Josna Rege

76. Say it Again

In 1990s, India, Stories on September 27, 2010 at 12:14 am

I am telling this story for two reasons: because it has a happy ending and because I like the feel of a certain word rolling around on my tongue.

Cast your mind back to your childhood self at eight—or, if you are a parent, to your child at that age.  It was 1993 and Andrew, Nikhil, and I were living in India for six months while I did my dissertation research. For the first month or so we stayed in Delhi with “the four J’s”—my cousin Jayant, his wife Jaya, and their two children Jyoti and Jatin, respectively a little older and a little younger than Nikhil. We went on to Kanpur, Bombay, Pune, Ratnagiri, and Karwar, and then wended our way back to our Delhi family again before taking off for the States in June. Although it had been our original intention to live independently, we wound up living with and being taken care of by different members of our family the whole time, and so tried to fit as smoothly as possible into the daily rhythms of their households.

Often, while Jayant and Jaya, both busy physicians, were at work, Andrew would organize a game of cricket in the courtyard with the three children. Nikhil and he had bought a book on the rules of cricket and had been studying it carefully. They worked out an elaborate system of scoring depending on whether the ball stayed in the courtyard or was hit all the way up to the terrace. Of course, in that limited space, the pitch had to be considerably foreshortened, with the runner scoring when he or she reached the courtyard wall and tagged it with the bat.

On this particular day I seem to recall that we were preparing to travel and Nikhil was getting in one last game with his cousins. I didn’t see the fateful hit, but I do know that Nikhil gave the ball a mighty thwhack, charged down the pitch at full tilt, and was stopped short only when his head rammed straight into the rock-hard courtyard wall.

All I saw was my son being half-supported, half-carried into the hall with a hideous lump the size of a cricket ball starting out of his temple. You have all seen lumps like it, on the heads of characters in comic books. I was beside myself. But Jaya, the pediatrician, remained completely calm. After looking into his eyes and asking him and Andrew a few questions, she produced a tube containing a mysterious unguent called Thrombothrob (you heard it, Thrombothrob), rubbed it gently into the affected area, and put him straight to bed, where he fell instantly into a deep sleep and continued sleeping soundly all evening and the whole night through.

By morning he was cured. The hideous lump had completely resolved itself, and there was hardly a trace of the injury of the previous afternoon. O happy day! To me it was nothing short of a miracle. But dear Jaya was unsurprised, and I realize now that she must have ascertained immediately that, horrifying as it had looked, it had not been a serious head injury.

Thrombothrob. Say it again.

postscript, 9/29/10: In response to a subscriber’s letter challenging the very existence of said  mysterious unguent, I wrote to my cousins for confirmation. They have now written back with good news and bad: the good news is that, yes, this ointment does exist, the bad news is that I had got the spelling wrong. It’s not Thrombothrob but Thrombophob—just as effective when used for the purposes described (external use only), but not quite as delicious a word to roll around on the tongue. So thanks for keeping me honest, but I’m sticking to my original story!

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

  1. I don’t remember this at all.


  2. Hi Jojo,

    I have researched this ointment extensivly (google) and a colleague from India at work! There is NO such ointment! But I sure wish there was!

    • Vincent! Lovely to hear from you. Let me write to my cousin’s wife and see whether she remembers this incident.The name stuck in my mind because it was so evocative (and onomatopoeic) and because I was so very relieved. I’ll get back to you on this! x J

      • Okay, Vincent, everyone, I’ve heard back from my cousin and the definitive word is that, yes, there is such an ointment/gel, but I had spelled the name wrong. It’s not Thrombothrob, but Thrombophob—apparently just as effective when used as described but not as much fun to say. I think I’ll stick to my original story: Thrombothrob!

  3. Great word. Sounds like something from Harry Potter or Thursday Next! (If you don’t know about Thursday Next, either google Jasper Fforde or ask me. I think she’d be right up your alley.)

    I can imagine your heart must have just about stopped!

  4. Thrombothrob! I love it! Only in India!
    What a wonderful story! As usual, you have carried me away from the mundane here and now to a magical land where we grew up.

  5. I think Sarah nailed it for me: Very Harry Potter! (I don’t know Thursday Next, but now i’m intrigued.) Wished for some Thrombothrob/phob this evening, after we watched a friend’s toddler drop off his chair and slam his forehead onto the unforgiving lip of a metal table. But that child, too, miraculously came through okay!

    • Thank goodness! When I was a child I loved E. Nesbit’s novels, and in one of them—The Story of the Amulet, I think, the children time-traveled to a future society which was completely geared to children and it was a crime to have dangerous things in one’s house, like furniture with sharp edges or unprotected fireplaces.

  6. Hi Jojo,

    Sorry I can’t attend the “Adam Undergound” premier, I’ll be in New Haven for another premier, a musical called “We have always lived in the castle” produced by a long time friend. I did want to send the web site that has information on THROMBOPHOB GEL it’s quite interesting from a pharmacological framework. Ciao, vincenzo.

    • Grazie, Vincenzo. Link looks interesting, though I may have to study pharmacology in order to make sense of it all. Enjoy your friend’s musical and hope to see you both soon. Not everyone has invitations to two premieres on the same night! x J

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