Thursday, our third day in Delhi. I didn’t feel right all day and in the late afternoon I lay on the bed and just felt my mood dip. I don’t get ill that often so I didn’t recognise the feeling of overwhelm as a symptom of illness. I lay on the bed fretting about my to do list (which just consists of a few creative things and a few shopping/admin tasks), and couldn’t understand what was the matter with me.
And then I got sick. It is easy for Westerners to jump to the conclusion that being sick in India is food poisoning, often jumping to conclusions re hygiene etc, or worse, thinking its some awful disease like Typhoid, when it is often just a consequence of unfamiliar food and not being acclimatised to the heat.
We had gone out for (late) breakfast just a short walk away, then soon after went to do some shopping in Main Bazaar. We spent too much time in the heat. Plus we had eaten a big meal the night before, and probably overloaded our bodies. (Lesson, eat small meals (soup is my new favourite thing) and stay out of the heat. As I write this I am ensconced in our hotel room, fan on, curtains closed, extra towels and scarves up at the window. Good job I have an indoor hobby.)
It was a bit of a come-down, since on Wednesday, Day Two, I had been blazing with confidence, congratulating myself on feeling settled in after just over twenty-four hours. Which was in part pure Western arrogance, after all, I knew India would be challenging for me, but also, isn’t it okay to feel happy when I feel happy, confident when I feel confident?
I spent Thursday night doing what you do when you have D&V, interspersed with trying to sleep. I lay in bed staring at a short horizontal bar of light reflected on the wall from the bathroom. I was queasy but wanted to sleep, so I tried reverse psychology, telling myself to stay awake and look at the light, which made me sleepy,
I reminded myself that I have a powerful mind and that I could use it. I went through five things from each of the five senses. In the dark, shapes and shadows, smells, funnily enough not much in the way of sound, I had to really listen to count five things. Our room was at the front of the hotel but Main Bazaar does go almost quiet eventually. Touch was best: the back of one hand against the cool pillow, the heel and fingertips of the other against the sheet. The contact cross at my elbows, knees and ankles; such a comfort.
At some point in the night I woke up really hot, even the stone floor near my bed felt warm, so I went and laid on the rug on the stone floor in the hallway, where I had so happily done yoga the day before. I watched an insect walk along the strip of lit up doorway between hall and bathroom.
I really liked Delhi, but by day three the heat did get to me and I started really noticing the pollution, especially in the evening. At this time of year, it was probably a hard place for a beginner to start.
My husband got sick a few hours after me, and it was touch and go as to whether we’d make it onto the train to Goa on Friday morning, but we did it. We were glad to leave our sick room in Delhi and settle into our second class AC sleeper compartment. This is a soft option, I think hardened backpackers use non AC, fans with windows and less space. But we were all feeling so ill it was a blessing that we’d booked this. Our carriage was almost empty, the toilets were plentiful and nearby, and the staff were attentive, bringing us food we could barely touch and checking on us through the night. Although we couldn’t eat the big meals, they brought us cartons of lemon and lime juice, clear tomato soup, bread sticks, tea and plain biscuits, perfect for people who had been sick.
The train was FANTASTIC. A twenty-five hour journey in an air conditioned sleeper; we were given a packet with two sheets and a towel plus a pillow and a blanket, with three meals plus drinks and snacks, for £25 per person! Although we slept for a lot if it, I would really recommend it as a way to see India, we went past cities and rivers and mountains and skyscrapers and very poor dwellings and miles and miles of green and trees.
There were several lone women travellers on the train. My husband spoke to a young Spanish woman in Delhi who has been travelling all over India for several months and has had no hassle from men at all. During the train journey there were frequent walk throughs by staff and police and it felt like a safe environment.
I got the hang of my moon cup, (wear lower, hardly leaked at all) by necessity, although a period, here, on a long journey, something I had dreaded, paled into insignificance compared with being ill, which was probably all for the best.
I wrote on the plane: I’m on a plane above the Black Sea and about halfway to India. I haven’t said goodbye to my mother, and she hasn’t said goodbye to me.
Of course I felt bad about that; but I just couldn’t face being all inauthentic after what had happened. Not right as we were about to leave, with all the stress involved in all of that. I felt bad, but I resented feeling bad too. I’m not a monster, so I sent a text when I arrived just to say we’d got there and were safe at our hotel. I didn’t hear anything back until Day Three but that was a perfectly normal text as if nothing had happened, from which I can just continue, as many families do, as if nothing has happened.
Yesterday we got off the train in Goa, stayed last night near Colva, and are staying tonight somewhere different nearer Colva beach. It was nice to stand on the sand and paddle in the sea, which was like bath water, I don’t think I have ever felt sea that warm before. We ate sweetcorn and veg clear soup and felt a sea breeze, although it is still very warm. This morning we arrived at our new hotel and I had tomato soup and toast for breakfast (notice a theme developing here?). (I love, love love Indian food by the way, but I am only just managing to drink and eat soup and toast right now.)
My husband has gone off to a nearby town to go to a Khadi shop as he is not happy with his clothes. I have been shedding clothes at every stop, and am currently completely satisfied with my current wardrobe: one pair of black linen trousers, two black vests, an old faded red sarong for lounging/coming out of shower/beach, a nice cream scarf for head and shoulders, one white cotton blouse, one white cotton shirt, a cute knee length black jersey skirt (dress code more relaxed in Goa) and a green and blue striped vest top with built in support no bra required yay!
I am forty seven but I can feel so young sometimes. Today I spoke to my husband about feeling a bit emotional, (ill, period, and kind of lonely since we obviously hadn’t connected or talked much recently due to being ill). It was nice to talk, and feel understood, and with us reconnected and beginning to feel better again all seems brighter.
Tomorrow we go to Agonda, which should be more our kind of place, (it is very touristy here in Colva), where we plan to stay for a couple of weeks, unpack our bags and rest up for a bit, before going to Hampi.
Thank you very much for reading
Lots of love