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.


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

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.


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.


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



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



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

Healing with haste,