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Modern maraz
In those days (sigh), all it took to get well was some attention

May 1, 2003
The Iranian

It's almost daylight, but I am still lying in bed dripping with cold sweat, shivering with fever to the beat of "Tabeh Shabe Shanbeh" and staring into the swirling black hole that used to be my bedroom ceiling, but is now flashing selected embarrassing scenes from my teenage years. Good Lord, I can't remember the last time I was hallucinating from sickness.

I swear I am infected with an ever-mutating alien flu virus; the damn thing has been feeding on me for a whole week and shows no sign of backing down.

I feel homesick too. I remember how my younger brother was especially fond of the attention he would receive when he was sick with a fever. His favorite part was the cool, damp cloth my mother would place on his forehead to lower his temperature. He called it "Dastmal-e-Mariz", and he would have the sweetest smile on his little feverish face as long as he had his "Dastmal-e-Mariz" provided for him.

In those days (sigh), that was really all it took to get well. You just needed some attention, and the rest was simply "Leemoo Shirin" and "Behdooneh". But here in the U.S., I can't even catch a common cold these days. I have to be tested for West Nile Virus or SARS as soon as I "aaaaCHOO".

And shopping for something as simple as cold medication is like torture nowadays. Actually I avoid buying drugs unless absolutely necessary. But that means only buying drugs when I am already very sick. Trying to figure out what to buy while standing in front of a great wall of cold medications in a drugstore can make any normal person dizzy, let alone allow me to decide through my runny nose and watery eyes what would cure my cold.

Rows and rows of Tylenol, Excedrin, Bayer,... drowsy, non-drowsy, NEW!,
Sinus Allergy, NEW!, 12% more! Daytime, tranquilizer, NEW!, hay fever, organic!, 10% less! Voted Best Laxative 2003!....oops, wrong shelf...

And ooooooh how my aching belly misses my "Nabat Daagh" that was simmering with passion, especially made with me in mind, and blessed with a mumbo jumbo prayer that actually worked. Now I can't even smoke some air-purifying "Esfand" for fear of setting off the smoke detectors. Even the traditional medical concept of having either "Sardi" or "Garmi" doesn't translate properly into being a "Cool Guy" or a "Hot Chic". What do you serve these people anyway? A Grande Double non-fat "Gole Gaav Zaboon" and a chilled "Khaak-e Shir" Frappaccino?

While we all try to stay physically healthy eating the organically grown fruit that tastes like mildly flavored water, and the tasteless rubber called "free range" chicken, we come across all sorts of physical and mental disorders we never even knew we had all this time, and wonder how we ever survived without them (or with them!).

Back in the good old sick days, when we were considered the "Roghan Nabaati"
generation by our grand parents, physically you were either "Khepel" or " Reeghoo", and mentally you were possibly "Khol". But you can no longer be simply sick or just plain crazy. These days you have to be very specific in identifying your illness: bulimia, anorexia, dyslexia, paranoia, bipolar/manic depressive, ADD (Attention Deficiency Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)...

The scary thing is that these medical terms are now common household expressions, and people actually identify with these disorders and flaunt them like custom designed jewelry. Boy, if our grandparents could only see us now!

But the most common "modern maraz" is how we are all morphing into multitasking procrastinators under the overwhelming pressure and speed of modern life. So many things we want to do, so many deadlines we need to meet, yet so many unfinished tasks.

So what do we do to cope? Simply procrastinate and put things off until the very last minute, hoping they will somehow magically vanish or naturally expire and go away. But
we feel guilty about not accomplishing our tasks and get depressed. We eat to cope with depression and get more depressed when we realize how much weight we have gained.

Then we decide to go on a diet, work out, schedule and arrange tasks. We procrastinate creating the schedule, because it just has to start on a Monday, and we already missed this Monday, so we might as well take the rest of the week off. Come Monday, we do everything except what we were supposed to do. Then we get more depressed and eat more, until we finally decide to break the cycle and achieve the unachievable, and become a new person -- starting next Monday.

Why is everything so complicated these days? Did we really have all of these disorders in the old days, or was it that we just couldn't afford them? Maybe we were too busy enjoying our simple lives to notice the complexities. Or maybe we didn't have enough "liberty" to choose customized disorders befitting our lifestyles and suiting our
individual characteristics.

Do people in struggling nations just take what they can get, appreciate it, and make the most of it? Is it because a small bucket of yoghurt sells for a thousand tomans that you don't see any lactate intolerant people in Tehran? Or are people really uneducated and hygienically unaware?

It's broad daylight now and I am still shaking and hallucinating. I think first I'm going to strangle that cacophonic crow outside my window, and then call in sick again, and hopefully get some real sleep.

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By Babak Khiavchi




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