Most kids these days have their own paediatrician. Rather, their parents do. From the marathon sneezes after singin' in the rain to the loose motions brought on by the snacks of Khaau-Galli, everything is reported to the child specialist on speed-dial. This live-from-the-progeny's-bed newsfeed continues throughout childhood, and in the case of a friend (who shall not be named), even beyond it.
I've never been to a paediatrician. Ever. Sure, I was weighed by one at birth, but that's customary. Treating the inevitable winter flu, jabbing shots into my rump, signing the rarely required medical certificates-a GP did it all. If I was a child today, my parents would be accused of pitting poor, little defenceless me against countless microbes and maladies. Overdoses of Threptin biscuits and oodles of Chyawanprash no longer count. But apart from being able to recall the taste for my own snot in alarming detail (come on, you know what I'm talking about, you know you've slurped it too!), I turned out just fine. I think back then, we were little people with little problems. If they merited a paediatrician's intervention, they were serious, rare or chronic. Many conditions that are problems today were not considered problems then. Many problems then had no solutions. Many problems didn't even exist. When they did make an appearance, they were tackled head on-at home. While holidaying at my grandparents' one summer, I woke up one night with an excruciating pain in the family jewels. I tossed, turned, and called out to my grandmother. In a trice, she brewed a concoction that dhishoom-dhishoomed the pain down within minutes. In the present day, it would be considered a surgical emergency.
In case you've ever wondered, it's chicken pox that paid for your paediatrician's farmhouse. As part of the medical community, I can tell you that CP is common, docile and easy-to-manage. My mum obviously thought so too and decided to go it alone when I came down with it. Neem leaves to alleviate the itching and drops of eucalyptus oil in the water when I could finally bathe again. The sores healed and scars disappeared with no contributions to the baby-doc's swimming pool, thank you. (They have a vaccine against chicken pox now. Pity. No unexpected vacation for the kids).
As a generation, we had no truck with illness. Of course we faked stomach aches before school when we hadn't yet faked our dads' signatures on the report card. But the slightest hint that the rich kid might be planning to distribute those 10-rupee Five-Stars on his birthday, and wild horses couldn't keep us home.
We fell sick less often too. I wonder why, but I have a hunch. We never had the dough to afford anything more unhealthy (or expensive) than a pepsi-cola; kids these days are loaded enough to buy many, without the hyphen. The games we played were non-electronic; we knew what it is like to run. And most importantly, we didn't know a thing about stress until puberty hit, and girls became GIRLS(!).
On the personal front, I always got my 8 hours of beauty sleep (which explains my dashing good looks), didn't munch on a potato chip till I was well-advanced in years (adolescence), and drank only home-boiled water that my mum carted around, sometimes even to a relative's home. I didn't visit a paediatrician because my parents tried their best to never let the need arise.
Unfortunately, my exposure to medicine has somewhat altered my perceptions about childcare. As a future parent, I see myself blathering on about developmental milestones, height-weight charts and Mensa scores. Hopefully, they will help. If not, I will always have Threptin and Chyawanprash to fall back on.