Tiny white plastic bottles with multi-coloured caps, labelled and filled to the brim with balls of sugar.Once upon a time our medicine cabinet used to be full of such bottles.A sneeze,a cough or a slight temperature change, and we'd be bundled off to the clinic of a famous Homeo doctor in town.A handsome old man with the sweetest disposition treated us of most of our childhood ailments.The two clinics he ran,one at Jawahar Nagar and another at Pazhavangadi were our regular haunts and the long wait in the lobby,an adventure to two very active kids.
To Neil and me, he was the epitome of the art of homeopathy.We mistook the picture of Samuel Hahnemann hanging on the wall to be that of the old doctor himself.His home in Jawahar Nagar was perhaps one of the pioneer modern homes in Trivandrum with a landscaped lawn, a pond with lotuses ,a grand aquarium and a beautiful view from the window of the consultation room.Perhaps it was because we were his regular patients,the softspoken doctor gave a patient ear to any complaints we had.Even if it was just one of us that had an illness ,the other would also be considered for any discomfort of health.That I once told him in a grave voice "Doctor,my finger hurts when I break pencil nibs" remains the most cliched and embarrassing anecdotes of our visits there.After the consultation we'd wait to get the medicines at the dispensary and were friendly with the staff there too.They let us go inside the counter and watch with wide eyed wonder as they opened a huge bottle of sugar balls.Neil and I ventured to ask where we could find a similar bottle.The heady smell of the medicine,the trays of empty plastic bottles,the colourful collection of caps,the label strips, all caught our fancy.Sure enough the healthy one was given a bottle of plain sugar balls as a compliment.
Now the problem when you have sugar balls for a medicine is that the prescribed 3 pills twice a day is hardly satisfying.So half the bottle is over before noon(one more won't hurt,being the thought behind the stealth).Once it got over too soon that I had to refill it with sugar from the kitchen lest Mum noticed!Thankfully we never suffered from an overdose.
Apart from the sweet pills we also used to get tasteless fine powder in neatly folded packets.Now those powders went down only with a spoonful of sugar.
Homeopathy was always the remedy for minor illness and preventive medicines.Come summer and there would be fresh bottles of the sweet preventive medicine in the cabinet.
I have come across very interesting people in this profession.The most memorable one was Ammamma's doctor who claimed to be treating her with imported German medicine.Mummy has this habit of reading all advertisement boards on the roadside and she found this lady doctor in a unfashionable house, brimming with confidence.The consultation took as long as three hours during which Ammamma and the doctor shared pleasantries,sob-stories and gossip and if they had time,the stomach trouble, while Mummy dozed in the other chair! The lady burned a huge hole in Ammamma's purse and sent home enough bottles which helped me practice abstinence.
One of the common things I've noticed about most Homeo practitioners(especially ladies who run clinics at home) are their unassuming consulting rooms(living or dining room or the balcony),messy tables(the stethoscope and pens resurface after a frantic hunt),and an unimpressive dressing sense.I once consulted a nighty-clad doctor looking every inch sickly herself and another time a cat jumped on to the table while I sat with a thermometer clamped between my teeth.Nevertheless their prescriptions worked just right.Sometime back a doctor surprised me when she cured my chest congestion by giving me an oral shot of the medicine.It was immediate relief.
Homeopathy is one branch of medicine which has always faced ruthless criticism from their counterparts.The homeopaths valiantly defend their profession where "like cures like".The argument continues.But for me, it is a 'sweet' memory and a very sweet reason to fall ill. ;-)