In India, A Tale of Two Waters
While the new world continues to discover brand new diseases with fancy names, we haven’t quite been able to cope with the existing ones plaguing us for years now.
Water borne diseases have become an all pervading evil around us at present times. Humanity is being made to become cowards like never before. We are made to fear not just the age old demons but things that were close to our hearts always ; blessings like food, water, fellow human beings, darkness, school, transport are now also things to fear!
I had a friend visiting me from the US and there was something special about this visit. She hails from the same hills in India that I do, went to the same college as I did, lived very close to us when we there but this was the first time I was meeting her, bonded by a power called Facebook and the United States of America where she had been living for the last 15 years.
You can imagine the thoughts running through my head when after ten minutes of our meeting I realized she would only drink bottled water! Even “reverse osmosis” was not good enough. I quickly took myself back to the time when I used to visit India from the US and remembered in horror that my husband did exactly the same thing. While I tried to foolishly be a proud Indian by sticking to whatever my motherland’s water had in it, my husband made rules about my daughter and himself the second we would reach the airport of my homeland. I do not blame him or my friend for being careful but somehow my “Desi” sentiments are offended each time I see someone doing that.
Here I must mention that I am surely the only one with those sentiments! The rest of my family whole heartedly supported my husband’s rules. They also called for bottled water immediately (read urgently) as soon as my friend expressed her fear in drinking the water that everyone in the family was drinking!
What Price Street Food?
I remember gallivanting around town, proving my point, by eating from every street-side cart available – the delicious chaats, golgappas (phuchkas in Bengali), jhaal muri, and momos. This irrational bravado had my parents on tenterhooks, as I had already suffered from Hepatitis B when I was in high school! They would say “You are vulnerable to bad water as it is! Your immune system is even worse now since you have been living in the US…” Very honestly they feared for my life! However, without encouraging anyone to do what I did, my claim to fame is I never once did fall sick!
Here is the thing I laugh at though – if an outsider visits India, they should be more wary of bottled water here since there are apparently all kinds of fake seals available for these bottles and entire industries run on fake bottling units! This of course I learned only once I came back and settled here. I see myself becoming much more of a snob now that I live here than when I was living in the US.
I am not the carefree giggly girl anymore who would gulp down the discolored water of the golgappas! Because I cannot do without these savories, I see myself meekly standing in the queue of a branded store that uses only “bottled water” in their golgappas. Or better still reserve a table in a restaurant that puts vodka in its golgappas instead! The joy decreases manifold but I go back feeling less guilty.
The After-taste of Fear
To test myself a while back, I let a friend of mine take me to the old favorite roadside cart. I felt fear oozing out of every pore in my body as I got a whiff of the familiar mouthwatering smell. I plunged into it headlong anyway, ignoring the crunch of dust with every bite I took. It was delicious, to say the least! I went back quietly when it was over, prayed and went to bed – waiting for that growl that would announce the debut of a horrendous sickness! Nothing happened. I waited a week – nothing still!
However, somehow I have not managed to build up the confidence to do this again. It’s the after-taste of fear that I avoid now, rather than whatever sickness my adventures may bring with it!
I am converting into one of THEM and I feel ashamed of it. When did things change? There are thousands who survive on the cheap roadside foods of India everyday – how am I any different? Perhaps they have no choice and their immune system has resigned to fate as well. But as I end this story I cannot help but wonder how many more things my brave past will have to dissociate with. I see this new me as a broken and defeated Indian rather than the one who came back to belong to her country!
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