Avni couldn’t go to work; she was contagious. She couldn’t read; her eyes would immediately tear up. She couldn’t watch TV; the insides of her eyelids would burn. Not knowing what else to do, she shut her eyes and forced herself to sleep.
Her grandfather was checking her eyes under a torchlight. His kind face was frowning at her.
“Avni, these eye drops won’t do, my love.”
“Why not, grandpa?”
Her grandfather took her right palm and sandwiched it between his own gnarly ones and sighed. “I’m more concerned about the eye drops than your infection. Never use cortisol. Never. Remember that,” he warned, smiling.
With that, her grandfather left the room.
Avni’s eyes flew open. All she saw was the dim afternoon light through the yellow curtains.
She sat up, got off the bed and dug her wardrobe for a change of clothes. She put on a simple t-shirt and jeans, and grabbed the tiny eye drops bottle from her bedside table. She pulled her handbag off the bed and put the bottle into it.
In less than 10 minutes, she was out of her flat. She hailed an autorickshaw and made her way to an ophthalmologist.
An hour later, Dr Mithun was peering into her eyes. “Have you been using any self-medication?” he asked.
Avni rummaged the contents of her handbag and furnished the eye drops bottle. “No, this was prescribed to me by a different doctor.”
Dr Mithun took the bottle from her. His expert eyes surveyed its contents. His mouth formed a worried ‘O’. But Avni was more curious than worried by this point. She knew what was coming.
“I don’t get it. A specialist prescribed hydrocortisone for an infection,” the doctor wondered, out loud.
Dr Mithun gestured his hands, to bring her up to speed. “It’s cortisol. A kind of steroid, in common terms. That’s unnecessary for your condition. It’s just conjunctivitis. Let’s change the medicine, okay?”
Half an hour later, Avni was back home, in her living room. She stood in front of the photo hanging against the wall. She touched it with her palms. Her grandfather’s kind smile and his pristine white coat were as radiant as ever.