Day 46: I’ve Got A Ticket To Ride But They Don’t Care!

June 30th, 2001

Day 46. Due to the 24 hour check in system I didn’t have to leave my room until about 8pm which was convenient as my train was also leaving quite late.  I headed out to the train ticket office to check the situation with my ticket.  The first time I tried to go, there was a massive power cut, an almost hourly event here, and so I could not go in.  Eventually the power came back on and I tried again, however this time I was stopped by a big fat security guard who was adamant that I was not going to enter the building with my rucksack.  So I headed to the cloak room just so I could drop my bag off for fifteen minutes.  As I arrived however the power went off again at which point they refused to take my bag, always helpful if you’re in a rush.  I explained the situation but he said that he wasn’t allowed to take luggage if he was using candles.  Granted, a weird rule but it was clear that even though the candles lit up the room adequately he was not going to budge.  Eventually the lights came back on but they took ages to log my luggage in as they had to write and sign three different bits of paper as well as see my passport, see my ticket and various other things which they thought would really irritate me!  When I eventually got back to the ticket office I was a little annoyed that they had let someone in with a large bag, the buggers.  After all this hassle the only information they gave me was that they didn’t have a place for me on the train as I was number seventeen on the waiting list.  I was told that I should look at the train list on the platform and talk to the train guard.

I didn’t quite understand this as I’d paid for and they had given me a ticket but I didn’t actually have a place on the train?!?!  Suddenly it became clear; last month when I was wondering where my seat and coach number was on the train between Manmad and Madgaon I must have paid for the train journey but not for a place on the train.  The conductor had found me one, ahhh.  Then it suddenly hit me, that’s a bleedin’ stupid idea!  I’d paid over 600 rupees for a ticket that doesn’t even guarantee a place on a train.  I went back to get my bag which took another thirty minutes due to the amazing speed of service with the “not working during power cut” rule and the women constantly pushing in front of me.  It was now past 10pm and I was half expecting the train to have gone.  On the platform I checked the list for my name but it wasn’t there.  I asked the guard who said he would look however, when he got back to me he just said that there were no more places as the train was fully booked.  I asked what I should do with the ticket as I’d already paid for it, but he just did the good old Indian mad shaky head thing which neither means yes or no, and walked off.  Well if he was going to play that game so was I.  With his back turned and the train about to leave and just jumped on and sat in the doorway.  After the train had left he came up to me and asked what I was doing on the train to which I replied that another guard had told me to get on!  Needless to say he’s been very accommodating and quite nice about it all but maybe this is because I do look a little unwell from all the rushing about.  He allowed me to stop on a bench until the reserved person came and now I’m sharing half a bunk with an old guy.  The old Guy keeps smiling at me with a toothless grin but seems harmless.  I’ve taken an antibiotic in with vain attempt of curing my stomach pain just in case it’s simple food poisoning.  Hopefully everything tomorrow will be better, no pain, no hassles, a brand new month.

Day 45: The Mutiny History Lesson

June 29th, 2001

Day 45. The newspaper boy came around at 6:25am today, I bet they all wait in reception trying to figure out ways to piss off the westerner, it’s working.  Fully refreshed with my spicy breakfast and feeling fine I set off into the centre of Lucknow which turned out to be more of a walk than I had first thought.  After a few arguments over the price I eventually got a cycle rickshaw to the main post office for 30 rupees which was significantly better than the 1000 rupees he started off at which I hoped to be a joke.  After visiting the post office and spending an hour getting money out of the usual very bureaucratic banking system I walked past the tombs of Sa’adat Ali Khan and Begum to the old British Residency.  The Residency was the site of a major siege during the Indian Mutiny.  The story is an interesting one of disorganisation, determination, survival, death and compassion of those ‘trying to do their duty’.

This part of India had long been ill governed by the British East Indian Company with many Indian soldiers from the Bengal Army feeling that their religion, lifestyles and customs were under threat.  Tensions were high which the new Chief Commissioner Sir Henry Lawrence was fully aware of however, he could do little about this as after only six weeks of being in charge the mutiny started.  History says that it started due to the introduction of the Enfield Rifle, although it’s probably fair to say that this was just justification for something which was going to happen anyway.  The story goes that there were rumours that cartridges used in the gun were covered in a mixture of beef and pork fat, and as the soldiers had to bite the paper covering off the cartridge this was considered a great insult to both the Hindu and Muslim soldiers.  The British dismissed these claims and offered new cartridges covered in beeswax but to the soldiers this confirmed that it had been pork and beef fat.  The Indian soldiers refused to use the cartridges and were disarmed and later these soldiers led the mutiny.  Ironically these issues of beef and pork fat still seem to be used to great effect now.  When I was in Bombay the papers claimed that McDonalds which makes lamb and chicken burgers in India were using beef and pork fat which resulted in large and quite violent protests.  The news was not based on fact but on what people wanted to believe of a foreign invader, a convenient justification for revolt which is silly as in both cases there were many more justifiable reasons for getting rid of both the British and McDonalds!

26.  British Residency at Lucknow

The buildings at the Residency have been pretty much left in the state that they were in at the end of the siege which started at the end of June and finished mid November 1857.  They show the conditions the European settlers had to endure which eventually led to about two thousand people dead in the Residency with less than a thousand surviving.  Life there must have been horrific but it must have been infinitely better than what happened to the poor settlers in Cawnpore, now called Kanpur.  In the worst and most evil episode of the Indian Mutiny a large party of mainly of European women and children sailing down the Ganges escaping from the town of Fatehgarh were captured and butchered by the forces of the mutiny leader Nana Sahib.  Their remains were then thrown back into the river but sadly this was not the end of the slaughter.

A short time later the twenty one day siege of Cawnpore garrison came to an end when Nana Sahib offered terms of surrender which General Sir Wheeler could do nothing but accept as snipers were slowly picking them off.  Many women and children were said to have been killed around a well while trying desperately to get water.  Nana promised safe passage to the Ganges from where the garrison and civilians could leave however, on boarding the boats the mutineers set them alight and opened fire killing at least six hundred including Sir Wheeler.  Any male surviving this barrage wounded or not was captured and killed, some were tied across the front of cannon which were then fired.  The remaining hundred or more women and children were taken hostage.  On the 25th of July on hearing that British relief was coming, the brave chivalrous Nana Sahib ordered actual butchers to slaughter every woman and child and throw their bodies dead or dying down the well at Bibi-Ghar.  Sir Henry Havelock discovered this when he arrived two days later which may explain why he did not surrender to the mutineers when he relieved Lucknow on the 25th September.

Sadly I didn’t learn this in any from the displays in the museum here, only the reasons for the mutiny and that the ‘brave’ Nana Sahib tried his best to defend Cawnpore but managed to escape.  Then again I’m choosing not to describe the reaction of the British to the slaying of the innocent women and children and the betrayal of trust, but I’m sure many more innocent died and suffered as a reaction to Sahib’s actions.  Strangely I learned this information from a history lesson I was given by an extremely effeminate young man who came up to me while I was walking in the grounds, so I don’t know how much is true but I thought it was interesting enough to write a note at least.  After giving me this information he asked me if I wanted to go to his house for dinner, I made my excuses and walked rather quickly back into town as I wasn’t 100% sure he was just after my conversation!

On the way back I stopped off at the British Consulate Library where I was minding my own business looking at the news papers when a Sikh man came up and grabbed me.  I seemed to inadvertently get into one of those conversations where you don’t actually say a word but the other person does all the talking.  I think he just wanted to practise his English but he got very defensive about Indian society even though I didn’t say anything.  He started to talk about the population of India and how the Western media falsely talks about food shortages and poverty.  He said the population was not too high and that there was enough food for everyone.  Granted I’ve not seen too much of the outward signs of poverty in Lucknow but it did make me wonder whether he has been outside this town because I’ve seen some very real signs in India.  He seemed pretty oblivious to what was actually staring at him in the face.  Generally I got the impression that the wealthier people or high castes have no idea what’s on their doorstep.  Maybe it’s because poverty is the norm here therefore they don’t see it, like me seeing the girl having a crap in front of me, it’s normal so I no longer see it?  He then went on to complain that the British were going to close the library soon and that they should not as they had a duty to keep it open.  I sort of raised the point that the British left India in 1947 and so really it should be the Indian government funding this sort of thing.  He replied, we are a poor country which cannot afford the expense of libraries.  Ahh, that’ll be poverty then, the mad fool.

After thirty minutes of this ear bashing I started to feel a bit queasy and needed to sit down but being British I didn’t want to seem rude so I stood there and listened which made the pain far worse.  I eventually had to make my excuses and leave.  I’m now starting to become convinced that I’ve got malaria so I’ve made the decision that I will definitely go to a doctors when I get to Delhi.

Day 47: A kid A Kite And 20,000 Volts

July 1st, 2001

Day 47. I had very little sleep on the cramped bench as the old toothless fella kept nicking my space which surprised me somewhat as he was so skinny.  I arrived at Agra Fort station at 6am but had to wait for two hours until the ticket office opened.  To waste a little time I had a little look around Agra fort before buying a ticket to Delhi.  I found a guesthouse in town which claimed to have a fantastic view of the Taj Mahal and for once I was not disappointed by the description.  The view from my door, room 101 of Shanti Lodge is amazing, there is a clear view of the Taj, its minarets and garden.  I took a number of pictures of it, not bad for £2.30 a night.  As I was still feeling a bit rough I rested for a number of hours to catch up on much needed sleep but unfortunately I must have been really tired as by the time I woke the sun was setting.  I walked out onto the balcony to see hundreds of kites flying and a mass of TV aerials silhouetted against a reddening sky.  As suddenly as the lights of the town had switched on with the fading sun, a huge spark flashed across the sky and the lights went out.  Moments later in the silence I could hear the cries of a small child in the distance, sadly the cause of the power cut was this small child, his kite and 20,000 volts!

Eventually the lights came back on only for another large spark to be seen and yet more cries.  Another kid and kite up in smoke.  The lights still haven’t come back on but luckily I’m going to bed early anyway so I’m fresh for my visit to the Taj tomorrow.  But today is not just momentous for my first sight of the Taj, it’s also been my first solid poo for a week, have the antibiotics worked?  Still, never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by a solid poo!

27.  Taj Mahal from the Shanti Guest House

Day 48: The Toll Of The Taj

July 2nd, 2001

Day 48. As day broke I felt fully refreshed and relatively well considering the last couple of weeks.  I walked to the Taj via a few souvenir stalls where children kept hassling me to buy small marble figures.  Their main selling point was that the figures were good and had fine detail as they were made by them and their hands were small and just to prove it they held their hands up in front of my face.  I did buy a little Ganesha as I felt sorry for the boy who was making it, I could see him carving it so at least he was getting some money off me directly.  As I approached the main gate to the Taj I was left speechless and breathless just thinking about what I could see before me.  The magnitude of what was in front of me was far greater than I could have ever possibly imagined.  I mean $20us plus 500 rupees to enter, I couldn’t believe it.  This is extortionate, the locals pay 20 rupees, but I had to pay as I couldn’t come to India and not visit the Taj.  The entrance fee is possibly more expensive than any tourist site in the UK and probably most other parts of the world.  Two months earlier it had been just $10us whereas now it’s the equivalent of $30us.  As I stood trying to get my money out a random man walked up to me with a large selection of knifes and an extremely long whip.  After initially scaring the crap out of me, bizarrely he was trying to sell these to me but as I said to him, “What am I going to do with a knife and a whip?  Get a reduction on the entrance fee?”

I paid the money under duress and entered the enclosure.  What can I say about the Taj which hasn’t been already been written.  Well, it’s undeniably beautiful and relatively well looked after for an Indian monument, the art work is intricate to the extreme but from a backpacking point of view it’s definitely not value for money.  You can get a good view of the Taj from outside, granted you cannot see the marble walls close up with the intricate Arabic lettering set into the walls but is that worth £20.  But I suppose if you are going to see one monument in India at such a price it should be the Taj although ironically it is probably one of the least Indian monuments regarding its architecture.  It is also relatively new in terms of most historical monuments in India being built in the seventeenth century.

Taj Mahal

The thing that will stick in my mind most about the Taj is the bizarre little dance western visitors make when they visit.  Not something visitors have to do but need to do as the bright sunlight and high temperatures ensure that the marble floor becomes extremely hot and unfortunately you have to take your shoes off to walk across it.  Sadly most westerners didn’t seem to realise that they could leave their socks on as protection against the burning hot marble so they’d hop up and down feverously trying to avoid the black marble until they reached the shaded areas.  I walked around the Taj a number of times hoping to get my money’s worth but I eventually left feeling a little disappointed, maybe I expected too much and that was my mistake, I’m sure that not all visitors will feel the same.  I went to dinner content that I’d seen one of the modern wonders of the world, but not in awe.

The restaurant owner spent most of his time talking to me about financial problems while I was eating.  It turns out that due to the cost of visiting the Taj and the other monuments in and around Agra, many people now just come to see the Taj as it’s too expensive to see everything.  As such people just make a day trip to the Taj from Delhi and so don’t use the hotels and restaurants which has resulted in businesses closing down.  It’s quite sad that the government makes more money from the tourists and the people who live here are left out.

Day 49: You Say Yes, I Say No, No, No!

July 3rd, 2001

Day 49. I arranged to meet the rickshaw driver who bought me to the hotel a couple of days ago, he was going to take me around the other not so famous mausoleums and buildings in Agra.  These buildings would actually happily stand alone as major landmarks in another city but here the distraction of the Taj is too much to compete with.  But as usual most sites applied a $10us entry charge so my driver took me to places where I could see the monuments for free including the rarely seen backside of the Taj.  To get to this point we had to negotiate our way through a small village where when the local children noticed a westerner inside a little rickshaw they started to run behind it like a flock of seagulls behind a trawler.  Luckily the speedy little two stroke out ran them in the forty degree plus heat.  We also visited a number of other sites including the Itimad-Ud-Daulah and Chini Ka Rauza tombs.

Backside of the Taj,  Agra,  India.

Unfortunately as part of my deal for a relatively cheap tour, I was taken to two factories for craftwork demonstrations for which the driver would get commission.  I was of course, not obliged to buy anything but I realised that they were not going to make it easy.  Sadly for them I knew I was not going to buy anything and there was nothing that they could say or do to change that.  First I was taken to a marble factory in which pieces of precious stones of various colours and sizes were cut using traditional methods.  These were then placed in symmetrical patterns upon white or black marble slabs formed into circular shapes and used as anything from coasters to dinner tables.  The skill, workmanship, quality and pure hard work put into these ornaments was of no question, however what is in question are the many hands used to do this painstaking work.  In the craft shop the workers were sat in a line on the floor, none of them older than fourteen with the more intricate work done by those as young as eight.  The salesman used the ages as a selling point stating that to get the small pieces cut and inset small fingers were needed and that children were perfect for this job.  He pointed to three of the youngest children with faces and hands completely covered in dust from the cut gems and marble.  I couldn’t believe that he was actually trying to use this as a selling point, but for me and I would hope all visitors, it had completely the opposite effect, it only increased my resolve not to buy anything.

He then started trying to extract money from me using a number of methods including the usual guilt trips.  I explained that it would be impossible to put a five stone marble table in my bag and carry it around the world.  He didn’t seem to understand why I couldn’t, but then went on to say he could have it posted home for me.  I said I couldn’t afford it, he said he took credit.  I told him that I was beyond my credit limit, he said not to worry, he would take my number now and charge me later, cheeky bugger, he had an answer for everything.  As if I was going to trust him, he could have taken the money out of my account and not sent the item and I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.  I think by this time he had pretty much realised that he was not going to get me to buy any of the large expensive stuff in the shop, however he now moved onto the small things which I could afford but still had no intention of buying.  I said I’d look around the shop but slowly made my way to the door.  As I left he gave it one last chance, “They make good gifts for your parents if you really love them.”  Mmmm emotional blackmail.

After this ordeal we went to see a Sikh carpet salesman who basically had the same selling methods as Mr Marble.  First came the tour of the manufacturing processes but at least he was a bit more forward than the last guy as his first question after the tour was, “So, what would you like to buy?”  Yeah right, I was going to carry a twelve foot long six foot wide carpet with me around the world, maybe it would give me something to wrap the marble in!  I asked if he had one which could fly but he didn’t seem amused.  Figuring that I was not going to buy a big carpet he bought out a selection of one foot by one foot carpets.  This was really bizarre as I can’t see a point to these at all, other than getting gullible tourists to buy them.  Before he said anything I said no but sadly he didn’t take this seriously, either that or he did not understand the word no!  He repeatedly asked if I wanted a carpet and I repeatedly said no.  I asked what part of the word ‘no’ did he not understand, but he still went on.  I then asked him what the Hindi word for ‘no’ was, he replied “nahin.”  I said, “Yes that’s right ‘nahin’ you understand” and walked off.  I felt satisfied that I’d won the bartering game but I know that if I’d started my journey in India here as originally planned I don’t think that I’d have fared quite so well.  I’d have been heading home with a very small carpet with a pattern of an elephant on it which actually looked like a rat hiding behind a lamppost, not to mention four marble coasters with gems set in the shape of the Taj but looking more like the Brighton Pavilion!

Sadly, the scams were not over yet, the rickshaw driver just happened to have a friend who had a gem stone business.  I went along but knew in advance about this scam as it’s well documented.  The gem man said that I could make lots of money by taking gems back to the UK where he had a business which would take them off me.  I pointed out that I would not be going to the UK for a long time and so was not interested.  He quickly changed his story saying that he also had a business in Australia.  The idea that I would buy gems ‘cheaply’ off him and then take them to an address in Australia where his ‘business partner’ would pay me more for them was quite frankly ridiculous.  It is well known that the gems are worthless and the business partner doesn’t exist.  It’s also illegal to take certain quantities of gems out of the country without customs certificates.  It was all getting very uncomfortable but to cut a long story short, I said no, walked off and had a curry!

The rickshaw driver had a book he got people to fill in to say what they thought of the guided trip, a reference of sorts.  I asked if he could read one to me and he replied that although he could speak English, he could not read.  So as he annoyed me I put, “Beware this man, he will try to get you to buy gems telling you that you can make a profit on them back to your country, he is a confidence trickster, go with him at your peril!”  That’ll teach the bugger to piss me about.  He asked me what I’d written, I just said, “nice day, good price and an excellent guide, very trustworthy.”  Well, he’ll find out what I wrote soon enough when he meets the next backpacker!

Days 50 to 51: Large Peg Small Hole

July 5th, 2001

Day 50. I got a cycle rickshaw to the main train station.  I’m starting to really like travelling around on these things as you’re quite high up but sadly and I’m rather ashamed to say that there’s also a sense of superiority that you are paying someone to physically move you around.  But, when the old guy ran out of energy and had to push for a while I started to feel really guilty about it all, I was afraid he was about to have a heart attack.  What made it worse was that the Agra Cantonment station was a lot further than I’d thought.

In Delhi I searched for the tourist ticket office in the New Delhi Railway Station to see about getting a ticket to Gorakhpur, the nearest station on the road to Nepal.  Ticket touts in Delhi can be particularly aggressive and lie constantly, more than anywhere else I’ve experienced so far.  As soon as I arrived at the main train station I was jumped upon by boys as young as ten touting for guesthouses and travel agents.  They were all pretty sure that the tourist booking office in the main train station had closed down and moved to the tourist office they were attached to.  These are usually painted in the same livery as the official ones to confuse the unwary backpacker.  They were extremely forceful and if I’d not been well travelled by this point I may have conceded and gone a long with them.  However, I did find the tourist booking office open with very few tourists in it but this was not surprising as many tourists had been guided away from this place.  Unfortunately the train I wanted was fully booked until the 12th which was no use to me so I headed out to find a hotel and figure out my next move.

I’ve got a hotel on the Main Bazaar which at 300 rupees (£4.50) is quite expensive, but it is rather nice.  After dropping my bag off I headed straight back out again but this time into town.  I figured the touts would now be quite useful as they wanted my money and I wanted to get to Nepal.  So I started to look a little lost and within seconds I was surrounded by children.  They pulled at my shirt asking me if I wanted anything, I said “Yes, I want you to stop pulling my shirt, particularly with your left hands!”  But I got the result I wanted as I’ve booked a coach heading for Kathmandu on what I’m told will be a thirty six hour journey.  At about £15 it is quite expensive, but at least I have a ticket.  A huge sense of peace overcame me as I suddenly realised that I’ve got a one way ticket out of India.  It’s a shame I have no time to head north to see the palaces in places like Jodhpur but I was starting to feel ill again and needed this sorted.

Day 51. Heading out of the hotel the touts jumped on me again however, I’ve finally figured out how to get rid of them; it’s simple, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.  When they invariably ask me what I’m doing in India I reply, “I’m here on official business working for the Indian Government.”  You should see them scarper, marvellous.  Anyway, after three weeks of putting off the doctors I headed out to a private medical centre.  I’m going private for safety as I’ve seen the public hospitals and they don’t seem to be particularly hygienic and I’ve heard stories about dodgy medical practices.  After a long rickshaw ride I eventually arrived at the East West Medical Centre.  I sat down with Dr Singh and explained everything that had happened to me.  He came up with a series of suggestions including the bizarre diagnosis that I had sinusitis which he wanted to confirm with an x-ray.  There was no way I was going to have that done as there’s absolutely no need for it, I got the impression that he just wanted more money for taking the x-ray, it was completely excessive for sinusitis especially as I had no symptoms.  In the end he settled on a few blood samples which were taken by a very good nurse, I didn’t feel a thing.  Then I was given a small plastic container and asked to fill it to which I asked, “What with” although I had guessed that the options were few and pretty much numbered two.  She replied “you fool”, “pardon” I exclaimed thinking that she was being a bit critical of someone who was clearly ill.  “Your stool”, Ahhhhhh.

So there I was, in the bathroom staring at a small plastic container wondering how I was going to do this deed as the diameter of the container was clearly smaller than the diameter of any stool I had produced since the age of three!  How would I do this, I didn’t want to get my hands anywhere near it particularly if it was infected, how could I make it fit?  Would I have to cut it with a knife and fork like a sausage, maybe pick it up with a cocktail stick, urrrggghh.  As my mind was sifting through these worst case scenarios I suddenly realised that it was going to be a complicated procedure anyway, I’d been to the toilet before I arrived and hadn’t actually eaten properly in over twelve hours due to my stomach cramps.  Luckily being a posh part of town I noticed a cake shop across the road and headed straight across and ate two cakes and then waited for a few hours.

While I was waiting my stomach got worse which was definitely not helped by the cakes I’d just eaten but on a bright side my plan worked and conveniently, due to the lack of food, I managed to produce a small stool of the perfect size!  It has to be the first time and hopefully the last that that I’ve had to use an ice-cream lollipop stick to deal with such an offending article.  I was told that they should have the results by the end of tomorrow which means that any plans I may have had of travelling out of Delhi are now off.  I came straight back to the hotel and am now watching an Indian version of ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ which seems to have the bizarre rule that you either win all or nothing and no one seems to ever win.  A million rupees is barely £16,000 anyway.

Day 52: Twenty Four Seven

July 6th, 2001

Day 52. Today’s been a bit like waiting for exam results at school although I hadn’t had to revise for this test!  But at school it was the difference between going to University if I passed or going on the dole if I failed, here it means the difference between carrying on around the world, or if it’s something like malaria, cancelling my trip and going back to the UK.  With the pain I’m in I wasn’t actually sure what I wanted to happen.  To take my mind off these worries I headed to the Kashmiri Gate, the Red Fort and finally the largest Mosque in India, the Jama Masjid.  Big mistake, it’s Friday, how could I have forgotten that.  The place was surrounded by hundreds of soldiers and police with guns and big sticks just in case there was any Hindu/Muslim trouble.  India can be quite volatile at times.

Red Fort, Old Delhi, India

As I sat and waited for my results, all of the other Indian patients just sat there staring at me, it was very off putting.  I was then called to the doctor’s office where I was told to sit down while he read my results.  It sounded exactly like an exam, lyphecites 1%, Red Blood Cells 20% etc.  Most of my readings concerning various blood characteristics were abnormal, some I was told were dangerously low including my haemoglobin results which probably explained why I had been passing out and feeling dizzy.  As he read out each result I was getting more concerned that it was malaria but then he gave me the final result which was that I’ve been infected by a parasite called Giardiosis Lamblia which has kindly decided to take up residence in my stomach.  I’m so glad it isn’t malaria but it still isn’t a particularly nice thing to have.

My Medical Results: Poo, Brown and Soft!

Because my results are so bad they said I should stop in overnight while I get lots of sugary and salty liquids to drink.  I’ve been given a prescription that I’ve been told I can pick up tomorrow which is amazingly long and makes me think that the doctor is on commission from the pharmacist.  I’ve been prescribed four tablets a day for the severe headaches, six more for excess stomach acid and six for the treatment of giardia.  All this is on top of the four anti-malarial tablets I’m taking anyway.  Finally, just in case I suffer a reaction to all this medication I been given more tablets to relieve the pain it may cause!  So that’s twenty four tablets a day for seven days, 24/7!  It’s all quite worrying as the giardia tables state “warning carcinogenic” in big letters on the side.  I’ve never understood the warning labels on tablets and never know whether to take them seriously or not.  Paracetamol has the great warning on the side stating that it “may cause headaches” and my particular favourite which I’ve been taking for a while now, Imodium.  The information leaflet states, “side effects, may cause diarrhoea!”  It’s the bleedin’ thing it’s meant to be stopping!  Anyway, there’s one more odd thing on the list, Vicks Vapour Rub, I have to take it to clear my sinuses!  I still don’t know why he thinks I’ve got a problem with my sinuses, I don’t have a cold and can breathe quite easily.

Laying here in the hospital bed I did think that I could relax in peace and quiet but no, it was visiting time.  People came to visit their family members or so I thought, but when they saw me they turned their chairs around, ignored their spouses and just looked at me.  They would sit there staring quite gormlessly while feeding themselves nuts and seeds, but not for one minute taking their eyes off me as their hands went packet to mouth like an automated toy grab at a funfair.  It was horrific, what were they thinking?  Were they looking at me wondering “what the hell is that western casteless person doing in our hospital” or was it, “it must be a good medical centre as a westerner is here.”  The staring was so intimidating, I just wanted to pull the curtain around me and hide but they wouldn’t let me.  Every time I did one of the visitors would walk over and open it again as if I was an animal in a zoo.  I think they’ve gone now!