When one of the couples in my neighbourhood decided to adopt a baby girl after years of being childless, everyone was happy for them. It was a unanimous feeling that a baby would be the best answer to liven up the dull household of an otherwise kind and considerate couple. Let me call the baby Angel.
Little Angel arrived one cold winter morning, wrapped in cozy blankets and sporting a toothless grin. A few of the young ones in the apartment complex had gathered up crackers to welcome her, and she surprised us all by laughing at the sound of hundred-walas rather than contributing her own outburst. Angel was an immediate favourite with everyone. The couple had a steady stream of visitors, wanting their slice of time with the little one. For about a month, the outlook was very rosy.
Then, Angel fell sick. It began with a bout of vomiting, dismissed as an allergic reaction to the new environment and food. With medication she seemed to pull around, but within the next few days her condition began to grow worse. Her bowels joined the melee and where there had been cute baby cooing noises, there was only painful wailing to be heard. It was an incredibly sad sight, the baby’s chest heaving with difficulty, trying to beat a cough to catch her breath, her mother rocking her back and forth to try and find the infant some respite.
Angel’s mother was constantly in tears, cleaning up puddles of vomit, staying up late at nights with the baby, washing clothes and cleaning without rest. From lactose intolerance to liver failure, the doctors contemplated and tested for everything! Between the multiple trips to the hospital, no consensus on what exactly to feed the little one, a plethora of medicines of all types imaginable, prayers and rituals conducted in Angel’s name, the couple was helpless. As neighbours we could but only do so much; a few minutes of cuddling the baby so her mother could take a shower, a few cups of coffee for the visiting stream of worrisome relatives, mumbled prayers and wrinkled brows wishing the baby a speedy recovery.
Angel suffered for two long years from a variety of illnesses that didn't tie up into a single syndrome or disease. She had to undergo treatment for the symptoms while the hospitals poured over her charts for a solid diagnosis. Angel’s mother was at a point of time convinced that the gods were punishing her and they’d take Angel away in the same breath that she’d been given to them. The couple, the family and the neighbourhood were all struck by the ill luck that had befallen a child and we needed no better example to illustrate the adage ‘If health is lost, everything is lost.’
A year later, Angel began to show improvement, whether from the treatment or from the prayers, or by mere coincidence, no one wanted to deduce. We waited with bated breath as she went from the ICU to the normal ward, began taking solid food once again and finally returned home, wrapped again in blankets too small for her now. This time we didn't welcome her with crackers; we were sure she’d cry. But Angel smiled at us once again and thankfully kept getting better.
It’s been over a decade now and Angel is in middle school, winning people over, excelling in academics and wit. But that terrible period still rings at the back of my mind, how one tiny resident of the area had defined our collective optimism and showed us the ugly side of ill-health. True to both her real and indicative name I've used here, Angel was and still remains a blessing in disguise.
This post was written for IndiBlogger's Happy Hours segment.
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