As what happens when I am really run down, I develop a strange hybrid of tonsillitis-bronchitis-sinus-infection-head cold. It starts with a terrible sore throat, tonsils inflaming to the point where swallowing soup hurts, and the only thing that is soothing is masala chai. Then the ailments move into my nasal passage making Kleenex my new best friend, before it finally fills my lungs with fluid and I spend three days coughing non-stop, resulting in my ribs aching under my skin. Yea! Fun times for Desi Girl!
It is in this state a bachelor named Haldi Milk calls me, waking me from a nap. For some reason, even though I don’t recognize the 718 area code number, I pick-up. My voice is groggy with sleep, and hoarse from the hybrid cold. “Hello?” I croak and clear my throat, always something VERY attractive to hear I am sure. “Desi Girl?” a male desi voice asks. The accent is light, smooth, a little desi, a little Western. “Yes?” I reply, my voice settles down, the coughing and inflammation go away. “Hello, this is Haldi Milk, calling from Forest Hills, Queens - is this an okay time for chatting?” he asks. “Yes, this is fine,” I reply. He pauses for a moment and then asks. “Do you smoke?” I laugh. “No, I have a bit of a cold or something.”
“Oh,” he begins, sounding VERY relieved. “Your voice is very low and raspy, sexy, but like a smoker and I don’t date smokers.” “Me, either,” I say. He seems satisfied and continues. “So where do you live?” he asks. “Washington Heights,” I reply. “Where is that?” he asks. “Way, way, way Uptown, where the GWB comes into Manhattan from Jersey, like 181st Street,” I reply and shift on the couch. “You live WAY up there?” Really? Did he forget he began the conversation announcing his exact coordinates in Queens? “Washington Heights is pretty. The buildings are no more than six to eight stories, lots of young families, their dogs, SUVs and illegal nannies. It has a very European feel,” I reply. “Forest Hills is very pretty, and we have yards and grass,” he replies. If yards and grass were an elixir for me I am sure his props to landscape would have been more effective. But Desi Girl does not mow or remove snow!
“So what brought on your cold?” Haldi Milk asks. “I don’t know, I guess it happens. But I am talking some cold medicine,” I reply. “You should try a cup of haldi milk. My grandmother used to give to me when I was ill as a child. It is great for colds, coughs and throat irritations.” Okay, as far as Indian spices go haldi aka turmeric is the one I like the least. First it stains EVERYTHING bright saffron yellow, second I don’t like the astringent smell or taste. I mean cumin has a great smell -- deep, rich and complex. Same thing with cardamom, it has a comforting scent and is delicious in tea. “What you do is heat up some milk and add about a half teaspoon of haldi,” Haldi Milk explains.
I pause, I am so over these hybrid colds that have plagued me my whole life, twice a year. I realize I am not a desi doctor, but I think most of my issue comes from the fact that I still have my tonsils. At this point in my life, if I want the tonsils removed it is "an elective surgery". This means I would have to pay for it. And if I am augmenting my body on my dime, I am having lypo done to my thighs!
“So this works?” I ask. “Oh yes. It is very good for balancing your kapha, are you familiar with doshas?” he asks. Oh Durga, really? I mean, I am familiar enough. But is he going to make me feel bad about not knowing all things desi? I mean, sure maybe I should be better versed in Hinduism, doshas and the practice of yoga, but come on dude, I effing grew up in Minnesota. No one was doin’ yoga in the 80s! In gym class I was forced to swim and play tag football.
“Anyway, in ayurveda haldi is used as anti-inflammatory and antibacterial medicine,” Haldi Milk shares. I don’t really believe in drugs. Sure I take Tylenol when I have a head-ache, cough syrups and over-the-counter meds, but I really try to avoid addictive pain-killers and antibiotics. And I have always been a little suspicious of homeopathic remedies for some reason. However, I am so tired of this sore throat that I am willing to try anything once (as long as it is legal and won’t maim me).
When we hang up, I peal myself off the couch, pad into the kitchen and find the turmeric. I microwave some milk, add a teaspoon of haldi, already retching from the smell and the way it turns my milk into a putrid shade of yellow. I plug my nose, drink the milk in six sips and immediately wash the glass.
Wow, that was the grossest thing ever. No more haldi milk for me, I’ll let my hybrid cold run its course.