Mr P was collecting the newspaper from his porch in the morning when he saw over the fence that his neighbour was already seated on the veranda next door in his arm chair with a cuppa, going through his paper. He noticed that his neighbour was sneezing and seemed to have a bit of a cold. Whenever Mr P came in the proximity of a sick person, he had this vision of all these little creatures (they looked like creatures from the movie ‘Critters’ in Mr P’s imagination) jumping off from that person to invade Mr P’s body. And even with a common cold, Mr P imagined the worst possible scenarios. “What if that person had the dengue fever or an infection by a super bug?” Mr P was very scared of germs. Normally Mr P would have rushed back inside and shut the door… to keep the germs out. But today he was feeling generous and kind. He had had a good night after an evening spent in his garden which was now rid of all those fire ants.
The morning was pleasant and all was right with Mr P’s world. The sky was blue, the birds were singing and the flowers were smiling…. So he called out to his neighbour and asked about his well being. The neighbour told Mr P that he was recovering from a cold and it wasn’t too bad. Mr P commiserated and the neighbour then responded he was feeling quite alright and planned to go to work that morning. Mr P advised him to take a home remedy to get over the cold very quickly. He suggested a hot cup of tea made with holy basil (known as Tulsi locally) leaves, jaggery, pepper and dried ginger. As if to prove his good neighbourliness, Mr P walked into his garden, plucked a heap of the holy basil leaves and offered it over the fence to his neighbour who came and collected it. Mr P quickly withdrew his hands from over the fence, scooted up the porch back into his house, shut the door, washed his hands and face with Dettol soap and went about his day’s business.
It was a few hours later that he heard the sirens of an ambulance that stopped at his neighbour’s house. Peering through the curtains, Mr P saw his neighbour being taken to the ambulance which left in a hurry. Mr P solemnly shook his head. “These days people seem to call for an ambulance even for such silly things as a common cold!” he thought. Later, he saw his neighbour’s wife return back from the hospital and Mr P rushed out to get the news from her. He learned that his neighbour had had a stomach wash and was stabilising in the hospital and would probably be back home the next day. The wife was very puzzled about the illness as her husband had been doing fine till he had taken the basil tea. It was after that the diarrhoea and vomiting had started. “And holy cow, it was not that he had never had holy basil tea ever before” she said!
It then dawned on Mr P that his neighbour’s illness was related to how he himself had spent his time the previous evening. Mr P had spent a lot of time in his garden. He felt that sinking feeling as though the bottom of his stomach was falling down. He recollected what he was doing in his garden. He was generously sprinkling ant killing insecticide and had dusted lavish amounts on the basil plants!