I wake up at 6:30 and turn on the hot water heater a/k/a geezer. Then I fall asleep until the phone rings at 7:38. It’s Scott. He tried to Skype me and I wasn’t there for our usual 7:30 call. Am I okay?
I’m fine. I just fell back asleep. But I’m okay. We hang up quickly and he calls me back on Skype. I tell him about the ant army marching across my floor. Are they regular size? They’re a little chunkier than normal, I say.
I’m trying to decide if I should go to work today. I think I’ll call Susie and get her opinion. She seemed so authoritative on the matter yesterday and what she’s told me so far has been spot on. The fever did come back, but not as bad, and I have had several smaller sweating episodes, and I do believe I am getting better instead of worse.
Susie tells me I should stay home today if I can. It’s easy with a fever to over do it, then it can come back. She’s right. I could have made this decision on my own, it just feels good to run it past somebody who’s seen some Indian viruses and the way they act in a westerner’s body.
I go downstairs for breakfast and the place is put back together. There are no piles of bananas on the table; there is no map blocking the clock; the chairs are all pushed in. The college kids left on a bus one day and it doesn’t look like they’re coming back. Studying abroad apparently involves a lot of travel. They all had a lot of stuff to lug around too. There were stacks of trunks. I guess when they said they’ll be here through December, they meant that figuratively. They meant they’ll be away from home through December, not that they’ll be here in the Ahuja Residency through December. Or maybe they’re coming back. Who knows? Either way, it’s nice to have a quiet breakfast again. And what’s even nicer is when Pachu brings me the juicy mango I love. I scarf it up even though I am challenged to taste it through my sinus mélange.
As the day wears on, I am so glad I didn’t go to work. I planned to work from home, to get a little blogging done, to do some reading, to shower. I do none of these things. I turn on the BBC World News and veg out in bed. I get up a few times and stand around, looking out at the balcony, but I don’t have a lot of energy for this and soon find myself on shaky limbs crawling back under the sheets. I think about breaking up some of the old loaf of bread I have in the fridge and putting it out on the ledge for the birds, but this task seems too strenuous and demanding. I decide: maybe later.
At about noon there is a knock at the door. I open it. Pachu and his helper are standing there with smiles and a stack of clean towels and sheets. “Madam, clean. Yesterday we no. Clean today.” It’s true my room hasn’t been cleaned since Friday, so I welcome them in, grabbing my What Religion Is book and sitting on the couch out of their way. It will feel good to have clean sheets after all the sweating and coughing I’ve done on the ones I have now. I feel bad for them, afraid they’re going to catch this horrible virus, but they seem happy in their work, which they carry out quickly. They probably have immunities developed that I don’t have. Even if they catch this, it probably won’t be this bad for them. People at work have little sniffles and coughs, but none of them have missed any work because of their symptoms. I’m thinking I have the white girl version of their sniffles, and an immune system that is too baffled to fight back.
Half way through the cleaning, Pachu picks up a hand made broom and begins sweeping the floor, carefully pushing the ants out into the hallway. So that’s why it seems like there are fewer ants here after they clean and why, if they don’t clean for a few days, I have an ant army to entertain me during my Skype calls with Scott. Organic pest control at its finest.
My tired brain only makes it through about four pages of the Vivekananda book, but they are an interesting four pages. He says that all pain is due to attachment. This is a concept I’m familiar with from Buddhism, but, as I’ve learned, Buddhism grew out of Hinduism and so shares many of its tenets. I understand this concept when it comes to psychological pain. For instance, I understand that my attachment to the stray dogs and my attachment to the idea of having a friendly neighbor is what made me tear up the other day in the taxi. Where my understanding stops, however, is at the concept of physical pain. The discomfort I am feeling in my own body. How is that pain due to attachment?
The end of section one in the book is a reiteration of Vivekananda’s answer to the title’s question. What is religion? He says religion is “not talk, nor doctrine, nor theories, however beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming…” Religion is realization. It hits me that this is the difference for me in hearing that prayer about acceptance and feeling slammed by it on my 24 hour bus ride. That was a becoming for me. That was a realization. Before then, I was just reading the words or seeing them or hearing them. I like this distinction. It strikes me as truth.
But Pachu and his helper are done cleaning my room, and that’s about all the energy I have for intellectual pursuit today. I close the door behind them and sniff out my clean room. It smells slightly of cinnamon, which is strange because I didn’t see them use any actual cleaners, just some dirty rags. It’s also strange because I didn’t think I could smell anything. The Tylenol Cold must really be working.
The clean sheets feel so good. I spend the rest of the day napping and watching tv. At one point, I do a puzzle that Scott created and sent to me, but I get all sweated up in the process and have to rest afterwards. I watch BBC World News until I’ve seen every story and they start to rerun, then I find four episodes of Friends on Star World, a station that has random American tv shows on it that Julianne just told me about.
Shabnum, my friend from work, calls at about seven o’clock. She heard I wasn’t feeling well, and they were feeling sorry for me at the office because I’m all alone. Am I doing okay? Do I need anything? Am I getting enough food?
I am fine. Still under the weather, but fine. I’ll see her tomorrow at work.
In the evening I do manage to blog a little, and to put some bread out for the birds. So what if birds don’t eat in the evening? The bread will still be there in the morning when they show up hungry.
A day that I thought would feel interminable has passed quickly and without my accomplishing anything except, perhaps, for getting better by undetectable degrees. I’m glad to be out of the proverbial woods.