A R C H I V E
India-Letters #5: "You Give Me Fever..."
July 26, 1999 Dear friends, My apologies for the long delay since installment #4. I write this letter as I am recovering from a bout with typhoid fever. These past two days, my temperature has returned to normal and energy is seeping back into my body. Still mostly confined to bed, I thought I would take the chance to do some writing. I'll talk a little about the experience of getting and being sick here, share about some cultural experiences, and leave you with a link to some photos from a recent day trip a friend and I took. TYPHOID... YES! I may be one of the few typhoid fever patients who was relieved when the blood test came back positive. I had been in bed nearly a week fighting what I thought was a viral fever, something like the flu. My fever was up to worrying temperatures at times, and Meeta, playing an excellent Florence Nightengale, was working overtime managing my sweats, keeping my thoughts positive, and working with my mom, her M.D. dad, and a local doctor to figure out what was going on and how to fix me. So a few days back, I ventured out of the flat for the first time in over a week. My destination was Anand Laboratories. A young businessman friend accompanied us so I could travel to the center in his car rather than a rickshaw. He turned out to be an invaluable companion when he somehow managed to circumnavigate the lines and paperwork. Before I could unfold the newspaper in the waiting area, the doctors had me giving a blood sample and peeing in a cup (not at the same time). The test results were in that afternoon, and sure enough, typhoid it was. With the diagnosis, we now knew what the treatment should be, and adjusted the antibiotic course I had started accordingly. After a few days of cyclical fever and fear that nothing was improving, I've begun to feel a lot better, as evidenced from this letter, I suppose. Full recovery will take a few weeks, but I should be able to be consistently up and about in the next 3 or 4 days. You get typhoid from contaminated food or water, and there's an incubation period of one to three weeks. Given the frequency with which I dined out during that period, there's no telling where I might have gotten it. Talking to Indians, almost everyone knows a close friend who has had typhoid or has had it themselves. If you're coming to visit and plan on eating
, there's a vaccine. It's not 100% effective, but it does reduce the risk. One last observation about getting sick that's probably true anywhere: people really pull together to take care of you. Meeta's time and energy are a godsend and I think I would be in the U.S. healing right now if she wasn't here to take care of me. But people chipped in from all quarters, with friends lending blankets, extra Tylenol packs, and running errands for us. And calls and e-mails from family in the U.S. cheered my days in ways I can't even begin to quantify. THEATRE IN BANGALORE I love drama. I love good acting, good writing, everything. But I confess, I expected to leave it behind while I was in India. I couldn't have been more wrong. Our friend JP has friends in the theatre world here, and keeps us appraised of what's going on. We stumbled onto our first play from a flyer, without any word of mouth recommendation. "Regigion to Die For..." was written by a Indian playwright and produced by a local college group. The production quality was mediocre as was the Indian playwright's dialogue but the story touched on Muslim-Hindu relations, their history, and their status in India today. It was very educational for me, and brought about feelings depressingly similar to the way I feel thinking and reading about race relations in the U.S. Two friends in college here tell me that in their dining hall north Indians sit on one side while south Indians sit on the other, with international students sitting in the middle, kind of bridging the gap. The sizable minority of African students (mostly from Tanzania) sit separately again. Fights are frequent in their dorms, a situation regarded by my friends as somewhat humorous rather than tragic. Play #2 starred our friend Roshan (a fact kept from us until the actual performance -- I've found people here to be either stuffed shirts or exceedingly modest, rarely a middle ground). As I examined the program before the lights went down, I was surprised to see that the playwright was William Inge, a well-known American author from the south. Think Tennessee Williams. The play was "The Disposal", the story of three men on death row. It was strange to watch a group of Indian actors, staying true to the script, use words like "ain't" and talk about how they missed fried chicken. Overall, it was an excellent, chilling performance. Afterwards, I asked our companions about the death penalty in India and was told that it exists (hanging is the method) but is used very rarely. The next week, we attended a well-publicized dance performance choreographed by the famous Chandraleka, who has been at the cutting edge of contemporary Indian dance for years. It was entitled "Sloka" and was designed to "explore femininity and fertility in women and men." The venue was packed. Lots of foreigners. The dancers were amazing and the live music from on-stage traditional Indian string instruments, vocals and drums was exquisite. When two male performers began dancing with each other seductively, though, a significant minority of the audience became very uncomfortable, some coughing, and many walking out. On account of getting sick, I missed the revival of "The Fire and the Rain", which will now be touring India. Perhaps I'll catch it in another city. QUICK TRIP TO MYSORE The City of Mysore is just a few hours away from Bangalore, so while my Aussie traveller friend Greg was in town, we took a day trip there by bus. Mysore's main attraction is the Mysore Palace, former home of the Maharaja Tipu Sultan. This place is amazing. The scale reminds me of Star Wars and it's a delight to the creative imagination to picture the palace at full tilt with ceremonies and courtesans, games and performances. You're not allowed to take a camera inside, but I snapped some pics of the outside and the surrounding area. They're up with commentary at http://www.lukemelia.com/travel/indialetters5photos.html BOOTS N' ALL Meeta and I were asked to be online travel guides for Bangalore by the good folks that run the info site for budget travellers, Bootsn'All.com. Check it out. Our piece is under Travel Guides --> Asia --> Bangalore http://www.bootsnall.com FOR TODAY, ENOUGH I'm pretty beat, so we'll call this letter complete. The longer I'm here, the harder I find to write about the experience. I think it's because my body of experience and perspective is growing in ways that my readers aren't and so my sense of what's interesting to people back home is less honed. There are things I now take for granted here, that I could have written an entire section about before. Don't worry, though, I'm going to keep trying. Let me know what you think, and what you are and aren't interested in reading about. Healing with haste, Luke