In the middle of the night last night, I momentarily entertained the smug thought that my digestive system had survived pretty well so far on the trip, and that, actually, I had probably been more regular here than in Canada. Big mistake. Not five minutes later Fate decided to bitch-slap my hubris with an intestinal tornado that had me out of commission for the better part of eighteen hours. I won’t go into all the gruesome details, but suffice to say, it had both Irene (who had a milder bout) and I re-tracing our gastronomical steps from the day before. Two potential culprits emerged: a single boiled peanut we had sampled at the hill station the day before, and some fresh cabbage salad on a veggie platter we had shared in the evening.
The irony of the situation is that on that particular day we had eaten at quite “posh” westernized restaurants for lunch and supper, and our only breakfast had been some granola bars we had brought from Canada.
On the upside, we didn’t have a lot of touring planned for the day, which was good, because I wasn’t going anywhere in my condition. On the downside, we had two flights in the afternoon and evening to take us from Pune to Chennai, and from Chennai to Cochin, where we were to begin our Kerala tour.
This may be a good time to review safe eating and drinking practices for anyone considering a trip to India:
- Don’t drink the water – ever. Order bottled water or some other drink that comes from a sealed container. We recommend fresh lime soda, sweetened.
- Remember to use bottled water when brushing your teeth.
- Don’t order drinks with ice.
- Don’t eat fruit that cannot be peeled.
- Don’t eat salads or other foods that have not been cooked. In good restaurants, fruit such as mangoes are usually safe.
- Lassi is a great drink made of curd/yogourt, but remember that most milk in India is unpasteurized, so order it in better restaurants only.
- Wash your hands a lot.
- When choosing restaurants, you don’t need to stick to up-scale, westernized restaurants. Doing so limits your chances of experiencing the true local cuisine. However, try to determine the popularity of the venue among locals to gauge the quality of the establishment.
Finally, expect to get sick. When you do fall prey to intestinal gremlins:
- Let it run its course as much as possible to allow your body to purge the offending little critters before indulging in show-stoppers like Gravol or Imodium.
- Keep drinking water to fend off dehydration, despite the fact that you won’t feel like drinking (or living).
- The next one I found almost impossible – try to avoid all the incredibly inviting spicy Indian dishes in favour of the bland, something like plain rice or curd rice.
- Lastly, avoid the urge to fart.
The previous day had been spent largely in preparing for the flights that would carry us to Cochin (Steven and Irene) and in frequent trips to the toilet (me).
That brings up an interesting sidebar. In India, a toilet is a toilet; it’s not a washroom, rest room, powder room, or any other euphemism; it’s just a toilet. Sometimes they may be labelled “Gents” and “Ladies,” but they are still referred to as the toilet. Ask for a washroom, and you may find yourself directed to a washroom, which will contain only sinks for washing. You have to love the clarity and honesty of the use of the language. I will need to discuss more about Indian toilets later, because it’s a necessary discussion, but for the time being, back to the topic at hand.
The afternoon and evening of the previous day had been entirely consumed in airports and airplanes. Unfortunately, we had to fly from Pune to Chennai and then on from Chennai to Cochin. The trip was uncomfortable (for me) but uneventful. We arrived at our hotel around 9:00 p.m. just in time to check in and catch the restaurant before it closed.