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Original photo by Devanshi Daga

In Sickness and in Health: A Guide to Gracefully Falling Ill in College

Edited by Maya M. Haidar


Most of us live away from our homes and our parents for the first time when we go to college. Of course, we all have our own set of expectations when we do so: new freedom, new city, new friends, parties, and whatnot. There are also some things we don’t really think about, and often take for granted when we are at home: laundry detergent, maintaining a relatively habitable living environment in your room, and having people take care of you when you’re sick. I don’t know considering the extreme circumstances we’re in, whether everyone was actually thinking about that last thing, but I surely was not. That definitely had some consequences for me.


When you’re at home and you fall sick, you have people to make you soup, prepare hot water bags, and remind you to take your meds. Even if you’re unwell at school, the worst case scenario would be that you go to the nurse and they send you home. In college, the worst part about being sick isn’t even the sickness itself—it’s the desperation and loneliness you feel when you do. And I hear many of you saying, “I don’t fall sick, my immune system is too advanced”. But I’m here to tell you that even if you have the SpaceX of immune systems and even if you eat three spoonfuls of chyavanprash a day, several mosquito bites and bad decisions later, you too will find yourself in the infirmary at some point of time. And when you do, I hope you deal with it better than I did.


Around two or three weeks into my first semester, I fell ill with a bacterial infection. I went to the doctor on campus and got some antibiotics and came back to my room. The next morning around 6 am, I woke up in a cold sweat, dizzy and tired to the bone. I dragged myself to the infirmary, barely able to keep my eyes open—don’t do this, just tell one of the wardens, and they’ll call the ambulance for you. The doctor arrived a little later and I was admitted because of my high fever. Food would be brought for me from the mess to my bed. Here’s a life hack, just eat whatever you’re given. Most likely you’ll get khichdi (which as a South Indian, I immediately disliked) or bread. At that point, I couldn’t even bear to look at food, much less, eat it because of how much discomfort I was in. The breaking point was reached when on my second day in the infirmary they said they were going to do a dengue test. All my courage and happiness was out the window, and I called my mom. I don’t recall much from this encounter, but according to her I was sobbing through the phone saying “I don’t wanna be at Ashoka, please take me home” and other more unpleasant things. She said I sounded so upset that she almost came to Haryana. I even vaguely remember telling a small group of acquaintances (these people are now my best friends,) who came to see me that I was going to transfer out soon. 


On the third day I was discharged, but had to continue taking my meds. I was still feeling awful and I couldn’t eat, despite not having a fever anymore. Finally, as a last measure, I took some antacids from the infirmary. Lo and behold, I was cured. I could eat, talk, sleep, and even dance. Never underestimate how much acidity antibiotics can cause . It almost made me quit college for crying out loud! 


I have never wanted to leave Ashoka since that incident, despite having fallen sick a few times after. After the first time, I learned the art of falling sick “gracefully”—or as gracefully as you can with a runny nose. As a last piece of advice, before you come to your new home (which you hopefully will soon), here’s some things you can invest in for your own health:

  • Vaporub: A small bottle of Vicks can go a long way for colds and headaches (no, this isn’t sponsored).

  • A steamer: I cannot stress how useful this is, especially during winters when the air is so dry your throat feels like the Sahara desert.

  • Eno: Yes, if you’re not a health freak, college will boost your junk food eating capacities. And you will, in the least gross way possible, find yourself in the middle of the night, unable to burp.

  • Hot water bag: The most useful thing on the planet if you have bad period cramps

  • A warm blanket: For when you want to feel like a human burrito, and for when your roommate won’t turn down the fan even though you’re dying of frostbite.


And use lots of odomos every time you step out. I hope you do as I say and not as I did.


Feminist//Writer//Decent human being
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