As soon as we finished up lunch on that Monday, I felt the odd sensation in my gut.

“That’s a bit weird,” I thought. “I guess I shouldn’t have had that extra helping of rice and curry. I’m sure it’s just indigestion.”

We were in Chennai waiting on the final medical team, which had just arrived that morning. Nearly thirty of us were scheduled to hop on the midnight train for an all-night ride back to Repalle.

The ride back to Repalle wasn’t nearly as fun as the ride to Chennai.

With time to kill, people decided to visit St. Thomas’ Mount, the supposed site of the disciple’s martyrdom some 2,000 years ago. How many times will I be in the neighborhood of one of my favorite disciples? So despite my better judgment, I tagged along.

Mistake

The city streets of India are packed with fume-spewing vehicles, ranging in size from large buses and trucks to tiny motorbikes and motorized rickshaws. The resulting air quality is hazardous to your health on a good day.

Compared to the facilities on Indian trains, this squat pot could easily be from the Ritz Carleton.

But this wasn’t a good day. I was fighting off waves of nausea, and my body was already being drained of energy. Whatever this was, it was coming on quickly, and things were going to get ugly.

By the time we arrived, I found a shady area and sat down. It was a hot day, and the enthusiasm for my boy Thomas had been eroded by the growing rumble in my gut and dizziness in my head. I mustered enough energy to go inside the shrine and see the apparent bone from his pinkie toe, but I was in no mood to admire the sacred phalange. I was ready to roll.

As soon as we returned to our rooms at the YWCA, I collapsed on my bed, hoping to sleep it off for a few hours before our midnight train ride.

Then the floodgates opened. Now I’ve never been much of a dancer, but on that day, the stomach cramps and the nausea gave me no choice. The dance of the backdoor two-step had begun.

Fever and chills soon followed. In between my dance routines, I huddled under two heavy blankets, shivering and sweating simultaneously.

Somebody had the mind to document my darkest hour…waiting to board the bus back to Repalle after the all-night train ride. I didn’t even have the energy to stand.

“How am I going to get through the six-hour train ride?” I thought. “Lord, give me strength…and a cork.”

Are we there yet?

Please believe, the facilities available on Indian trains won’t be making the inside pages of Better Homes and Bathrooms anytime soon. Whether it’s the “Western toilet” or the “Indian toilet,” there’s a general disregard for sanitation of said facilities, and I wasn’t looking forward to the all-night dance routine.

Once on the train, I found my bunk and was asleep before we departed the station, sweating and aching under my blankets. I tossed and turned throughout the night, and despite the gurgles in my gut, I fought off the growing urge.

By 5 a.m., however, I could resist no longer. I found a Western toilet and applied the hover technique as best I could. Within 15 minutes, the gut grumbled again, but the Western toilet was now occupied. Full India experience, here I come.

For the Western mind, the logistics of a squat pot can be perplexing. Personally, I need some form of leverage to maintain the necessary balance. Most, however, lack this vital component. But in the cramped quarters of the train, a nearby handle proved to be my saving grace.

From that point on, I knew we were getting close to our destination, so I grabbed my backpack and sat on the floor by the open train door, a cool morning breeze hitting me in the face and hot pokers searing my G-I tract.

I’m not big on taking pills, but after a day, I was popping all I could.

Finally, we arrived at the station and drove back to IREF.

UUUuuuuugh…

For the next five days, I rarely left my bed. The fever would come and go. The cramps would double me over. Fatigue was my constant companion, and the appetite was nowhere to be found. Yet the dance continued for days.

By the following weekend, I was finally emerging from my delirium, but never in all my days have I ever experienced a bug like that one.

After extended discussion and speculation, the Sherlock Holmes’ conclusion is that the culprit of my misery was a fateful cup of coffee I had enjoyed just before lunch that Monday.

Advice to future travelers in India, never ask for cold milk in your coffee. Or you too may get to experience the misery of “Krishna’s Revenge.”

But hey, at least you’ll be a better dancer!

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About the Author: Stephen Crane is a year-long fellow with World Next Door. He has a bachelor's degree in theology from Calvin College and a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University. He has a passion for overlooked places and people and would snowboard at all times if it were possible!

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Comments

  1. Curtis Honeycutt said... 

    Reply

    February 27th, 2012 at 8:39 am  

    Ha! This is hilarious…sorry to be laughing at your misery, Stephen. Hope your trip got better!

  2. Pam said... 

    Reply

    February 27th, 2012 at 8:49 am  

    Ouch… This sounds horrible. I appreciate your telling it in such a real, yet subtle way. I think that Jocelyn may be going through some of the same stuff now. She said that Pedro is back :( I’m glad you survived and that you’re better now. Looking forward to hearing about more of your adventures, observations, etc.
    Jocelyn’s Mom

    • Steve-O said... 

      Reply

      March 2nd, 2012 at 7:29 am  

      Yeah, I heard Pam.. That’s no good at all!! But I’m glad she’s FINALLY starting to feel better!

  3. Tasha Simons said... 

    Reply

    February 27th, 2012 at 8:55 am  

    Sorry to hear you were so sick! Sounds awful. Many were praying for you through this. So glad to hear you’ve made a full recovery! Tasha

  4. Jo Nading said... 

    Reply

    February 27th, 2012 at 9:00 am  

    Oh Stephen. I’m soooo sorry you endured this. It’s not fun when home in my own bed for only 48 hours or so. I LOVE the way you describe things. I’m glad you are feeling better. You look just a bit on the skinny side – hope you find some good rice to fill back in! Looking forward to more posts from a healthy guy. Blessings … Jo

    • Steve-O said... 

      Reply

      March 2nd, 2012 at 7:31 am  

      Thanks Jo..
      The silver lining? I no longer need to go on my intended diet!

  5. Sharon Pape said... 

    Reply

    February 27th, 2012 at 11:59 am  

    Stephen, been there – done that. 30 years ago in Haiti. I know exactly what you went through. And believe me, this will probably be the worst thing that you will have to go through. It is no fun. Sounds more like dysentery to me. So glad you were able to get through it. Your health is definitely something to be thankful for, especially when you get a glimpse of not being so healthy. Take care!

  6. Steve-O said... 

    Reply

    March 2nd, 2012 at 7:41 am  

    Always nice being reminded of the blessings of our health, and this one was definitely a gut-punch reminder! Whatever it was, I can do without it for the rest of my days!! But I do like the sound of dysentery…definitely bragging rights! :)
    Hope all is good in the PD hood!

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