment. In this case, prevention is the only option — and hope. But since hope is, after all, hope, I decided to try another home remedy — the ubiquitous camphor, which we have been using as an antidote to air and waterborne diseases.
Sulphur to cleanse the air
My grandmother would tie a tablet of camphor wrapped in a piece of cloth on my arm. A couple of tablets were put in our drinking water container. That took care of waterborne bacteria. And we purified the atmosphere by burning some cloves over camphor. It was quite efficacious in case of measles and chickenpox also.
By the way, this reminds me of another indigenous way of sterilising the atmosphere. Decades back, when there were no maternity homes, in my hometown Aligarh, illiterate midwives used to be summoned to homes to manage childbirth. The midwife used to burn sulphur outside the room where the delivery took place. The smoke thus caused would cleanse the air and everything went on smoothly. No infection, no hassle and we had a healthy mother and child.
In today’s infected world, we are trying our very best in our own ways to keep COVID-19 at bay, sitting with fingers crossed, with a pious hope that we would get over the problem soon.
— Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.