Being upside down

Little man was at the very edge of the sofa.

He was balancing himself, doing something intricate, some elaborate game that only nearly-five-year-olds can think up.

Naturally, my first thought was he'll fall over and hurt his head.

"What are you doing," I said, not shrieking exactly, but louder than I normally am. "Being upside down," he replied, very, matter of fact. And twinkled at me, as if to say "there, there".

I had to laugh. At myself, mostly. And just from the sheer joy of seeing our little boy doing something so naughty, so normal.

He's been sick, you see, for the past five days. Something triggered an asthma attack in him. It started with him coughing a little and rapidly got so bad, till we could count the minutes he wasn't coughing. Doctors say children cough like this because their bodies are not getting enough oxygen. He would cough and cough, clutch his throat, say he couldn't breathe. The cough wouldn't let him sleep either. All we could do was hold him, cradle him, try to comfort him. We watched and prayed and got every kind of medical help at our disposal.

This past Friday night, he became so oxygen-deprived, we rushed him to hospital and there the doctors said we must admit him, if he didn't stabilise. This poor child only wanted to sleep, but something his body was reacting to, wouldn't let him get any rest. We spent an hour and a half in hospital, till his cough subsided enough--so he could breathe better. So he could give his exhausted body and mind some rest.

That it was Diwali weekend made things worse. We live in a small apartment surrounded by buildings. Every street around us is filled with smoke right now from people bursting crackers to celebrate the festival of lights. I have nothing against such practices but surely it is decency to stop after, say, 10 pm. There is a law that states that, after all. But who cares about such things? Here, the fireworks, the 'bombs' go on and on, way past midnight till the wee hours.

I see so many campaigns on social media about how we must be sensitive to the needs of animals, how they are terrorised by crackers. Yes I feel for animals too and I have never ever knowingly hurt an animal. But what about children and adults prone to asthma? Shouldn't we fight for their right to breathe normally?

Today, after five days of being racked by a cough that wouldn't let up, our little boy is slowly recovering. But even as I type this, the first crackers of the evening are being exploded on our street. The celebrations are starting, again. The air is choking up with sulphur, again. I've closed all the windows, so the poisonous air doesn't get in.

Little man is running around a bit more today. He is coughing still, but not as much as before. Thank God for that. When he was his usual self, his intense energy and physicalness would tire me out. "Sit still for a bit. Give me a break. Be quiet, Amma needs some time to herself," I'd tell him, nay, shout at him actually. Almost every day, several times a day, in fact.

Little did I know my words would come back to haunt me. Why do we always take what we have for granted? Why don't we realise that we hold something precious, till something happens to shake us to our core?

That's why seeing my little boy do his "upside down" thing brings me such joy.
Because I know now that I need to be upside down too--to clear my head, to rethink my priorities. To know what is precious and what I take for granted.

Perhaps we all need to be upside down, from time to time.

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