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.

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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).

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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.

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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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