Sometimes in life, we end up doing things that we never ever think of doing even in our wildest dreams. It is just a spark at the right time, which flash and then disappear in the world of random rays that scramble our thoughts.
I am not an atheist, yet I seldom visited any temple or holy place. My Karate and Kalari (a kind of martial arts practiced in Southern India) classes always took a priority over my temple visits. Marriage is a major turning point in any girl’s life (and so is the case for boys as well I guess), and it did not generate any exception in my case. I got married to Sampath last year, a very humble and down to earth person. Sampath has a strong belief in Lord Krishna and attends Hari Naama Keerthanas regularly. Staying in a sub-urb near Chicago did not create an obstacle from following his routine since we have a pretty good group of Lord Krishna devotees here. I do accompany him and have started enjoying it. Now I am not only a regular devotee you see in temples, but I also do work as a volunteer in temples.
This Sunday was not very different. I and Sampath got ready by 5 am and drove to the nearby lake shore to join the devotees. The bhajan went on for hours and everyone around me was engrossed in devotion. It’s not that I do not show interest or lack concentration during the prayers, but I have a habit of watching the nature (and people of course) around me as I pray the Lord to build harmony. All devotees were in Indian wear, mostly in saffron and I could see the pretty Americans dancing around us for our bhajans in their swim wear. It was an awesome sight to watch! As the sun started rising over us, we marched towards the temple.
I mostly volunteer for the kitchen services in the temple and this time I was assigned to take off the seeds from jalapenos by slitting it in the middle, to prepare a kind of fry which would resemble the bajji. I was very happy about this simple task and bare hand I continued with my task, happily chatting with my co-volunteers. By mid-day, the food was ready and was offered to Lord. I and Sampath had our lunch and returned home.
Throughout the way, there was a kind of irritation in my fingers which later spread throughout the palm. The jalapenos seeds had its effect on my soft hands but I rarely noticed. Sampath had to meet one of his friends and he left after dropping me home. I was very tired to do anything and thought of lying on the couch doing nothing.
We discover lot of things when we decide to do nothing and I discovered that the irritation in my palm turning to irresistible burning sensation. Before I could realize what is happening, my foot rushed for the freezer and I started collecting the ice cubes in a tumbler. I dipped both my hands in the ice cubes. Felt relieved for a moment but immediately I felt my hands are cracking out and I uttered Lords name genuinely with a purpose for the first time in the day.
“This is not gonna help me”, I cried. I remembered my mother applying coconut oil when I had burnt my finger. I wiped my hands and rushed to apply coconut oil, but it did not help. “Coconut oil works in India, not here. Try Olive oil” my 6th, 7th and 8th sense told me. Within no time I was pumping out the olive oil and rubbing it rigorously on my hands. I felt my senses are dead, I could only sense the burning on my hand.
“Use technology… use technology”, this time it was my heart. I always follow my heart and so I responded “What technology? What technology?” “Oh dumb girl!! Use your laptop, internet and google… google… google…” there was a kind of echo in my heart. My hands were playing bharathanatyam without my knowledge as I rushed to my laptop.
As I googled ‘Jalapenos burning hand’, I learnt that there were many people who had suffered similar kind of burning. I was happy to read that though I have no clue why people feel relieved and happy learning others suffering. Probably it gives us an illusion of having a company with similar or worse experiences. “Rub salt crystals all over the Jalapeno pepper hands. Salt acts as a scrub against the jalapenos pepper oil”. I ran to the kitchen and was back with salt in my hand.
Salt scrub did not help either. This was followed by scrubbing with sugar and lemon juice. My hands were smelling lemonade now, but it was not as relieving as drinking the lemonade. There was a big list of suggestion lying out there on the site – baking soda, milk, sunburn gel, first aid burn spray, calamine lotion, hand lotion and the list went on. I lost all energy and was very tired to try anything more. But jalapeno pepper burning increased with the entire ingredient I added to it.
“Try brandy. It worked for me and will surely work for you”, I saw a post from a lady. This was the only statement which I felt was written with confidence and right experience. “I am going to try this last solution and if it does not work, I will give up”, I thought.
Brandy… now where will I get this? Sampath never drinks and neither do I. I do not know any friends in neighborhood who drink. One who drinks is around 25 miles away from my home and I cannot drive all over there. I thought of calling Sampath, but did not feel like disturbing him when he was having his personal time out with his friends. ‘Oh Lord! I am such a wonderful person from heart. I never ever troubled my husband. Neither did I use my Karate and Kalari skills on him. Then why am I punished? Is it for looking around the nature as I pray for harmony? I vow not to divert my attention towards the Americans dancing in swim suits when I do the bhajans. Please get me out of this!!’ But it was too late.
‘Dominicks’, I remembered. Yes, I can go to Dominicks, search for a low price Brandy all by myself and do a self checkout on my own. I can never do this in India. I cannot think of a middle class orthodox family lady going to a store to get Brandy. The sight of the people watching you buy it and the murmers will burn you more than the jalapeno pepper. Moreover, if any of your friend or relative see you buying brandy, the burning sensation may last for your lifetime. Lucky me, I have no relatives here and all my friends are like me.
I did not bother to change my outfit and drove to the nearby Dominicks and scanned for a low price Brandy. I did not want to take anybody’s help. I did not want people to spread rumor about an Indian lady in saffron clothes and tilak buying brandy. But selecting a brandy is not a simple job. There were many brands. Each of these brands could have its own positive traits that a connoisseur of brandy would appreciate. But I do not think anyone would have made a point to suggest which one is good for jalapeno pepper burn. Alas, I found one pear shaped brandy bottle for $16 – cheapest among the list.
Making sure no one is seeing me picking a brandy bottle, I slowly placed it in my cart. The burning sensation was killing me by now and I wanted to get out of this as soon as possible. But when things have to go wrong, they go wrong no matter what you do. I could not expect anything better when the barcode on the brandy bottle was not recognized by the self checkout counter. I chose self checkout to hide from the obtrusive eyes but now I could not help myself but calling for help. Two huge stout fellows came to my help and one of them turned out to be an Indian. I tried to keep a blank expressionless face and tried to be cool and calm. But somehow I started feeling my own heart beat. The two stout men did some magic and finally my brandy was billed.
I drove back home with my hands still playing bharathanatyam and piano at the same time. I poured the brandy in two big tumblers and dipped my hand in it. I could feel the heaven. The magical powers of brandy soothe my hands. It was worth the effort, pain and money of course. Taking the hands off the brandy regained the burning sensation and so I had to keep my hand dipped in brandy for the rest of the day. By night, the burning sensation had disappeared.
I shared my Sunday whine to my friends. They were not very happy with what I did. “Dipping the hand in brandy do no good” they said, “you could have overcome the pain in just 5 minutes by drinking it”. Well… you cannot expect more from friends, but after reading this story I believe you know how to overcome the jalapeño pepper burn. If you are still thinking it is the brandy then no, it is not the brandy. It is wearing the gloves while you work with jalapeno peppers.