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The Bangladesh Eye Flu

The Bangladesh Eye Flu
(Sarbjit Singh)

Sarbjit Singh

It was probably sometime in 1971 when I was around 12 years old that there was a very widespread epidemic of eye flu christened Bangladesh Eye flu. It was probably named so because this was brought in by the huge influx of Bangladeshi refugees into India around the time of Indo-Pak war. Very infectious, every third or fourth person seemed to be getting it.

As boarders in PPS (The Punjab Public School, Nabha, Punjab, India) there were very few ways of getting away from classes. Worse still, probably the only way to be able to go home during regular school days was if we got very sick. This Bangladesh Eye Flu was like a gift from God. Those who were getting ‘red eyes’ were sent home immediately because of fear of spread of the disease.

These kinds of ‘gifts’ however have a way of playing hard to get, really hard to get. I and some of my close ‘associates’ just wouldn’t get it no matter how hard we tried. We even tried touching the eyes of the inflicted individuals and then touching our own. Nope, it just wouldn’t happen. Damn ! what do we do now?

Necessity is the mother of invention is how that old cliche goes. The ‘gang’ came up with a cunningly brilliant plan. We would arm ourselves with a bit of toothpaste on one of our fingers each. Go to the MI room building. Just before we present ourselves for examination, we would instil that bit of toothpaste into our eyes. It would cause the eyes to go red for just enough time to be diagnosed with the eye flu. We would then get a letter of exemption from school on account of eye flu. Can you beat it, it worked.

Armed with that letter, we went to the housemaster in-charge and got permission to go home. I don’t quite remember how, but I was in a bus alone to go from Nabha bus station to my destination in Khanna town. The journey of the “great escape” began and with a million things going in my little head, did not take too long to culminate.

The bus guy dropped me just outside my home. I slowly walked towards the house, both happy and nervous at the same time. As I was walking I was rehearsing my dialogues that I would deliver to my parents.

When the home door opened, I was told that my parents had gone to some friend’s house for dinner. I wasn’t sure how long they would take, so decided to ask someone to drop me where my parents had gone. I hopped on to the back carrier of the bicycle of an employee of my father’s and we were on our way.

Reaching the place, I rang the doorbell. Ding! Dong!

The domestic help in that house took me into the drawing room where the hosts and my parents were sitting. My parents were surprised beyond belief. Such a thing had never happened that the school kids would be allowed to go home in the middle of a school week.

“How come you are back from school?” asked my father.

“The school people sent me home because I have an eye flu.” I replied with some confidence. For a short while I seemed to have forgotten that my dad was an eye specialist.

“No you don’t!” said my dad with a harsh voice.

“I wouldn’t know,” I said meekly as I handed over the letter from school.

After a brief but tense few moments, my father smiled and gave me a hug. He was happy that I was with them.

Oh wait a minute! I suddenly realised that both my parents were wearing dark glasses at night, a sure giveaway that both of them were having an eye flu, the great Bangladesh Eye Flu.

Sarbjit Singh


One Response to The Bangladesh Eye Flu

  1. Minni Singh

    Ha ha ha! What a miraculous incident expressed equally miraculously!

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