After two months away I am back home in Balderson and recovering in more ways than one. With not a hint of stomach trouble in India, I was hit on the way home with what felt like the biggest, baddest bug ever created. It started during the layover in London with a headache, stomach pain and nausea. But shortly after we’d lifted off from London in an airplane full of noses pointed eagerly towards Ottawa, my own schnoz was buried deep in a barf bag – a refuge it would not leave, as it turned out, for the next five hours. As my body was relieved of what felt like half its weight, I couldn’t help but think (through a headache so fierce my eyes watered) about all the spicy food I’d so recently enjoyed welcoming into my body. Their exodus was less pleasant.
The upside, I suppose, if I were coherent enough to appreciate it, was that Huggie and I were the first ones off the plane as the flight crew insisted on having paramedics meet me on the ground. But I just couldn’t face going to the hospital at that point. I had nothing left. My vitals were fine and after making sure I wasn’t being irresponsible, Huggie wheeled me out to my brother who was there to pick us up. I made it as far as his place before collapsing into the quiet stillness of their spare bedroom. Over the next couple of days I slowly recuperated in the protective bubble of Rob and Leah’s country home. When I left, care package in hand, the feat of driving from Carp to Balderson had the feel of setting out on a major expedition. I come from a long line of hardy stock but that damn bug took me down in one round. It was a humble homecoming that marked the latest in a string of ill-fated returns from trips (see past posts on sand fleas, face tattoos).
There are a lot of things that I will miss about India but it has also taken its toll. It’s a challenging place to travel on your own, especially for women alone. (Once I was waiting for a midnight train in a small nowhere station, along with a bunch of men, and one lone, young, wisp of a Russian girl with her eight month old baby strapped to her front. They announced that the train was coming and suddenly, with the train in sight, the men all jumped down onto the dark tracks and ran across to the other side. Apparently, the arrival platform was changed and the only way to catch the train was to cross over. I hurriedly helped the Russian girl down onto the tracks and we ran across. The train arrived momentarily and continued to very slowly glide past us as we frantically searched for our assigned car. A man shouted that we needed to jump on; that the train didn’t always completely stop. We were running along side it and the girl, with her limited English and strong Russian accent, was saying “please, please”. I grabbed onto the trains door rails with one hand, reached for her with my other hand, pulled her towards me and then used my foot to shove her and her baby up onto the still moving train and then swung myself into the carriage). I won’t miss the attitude of many of the men, I won’t miss their guttural horking and spitting. I won’t miss the continual need to brace myself for the hard sell. And I won’t miss the celebrity status bestowed on us just by virtue of being white. It will be nice to not create a stir everywhere I go. But I will miss the colour and the incredibly beautiful saris. I will miss the food, I will miss the history, the energy, and the joy of the many kind and gentle people. And I will miss the exoticism of it all.
Huggie and I are each decompressing, feeling somewhat culture shocked and resting a lot. We laugh that watching good drinking water drain away is disturbing. I almost had a panic attack one time when I realized that I was brushing my teeth without my water bottle. And it’s hard to stop squirrelling away toilet paper into our pockets every time we see it. We agree that a hot bath and using cream rinse feels like the height of decadence. And it really is! We have all seen the images of the poverty in India, but being in the midst of the squalor, literally face to face, creates an appreciation for what we have that I hope to never take for granted.
India was quite an experience for both of us. We are happy to be home safe, and in my case, almost sound. At the end of the day, adventure is what we wanted and adventure is what we got. Once again, thank you so much taking the time to read my ramblings and letting me share ‘Incredible India’ with you. Take good care and see you again on the flip side.