Thanks to the onset of monsoon season, a rash of diseases is spreading in the city, none of which is as demoralising and debilitating as conjunctivitis is because there are only two afflictions that will have you sit inside your house late in the night in a cooling glass. The other is: Terminal senility.
Of course, most of us know conjunctivitis better as Madras eye, named so because it afflicts the eye. There was no known medication for Madras eye earlier. Once you contracted it, you had to put up with sore, watery, ruddy eyes for three or four days. You just had to don dark glasses to hide the scary hideousness of the blood-shot eyes. With the shades that you wore even to bathroom, you, of course, looked comically hideous.
Those days, Madras eye was believed to be highly contagious. One look at the person with Madras eye, boom, you now had Madras eye. This was technically possible only if human beings came embedded with high-fidelity blue tooth-transmission chips. But none of us paused and pondered about this, mostly because Madras eye also proved helpful in certain circumstances, like for example this:
You: Sir, I met with an accident while coming to office this morning. I fell down from my bike and fractured my arm while a vehicle that was coming behind ran over both of my legs, and while I lay on the road helplessly an unidentified person stabbed me in the stomach and ran away with my wallet…
Your Manager: Sorry to hear this, man. Looks like a serious emergency. I take it that you are already in the hospital for treatment. But I also take it that you will make it to the office by afternoon. The audit files still haven’t developed the skill to clear themselves, you know.
You: But sir, my grandmother, who saw the vehicle run over my limbs, has also suffered a heart attack and she is in the ICU…
Manager: I will have to be in the mortuary if the audit files are not cleared by tonight.
You: Okay sir, I will come in the afternoon. By the way, do you have a spare cooling glass that you can lend me, sir? When falling down I think I may also have contracted Madras eye…
Your Manager: (Hurriedly in a panic-stricken voice) Take leave for any amount of days and come only when your eyes are fully cured (keeps the phone carefully down after wiping the earpiece vigorously clean, just in case the Madras eye virus had a new strain that had the capacity to travel through phone lines).
Basically, the Madras eye-afflicted were shunned more than the modern world does the ebola-infected.
But now, thanks to enlightenment offered by the medical community, we know that you don’t get Madras eye by merely looking at a person suffering from it. But by merely looking at a person you can fall in love with him/her and contract a more deadly affliction: An eye for insufferable poetry.
The real medical point is you can look at the person suffering from Madras eye without any fear as long as you take some basic precautions, like using a telescope and being in a totally different room, or if you can help it, in a totally different city. This is because doctors insist that you should not come in contact with the stuff used by the person with Madras eye.
Another thing that medical practitioners insist on is the regular use of hand sanitisers, which instantly kill disease-carrying germs/ bacteria/virus with their extremely suffocating smell.
Previously there were no medicines for Madras eye. As we said, people just endured it for three or four days. Now modern medical science has come up with handy eye drops, which when applied directly on the affected spot, will, magically, help the eyes lose their ability to focus clearly on anything in the vicinity for at least a few hours.
Seriously, there are medicines for Madras eye. But they do everything except cure it. So the simple way to avoid Madras eye, then and now, continues to be the same: Scrupulously stay away from anything that a person with Madras eye has handled. Which, of course, means — sorry to break it you so late — you should not have started reading this piece in the first place.
Now, go get your cooling glass.