Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Queasy in India
by venitha

Within 48 hours of arrival in India, we are tired of beggars, we no longer point out every cow on the street, and we have seen the Taj Mahal twice. Also I am sick.

Chills descended as we headed down the dusty beggar-ridden path from the serene view of the Taj Mahal at sunrise, and while I could dismiss the feelings for a short time as the effect of the ethereal morning light on this most breathtaking of monuments, the side of nausea served up by our hotel's breakfast buffet was impossible to ignore. Jim snarfed potato-stuffed dosas, soggy idlis, and naan sopped in sambar, while I did my best to force down some yogurt and a hard-boiled egg.

Back in our room, I nestled under layers of blankets for mere minutes before rushing to the bathroom for the most impressive projectile vomit I've experienced in years. Feeling significantly better, I seated myself firmly on the toilet, my legs involuntarily shaking and shivering enough to generate a sweat were I still in Singapore.

I pondered the Asian logic of diarrhea-inducing countries that are stingy with toilet paper and mentally re-ordered off our Indian menus in a fruitless attempt to discover how my sneaky husband managed to usurp my usual iron-stomached role. We have disappointedly resisted all street food, including the oh-so-tempting gol gappas, and have become snooty connoisseurs of safely sealed and bottled water. We've even made vigilant use of prophylactics and avoided all hanky panky.

As I write this, I'm ensconced with questionable wisdom in the spacious backseat of our tourist car, which by Indian standards would seat, oh, at least 30, and that doesn't count the roof. I'm alternately lying down to quell my queasiness and sitting up to drink both water and the sights along the busy road leading from Agra to the pink city of Jaipur.

Ragamuffin boys play cricket in dusty schoolyards, sari-clad women build pile after pile of drying cow patties, turbaned men drive water buffalo and camels pulling rickety carts overflowing with bricks, bags of seed, chickens, people.

We drive slowly through towns, where even from my pristine and air-conned vantage point, the poverty, the filth, the desperation, are inescapable. Beggars surround our car. Scruffy girls wave and smile, Buy me a chapatti, madam! Emaciated women knock their palms insistently on the windows, then mime feeding the wide-eyed baby in their arms. Paraplegics pathetically yet hopefully display empty sleeves and severed pant-legs.

We leave the town for the less overwhelming sights of the countryside, and I lie down again with relief, unsurprised that I'm still queasy.

Never fear! At a cyber café in Jaipur now one day later, I feel much better, both physically and mentally. I have ventured well beyond the confines of the car, have enjoyed every minute in bustling Jaipur, and have even been assured by a local palmreader that I have positive positive thoughts, which is pretty hilarious if you know me or have spent any time reading this blog.

But maybe in India I will start living up to my destiny. Hence my positive positive thought for tonight: Tomorrow I get to start eating Indian food again.