A Not-So-Perfect Storm

A wave of debilitating nausea swept over me and I started sweating as we finished up at the tiger reserve and headed back to the hotel. Bharath had seen advertisements for a kalaripayattu demonstration, a traditional Keralan martial arts performance and was excited to see it. I felt pretty miserable by this point and had already decided I’d stay in for the night. I undressed and flopped onto the bed. Guilt about not living the trip to its full potential and being lame started gnawing at me and I got back up and got fully dressed.

“Okay, I’m ready to go, I think.” I said.

Bharath started heading toward the door, doing his characteristic “ready to go” dance which included shaking his outstretched arms and shifting from foot to foot before remarking “Shall we go?” He turned to look at me. “Hm. Dude, you don’t look so good.” I didn’t feel so good. I’m sure I was pale as a ghost. “Are you sure you want to go?”

“Hm… I really want to go. I really don’t want to be lame,” I said.

The nausea increased in intensity and I sat down on the bed. The thought of getting in the car with the driver again and heading to an uncertain destination and sitting at a performance with questionable access to a bathroom for hours sounded awful. Cassie looked at me and compassionately stroked my forehead, “I don’t think you should go, we can have fun here!” I gave in, and got back undressed before climbing into bed.

It didn’t take long for my condition to worsen. The nausea became too much and I rushed to the bathroom where I dry heaved until my stomach muscles ached.Nothing. I returned to bed and repeated this routine for a couple of hours, continually feeling worse. Bharath and Cassie’s concern started to turn to worry as I became less and less responsive. I laid immobile in bed, only moving to rush to the bathroom for the next round of attempted vomiting.

On my fourth trip to the bathroom, it all came out. I lost my lunch and dinner, and my stomach did its best contortionist impression, tightening so much that I let out quiet screams of agony. I nearly passed out, and hit the bathroom floor with a thud. I stayed there until my vision returned and realized how much I was sweating. I touched my tongue to the roof of my mouth and had to peel it off. My mouth was dry. I was dehydrated and losing water fast. I started getting scared, realizing how far we were from decent medical care.

I stumbled to my feet and flopped back onto the bed. Bharath had been on the phone with his father and his uncle who was a pharmacist, and was getting information on what medications I would need. He headed out the door, and I tried to sip some water. I barely got a few sips down before the next wave of nausea hit me. I ran back to the bathroom and every bit of water I’d just drank came back out. Frustrated, exhausted, and in pain, I went back to the bed.

The rest of the night carried on in this fashion. Bharath came back from the medical store and played doctor for me, instructing me which pill to take and what to do and what to drink. He told us the driver reeked of whiskey. Bharath tried to insist on driving, but the driver refused and they went anyway. Luckily, they made it back fine. Eventually I was able to keep a little bit of liquid down and drifted off to sleep.

The morning came and I felt a little bit better. We were due to leave Thekkady for Munnar and decided to proceed with the plan since it was only to be a two hour drive. It had been raining heavily the night before and continued drizzling as we left.Bharath and Cassie confessed to me just how scared they’d been the night before. I was still in sorry shape, but clearly doing better. The drizzle increased once again in intensity to a downpour as we drove through the forested Kerala hills. Free-flowing traffic gave way to brake lights and we came to a halt. The windshield wipers squeaked rhythmically and we waited.

A man carrying an umbrella walked by and we rolled down the window to find out what was happening. He told us a tree had fallen in the road and that it’d be clear in 15-20 minutes. So we waited. The driver had a USB stick with about ten songs on it, so for the 18th time, we listened to Justin Timberlake to pass the time. The cars started moving again 45 minutes later and we rolled past the stumps, freshly cut and rolled off the road.

We made good progress until we once again found ourselves stopped. I asked Bharath to hook up my phone to the stereo and instead of hearing Kanye West a 23rd time, we bobbed our heads to the bass line of Cake’s “Long Line of Cars.” We were already several hours into a drive that should have taken two hours, and it wasn’t any quicker getting through this time. Another tree lay across the road, and it had taken a power line with it, which swayed in the path of the cars.

The winds picked up, the rain came in sheets, and we nervously eyed a tree that was swaying just above our car.

“Did you see that!?” exclaimed Cassie.

“Yeah!” came Bharath’s reply.

“What? What’d I miss?” I asked.

I’d been keeping my eye on the tree immediately above us. “We just watched a tree fall.” I switched on my phone’s internet to see if I could find any information. The national weather service’s website indicated that there was a tropical depression off the coast of southern India. That’s where we were, and it had just intensified to tropical storm strength.

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