Delhi Belly - A Story from India

Our first day in India was a day to remember, a day that didn’t involve much participation on our part. We were zombies, paralysed with fear and inexperience. We stared and we watched and we took it all in, feasting our once starved eyes on a full fat binge, a sensory overhaul.

The first thing we saw were men. Men everywhere, staring. We walked through the arrival gate as the speciality of the day: tall, blonde, white and scared out of our wits and there were more than a few takers. Our driver awaited us with a sign declaring my mis-spelt name, our first friend in India.

He did not smile and he could not speak English but we followed him blindly out to the car park. Our new friend drove like a maniac across the city of Delhi. This was the first of our many journeys and our first experience of the Indian traffic system.

We had been told that people do not queue in India. This was an understatement. Driving in India was a free-for-all, no rules chaotic mess that somehow seemed to work. It seemed drivers were taking part in unwritten contest that involved the colossal beeping of horns. The result of which caused an overwhelming eruption of noise screaming out into the smoggy Indian atmosphere.

Forty five minutes later we arrived in an area called the Paharganj. Our driver parked up, unloaded our bags and instructed us to follow him. With that gesture he disappeared off into the dense jungle in front of him. We were now pale with exhaustion and fear and had barely spoken to each other
over the course of the journey. Struggling with our bags we hurried after the quickly disappearing guide. All around us eyes watched us.

The streets were covered in a thick sludge, a cocktail of unimaginable stench. Thick mobs of people surrounded us. They could detect our fear and newness and we were too inexperienced to hide it. Shops crammed with colourful fabrics, sequins and colour lined the streets underneath dusty signs painted in alien hindi.

We were continually being barged into by rick-shaws, bicycles, motorbikes, cows and grabbed at by touts. The thick aroma of spices mixing with the stench of dirt creating a hot, thick smell impossible to escape.

Once we had arrived at our hostel and locked ourselves in the haven of our room we lay on our beds and listened. Listened outside to an India that rushed on, strange and wonderful and beckoning us for more. A strange concoction of fear and excitement was lodged in the pit of my stomach, a feeling that worked its way up to my fingertips and caused my breathing to turn sharp and short. I already had Delhi Belly and I hadn't eaten a thing.

Article by Katie Holliday - 2005

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