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Salt: The balance between life and death
Sometime it takes a big jolt to realise how important a role very ordinary commonplace things like salt (Sodium Chloride) can make. Yes, all the difference between life and death!

Metaphorically speaking 'salt' sustains and flavours our life in many ways. The Bible says, "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men". 

During better part of our lives, most of us financially sustain ourselves from our 'salaries'. Where did the word 'salary' come from? Common salt was not as common as it is today. Armies were sent forth to seize salt mines, for salt used in cooking was so vital for human sustenance. The Romans paid such soldiers in salt and called it 'salarium' (salt-money), which has morphed today into our word 'salary'.

Around 500 BC, receiving 'salt from a person was synonymous with drawing sustenance, taking pay, or being in that person's service'.  Producing and controlling salt was exclusively a royal or a state prerogative. Loyalty was expressed by terms such as, "We are salted with the salt of the palace".

We also use terms like, 'Uska namak kha ke, us hi ko daga diya'! Or 'namak haram!

My story:

Though born a lean spindly child, all these 85-plus years I have maintained good health. As also testified by my annual medical reports! 'You don't look your age', uttered the doctors invariably and even recently.

This lifelong honeymoon with good health suddenly got a jolt on 16th June 2018, when my routine Electrolyte Analysis showed that my salt level (Sodium) was too low, at 113 units, lowest acceptable limit being 136 units! My neighbour, who is a doctor, rushed me to hospital, although I was 'normal' in every way. Just as well, that he did rush me to hospital.

It is ironic, that I who sprinkled salt on everything and lapped up pickles and chutneys, was found to be 'short of salt'.

What does shortage of Sodium do to a person? One tends to lose balance and fall. Gets disoriented and not only slurs in speech, but can also blabber – as in delirium.

(As an aside: In UP when a person has high temperature and blabbers, it is said, 'Arrey, dekho usko kya ho gaya! Woh to Angrezi bol raha hai!'

After admission in hospital, somewhere down the line I also went off my rocker! I vaguely recall taking names of all my near and dear ones, or making pleas to inform

them how much I loved them and how thankful I was to them. And so on and so forth! It was a near-death scenario! The less said the better.

On third day, the team of doctors managed to stabilise my Sodium to a very decent level and discharged me. Unfortunately, in less than 12 hours I was rushed to the hospital again – for the Sodium had unexpectedly dropped, and symptoms of breakdown and blabbering had returned. Finally, I was discharged on 8th December.

Since then, I am going about my daily chores at home. There is strict control on my diet. A watch on the amount of salt I take and the amount of water I drink in 24 hours has to be maintained. Today, I even went out for a haircut and some shopping. On Amazon, I ordered a new book by Stephen Hawking, published posthumously.

Step by step, life beckons me for more and more of my hobbies and cultural activities.

Looking back, I wonder what common salt (or the lack of it) can do to people!

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