On the first day, we took bets as to who would fall ill first. Revealing in their vulnerability a bit, everyone thought it would be themselves. We went a solid two weeks inhaling paneer and curry without incident. Then, Anne and I went to the campus restaurant for lunch, and by nightfall the ax had dropped. But it wasn’t the curry that did us in. Nor raw vegetables, nor fruits, not even contaminated water.
It was pizza.
We have been spacing our food curiosities in intervals, ordering spicy Indian food and then counterbalancing with simple rice or tomato soup. Yesterday we craved something simple, and the restaurant touted pizza as a specialty. Why not? we thought. What came to us was a warped personal pan concoction. It was essentially a sponge cake crust with peppers and onions mixed in Cheez-Whiz on top.
Now, we can keep food down, but not in. It was a choice that surely backfired, in every sense.
I am grateful that we have air-conditioning, though, and toilet paper, which has not been guaranteed at every stop in our travels. Dr. Harish and his wife are showing us amazing hospitality. Today he brought us home-made soup, and there was a bit of lost translation when figuring out the meal. I felt so bad inconveniencing him. Rice, alloo, bread, whatever is easiest, I said. He wanted to make us feel more at home, though.
“Katie, what do you eat when you get sick?” he asked, directly.
What we really wanted was this: muffins, waffles, cheeseburgers. We have been dreaming of waffles, I tell you. But honestly, we drew a blank at this question. We had already forgotten our typical diet in the face of its absence. Just no more cumin or pepper, please.
“Perhaps an egg on toast?” I suggested.
“That is going to be a hard one,” he said. “We don’t exactly prepare eggs at home.”
Soup it was, then, and it was deliciously familiar drunken out of tiny bowels from the dining hall. Tomorrow we are getting on a plane bound for Hyderabad, so we hope and pray to every God that by then we will recover. The soup, it helped, and the company.
“I think I will jump in the bathtub…er, shower, er…bucket,” Anne just said. You have to understand, this bucket is multipurpose: bathtub, laundry washer, fruit purifier. But it does the job(s) well. Our toilet, too.
I sent a message to the director of our study abroad program. Please, may Anne and I live together? I asked. After the tiring train, the celebration of steady bowels, and unclogging the toilet drain, who else would I want in the same room as me to curse when the power cuts out? “Nothing is convenient in India!” we will say and laugh, just as we have been while ensuring that the other eats and drinks enough water.
When we leave tomorrow, my deepest regrets to room service.