That is how my day usually begins- be it at 0400 hrs on a working day or 1100 hrs on a Sunday! Hyper-allergic and asthmatic, sniffles, sneezes and wheezes are a part and parcel of everyday life! The list of things I should keep away from but humanly cannot include pollen, dust, smoke, incense sticks, strong kitchen scents, perfumes, air fresheners, fluffy dogs, et al.
Just thinking back on Chemistry Labs in Grades 11 and 12 is enough to make me groan in desperation! I would sneeze for hours at a stretch, grapple with fragile test-tubes I could hardly see or hold while the sneezing attacks lasted, and perform calculations and deductions in the face of impending shortness of breath. A perfect score in the Board Exams is still an unsolved mystery! And religious functions are another source of suffocation, what with the insane crowd, incense sticks, dhoop, over-powering sweet and savory smells, too much of fire around to calm my already frazzled nerves… Memories I would rather not revisit!
Tharini, Sujatha, Mad Momma and a host of other bloggers have written about and are promoting awareness about Food Allergies this month, which got me thinking about the way people in India look at it. Most seem to think it is not possible and the guests are merely making a fuss and conjuring excuses. Allergic to coconut, it is frankly frustrating to have the hosts pressing you to thoda chak toh le and turning a deaf ear to your limitations! My allergic reactions do not manifest immediately after I consume the dish, thus increasing the general disbelief of an allergy to a food product staple to this part of the country. Indeed-it is hard to find a Goan vegetarian preparation devoid of coconut milk and sweets without grated coconut! (Take me away, a secret place.. no-really-I feel like Boston today!)
And that results in countless social faux pas, as some may put it. Buffets and parties, specifically weddings and socio-religious functions, or even conferences serving Goan food with gusto are not largely meant for the vegetarian species, and the few dishes sidelined are brimming with coconut! (There you go, my excuse for loving and splurging on that sinful slice black forest cake and ice cream!)
I am indeed lucky that I do not (at least, not yet) have any other food allergies- it must be especially hard to watch younger ones not being able to enjoy foods we take as commonplace but could result in fatal consequences if consumed.
I think the key lies in understanding the other person’s situation and remembering that he is choosing neither the allergy nor the consequences. A little more tolerance and acceptance of diversity in bodily constitutions would go a long way in making life a bit easier for both the sides of the equation. 🙂