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The inhaler probably had nitrous oxide in it.  It doesn’t matter what it really had, as long as the effect was the same.  After Deepti finished propping me on the precious bean bag to keep my nose and sinuses in a vertical condition, the orange-brown fart-sound making wonder of a bag that was the platinum level seating in our local laptop multiplexes on the fourth floor, I felt slightly better. The bean bag was to make sure I didn’t lie down and clog all the caves and tunnels in my upper respiratory system. The girls were having fun and merriment at my expense and discomfort, a good change (they thought) from jury blues, while I had home-like care at their cost (and discomfort, considering I had the privilege of getting the bean bag).

Anjali’s inhaler made sure what Reshma’s super-hot steam plus Vicks vaporub inhaling from a bucketful-of-boiling-water therapy and Amruta’s hitting on the back didn’t..  I managed to utter a few words for the first time in hours. I also happened to get into one of those laughter spells when one silly thing kickstarts peals of laughter fed by instinctive memories of older, not-so-funny-anymore incidents. The magic inhaler helped too, only that every ‘akheahhhaaaghh’ (smallest unit of my laughter-sound that day) soon started resulting in terrible pain in my chest and wicked Doordarshan Alif-Laila djinn ‘HA HA HA HA HA HAs’ from the rest of the supposed-to-be caring-for-the-poor-fevered-child women around me.  Through all their concern, I could see that they were, if not sub-conciously, trying to evoke an ‘akheahhhaaaghh’  out of the propped-in-the-bean-bag and cacooned-with-loving-care-in-three-warm-blankets me.  The general format of conversation was:

Amruta:  Vai, do you remember…
Me: ‘akheahhhaaaghh’ (low bitrate)
Others:
  ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’ (with high bass on the voicebox equalizer)
Amruta:
But I didn’t even finish…
Me: ‘akheahhhaaaghh’ (lower that 100 kbps)
Lori:
  ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’ (with subwoofer)
Reshma:
  ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’ (with surround sound)

-pause-

Sunanda:  ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’
Amruta:
Guys do you know what happened today in the pd studio…
Me (through my three layers of blankets and the hot water bag): ‘akheahhhaaaghh’
Amruta: but you weren’t even there!
Deepti: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’ Vai! you sound sooo funny!!

Lori: Don’t make her laugh, she coughs weirdly after that. Is it painful, vai?
Me (puppy expression in eyes): khhglaaaagh
Amruta: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’

-pregnant pause-

Reshma: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’
Sunanda:
‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’

-pregnant (with twins) pause-

Reshma: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’
Everyone:
‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’
me:
‘akheahhhaaaghh ha ha’

As this went on for a while, a distant childhood memory of grandpa-age uncles laughing for no reason in a circle like a bunch of druids at their annual meet in one of Kolkata’s laughter clubs triggered.. It resulted in more funny sounds from the lump of blankets on the bean bag that was me and yet more sounds from the surrounding public.  This conglomeration of cackling witches around the bean bag went on for a few more hours. At some point, I dozed off, a result of better-functioning breathing apparatus.  I emerged from my three-blanket cacoon the next day with health restored and a heart full of warmth, and this was not entirely due to the hot water bag 🙂

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