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A Mango Killed Me Yesterday!

Dr Alka Jain
Dr Alka Jain

Cut! Introduction! A mango killed me yesterday! Well, honesty demands that I add the word, “nearly” or “almost” because I am alive at this moment writing this post. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot put up a case of murder against the mango! I am alive solely because of the anti-allergic pill I swallowed immediately. I am alive because of my survival instincts even though the marauder was at large, ready to feed on my body. But I lived to tell the tale!  

The Plot! It so happened that since the past few days whenever I would have a mango slice, (the badaam variety famous in our part of Bundelkhand, India), I would develop rashes on my body preceded by itching. But since I was nourishing my body with a lavish meal (as lavish as Coronovirus lockdown would sanction!), along with the mango treat, I could not lay the blame on the celebrated king of fruits. But yesterday I caught the culprit red-handed.  I had nothing at dinner- time but a glass of mango shake. Satisfied with its sweetness and ability to quench my hunger and douse the yearning for mithai (Indiansweetmeat/dessert).I went ahead with my everyday chores (the lockdown ones) forced upon my delicate shoulders due to absence of helpers! Finally, after twenty minutes or so, I was under the shower, planning to see the Academy Award-winning movie, Parasite. Movie- hunting is nowadays (Corona-times) a favourite activity. 

The Climax! As I got ready, I felt shards of glass piercing my whole body! I rushed to the dressing- room mirror. To my horror, my whole body was covered with scratches as if it has been rubbed with glass powder or worse -acid. The acute pins & needles feel, harmonised with the deep burning sensation made me numb and I cried out for help. Something struck me and I shouted again-  louder this time for an anti-allergic and ice, as amidst the furore of the raging scratch marks and acidic itch I remembered the mango and was convinced that my body was reacting to some chemical! I was sure it was THE MANGO I had for dinner!  I quickly gulped down the anti-allergic and sat down with my feet immersed in ice water and wrapped my arms in a towel dipped in ice. 

mango

The doctor could only talk on the phone and I sent the pictures to him. Upon seeing the marks he immediately passed the verdict that it was indeed a reaction to pesticidesa common phenomenon nowadays. He praised me for swallowing the pill in that moment of enlightenment and saving myself from further trauma. 

And so the tough nut survives to tell her story to the world. But she is amazed that the world is in no mood to listen. The universe is ripe and ready to hear stories and statistics about Corona, the great Pandemic of the century. I put my story on the social media site-FB,  Whatsapp- few paid heed, as the story yelled to keep others away from these vicious mangoes and other fruits doing the rounds of the market and tempting everyone to take them home ‘with love’. A friend called up to ask what happened and said: “So all is fine now.” I didn’t know whether it was a question or a statement! It was resignation perhaps. 

I thought about my ‘socially responsible’ act of posting the incident to warn others about the allergic reaction and the need for preparedness with medicines when it dawned upon me that I was being utterly foolish.  

People are used to pesticides, insecticides, growth hormones carbides etc in their everyday diet. Chemicals are family after all! I am the odd one out in the human family to have burst out with scratch marks, pain and itching, trying to reject the pesticide within and calling out to media and governments! “Your body is sensitive to pesticide” it was declared. It seemed like an accusation!  

“What right do you have to react so vehemently and aggressively against a poor pesticide when the world is okay with it? Why have such vanity? Girl, don’t you get it? These are Corona times. The Virus is important. Write about it. Shed light because that is what the whole world is doing. See the number of deaths in three months! And what is your issue- seek attention for a petty case of pesticide poisoning! God make you see sense!” My inner wisdom was quick to update me about how the world was retaliating to my voraciousness.  

pesticide

I was talking about a venom killing from within stealthily. The deadly vial injected into innocent livers, kidneys and lungs, the predators clawing out to clog every nook and corner of the human body. The pesticide manufacturers, the multinational companies, farm owners, farmers, governments… so many of them. I constantly hear of regulations, but am yet to be told what to do with the mango that I have caught red-handed at the scene of the crime. Where to imprison it? Where to file a lawsuit? Which fruit-vendor to get hold ofwhere to file an FIR for pesticide overdose?  

The inner voice asks me to keep mum-“Do you think you have Corona symptoms?” It asks. “No, but there are millions of asymptomatic carriers of the violence within- human organs ravaged by harmful chemicals!” I protest. Inner Voice- “You need action for such an insignificant thing, you need to hog the limelight? So you are looking out for media inter vention? Are you kidding?” 

I CRIED OUT!  No, I am not kidding, I am dead serious this time! And Yes, I do need to tell the world that the human body is lying in a shredder waiting to be cut into thousand pieces of minced meat! There’s a murderer out there. A gang!  Killing millions savagely, ravaging the whole world, damaging the intestines, roasting kidneys and tossing the liver over, again and again till the body gives up. Causing cancers, blindness, impairment, mental disorders, brain malfunctioning. So what if it is not as straightforward and forthright as Corona? So what if it is a predator is butchering in years? Each day, the media opens its palm to release statistical data on Corona. Will it not print my story? Who is reporting the mangoes and its predicament by the way? Stories of the  king of fruits with a sling of affairs with chemicals? Leaving behind a trail of delirium and disorders? There is no lockdown over chemical poisoning from food, no policemen scrutinising at the squares because chemical poisoning hasn’t been declared a pandemic yet! 

The world responds to emergencies that the naked eye can see. It is concerned with the five senses. Pesticides, growth hormones, fertilizers are researched and regulations are set, but everyone turns a deaf ear and a blind eye to the innumerable outlets selling every possible pesticide- with an unprecedented largesse of heart. I am amazed by the passion with which my gardener orders me for his packets of urea and DAP. It is his right. The garden looks better and brighter he affirms.  

Dr. Alka

uprooted the mint leaves and withheld the temptation to use curry (neem) leaves and papaya from my garden a long time ago… who will consume urea and DAP like this? I wondered. But I know that the mint, coriander and okra I buy from the markets contain these elixirs in abundance. Its just that at home I know their measure purchased and hence the guilt 

The world says. “This woman has the tenacity to compare Corona with her pesticide reaction!” Do we know that an average of about 200,000 people die from the toxic exposure of pesticides per year across the world, as per the United Nations reports? For the scientists and researchers, these chemicals may be an answer to the world food problem, but for a layman like me, they mean deaths, deaths and more deaths. 

If we fail to contain this deadly virus inflicting cancerous wounds on our body, the world population will be erased. Boom! Nothing, Nowhere! Hence we have to call out. Lights! Camera! Action! We must give a facelift to this nuisance and declare it a world emergency, a pandemic, and shield ourselves from the mutants lurking out from every vegetable counter, food packet and salad bar. Long live health! Bring down the despondent! Free the mangoes and let them be sweet naturally! Is anybody listening? Knock, Knock! Let sensibility in! 

Dr Alka Jain 

Assistant Professor, (English) 

Rani Lakshmi Bai Central Agricultural University, Jhansi 

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