Of Oranges and Lemons
“Ting ting ting ting ting” the school bell rang, declaring recess. The teacher gathered the homework notebooks and left, while the children opened their boxes.
“Ew! Not lemon rice again!” Mini groaned. “I hate lemon.”
“Give it to me!” said Gini her best friend. “Your mom makes great lemon rice. You can have my chapatti and beans.”
“Anytime!” replied Mini. “Anything but lemon.”
She opened her water bottle and took a swig.
“Ew! Orange juice!”
“Give me that, too!” said Gini, “And just have my plain water.”
It was the same story everyday. Mini did not like the sour taste of lemons or any citrus fruits. She would never have lemon or ornag ejuice juice. She hated to have lemon squeezed over any dish. She also hated lemon soufflé or orange jelly.
“Mini, did you have your lemon rice and orange juice today?” asked her mom when she came home.
“No” she said. “I gave it to Gini and had her tiffin instead.”
“But Mini, you must have citrus fruits. They are good for you.”
“I am not a baby anymore. You can’t force me.” Mini retorted angrily.
“It’s a pity” said mom, “for I am making lemon soufflé tonight. Your brother and father love lemon soufflé.”
“Make me some other dessert. I am not going to have any lemons. Do you know that lemon is slang for something which looks good but is actually bad? Ha ha ha!” joked Mini.
“I am not going to make something only for you. You can go without dessert.”
Mini’s face fell. She went to her room and changed her clothes sulkily. She put on the TV, for her favourite cartoon was going to start. But she shut it again quickly. There was a commercial for an orange soda brand playing! She took out a book and opened a page at random. But she shut that too very quickly – for the hero and heroine were having lemonade!
The next morning, as she was getting ready for school, Mini noticed some spots on her left leg. They were very tiny white spots, but they hadn’t been there yesterday. But she was already getting late, so she ignored them and hurried finished dressing and went to have her breakfast.
“Oh no! Not orange juice again.” She groaned.
“Oh, yes! You will eat a healthy breakfast.”
“NO, I won’t!” Mini burst out angrily. “And I won’t have the toast with marmalade either.”
“Nowadays you have become very moody.” Quipped her mom. “But if you don’t want this, you can go without breakfast. If your head aches, don’t complain.”
Mini rose in a huff, and went out of the house, slamming the door behind her.
When Mini came back from school, she checked her legs for spots again. They were more spots on her leg. And now there were spots on her right leg too. She wondered what they were, but decided not to tell her mom.
Over the next few days, the spots grew bigger, and there were more of them. She began to feel worried. Meanwhile her parents and teachers were wondering why her mood was getting worse by the day. She would pick fights with her classmates over the smallest of reasons. During recess, she generally kept to herself and didn’t play with any of the girls. She even started to shun Gini. One day she came back from school with a note from her teacher.
“I have noticed that Mini has become more moody and lonely these days. Also, she is not taking interest in her class work. She always seems tired and her homework is incomplete and full of mistakes. Please meet me to discuss what the matter is.” The note said.
Mini also had difficulty eating her food. Her gums would often pain. But she told this to no one. And the spots kept getting larger, but she hid them too.
But the note had worried Mini’s mom. But she knew it was next to impossible to make Mini go to their family doctor, Dr. Limbudass. So she invited him and his wife to their house, as if it was a social visit. When they came, they brought a box of apples as a gift.
“Go on! Have one” Mrs. Limbudass said with a smile, as she offered a red, juicy apple to Mini. “I know you don’t like citrus fruits, so I got you these apples.”
Mini took it and bit it.
“Ah! She screamed out. “My teeth are hurting!”
“Come here and show me!” said Dr. Limbudass, “open your mouth wide.”
He inspected her mouth carefully, and then turned to her mom. “Has she been ill in the past few days?”
“Well, yes. She has been having headaches and generally feels tired nowadays. She isn’t eating properly and remains very moody.”, mom said.
“Oh dear! You should have come to me earlier.” Said Dr. Limbudass. He turned to Mini, “Now be honest with doctor, and tell me if there is anything else you have to tell me. Remember one should be 100% honest with one’s doctor.”
Mini looked at him shyly and then said, “Yes doctor. I have one more problem.” She took off her slippers and pointed at her legs. “I have got a lot of spots all over my legs.”
“Hmm. Just as I suspected. You have got scurvy” remarked Dr. Limbudass.
Mini was shocked. So was her mom.
Dr. Limbudass reassured them. “Don’t worry. You are only in the early stages. Scurvy can be cured easily. You have obviously not been having enough Vitamin C in your diet. Vitamin C is important for many body functions.”
Mom replied, “For the past few weeks she has been refusing to eat citrus fruits.”
Mini yelled angrily, “I hate citrus fruits. They are sour and horrible-tasting.”
“Sorry about that, Mini” said Dr. Limbudass, “but you see, the only cure for scurvy is to have lots and lots of oranges and lemons every day.”
“Oh no!” exclaimed Mini.
“Oh yes!” said the doctor with a mischievous smile, “Citrus fruits contain lots and lots of natural Vitamin C. Vitamin C is very important for the body’s immune system and is a strong anti-oxidant. Did you know that two scientists, Paul Karrer and W. N. Haworth got the Nobel Prize for discovering Vitamin C?”
Over the next few weeks, Mini thought she was going through torture. Every morning, mom made her drink one whole glass of orange juice or sweet lime juice. For breakfast she had to have toast with marmalade or orange jam. Or chapattis with lemon pickle. She had to carry marmalade sandwiches or lemon rice or lemon poha for tiffin every day. When she came home, her lunch was chapatti or rice with lemon pickle (while the others ate more interesting dishes). Mom would squeeze lemon juice over all her vegetables, though Mini protested angrily.
In the evening, she had to have orange ice tea. Sometimes she had lemon ice tea. If she wanted a snack, it was bread with marmalade. Or the most horrible thing – a whole orange fruit!
After dinner, mom would make a nice lemon soufflé or lemon sorbet for dessert. Sometimes she made orange jelly.
For the first few weeks Mini hated everything. But she had no choice. But slowly, she came to like many of the citrus dishes. She learned to peel and eat an orange, and enjoy her lemon rice. She came to love lemon soufflé best. And needless to say, her scurvy was completely gone.
Now she goes around telling everyone, “There’s nothing like the joy of sweet orange juice dripping down your lips!”