Sick and Tired in Delhi
‘You took the red pill’
Extract from draft book chapter about our time in Delhi in October
People were in our seats, lying down; we had to ask them to move for us to sit down. They did so grudgingly, the woman still half laying down so that we were squashed up on half a seat, and the whole group seemingly thoroughly put out that we were there.
It was around eight pm. We’d planned to watch a couple of episodes we’d downloaded from Netflix, and I was going to do a bit of writing. But soon after they announced they all wanted to go to sleep meaning we couldn’t sit up. We were in three tier ac, when the middle bunk gets folded down no one can sit on the lower bunk anymore. We had one lower bunk and the top bunk on on the other side. The top bunks on three tier don’t have enough space to sit up.
Previously we’ve just all worked out when we wanted to go to bed and stayed up until then. But this time there was no negotiation.
And they had used all the pillows and a lot of the blankets.
Anthony had the lower bunk. I lay on the top bunk, meditated, and tried to sleep. Then someone put the big light on. At ten pm I gave up, went and crouched with Anthony for a bit, then went back to bed.
It was hard to climb up, there isn’t a ladder, just foot holds and a bar, and I am short. I woke up at 2.15 am and then at 4.30 am for good.
It’s always a bit noisy; people’s alarms go off and people get off and on at stops along the way. And from early morning there are men selling chai coming through the carriage saying loudly, ‘Chai chai coffee chai.’ Well I didn’t want any, because I was asleep, but now you’ve woken me up I actually do.
But this journey was particularly bad, with loud snoring and farting in the night; and in the morning one of the party sat doing really loud burps.
Of course the fact that we felt annoyed with the people we shared a space with and they didn’t seem that nice made it all the worse.
But as we arrived into Delhi station, the adult son of the family came up to my husband and shook his hand, ending any hard feelings (or at least most of them.)
So we arrived in Delhi very tired. My husband had started feeling ill in Varanasi, with a bad chest. ‘I’m never doing three tier again,’ he said.
We went out for breakfast at a rooftop cafe overlooking Main Bazar, my husband found us a hotel, we treated ourselves to ac as he was unwell and because of the pollution.
My husband got ill with an upset stomach almost immediately, funnily enough, immediately after eating at the same restaurant as he had before when he got sick last time. I went out on my own to eat in Main Bazar. A man said the usual, ‘Hi where are you from, I’m not trying to sell you anything’ (which was almost certainly not true). ‘No talk?’ Acting all offended. He was pushy, but I couldn’t talk very well anyway due to wearing a pollution mask. When he caught me again on the way back I said, ‘I must get home, my husband is ill,’ which worked a treat, and the man backed off. The people out in the street were pushy but not scary, the whole place just seemed touristy.
I wrote to a friend: Now back in Delhi, where we first arrived in March. Having been here before, and having since been to Varanasi and Kolkata both of which are much crazier it seems relatively tame. Polluted and dirty, but not intimidating. I have been out by myself for walks and to eat three times already. It’s interesting to see how my perspective has changed.
I also wrote: I struggled to get up on the top bunk on the train. I was out of breath going up three flights of stairs at the hotel. I probably need to do something, but not yet, and what? The English guy in Varanasi talked about going for a run at 4am but surely the air quality means that would do more harm than good? I have seen a yoga mat for sale. We’ll see. I wrote: Right now I’m just happy that I’m not currently ill, using time to rest and sleep, and catch up on writing.
Ha ha ha, said the forces of the universe, again.
Just as when we arrived in March, our room had a balcony which looked out over Main Bazar, standing out there, for brief periods only due to the pollution, was far better than watching television. I saw four adults and two kids on a scooter. Outside the restaurant opposite, a black and white dog was leaping up, wagging their tail in front of a man, the man acting cool, then the dog jumped up on the man and then he finally gave in and made a fuss of the dog, it was nice to watch.
I ate at the restaurant opposite, I had a masala dosa, it was okay, not as good as South India of course (the home of masala dosas) and chatted to the owner who was from Kashmir.
Later on I saw the kitchen, which was a couple of floors up, from our balcony. The table and walls were black with dirt and grease, and a man was wiping the table with a very dirty looking cloth.
I got sick just after my husband, after eating at the same place as last time, a different one to him. Not the masala dosa one, although it’s impossible to know where we actually got sick from.
‘I feel defeated by India,’ my husband said.
Our frequencies were really low, thinking about the UK, everything, the realisation that we took the red pill, there’s no going back, and what taking the red pill really means. Planning how we will go forward into our new life in the UK, beginning to turn 25% of our attention to the UK and what happens next, practically. ‘We don’t want to have a life changing experience and return to the same life;’ whilst still being present in India.
The room was medium sized, painted white, with a really cosy duvet that we both really appreciated in our sorry states. We watched a lot of old X Factor clips on YouTube, it’s not what I usually do but I enjoyed it. A priest sang REM’s Everybody hurts beautifully. In his introduction he said, ‘In my job I see a lot of pain… a lot of joy and happiness, but a lot of pain.’
I tried meditating, focussing on my out breath, feeling a sense of peace, enjoying the big duvet cosiness. Feeling almost chilly but knowing that my soft sweatpants I bought in Tokyo were nearby was such a sweet comforting sensation.
Meditation had possibly helped me deal better with sickness. I said ‘Oh God,’ a few times but felt calmer during vomiting; I really hate being sick and get a bit scared sometimes. I used to look at the little plastic seat in the bathroom, it was my favourite object in that place; opaque white, decorated with faded mauve and silver sparkly flowers. I had a dream about a silver palace. Waking up, the first thing I saw was the gold and silver leaf design of the curtains which were lit up by the sun.
Thank you very much for reading