What I did on my excellent India vacation—Part 9: Delhi Belly

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Delhi Belly: a level of hell that Dante missed.

[NOTE: I've been traveling in India with (brave or perhaps stupid) friends Janine and Jaya for several weeks. My apologies in advance for any delays in responding or posting. I’ll be adding updates about our adventures as quickly as I can get to places with internet connections.

[NOTE: I’ve been traveling in India with (brave or perhaps stupid) friends Janine and Jaya for several weeks. My apologies in advance for any delays in responding or posting. I’ll be adding updates about our adventures as quickly as I can get to places with internet connections.

 Warning: if you have a weak stomach, you may wish to skip this post. I’m just sayin…

It’s a fact. No matter how careful you are, odds are that you’ll devote some of your vacation to a minute study of Indian plumbing.

Call it what you will — Montezuma’s revenge, the traveler’s trot, the Toltec two-step, Delhi belly, the runs, traveler’s tummy or the commonly accepted TD (for traveler’s diarrhea) — but don’t call it fun. Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. Further, it can be dangerous, causing severe dehydration, malnutrition or worse.– IndependentTraveler.com  

15991897523_6860d48870_oWith the help of another handful of mystery pharmaceuticals that Jaya and Janine just “happened” to have with them, I managed to overcome the more obvious effects of Delhi Belly long enough to pack for our departure from Thekkady.

Jaya was sad to leave because she'd just discovered a squirrel-of-unusual size and wanted to take more pictures.  (NOTE: 3-foot long Giant Malabar Squirrel)

Jaya was sad to leave because she’d discovered a squirrel-of-unusual size and wanted to take more pictures.
(NOTE: 3-foot long Giant Malabar Squirrel)

Janine was sad to leave because she hadn't gotten a good picture yet of the block of spice stores and the outdoor ironing cart.

Janine was sad to leave because she hadn’t gotten a good picture yet of the block of spice stores and the outdoor ironing cart.

I was sad to go because...well...I'd been going all night and it surely did make me sad.

I was sad to go because…well…I’d been going all night and it surely did make me sad.

Suresh brought the car around and we piled in. Jaya and Suresh insisted it was only a four-hour drive to our next destination, Cherai Beach, so I have no idea why, in my memory, the journey seemed to take about a week and a half… I’m sure there were things we saw on the way, but all I remember of the drive is a series of increasingly-desperate toilet searches. Of course, this was rural India, and commodes were in short supply. I was pretty sure this was not the day I was going to acquire squatting skills, so our progress was considerably hampered by the need to stop every few miles and demand to know whether a roadside restaurant or vendor had “western” facilities. (They didn’t.)

Drugs AND matrimonial adverts. The gift that keeps on giving.

Drugs AND matrimonial adverts. The gift that keeps on giving.

I don’t want you to think that Janine and Jaya had absolutely no fun on this trip. Actually, they loved stopping at various roadside stalls and seeing how many drugs they could pick up over-the-counter that would have required a high-level prescription in the US. As a special bonus, the drugs came wrapped in a piece of newspaper from the “matrimonials” section. Sadly, we couldn’t read most of them, but here are some we liked:

  • “ANCIENT noble & upper middle class Christian Orthodox family invites proposals for their son, B.Com, self employed…”
  • CSI CHRISTIAN DOCTOR GIRL, 30/170 CM, SLIM, VERY FAIR, GOOD LOOKING, MBBS, MD, SEEKS GROOM FROM COMMITTED CHRISTIANS. MBBS/MD/ENG….
  • “URGENTLY PROPOSEL INVITED RCSC BOY 28/165, SLIM, FAIR, MBA, UK Business Malayasia financially sound invited beautiful educated girls only….”

I could tell my fellow-passengers were getting desperate when Jaya announced that we should stop at a random house and tell them I needed to use their toilet. “People in India are very kind,” she reminded me. But I refused, sure that what I’d probably do in the bathroom of a complete stranger could well put US/Indian relations back to cold-war footing. The rest of the ride passed with Suresh stealing wary glances in the rearview mirror, Jaya insisting that we accost innocent civilians and demand use of their toilets, and Janine plastered against the far door. Fun times.

The only landmark we were interested in was a sign for "Toilet". Luckily, Jaya spotted this one at the end of a clinic hallway.

The only landmark we were interested in was a sign for “Toilet”. Luckily, Jaya spotted this one at the end of a clinic hallway as we drove down a city street.

Finally, we made it to our hotel in Cherai Beach. As Janine and Jaya went to check in, Suresh took the opportunity to whisper back to me, “Madam! I’ll take you to hospital? Now?” But the only trip I wanted to make was up to our room with its beautiful, beckoning, western-style bathroom. Janine and Jaya went out to explore the ocean that they kept around there somewhere, and I went horizontal.

By evening, I realized that I didn’t have a single bodily orifice that wasn’t actively involved in attempting to evict my internal organs. Janine and Jaya were onboard with Suresh’s hospital plan, but I just wanted to be left alone. I had a bathroom. I had a bed. I had roommates who had somehow acquired even more piles of pharmaceuticals.

Me: “I’m good. Just give me lots more drugs. I have a plan.”

Janine [suspicious]: “Does your plan involve death?”

Me: “Absolutely.”

Somewhere in the middle of the night, I heard whispering coming from above me.

Janine: “Shouldn’t we ask her if she wants to go to the hospital?”

Jaya: “No, she’d refuse again. We’ll just take her anyway.”

Me: “I’m right here, you know. I can hear you.”

ban2-1And that’s how my tour of India came to include a little hotspot that never made it into TripAdvisor. Poor Suresh brought the car around and the three of them bundled me off to the Don Bosco Hospital in nearby North Paravur. It was both the strangest and one of the best medical experiences of my life. The strange part was that I was put in a bed and received treatment immediately. The best part was that after a quick (non-English) consult with Jaya, they hooked me up to an IV. Janine approved the IV but asked them to double the amount. Jaya approved the medicines but asked them to double the quantity.

Both of them took way too much pleasure in the fact that my headache was treated via a shot in the tuchus followed by (unless I was hallucinating by then) a butt massage. I wrapped my Baby Goat Beard scarf over my head and listened to cats being murdered (or perhaps mated) in the next room.

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IMG_2319After a few hours, the cats were still suffering (or making new cats) but I felt much better. Janine and Jaya were delighted to get their hands on more pharmaceuticals and we all headed back to the hotel. Total cost including the handfuls of additional drugs? Under 1000 rupees (about $16.50). Indian medicine rocks!

Next day, I slept. Janine and Jaya explored the ocean, which turned out to be across the street from the hotel. Who knew? By late afternoon, I was well enough to step into the surprisingly warm water and admire the beautiful coast as the sun set while the moon rose.

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Tomorrow: Cars, Trains, and Buses Auto-Rickshaws 

Previous posts include:

  • Part 1- Indian Drivers
  • Part 2- Temples, trains, and the kindness of strangers
  • Part 3 – Agra is closed today
  • Part 4 – The Taj Mahal is very clean today, and Bargaining in India: beware of the chair and the special suitcase
  • Part 5 – Tastebud assault, Indian medicines, and an iron-mystery
  • Part 6  Delhi is closed today, and how to queue in India
  • Part 7 – Tea and pharmaceuticals as close to heaven as it gets
  • Part 8 – Spice gardens, elephants (!), ancient story/dance, and a death-wish
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