Excuse my language, but I wish to discuss the numerous ways in which sickness is, to put it bluntly, shit.
India is notorious for travellers’ illnesses, but P and I were hoping (in vain, I might add) that having been in Asia for a month we would perhaps be spared the worst of its effects. Unfortunately, the opposite was the case; we spent most of Christmas week with one or other of us feeling absolutely awful.
Now being ill in India isn’t quite as simple as coming down with the flu or some other such malady at home; indeed, the first thing you wish is that you were at home. Instead, you find that if you want to eat, usually the only option is to drag yourself out to find some form of eatery. Then there is the fact that none of the food available will sound appetising and the spices that appear in even the blandest-sounding dish will probably make you feel worse. Also, sickness is not necessarily confined to one problem at a time; you may have a headache whilst suffering diarrhoea, dehydration alongside indigestion. At one point during the trip I found that I had taken doxycycline (against malaria), an antacid (for indigestion possibly caused by the doxycycline), immodium (to block me up for a long bus journey), a rehydration sachet (because I’d been horribly dehydrated) and a painkiller (for a headache possibly induced by thinking about all the other medicines I was taking). Add any kind of travel plans to the equation and the unpleasantness multiplies; then you are faced with the logistics finding bathrooms, the dubious cleanliness of bathrooms and the frequency with which you need the bathroom.
This leads onto my next point about sickness: in India this is often synonymous with having the shits. Combine spicy curries with less-than-hygienic kitchens and the abundance of flies everywhere, and the result is inevitably the subordination of your daily movements to the movements of your bowels. Discussing the workings of your digestive system becomes less of a taboo than in more polite, less toilet-dependent societies and relative strangers will cheerfully mention in passing how in such-and-such a city they had spent two days hovering by the toilet. Then there is not only the relation of sickness to shit, but also of shit to sickness. India seems to be a country just filled with faeces. Unsanitary conditions are so abundant that it is hardly surprising that travellers frequently fall ill. Step out onto the street and you are confronted with steaming piles of all descriptions, both animal and human. With so much excrement in evidence, is it really surprising that sickness, especially of the shitty variety, is rife in this country?