The cricket match being digitally projected at the back of the restaurant seems to have ended with one former British colony beating another. This is not the first match I’m watching today: the pharmacist up the road subjected me to it while I was waiting for his employee—a (probably) eight-year-old boy—to return with my medicine. Fuck knows what’s going on, but I resolve to read the rules later.
I finish the chicken soup and half the butter naan—a respectable effort considering the state of my stomach since Wednesday. It began in Philly on the same day I tried to be an adult, receiving four vaccinations and taking my first dose of the once-weekly anti-malarial Lariam. This is what I get for being responsible: a stomach in perpetual turmoil. I’m inclined to blame the Lariam and reaffirm my decision to stop taking it. Malaria would be preferable.
Ironically, the stomach problems gave me an out when two hostelmates I met on my first night decided to continue on from Delhi in the morning. They were good people, but the Polish girl Paulina was on a faster schedule and far smaller budget than I. The other—Andy from London, a new backpacker beginning an intended one-year round-the-world trip—went with her. I’m fairly certain their travel styles will not compliment one other, but that’s something Andy needs to learn by making the mistake. Goodness knows I’ve made my share.
Consequently, I am friendless here on Day Two, which is just as well since I feel like shit. I found the energy to visit the Red Fort and packed it in after forcing down most of my lunch; even the smallest goals require Herculean efforts in the madness of Delhi. I lay in bed half the evening—the sole occupant of a moldy eight-bed dorm frequented by at least one rat and one tiny black cat. I’d be friends with the cat for my part—it might be big enough to keep the rat away—but it continues to flee at the sight of me.
This might sound like a terrible accommodation, yet it is the best-rated hostel in Delhi, and considering the city as a whole, I doubt I could do better without going to a proper hotel. The man who runs it is a kind-hearted old doctor named Manu. He retired some years ago as a result of heart and vision problems. As a lifelong traveler who could no longer travel as much or as far, he decided, upon the suggestion of his daughter, to bring the travelers to him. His one half-good eye comes alive when he smiles.
There are times I wonder about the backpacker occupation. Why do I do it? Why do I come to an impossibly over-populated city to become sick and be friendless? Today, I can’t justify it. But tomorrow I might.