Our life revolved around umbrellas. One time my father came home from middle east with 20 ‘gulf’ umbrellas..Those black two fold umbrellas with ivory colour handles..
Amma believed in keeping spare umbrellas for those ‘just in case’ scenarios.
Before I left for school each morning, Amma would ask
“home work, lunch box, umbrella?” and I had to say Yes to all three to be allowed to go to school.
This continued till I went to study at the Medical college!! Even then she packed two umbrellas in my suitcase.
If I got fever, the first question she asked was, Did you get wet in the rain?
But her obsessions with rain didn’t end there. Every time we travelled to anywhere outside Kottayam town boundary, Amma carried a bottle of rasnadi..
What is rasnadi? It is powdered herbal concoction, often kept in an old, small bottle. In our house it used to be in a calcium sandoz bottle, the label on the bottle had discoloured to a yucky yellow colour.
It is a miraculous medicine. You apply it on a specific spot on the head (I have forgotten my anatomy, I am assuming it is the anterior cranial fossa), right after your shower.
Take a pinch of rasnadi using your thumb and index finger, rub it in the correct spot , then sniff the remaining powder on your finger. ( I must say, I loved the smell)
Amma never went anywhere without the rasnadi. She even brought it with her, when I gave birth to Yaya ( the same Calcium sandoz bottle!!) Amma believed that, vellam mari kulichal pani varum.. You get fever, if you bathed in a ‘different’ ( as in not from your home) water!!!
I tried explaining to my mother that, the water she is drinking is actually the same water the dinosaurs drank and peed. But years of cultural taboos has given her an ability not to see reason..
But seriously, there is only one water cycle..from the time life evolved on earth to this moment. It is the same water..nature recycles over and over..
Does getting wet in the rain make you sick??
Ask yourself, does standing under the shower each morning make you sick??
The usual answer I get for the above question is showering only takes a few minutes, you dry your body immediately and then wear dry clothes. So taking a shower will not make you sick.
Does swimming in the pool for an hour make you sick?? ( Thorpe must forever be suffering from fever!!)
When Yaya and toothless were little, I used to make paper boats for them and we used to float them down the storm drain in front of our house. After years of living under amma’s fear of the rain, I couldn’t really break away. So I bought my children a rain coat.. Fluorescent pink for Yaya and blue for Toothless. But try as I might, my kids refused to keep the hood on..and always managed to get their head soaking wet..
I panicked the first few times it happened. I got them dried quickly, wrapped them in a blanket, made chicken soup..
I was expecting my youngest then, and eventually I couldn’t physically do all of the above..and to my surprise, neither of them fell ill..not once..
It was so liberating to be free of a belief that I knew made no sense, but I was so afraid to break free.. As a mother, my children’s health and well being meant everything to me and a part of me felt there had to be some truth in Amma’s fear..because it was not just her..all my relatives followed the same rules..Even my ABCD cousins still use rasnadi !!!!
One of the kids who came for my son’s birthday party was not allowed to get wet in the rain. ( Indian descent) When 28 kids plus my three were playing basketball and running down the water slide in the rain, this kid had to stay inside the house..Each time one of the 28 kids came inside to get a drink , they would ask the kid why are you not joining us and each time the kid had to say “I can’t, My mom won’t let me get wet in the rain”
The boy had tears in his eyes.. He begged and pleaded with me to let him.. I would have..but I know his mother..my son is the only friend she had approved as a friend for her son..and if she knew that I broke her command, she would never let her son come to our house.. My house is the only house that child is allowed to visit and it is not for my son..it is for that boy, I followed his mother’s rule..
My son has so many friends.. that boy only has my son as a friend.. My son had told me some time ago that Shiva ( not his real name) hates his parents and is planning to run away from home when he is a teenager..I worry about that child all the time..This year, he had been send to the office twice for anger management issues!!
If you are a parent like this..please..just spend a few seconds and put yourself in your child’s place.. and remember, there is always panadol..