Sickness & Cows

Yesterday morning I woke up around six am knowing that I did not feel well, knowing that even if nothing came of the nausea and stomach cramping (you know the sensation of your stomach bouncing up in down, as if it cannot decide which direction it is going to explode out from?) I was going to stay home that morning.

An hour later last night’s dinner was violently expelled from my mouth into the squat toilet (we have two, a western and a squat, someone was in the western).

For the record, squats are actually rather comfortable for vomiting. The position you have to be in puts just the right amount of pressure on your stomach. It does, however, put you at a higher risk for back splatter.

I couldn’t keep anything in my stomach until well after lunch, when I managed to keep down ginger tea (patiently explained as garum pani aur adaraka when requested – or, hot water and ginger – as tea here automatically means chai) and about half a box of McVitties Digestive Biscuits.

I felt remarkably better this morning, though still a bit nauseous. I stayed home from my project this morning as well, just on the off chance something else came up. There’s really nowhere to run to out there. So I took a cold shower to wash the sickness ick off of me (the electricity was out until about twenty minutes after my shower) and did a load of laundry to wash the sickness ick out of the pjs I had been wearing.

Up on the rooftop, I encountered the wife of the landlord (they live on the first floor) hanging her laundry. She asked if I was feeling better (in Hindi), and then chided me for not taking care of my feet (I haven’t found a pumice stone yet, though I’m told they’re available in the right market, so my heels are in need of attention). I was told that I should be wearing shoes, not sandals, to the project because the ground is not good out there. This was also in Hindi, so she might have been commenting about something else, but that’s the message I got through the Hindi-English-Gestures language I’ve been speaking of late.

I don’t even know this woman’s name, but that exchange was so… typical of my experience with the Indian people here. Of course she knows I’ve been sick. Either Mumta told her, or she could hear my retching from the first floor, as the sound carries and echos throughout the building (I’m pretty sure that it’s her household that watches Bollywood TV, complete with high pitched Hindi wails, until past midnight on a regular basis). And her scolding my hygiene is also totally acceptable. That form of the lack of personal boundaries actually does not bother me that much – she’s just being mothering, and I can deal with that.

After laundry I went out, recharged my phone and got more digestive biscuits. The street smells did not help my nausea, but so far, so good.

I did, however, get headbutted by another cow1. This is the third time for me, as it happened in Varanasi as well. I am unsure if this means anything. I mean, cows are holy here, right? Is there some sort of symbolism behind me getting headbutted by cows wherever I go, or am I just in its way? Though this one was chained, so I have no idea how I could have been in its way. Maybe they just like me? Is it the soap I use that inspires such affection? Should I avoid looking at the cow? Or are they just reaffirming their status as holy, in case I might forget that they are at the top of the pecking order here?

At least this one didn’t leave a smear of shit from her nose on my pant leg like the last one.

1 The bull from this entry was actually a cow. The cows often have horns here, making the bull-vs-cows determination easy to mix up initially for the Western eye. That is, until you see a real bull wandering down the streets. Even the locals scramble to get out of their way.

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