Monday, December 11, 2006

A Little Perspective, Please.

So, during the night before our early morning train ride from Delhi to Agra, Heather became ill--food poisoning. I was already suffering from a chest cold (my health has really disappointed me during this trip!). But, we got up and caught our early morning express train, which put us into Agra at about 8:00 a.m. We checked into the Tourist Rest House, which was billed as a "Tourist Favorite" by our bible, the Lonely Planet India. The Rest House was far less restful than we had hoped, considering we were bedridden. It was crazy loud, horns blowing constantly, intermittent power outages (endemic throughout India) and a permanently open window that gave malaria-carrying mosquitoes (I've convinced myself that all mosquitoes are carrying either malaria or Dengue Fever, or both) unfettered access to bite at their leisure.

I've developed this intermittent, recurring fever (a malaria symptom, I'm told), so my sleep was of that hallucinatory variety you can only experience when sick, eating mushrooms or taking hits of high-powered blotter acid. In the morning, though, we both felt considerably better, good enough at least to visit the Taj Mahal, which was our purpose for visiting Agra in the first place. As we were eating breakfast and reading the Hindustan News, I was reflecting on what an awful night I had, when I came across an article describing an extreme cold snap in Delhi. The article profiled a young boy who described how he spent all night just trying to stay warm. They were homeless and his father was a laborer who could not afford to buy another, needed blanket.

Thinking about this young boy, unprotected and shivering in the cold night, while I, albeit sick, was safely in bed, amply warm under blankets with running water and the promise of a good meal, reminded me that one of the reasons we travel to a country like India is to rub shoulders with adversity, even if somewhat buffered, and try to develop some sense of perspective. -Alex

Comment by Heather: I'd been crooning with pleasure about the fact that I was so healthy our entire trip and not homesick at all. Well, of course, less than 24 hours later, I ate my words--or in this case, perhaps more appropriate to say vomited my words. My first case of food poisoning, which ironically was the only time I ate non-Indian food! I had vegetarian moussaka for lunch and Chinese food for dinner, but I suspect it may have been the bowl of nuts served before dinner that were actually contaminated. Anyway, I spent the night sick as a dog, and in the morning I was still throwing up out the window of our taxi. At that moment, I wished I was home, in my own bed, with my own bathroom, and our two peaceful, furry cats comforting me in their silent, abiding, loving way.

We finally made it to the train station and while sitting on the train, with my head hung low, stomach in knots, the train food server took pity on my pathetic soul, and offered me a gentle blessing on my head. I accepted the blessing and felt much better. So, only in India can you get food poisoning and then be blessed by a food server on a train -- this is one of the wonders of India.


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