Wednesday, February 08, 2006


My cousins’ grandparents were over from England recently. We call them Nana and Nano, even though they’re not really our grandparents but just a pair of benevolent figures, occasionally showing up in some old childhood memory. All I remembered of them was their house in London. The small garden, wet clothes drying on the radiator, Weetabix. Who really knows their cousins’ grandparents?

Mami called me the other night to ask if I could advise her some antibiotics for her father. Nana was down with a bad case of gastroenteritis. Vomitting, diarrhea, high fever. Could I come over and see him?

I went over and found Nana lying in bed, looking exhausted. Mami had just cleared away a bag of vomit.

“The temperature’s a hundred,” she said. “He’s vomited several times today. Diarrhea too.”

Nana looked at me and smiled weakly.

“How are you, son?”

“Good, thanks,” I replied. “More importantly, how are you?”

“Allah ka shukr, I’m fine. Just a little tired.”

“Would you mind if I examined you?” I asked.

“Sure, please go ahead,” he said generously, trying to sit up.

“No, that’s alright. I’m just going to check you for dehydration. Maybe take a quick listen at your heart. You don’t have to get up.”

I checked for signs of dehydration and auscultated the heart. They didn’t have a sphygmomanometer so I couldn’t check the blood pressure but he seemed to be mildly dehydrated.

“Do you like ORS, Nana?” I asked genially.

“Sure, I had a few sips today.”

“That’s great. You seem a little dehydrated to me so ORS is a good idea. Just try and drink it slowly, a few sips at a time, so you don’t throw it up.”

“Thanks, son,” he said gratefully.

“No, not at all. Just drink the ORS and you’ll be fine. If there’s anything else, I’m around.”

“Thank you so much, son,” Nano spoke up. “It’s good of you to come over.” She’d been quiet so far, watching observantly as I examined her husband.

“No, please, don’t mention it, Nano. It’s just a little viral illness. He’ll be fine soon enough.” This was getting embarrassing.

“Here, have some juice.” She pushed a glass of apple juice in my hand.

“Thank you.”

“I’ll ask the houseboy to get some more ORS for him. Listen, Naseema,” she called over the housegirl. “Ask Ashraf to run down to the pharmacy and get some more sachets of ORS. And then come back and massage Nana’s feet.”

Naseema left the room.

“I’m always so worried when he falls ill. In England, all we have to do is make one phone call and they send the ambulance to your house. It’s difficult for old people.” She looked over at her husband. “We live alone in London. A few months ago, he collapsed on the kitchen floor. They sent an ambulance over right away. It is a great comfort.”

“But he doesn’t usually fall ill. He’s very healthy for his age. Eats well, exercises regularly. We’ve been abroad for more than 50 years, have to do everything ourselves. That makes you strong.”

I nodded passively.

“When we first went there, he was working at a small grocery shop. We both worked there. I took care of the house as well. Raised children, shoveled snow, saved his money. Together, we bought our own grocery shop.”

“The children were young, we were young. It was easy to work hard. I never fell ill. Even now, I rarely fall ill. It’s just recently that I got pneumonia. It is all this artificial food. They didn’t have this back then.”

I started grinning. It was the same old litany I heard everyday from my own grandmother.

“You are laughing. But it’s true, son,” she explained. “Recently they were showing a program on TV where they asked children what they ate at school every day. Every child said potato. Roast potato, mashed potato, baked potato, potato chips. All the children eat is potato.”

“You don’t like potato, Nano?” I played along.

“No, I do but you can’t raise a child on potatoes. He needs fruit and milk. He needs a balanced diet. Not Coca cola and crisps. I used to give my children almonds every day.”

“Very true.” All grannies were the same.

“There are no shortcuts to raising healthy children. You have to work hard. Here, Naseema,” she called the girl over. “Massage Nana’s feet for a while. He must be tired.”

Naseema went over to Nana’s side of the bed and started rubbing the soles of his feet.

“No, child,” Nana protested. “I’m fine. God bless you.”

“That’s OK, Nana” Naseema replied good-naturedly. “Please let me do it. You are like my own grandfather.” Naseema is a spunky and large-hearted girl who has been with us for many years. Her grandfather had passed away recently.

“Please don’t, child. I’m fine” Nana continued to protest.

“Ok, leave it,” Nano told Naseema. “He’s very shy. Doesn’t like to trouble others for himself.”

Naseema started giggling. “Shy? From me? But I’m old enough to be his grand-daughter!”

“He’s always been very respectful of women. Even when he was younger,” Nano explained.

“Keep well, child.” Nana drew his feet under the blanket.

“Oho, Nana, you don’t need to worry. I’m here to take care of you,” Naseema insisted.

“Thank you. God bless you.” His feet stayed where they were.


Blogger yasmine said...

Who really knows their cousins’ grandparents?

I knew my cousins' grandparents. =) What a beautiful story, mashaAllah. Makes me miss my grandparents. I hope Nana-ji gets well inshaAllah, and that Nani stays as wise as ever.

2:27 PM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

Grandparents are wonderful people. And I'm happy to report that both Nana and Nano are well and are on their way back home to London.

8:20 AM  

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