"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The India Journals, Ch. 20, Delhi Belly and the Downstream Journey

Ch. 20, Delhi Belly and the Downstream Journey

Traveling can be pretty funny. You’ve got to deal with long flights, different cultures, and sometimes you even have to spend a little time on the toilet (believe me I know).—Anon.

I have discovered the ideal way to completely lose track of what day it is when you’re traveling.  I use a seven-day pill dispenser for my vitamins and meds.   I might not know the date, but at least I know the name of the day.

The trouble starts when the dispenser is empty and needs to be refilled.   From then on, I am lost.   Frankly, I don’t care.  My photo properties tell me the date, albeit the date in the U.S., and the time in Alaska Standard, not in India.  I hope somehow to keep track that way for the journals-to-be-written when I reach home.

On another matter, I confess to having a slight touch of Delhi-belly, perhaps the last of the tourists on board to host the malady, or so I’m told by fellow travelers who keep track of who is sick and who isn’t in an effort to determine what is causing the problem.

While annoying and slight, it is not incapacitating and does not keep me from the excursions, nor have I been afflicted with nausea and vomiting.   Some have been laid low for several days.

The “official” explanation, delivered with a straight face at the evening’s shore briefing for the next day, is that we are not used to the daily changing temperatures, along with different sensitivities to spices.  It’s hard to keep a straight face when temperature changes are mentioned, or the interaction with malarial drugs many of us are taking, but we do consider the spices thing for some.   We are told the spices have been halved in the recipes, then cut down again.

Misc. Indian spices.

A display of Indian spices during a cooking demonstration.

The bread board.  The flatbread at left is naan, a typical accompaniment to Indian cuisine.  It is a leavened dough plastered to the inside of a brick tandoor (oven) and baked over a fire in the bottom of the oven until done.   It is usually brushed with ghee (clarified butter) when finished.   Naan can be  flavored with garlic and spices.   It can also be filled with sandwich type fillings or used to scoop up food.  Naan is somewhat elastic in texture.

The crew is trying so hard to keep us safe and healthy that I hesitate to mention my very mild problem to anyone.   There are crewmen holding containers of hand sanitizer fluid everywhere and we make frequent use of the product.   I am carrying prescription medication, but it is an antibiotic for bacterial infections rather than an anti-diarrheal.  

The cheese board.

Nonetheless, after being relatively problem-free thus far, I was hit with a sharp and uncomfortable pain across my midriff shortly before dinner time last evening.  It would not go away.   I was in bed by 7 P.M. but there would be no sleep with this annoying pain.

I got a can of Sprite from the mini-bar fridge, took a few swallows, and within a couple minutes the pain was gone.  I also decided to take some of the prescription medication.   I get the package and read the directions which say to take two pills immediately, and then one daily for a few days.   I take the two.  (Note:  the problem cleared up the next day and I did not take any more pills, despite the directions.)

I have been eating fairly bland foods for a couple days and skipping dinner in the dining room, although that decision was based more on the length of time it takes to serve a four-course meal.  Instead, I get cheese, bread, and butter at breakfast or lunch, and have that for dinner in my room, along with a banana or tangerine.

Delicious bananas.

One of the cures recommended for Delhi-belly is yoghurt, which I plan to try this morning.   Alas, the yoghurt is colored green with an unknown flavor so I chose oatmeal instead.

Oatmeal with brown sugar.

We are now heading downstream, on the way back to Kolkata.   The movie “Gandhi” with Ben Kingsley will be shown in the lounge this morning and I go early to select a good seat.  I have seen the movie before, a long time ago, but I am sure it will mean so much more this time.

The crew has arranged the lounge chairs for the movie, and after trying a couple, I wind up on a sofa with a pillow on the arm for my head, and after everyone arrives and is seated, I stretch out.

Several crewmen are involved in setting up the equipment for the DVD.   There seems to be a problem.   Eventually, they get the DVD to play, but the sound is exceptionally quiet and cannot be raised.

I turn to a man sitting near me and whisper, “They need to call tech support in India….”  He struggles to not laugh out loud.

Another man brings another piece of equipment and voila! we have sound.   The man behind me whispers, “Looks like they took your advice and called India tech support…”   Unfortunately, I laugh out loud once before I can stop myself, but no one seems to notice, or they pass it off as something else that crazy Alaskan did.

The movie begins and I think again that Ben Kingsley was born to play the role of Gandhi and his non-violent, ultimately-successful fight to gain India’s independence from Great Britain.  Now that I have had a wee taste of India, the movie means so much more, especially the results of the excision of Pakistan and the subsequent riots between Muslims and Hindus.

And we motor on down the river as we watch Gandi’s amazing story.

NOTE:  After I returned home, I learned one person is still being treated for a gastrointestinal parasitic infection.   Many had Delhi Belly and recovered after taking appropriate medicines.   One man had an eye infection.   Some think the water served at meals was not bottled water.


  1. I don't think I would fare well with all the spicy food...or some of the other stuff either but glad you didn't get the full blown problem. Would be a major bummer to pay a lot and travel far then not be able to fully enjoy it. I am enjoying the trip vicariously. ;)

  2. Yes, nan (the flatbread) is a primary staple in India. I am surprised that the yogurt (they usually call if "curd") was green in color ... I would have hesitated over the color also. All the curd we had looked like what we get here in the states, white, a little more floating water on the top, but delicious. Glad the Delhi Belly did not slow you down. It certainly can hit some harder than others. And, again, Cap got an eye infection, I think on his first trip to India, and it still bothers him on occasion. He has medicine for it. Nice that you got to revisit, re-view the movie "Gandhi" while there...really nice! Patti and Cap

  3. In the autumn of 1990 .. or in early 1991 .. I contacted eye infections in the corner of each eye that persist to this moment to this day. A nurse I met there in New Delhi told me NEVER to wash from the neck up with local water .. ALWAYS use bottled water to do so. By then my horse was already out of the barn. Blephamide ..a sulfa drug .. I keep with me ever and always when this chronic problem raises its head.

    In November of 1990 I was hit hard .. in New Delhi .. with Delhi Belly. I called the U.S. Embassy and they gave me the name of my doctor I still see today some 24 years later. His waiting room was filled with local India residents. CEOs and Presidents of firms .. they said we the visitors merely catch what they all have. In India you are covered with a thin dust of fecal material from the dust that the sick animals who also have the same ailment kick up into the atmosphere. There is NO winning the battle. It is so NICE here in Hong Kong to be free from any intestinal problems for over three months and counting.

    Patti will tell you a best of friends in Puri Orissa brought us a papaya he proudly said he washed with water. Agast we could not eat it. He just did not understand why. Next day he brought back one out of the tree. We washed it with bottled water. It had to be the best papaya we each have ever eaten . The skin of this first papaya had small bug bite holes that his local water would have entered into .. one drop can contain a universe of micro-organisms!

    Anti-biotics and super precautions NOT yogurt will cure you. You need medicine NOT yogurt. Yogurt works as a digestive aid.

    Enough from Patti and Cap in Anchorage and in Hong Kong ..

  4. It's a shame so many of the travelers on this trip became ill. And yet, I suppose traveling to countries like this has many risks that need to be considered before leaving home.

    You were spot on when you whispered to the fellow who was near you while waiting to watch AND HEAR the Gandhi movie. OMG...that exchange cracks me up!

    If I ever went on a trip like this, I'd have to do it without Lon. When I share photos with him, he shakes his head and says, "I have no desire to go there."

    I also loved your comment regarding yourself as that "crazy Alaskan" as seen from your co-travelers' eyes. You do your own thing, always, and I love it.

    Thanks again,

  5. The lap rugs sure look cozy. Glad your Delhi-belly was short-lived.

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