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Indian Expat Parent: Just Give Me an Allergy

Nut Allergy WarningWe had some friends come over for dinner. They were really excited about Indian food. But while one of them was allergic to gluten, garlic and the onion family, the other was allergic to tomato, lactose and citrus.

Indian food, without the above — well, let’s just say it was the ultimate chef’s challenge for me.

DD has also started learning about allergies. Her very good friend is allergic to olives. Another friend is allergic to fish.

“Mamma, what am I allergic to?” she asked me, hopefully. Her best friends were allergic; she didn’t want to be left behind.

But you see, my reflexes are trained to deny any ‘ill health’ in my kid. I am also trained to ward-off ‘evil spirits.’ So the standard reflex answer is, “Shh . . . what are you talking about? You have no allergies. You’re a healthy kid.”

And once I said that, I became very aware of the ‘evil spirits’ which become very active when there’s nothing wrong. They usually work their way to have the exact opposite effect of what you just said. So, if I said “no allergies,” I suspected they’d do the exact opposite.

But I am a modern Indian. So I didn’t go about picking red chillies and salt in my hands and making circular motions around my daughter’s head to drive the spirits away. Mom and grandmom did that for us as kids. I used to, too. But now, I am way too lazy to run into the kitchen and find the right stuff for the exercise. Or as I like to say it, I’m way too cool.

So, I just knocked on wood.

But DD started crying. I was pretty sure it was real wood I knocked on. So why was she so hurt?

“Why are you crying baby?” I asked her. “I don’t have any allergies. Why don’t I have any allergies?”

Oh my good God! Why would anybody want to have allergies?

I went about explaining why not having allergies was a good thing. Why it was great that she was healthy. Apparently, I was not convincing enough.

DD desperately wanted to have an allergy. So I had to give one to her.

When DD was about 1, she had a wheezing problem. Her doctor recommended that we avoid giving her anything cold. He also said no bananas and no citrus. We avoided all those for some time, and we were instructed to reintroduce all of them over time. She stopped reacting to bananas and citrus.

But ice creams would give her instant fever. So the doctor asked us to avoid it till she’s 5.

So I offered this to her.

“You’re allergic to cold stuff,” I pointed out.

“Like ice-cream?” she asked knowingly.

“Yes.”

Of all the allergies a kid would want this is probably the worst. No ice cream. OK, maybe after no chocolate. But still.

“You now have an allergy!” I cheered. And she started crying again.

“Now what?”

“But I love Ice cream. I don’t want to be allergic to it!”

“That’s the thing about allergies, princess. You don’t get to choose them.”

“No. I want a different allergy!”

DH had come home, and I handed her over to him. It’s an equal partnership after all. So he had an equal part to play. Besides, I had a really tough task at hand. I was cooking for our allergic friends.

I had to really get innovative. I mean, really. I ended up making rice pancakes (dosa), rice, dal (lentil soup sans onion or tomato), okra curry and some peanut chutney. Yeah, surprisingly, there was no nut allergy.

Dinner was successful. No heartburns, no headaches. No runs to the ER.

And just as we proceeded to dessert, DD had a sudden realization.

“Mamma, I realized what I am allergic to.”

“What is it?” I asked worried. It better not be real.

“I am allergic to vegetables.”

Right! And I am allergic to allergies!

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