The other day, Vadim asked me which single adjective best describes India. Without hesitation, I replied, “inexplicable.” After the lassitude and uneventfulness of the last month, I was dreading writing another apathetic post about lost wonder. India sensed my disenchantment and decided to make my final days especially inexplicable.
Theme of this trip/general life lesson: every time I assert something with a confidence derived from my ego, I am indubitably knocked off my pedestal. Superiority does not suit me.
Okay, before I get to the juicy bits, and they are juicy—as well as bloody and poopy and vomity and (!?) Maoist--I need to provide some context and commentary. We made it to Hampi, where we climbed and yoga-ed and biked as planned. Hampi was so similar to Rishikesh in terms of amenities and tourists: pure vegetarian, booze free yet rife with offers of marijuana and opium, blocks of rooftop restaurants sharing near-identical “international” menus and inflated (by Indian standards) prices, and hordes of stoned white people trying to find themselves via inane conversations with other stoned white people. Don't get me wrong. I loved Rishikesh and what I learned and experienced there, and I liked Hampi too, but both towns appeal to the Western mentality that anything can be had for a price, including enlightenment, hence the clothing stores providing the standard when-in-India uniform, cute yoga mat bags, OM necklaces, and spiritual charlatans. These towns have found a wealthy niche market and are exploiting it accordingly. Good for India.
While in Hampi, our Steripen broke. We mourned it and declaimed our return to bottled water. It was at about this time that I started pooping. Remember when I so blithely bragged about my indomitable bowels? I announced that with egoistic certitude, which of course meant that the assertion would be quashed. And was it ever. Over the course of several days, my belly grew and my bathroom visits increased. Other than a diminished appetite and some embarrassing yoga moments, I felt okay and decided to ignore the discomfort because I, of course, have guts of steel, immune to all the filth India throws at them. Bad idea. By the time we started our two day train journey to Raipur, real diarrhea set in. Precariously balanced on two metal footrests, I spent at least a cumulative three hours squatting and writhing, as my intestines ejected more liquid and viscera than I imagined possible. I contain multitudes. We had an early morning layover between trains and I was able to find a 24-hour chemist who sold me a mild medication. I still didn't recognize the severity of the problem.
We arrived in Raipur after midnight. My night was filled with fervent internet research punctuated by increasingly frequent trips to the loo. And then I started pooping blood. Except it wasn't really pooping at this point. It was just red liquid falling out of me accompanied by agonizing cramping that dimmed any previous menstrual suffering. I know my family is cringing reading this, wondering why I wasn't in a hospital at this point, but there was relative intestinal calm between the violent bouts and I still had confidence that my body just needed to finish purging. Vadim got up early to find me a fresh roll of toilet paper and the extra-strong miracle medication we'd researched.
A bit about Donald. He's the guy we met in Delhi way back in December. He's 36 and Indian, though raised partially in the States, the son of a medical doctors. We bonded with him over our shared disdain for Delhi and a brief yoga lesson. Vadim and I made plans to meet him in Raipur, but with only a tentative intention of following through. We've met so many people who invite us to their hometowns, India being the most hospitable place ever, but time is limited and sometimes Indians' friendliness and instant familiarity are overbearing. It felt different with Donald. He's one of only a handful of men, including my teachers in Rishikesh as well as Bilal and Vikas in Shimla, with whom I've felt comfortable here. We're able to communicate with him on a level that is inaccessible in most of our interactions, due to language and cultural barriers. We looked forward to him providing insight into all of the nuances and peculiarities that we're incapable of sussing out on our own. That's why we opted to spend the last week of our trip traveling with him.
He arranged the entire trip, securing a private car and a beautiful room from which we can see and hear a waterfall. In our pre-trip jitters, Vadim and I wondered if he was a tout, scamming us by overcharging for rooms and expecting some sort of payment from us, but our fears were alleviated as he was very forward about expenses and all costs were split evenly three-ways. He was also very concerned about my ailment, and kept me hydrated with electrolyte drinks and buttermilk seasoned with cumin and salt. I talked to his mom and she gave me a list of some supplementary medications to treat what she diagnosed via phone as a very bad infection.
Safely deposited back in Raipur, we said our goodbyes. The next morning Vadim and I boarded a 30 hour train ride back to Delhi. I left two days later and am now home, cuddling my dog.
India, I hardly knew you.
Vadim's adjective, by the way, was “stinky.”
|A mango tree. It took the entire trip to figure out what they look like. I've seen these trees everywhere. I guess I was just expecting something more tropical.|
|Donald and Vadim starting a garbage fire. Donald was outraged to see a mound of trash in the jungle.|
|Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare facilities.|
|A delicious dhaba, though my stomach could only handle a few bites|
|India: the land of single speed bicycles|
|The best things in Bastar|
|Did I mention that I really liked these guys?|
|I've seen dozens of interesting lizards. This is one of the few who paused long enough for a portrait.|
|Typical market scene|
|A bored woman hawking her wares|