A Brush with Swine Flu

Everyone must have noticed that after 2nd August (mom’s 50th b’day) I had disappeared for about 10 days from chats, forums, blogs, everywhere! That was very unusual on my part since no matter how ill I am, I am on the web. But then I was very ill. After my mom’s birthday I went out with my friends for a work / leisure trip and when I returned on the 5th, I was down with fever @ 103 for around 4 days. The obvious suspect was swine flu, but none of my students, friends or anyone I knew had any. But still, it was swine flu that was eating everyone’s head whenever someone had sore throat, fever, bodyache… and the list goes on.

A confusion that created a hazard in my head for some days that finally I decided to relieve it with a stress reliever so I could atleast sleep and not just lay unconscious in my fever. That made me realize that I have become weak these days. With no aspirations & inspirations to play with my heart, my heart has become inactive…. Inactive enough to make my brain rot or rust in its material world. Believe me, but the 2 weeks were disgusting though they went in a sub-conscious state of mind of which I remember hardly few hours. My immediate defense was shutting down classes for the time-being.

Doctors!! The equally confused people as much as patients are. In times of panic they make you panic for more reasons. First they will test you, tell that since you don’t have this and that you don’t seem to have swine flu, but still take these medicines and if you don’t feel better in 3 days go to a swine flu test center. What the heck!?!?!? This is what happened to me. It seemed like 3 days were gonna test me for more than swine flu. Reading in the papers about the havoc at the centers scared me more. But still due to suggestions of some well-wishers, me and wifey decided to get myself tested at one of they new centers they opened. Finding the hospital wasn’t easy since the building was an old government building near a prestigious software company.

I asked my wife to wait in the car and went inside. I saw this queue for making CASE PAPERS. I looked around to find some people I could find clean, in around 100 I found 8-10 people who seemed hygienic. The rest seemed to be there from slums in a group what we can call a well-bred family. With mucus running down from noses, sneezing and coughing around, children were having a time of their life. Some sitting with sad faces and some with enlightened faces as if they were in some historic scene. Proud parents trying to clean their children, mask them and then keeping their own mouths open while coughing or shouting at them. I couldn’t stay there more. I came back to the car and told my wife that I would get infected with swine flu even if I don’t have any. There is dirt in there and there is no control and discipline over it.

I waited for 2 days. The fever subsided. I had no cough since I was undergoing treatment for eoscinophilia since a week before. So that worried me more. Was it that I was having symptoms which were being suppressed by the earlier medication which was to be continuous for 21 days. My throat problem has been persistent since march, but doctors won’t take a chance, he still wanted me to go to the center after my 3 days trial period. This time I chose a new place close to the house. Though like I would drop in, check and then go home. Since the centers had increased I had high hopes. When I reached there I saw long queues. A man with a microphone was telling that this was just a counseling center, but only those who get suspected here will get a letter for further tests at the advanced test center. So whether you had swine flu or not, you had to go through one of these. I decided to go home, have lunch, some nap and return.

When I returned there were still long queues. A pretty girl that I had noticed when I had come in the earlier part of the day had reached just the door of the doc’s cabin after 4 hours. I knew I was gonna have a hard time. I put up a mask and as an additional precaution put a handkerchief in it. With so many children and people around with flu there was no question that I might get infected with swine-flu or worse. Though being in people was making me feel good somewhat. It has been around 9 years maybe that I haven’t been a part of offices or some process that the society is a part of. Not even in festivals. I was in a nostalgic mood somewhat and with people around that seemed genuine. Somewhat since I have explored around, I have always found the lower class, middle-class people more genuine and convincing that any other. Some moments with them revive some kind of humanity within ourselves. This doesn’t happen with the show-off world that we are generally associated with. Formal gestures…. ‘How r u’s… nothing like that. If they talk they talk sense and for their own reasons. Those reasons might be selfish but still… genuine. They don’t talk to create an impression.

A man in front of me was smiling through his handkerchief mask. His eyes were trying to tell something but he wasn’t sure if he should speak to me. Just to open the conversation I said “It seems like we have to be in the line for quite much time.” He smiled back and asked “Aapko swine flu hua hai??? (Translation – Do you have swine flu??). Oops. No… I don’t think so.. I muttered, I said I guess we are here to test! He was happy that someone educated is in the same process that he was. He started blaming about how government was inefficient in tackling the problem and things that made him seem like he was the right person to be the health minister. Till that time I was looking around at the number of people around which was increasing.

The man on the microphone again made an announcement that this was pre-screening center and not test center. Some female folks came to me asking if they were at the right place. I told them not to worry they were. But I was worried about some factors here. The kids were running around rubbing against my clothes and everyone around. Kids that were dirty and flowing with cold and cough.

The place was congested. The worst part was about the elders spitting their cough around… maybe they were going on the side and doing that but when will Indians understand the unhygienic part of spitting around? The worst part is that the notices sent by government don’t mention anything about spitting. They only tell to cover mouth while coughing and sneezing. Seems like we have to make health ministers sit on two-wheelers and make a trip around pune to understand how much saliva they will bathe in when people infront of them spits. Earlier the system seemed faulty but then what the man infront of me told was right. It wasn’t the hospital or the staff here that was inefficient, it was the rules and interferences by the govt that was making it worse.

After sometime in line I was trying hard to ignore all these things around till a lady approached me. She was from a good house and not at all dirty. She asked me how long should the line take. After initial conversation she told me that she had got her son here but it was actually her daughter who was unwell. She asked me if I could make the case papers for her till she gets her daughter. I said I wouldn’t mind if the officials allow more than 1 paper made by a single person. Someone who had done the papers confirmed that we could. After 2 hours I reached close to the desk for just making a case paper. I head a quarrel at the table. The official was asking the person why was he reading names from a paper chit about the people whom he claimed to be his relatives. I was going to do the same. So quickly I got out the paper that lady had given me and tried to remember the name, age and address of the girl. I reached the table and confidently told their names and made papers for all of us.

Now there was a new queue for the doctor. I was thirsty & hungry but carrying a bottle of glucose water. I was still weak from the fever @ 103. I was worried about the line but suddenly felt better when I heard a strong voice in front of me asking a doctor. “What happened to the doctor inside? Went home?” They started a conversation when I realized that this guy was some local goon or politician. Though he was throwing his power around I was happy that he was standing in the line. Then suddenly the official said “Why whats the problem with the other doctor? There’s no line in there???”. Before he confirmed anything I sped off to the place he tried to look at and found myself lucky. Only 4 people in front of me. But the time the politician realized what happened he was way back in the queue behind me. I was worried for the lady who hadn’t still arrived. I called her on her phone and told her to hurry. I was close to the doctor. She didn’t come till I finished with the doctor. The doctor’s test hardly lasted for 20 seconds. She made me open my mouth and said ‘aaaaaaaaa’, the usual routine. Asked for symptoms. Wrote down some medicines and told me to have them. Come back for tests if you don’t improve she said.

Now a queue for medicines. Oh god.. that was one spiral going like a snake for a long long time. Now I saw a new problem. Some people were with bottles in their hands to carry the tonic/syrup these medical officers were giving. I told a guy behind me that I will be back with a bottle. I ran out asking people around. Everyone seemed confused. One man pointed at a bungalow infront of the hospital but since there was no shop there I thought that the person was out of his mind. I went to a fruit stall near by and asked where I could get a bottle. He pointed at a tacky shop selling bangles. After enquiry the owner handed me a bottle for Rs. 5. A bottle containing rose water for fragrance purpose. He said throw this water out and fill it with syrup. That bottle was very dusty, I asked what about the big bottle, he said 10. I said cool, give me that one but get rid of the water here itself. That stupid jerk opened the lid with his mouth. Oops… yuck!!!! Now what. I didn’t say anything. I rushed back to the hospital and wasn’t finding a single tap of water, a sink .. nothing. Think of it, there is a water pumping station next to the hospital.

I saw a policeman sitting on the chair maintaining the chaos. I asked him where I could find a tap of water. He looked at me as if I was an alien. He said “Water tap??? What for??” I explained him my situation but he had no idea. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the lady who was back with her daughter. She said I have been looking for you. I explained her the problem which made her realize that she needed a bottle too. I asked her to get her daughter checked by the time I will stand in the medicines line and she could take medicines with me. I told her that if she was getting a bottle please get mine washed. She obliged and left. But she came back soon. She told me that the bungalow infront of the hospital was stocked with clean bottles kept by the residents as a social service for people around. I understood how stupid I was to buy that rose water bottle. But thankfully I had a bottle now.

The line wasn’t moving any faster. The lady said just as an idea she will wait in the other queue for medicines which seemed to move faster. Yes it was quite faster. She called me when she reached the window giving out medicines. I rushed out there and with some commotion with other people in the queue, I worried if I would loose my number in both the queues, fortunately the lady who was fighting with me was without a bottle, and we promised her one if she wouldn’t create any havoc. We had one extra bottle of water which we decided to sacrifice. My turn came and I smiled at the person giving medicines. For some reason he found me out of place. He shockingly looked at me and asked “Marathi yeta ka? (Do you understand marathi language?)”. I said ofcourse.. I am marathi. He said ok and gave me a moment to look inside.

I saw containers of pills. A lot of pills. Cans of orange syrups that was being poured into beakers and then bottles. I smiled and handed over my bottle. He promptly returned it saying that I wasn’t prescribed any syrup. He gave me pills for 3 days that he was giving to everyone else. He laid them down on a dirty wooden table and said “3 pills, twice a day after lunch and dinner”. Wrapped them in a paper and handed over. “NEXT” he called out. I decided no matter what I am not gonna have these medicines. I had managed to know the names of the medicines except one from the containers they were stacked in. I didn’t wait to say bye to the lady whom I made the case papers for but while leaving I was stopped by the politician who had unknowingly helped me get things done faster. He said “Can you tell me where to get a bottle for syrup?” I told him that I just handed over my empty bottle to a person standing behind me, but the lady had an extra. He said “Oh, that’s my brother, I was looking for a bottle for him.” I said cool and thanked god for giving me a chance to repay his indirect help to me. I rushed out of the hospital as soon as I could. I wanted to have a bath and feel clean. I stuffed the medicines into a bag and threw them. One could never know if that was expired stock. Even if it wasn’t, they weren’t clean. I told the docs about my experience and hoped I didn’t have swine flu.

Thankfully no fever for quite many days but the throat irritation persists. Taking treatment from the best ENT in town for the same. By that time my treatment for eoscinophilia will be over. The transit of Saturn has given a lot of health problems since some months now. It will be over soon and I hope to get better. I have concerts to perform and I want to be well by then. My throat is worrying me a lot, but docs say nothing is serious but not being diagnosed since long. Lets see.

Now people don’t need to worry if they have swine flu for more than one reasons. Its curable, and it can be diagnosed at private and cleaner hospitals. Don’t make a mistake of going to these government centers handled by efficient staff and doctors but governed by people who are flooding the media with swine-flu to hide some other scams. Lets hope that everyone gets vaccinated before getting infected in the round-2 of swine flu.

Photo credits: Nikhil Gangavane.

Your article must be written in English

August 21, 2009


wow, thank you for the detailed insight into the Indian health care problems. This was very interesting to read and well written(like a short story :) ). I'm glad you feel better now, welcome back :)

August 20, 2009


Wow, what an ordeal. I certainly hope you are feeling better now! And thank you for writing this out - it is a window into heath care that many people in the Western world have never experienced.

August 19, 2009


Hope you recover fully soon.this message contains no viruses. ha ha.

August 19, 2009


Thanks Everyone for your wishes and kind words.
@wildmac - though I haven't been infected with swineflu I have been suffering. There is diagnosis going on as well as a treatment on eoscinophilia which is very weakening. Its hard to be on routine, but I am trying to catch up.

August 18, 2009


Ohhh, it reminds me hospitals in my city, they all like that.
Terrific article! I read it with great interest. Hope you feel better now :)

August 18, 2009


After this account, the DT queues don't seem that big a deal anymore, right?!!
It's scary to think what will happen if the epidemic gets worse...

August 18, 2009



Wow! I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that. I hope you are healing up and will soon be back to your old self.

I'll keep you and your family in my prayers.


August 18, 2009


HI glad u feel better, what would DT do without you? strength to you and your family!

August 18, 2009


Wow! You've had a lot to go through while you were sick. It would be very tiring and scary without being sick on top of it all. I wish you all the best. Get well soon :0)

August 17, 2009


wow! I'm speechless!! welcome back and hope you manage to get into top notch health in no time!

August 17, 2009


Welcome back and take care of your health, you are one of the brightest gems of dreamstime. TC

August 17, 2009


It sounds like I was reading a book describing an epidemic centuries and senturies ago! You've described it so real that I was hardly breathing, trying not to catch a flu!
Hope you feel much better now!

August 17, 2009


Dear Nikhil,

Your story is overwhelming as well as frightening; no one should have to endure what you experienced to receive medical care. My best thoughts and wishes to you for a full recovery. Kindest regards, Marilyn

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