The other day one of my friends had a fever. I told him to make sure he got rest and drank plenty of fluids. The commonplace advice anyone would give in the states. Well the next he called me and was like, “It worked!” Apparently in the past he’d always gone to the doctor for everything, a cold, a fever, stomach pain. After hanging out with me and an Australian guy, he started trying to let his body’s immune system take care of him instead of running to the doctor for every little thing. He realized that not only did it work, but he felt better sooner AND saved on the doctor bills. Doctors prescribe antibiotics for everything and anything, so no matter why you go you’ll come home with antibiotics. Not only that, but even for a common cold they gave him some kind of injection! After finding out about the ‘miracle cure,’ he started telling all of his co-workers that the key is eating the right foods and getting rest. Everyone in his work place was astonished.
The day after the fever incident I was enjoying a lazy Sunday in my room when suddenly a knock came at my door. People don’t usually knock here, they just try to open the door by moving the handle up and down rapidly and noisily. When people do that I’m annoyed and I pretend I’m not in my room. When they knock I’m so impressed by their politeness that I’ll admit I’m in my room and open the door. Upon hearing the knock I asked, “kaun hai?” (who is it?) and I heard a girl say a name I didn’t know. I responded with “ek minute” (one minute) and threw on a long skirt and t-shirt over my shorts and tank top which would be scandalous outside my room, even if only females are present. When I opened the door it was one of the students, Memoona, who I hadn’t met before. She was holding her right hand gingerly and had white pasty stuff all over it. She asked if I had any ointment for burns. I didn’t have anything but I knew nobody else would be able to help her so I invited her in while I gathered my things for a visit to the gate.
Turns out she had been making tea and spilled boiling water all over her hand. She had run it under cold water for 15 minutes but she was still feeling a burning sensation so she smeared Colgate toothpaste all over the burn. I’d read in a book that sometimes people consider toothpaste to be like medicine here, especially Colgate brand. Well it was doing nothing for her burn except give her hand a fresh minty smell, so I told her that we’d go look for some ointment and bandages or head out to the hospital. I grabbed my purse and we were out the door.
When we reached the gate and told the chowkidar (gate keeper/guard) what had happened he didn’t have any advice about where to get the materials we needed. We called the warden, who as usual during emergencies was gone, and she also didn’t have any idea what to do. Memoona said her hand still felt like it was burning and it was difficult to move. Finally, Memoona herself had an idea. “I’ll call the corner store and have them send burn oil.” The Madina store has a delivery boy and so about ten minutes later the madinavala (vala = delivery person/seller) came on his motorbike with the supplies. I handed him twenty rupees (33 cents) for the burn oil and bandages and we headed back to my room.
I’d never seen this brand of burn ointment before, but from the description it looked like the right thing to use. Memoona washed off the toothpaste and I was able to inspect the burn. No scarring or red marks on the skin, but the areas in between the fingers were very tender and she winced when I touched them. Didn’t seem like anything she needed the hospital for but would probably need time to heal properly. She also didn’t know how to bandage anything so after I applied the bright yellow cream all over her hand I bandaged it up and told her not to remove the bandage for at least 30 minutes to an hour after the burning had cooled. She thanked me and told me that she was worried about taking her exam on Tuesday since she’s right handed. I told her not to worry, she had two days for recovery and that she should have her friends make her tea for her until then. Phew. I should keep a first aid kit in my room so next time the whole process can take 5 minutes instead of 45.
Later she came back, paid me back the 20 rupees and asked if she could store fruit in my fridge. I was a bit confused because the hostel has one fridge and two big deep freezers in the kitchen. She said somebody might steal it there so she’d rather keep it in my room. I pictured the scenario. First one girl, then two, then five all keeping food in my room and coming at all times of the day and night to get it and then wanting to hang out and eat it in my room. Hmmmm nope sorry I’m not around most of the time…..