Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Delhi Belly: Not just an Aamir Khan flick

A couple weeks ago I posted on my Gchat status "enjoying Delhi Belly: The movie, not the sickness!" as I had gone out with a few friends to see the new movie whose title referenced the fact that food poisoning/stomach bugs are so prevalent in India that it had its own name.

Well, yesterday it was Delhi Belly: the sickness, not the movie. Yes. We got hit. Hard.

In the year we have been in Hyderabad, neither of have gotten sick. And we (were) both a little smug about that fact. I -ironically- got really sick the day after I arrived back in the US for a quick visit in May, but that's it.

That all changed Tuesday night. Now that it's over, I can kind of laugh about the whole thing. It was a pretty absurd experience.

4:45 AM: Benny succumbs to The Belly. And our water is shut off. And it's storming outside. (Water water everywhere, not a drop to spare..?)
6:45 AM: I follow suite.

We were lucky. The worst of the illness was over in 6 hours. It wrecked havoc on both of us though for a full 24 hours. Neither of us could move much, which led to a day lying motionless on the couch, falling in and out of sleep in front of the tv.

This is what we watched:
30 Rock: Somewhere between 3-4 episodes (it's a bit of a blur)
Top Chef: (Only 8 minutes before watching people prepare food suddenly became a terrible idea)
I Am Legend: (I was asleep for most of it)
Lonely Planet's Road Less Traveled: China
Friends: 1/2 episode
Fatal Attraction
The rest of Top Chef (when we were feeling better)

We also spent the parts of the day when we felt well enough to talk discussing who the likely culprit of our illness was. I am pretty skeptical most of the time that it's possible to trace exactly what it was that makes someone sick, but I think when two people who just ate dinner together both fall ill within 2 hours of each other later that night, it's pretty obvious.

So here are the possible suspects, in ascending order of likeliness of guilt.

#4: Chicken Korma. Admittedly, the sauce of this korma is left over from a dish consumed earlier this week. I hated to see it go to waste, so I bought some chicken and cooked it in the leftover sauce. It seems kind of sketchy admitting to this now. However, it was unlikely the culprit, as I did not eat any of it last night.

#3 Leek-Potato soup. It would be a shame if this was the cause of our illness, because it was so darn good. And likely it isn't: it was stewing for 45 minutes before we ate it.

#2 Garlic fish. I bought this fish fresh a few hours earlier. Though I pan-seared it, it's definitely a possibility.

But the number one suspect (I think) who brought us 24 hours of complete misery is......

#1 This beautiful, fresh spinach-almond-pear salad. :(

We eat fresh, raw vegetables all the time and we've never had a problem. But I know it's a HUGE source of illness in India and that we take a risk every time we eat them. Spinach, lettuce, and cabbage all grow on the ground and there are often major sources of waste nearby fields growing them. And of course, trucks which transport raw vegetables are major breeding grounds for all sorts of bugs and bacteria, and there exist few regulations for workers to wash their hands when handling food. (Soap is also rarely found in many restrooms)

But that said, I'd be remiss if I had all but forgotten about the recent e-coli breakout in Europe, or multiple salmonella infections in the US in the past few years. Food poisoning, Delhi Belly, whatever you want to call it... it can happen anywhere.

So anyway.... such is life. We won't stop eating fresh greens (though we definitely won't be having them anytime soon), and who knows if that's what caused our Delhi Belly anyway? We'll be here another year and there's no use in missing out on India's AWESOME food just because there is that -slight slight- chance we could get sick one or two more times (fingers crossed that's all it would be) while we're here.

Oh yeah, and all the ingredients yesterday were purchased at a major, upscale grocery store, which just goes to show that no matter how "careful" one may be about avoiding dives, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, or local vegetable-wallahs, Delhi Belly still happens.

And that's my excuse for continuing to patronize those type of places!


  1. do you know about pro-biotic pills? i didn't until my second trip to india, and they were awesomeeeeee. i tested them big time with as much street food as i could possibly eat, and didn't get sick (like i did on my birthday the first time in india.) though maybe taking them for 2 years straight is not a good idea.

    love your blog.

  2. I bet it was the spinach. I usually eat my spinach from a can these days. Sigh. Anyway, what a bummer! Delhi Belly is bad. You just can't avoid it.

    When I was reading what you watched on tv I was like, "Hey, I watch those!" Gotta love Tata Sky...

  3. Stephanie- yes I do... I think they make a lot of sense at times. I think because I'm here for a while (and have been), building up my immune system through natural exposure should have the same/similar effect? I don't know. If I get sick again I may hit 'em up!

    Liz- HAHA yes Tata certainly has its distinctive TV lineup. I guess the only thing that was missing from our schedule was Masterchef Australia...

  4. Oh Amy! Delhi belly and a tendon injury? Shame! Hope you recover from both asap and can get back on the running trail.

    Wishing you both a fast recovery

  5. How funny (and not the part about being sick). Just yesterday I heard someone coin the term "Bangalore Belly". Good to know it's not just here - I guess.