Is the project your life, or is your life the project?

I’ve been boasting to all my friends, especially my local Indian friends, that I have a stomach of steel. I’ve been drinking heavily filtered tap water since my arrival in India (along with bottled water as well) and eating Indian food nearly every day. After a couple weeks, I tried all the craziest street food including pani puri, which involves spiced water and ungloved hands.

And to my surprise, I still felt great! Well, you can see where this is going…fast forward a month to this Monday, when I was packing up from a weekend trip in Goa to fly back to Bangalore (Goa is a really pretty state in India known for its beaches). Just before the bumpy hour long drive to the airport, I started feeling nauseated, and that was the beginning to a tough day of travel.

Goa was beautiful though.

I managed to throw up twice on a 50-minute flight, and I had to cancel a project meeting I had scheduled for that evening. I got to the guest house where I’m staying and Skyped my parents from the bed, sliding further into zombie-ness over the course of the call. The saddest part of all of this is the food that made me sick: a few bites of fruit salad! It’s true that people warned me against raw fruits and veggies, but I suppose I thought a fruit salad at a hotel restaurant would be okay since I’ve survived some serious street food.

I couldn’t afford to reschedule any more meetings, as the week was pretty booked and I probably won’t come back to Bangalore. So I had to get better, and while I did bring medicine for an upset stomach on the Watson with me, I left it in Mumbai for this short trip along with other things I haven’t needed much (of course).

I made it through Tuesday’s meetings and then found my way to a medicine shop. I walked up to the counter, scanning the wide array of products displayed in the floor-to-ceiling cabinets. It was definitely a counter service place, so I told the man behind the counter that I had a stomachache and a headache (probably from not eating or drinking much due to the stomach issue).

My super stealthy shot of the counter. This is one of the smaller pharmacy stores in Bangalore, though Mumbai has more of the tiny packed ones.

I think I expected some conversation about options. Instead, the man at the counter swiftly placed two boxes on the counter, removed a set of ten pills from each, and said “67 rupees.” (That’s just under $1).

“Umm…okay. Can I see the boxes?” He shrugged as I picked up the decidedly minimalist boxes that merely listed generic medicine names that I didn’t recognize. After 20 seconds of this, the man basically told me I wouldn’t learn anything from the boxes. So I gave him 67 rupees, took the pills in a small brown paper bag, and walked away.

I couldn’t believe how cheap and easy it was to get the pills. Of course, as soon as I had wifi, I Googled the generic medicines and found myself on some of the same websites that I had visited when looking for companies to interview for my project. I suddenly understood the need for all the websites here that help you look up individual generic medicines and find the best price and uses and so on. In the US, I never Google my medicines. I either get a prescription from my doctor and take that without question, or I go to a store like Walgreens and go to the aisle labeled “headache” and pick a brand I know, or the stores’ generic version of that brand, or read a few labels.

The pills were more labeled than the boxes they came in, which was helpful.

Going on the internet for that information makes the process so much more complicated; one site said that the stomachache medicine I got was for menstrual cramps (no), and another said the headache and stomachache pills might react with each other (but most sites said they wouldn’t). Anyway, I found out that the headache tablets were basically Tylenol, so I took one. The stomachache tablet medicine was something I hadn’t had before, so I waited a bit, felt better on my own, and decided to forgo the medicine.

And now I’m all better – back to the stomach of steel. Phew! (Though I will probably avoid fruit salad for a while).



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